Carnegie Mellon University
August 27, 2016

Craig Street Crawl Engages Students, Builds Community

Julianne Mattera / 412-268-2902 /

Craig Street Crawl 

Genevieve Parker carried comic books under a tray filled with pots of bok choy, kale and a purple pansy flower Saturday afternoon as she walked amongst the crowds gathering on Craig Street.

Parker, a junior in Carnegie Mellon University's College of Engineering, collected the free goodies while soaking up her first Craig Street Crawl and, in turn, better acquainting herself with an area that she hadn't visited much during her first couple of years of college.

Saturday afternoon's two-hour block party on Craig Street, between Forbes Avenue and Winthrop Street, drew hundreds of students, like Parker, who sampled food and collected free giveaways from restaurants and businesses, listened to live bands, and played games like cornhole and spike ball on the blocked-off street.

"It makes me more willing to go out to Craig Street and feel like a real person," Parker said. "It's not all about sitting in the library and doing your work. It's about coming out with friends and enjoying what Pittsburgh has to offer."

As he gave out free comic books to people stopping by his booth, Jeff Yandora, owner of Phantom of the Attic Comics and Phantom of the Attic Games on Craig Street, said the event gave businesses "excellent exposure" to students — some of whom might otherwise overlook the district.

"I think it's a spectacular opportunity that CMU is sharing with us," Yandora said. "The idea of a university reaching out to the local business community to introduce the students to us is really, really nice."

This marked the third year for the Craig Street Crawl, the brainchild of a recent alumnus and university staff.

"Craig Street is a vibrant part of the campus experience," said Gina Casalegno, vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students.

With its restaurants, cafes, niche shops and services, having the crawl during orientation exposes students early on to the shopping district, Casalegno said. She added that it's another opportunity to gather as a university community and meet new people before classes begin.

CMU President Subra Suresh, who stopped by the event Saturday afternoon with his wife, Mary, said the close proximity of CMU to the compact business district is a terrific asset to members of the university community who can "live, work and play in one of Pittsburgh's great neighborhoods."

And the relationship is reciprocal.

"Supporting the diverse array of Craig Street businesses - restaurants, shops, professional services and more — strengthens and supports the neighborhood, and enhances the CMU experience for our students, faculty and staff," Suresh said.

Elizabeth Rapoport, associate director of Student Activities, said integrating students into the business district is important so students not only become citizens of Carnegie Mellon, but the Pittsburgh community, as well.

Making that connection between students and Pittsburgh is a goal of the university's new Office of Student Leadership, Involvement, and Civic Engagement, otherwise known as SLICE. Rapoport said the department brings together the offices of Student Activities, Greek Life and Civic Engagement.

"One of the primary missions of our office is engagement and that engagement happens on campus and off campus," she said. "We have this dual role and responsibility and the Craig Street Crawl fits into that well."