The Tigers in Town program, which funnelled more than $170,000 into local businesses during the Spring 2021 semester, will expand in the Fall 2022 semester, according to Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Students Thomas Dunne.
Despite being created in the COVID-era to improve town and gown relations, in an interview with The Daily Princetonian, Dunne confirmed that having students go into the community is something “that we plan to keep and continue to invest in” next semester.
Dunne said that the Tigers in Town program was designed to fulfill two purposes when it began in Spring 2021. The first reason was to help students, particularly members of the Class of 2024, to connect and “get out of Zoom and be out and about” within the parameters of COVID-19 restrictions, and the second was to help support local businesses that were suffering from reduced student traffic.
On March 14 in a meeting with the Princeton Town Council, University President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 presented his annual report detailing contributions that the University had made to the town in the past year. Among those contributions, the report noted that more than $171,000 had been spent by the University in the Spring 2021 semester in support of the Tigers in Town program.
According to a Program Report issued by the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students (ODUS), 21,378 individual registrations were logged for Tigers in Town events during the Spring 2021 semester. These events were held at 41 locations throughout the town of Princeton.
Tigers in Town programming remained popular as COVID-19 restrictions began to relax in the Fall 2021 semester.
According to an email from Ian Deas, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students and Director of Student Leadership and Engagement, 78 Tigers in Town events were held in the Fall 2021 semester. In addition, the MyPrincetonU site, through which registrations for Tigers in Town events are managed, showed that more than 25 Tigers in Town events have been offered this semester, including two large events celebrating the Class of 2024’s Declaration Day at SayCheez Cafe and Junbi last week.
Looking forward to next fall, Deas told the ‘Prince’ that, although the pandemic-related restrictions that precipitated the creation of Tigers in Town are winding down, “the program will stay generally the same.”
He said he “would not be surprised” if the amount of funding allocated by the University toward the program decreases, given that many organizations are moving study breaks back onto campus. However, Deas expects that “Tigers in Town will continue to be an integral part of the Princeton experience.”
Deas said that the number of Princeton vendors participating in Tigers in Town will expand in Fall 2022, and that ODUS is working on a plan to “engage businesses that are not walking distance of campus, but are still in Princeton and still do a lot of work with the University.”
Deas also mentioned that, although some of these businesses “have a food truck that comes to campus regularly,” Tigers in Town is currently considering how they could “create infrastructure that encourages students to host Tigers in Towns at locations that are farther from campus but still part of the town.”
Both local businesses and undergraduates seem to support continuing the program. In an email to the ‘Prince,’ Vin Jule, the Tigers in Town point of contact for Small World Coffee, said that “it’s been great having more students in our cafe, and all have been appreciative.”
“We have certainly had a lot of student visitors outside of these events, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Tigers in Town has made more students aware of Small World,” he added.
Kateri Espinosa ’24, one student who has utilized the program, told the ‘Prince’ that she “like[s] how it gives students the opportunity to try things in town without putting a financial strain on them,” and noted that “it’s a great way to support local businesses” and “connect with our community.”
And the program may soon see ripple effects in other universities.
According to Deas, who presented on it at a virtual national conference, the Tigers in Town program is a model that “is starting to inspire other colleges to create [a] similar setup and plan to support local businesses.”
ODUS is planning to prepare a report this summer that will provide details on Tigers in Town programs for the academic year 2021–2022.
Madeleine LeBeau is a Staff Writer for the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Instagram @madeleinelebeau, or on Twitter @MadeleineLeBeau.