Pieces of Lehigh can be found throughout the Bethlehem community.
Two weeks ago, banners with the Lehigh University logo were mounted on lamp posts across campus and South Bethlehem — a project meant to create a feeling of Lehigh pride on and off school grounds.
Chet Bickhart, ’18, a member of the rowing team and former member of the Student Athlete Council, began the banner project during his junior year as part of the council’s Shark Tank Initiative — an opportunity for council members to brainstorm and take on projects they are passionate about.
Bickhart said his idea came from conversations about building school pride and increasing traffic at athletic events.
“One of the big things I noticed was that there’s nothing that shouts ‘Lehigh’ when you walk through campus,” Bickhart said.
After visiting and hearing about his siblings’ campuses, Bickhart noticed how much other students esteemed their universities and wanted to bring that feeling to Lehigh.
Bickhart met with Roseann Corsi, an athletics public and alumni relations representative and adviser to the Student Athlete Council, to talk about making his idea reality.
Over the course of a year and a half, the two met with several representatives of the Lehigh community, including Lindsay Lebresco, the director of digital and brand marketing, who helped map out the project and bring it to life.
“I’ve been talking about this for years,” Corsi said. “I think this is going to bring us together. I feel that is the goal — to be one family, together.”
Adrienne Washington, the vice president of community and regional affairs, said Lehigh’s campus is the focal point of the banners, but they also extend into places like Brodhead Avenue and New Street.
Ava Scally, ’20, is a member of an urban policy group that focuses on student perceptions of South Bethlehem and its residents. She said though the banners are a subtle addition most people might not notice right away, they create a sense of continuity on Lehigh’s campus and the surrounding blocks.
Scally said she is passionate about making sure Lehigh students view Bethlehem as their home, and seeing the familiar Lehigh banners when walking around the community reinforces this.
The banners were not only installed to build a sense of community on campus, but they were also extended into the community to encourage Lehigh pride among South Side residents.
Washington said there is a misconception that the relationship between Lehigh and the Bethlehem community is a bad one.
“The South Side has always embraced Lehigh,” Washington said. “Students embrace the residents and the residents embrace the students.”
Scally said some students have negative things to say about the South Side based on personal experiences. However, most negative perceptions are perpetuated by word of mouth, rather than first-hand thoughts and opinions.
With varying perceptions of the relationship between Lehigh students and South Side residents, Bickhart’s vision for the banners was to create honest communication between both communities about which each wants to accomplish. Then, with those conversations, the two can build and unite.
Bickhart said there are still opportunities to grow as a community. He hopes to come back to Lehigh after graduation and see students and faculty continuing to press for change.
“If I come back here,” Bickhart said, “I would love see Lehigh recognizing the opportunity they have to shape men and women of character that the world needs.”