Through a cloud of smoke from a flaming grill, Auburn Mayor Bill Ham was seen shaking hands with students over platters of lettuce, cheese and an assortment of condiments.
In an effort to unite Auburn City and Auburn University students, the Student Government Association partnered with Welcome Week. The result: Hamburgers with Mayor Ham on the Student Center Green Space.
"It's been a great day and I was involved in move-in and I have met so many students and parents," Ham said.
Ham said people are usually surprised to see the Mayor helping with move-in day and staying involved in campus life.
At a high of 90 degrees, Auburn students were surprisingly huddled around the grill to speak with Mayor Ham and Auburn administration. Bobby Woodard and Lady Cox from Student Affairs welcomed students along with the SGA executives.
"I would say the most important part about bringing Mayor Ham [to campus] is ending the stigma that campus life and city life are completely separate," said Haley Faulkenberry, assistant vice president of external affairs for SGA.
Faulkenberry said SGA wants students to feel like Auburn is their home, not just a four-year stop. She said the City and the business around Auburn want to do what they can to better serve students and the connections are important to do so.
"I think community members only see students at football games or driving around and they don't get to really get to know them," Faulkenberry said. "But once they do make those connections they really do want to open up their home that they have settled down into all the students."
At only 30 minutes into the event, the plastic white tables were almost full and the line was moving steadily toward Mayor Ham and the burgers. Faulkenberry and Mary Margaret Turton, director of City relations were very content with the turnout.
"This idea has been in progress for a couple of years now and our relationship with the City has been growing and forming," Turton said. "The City does so much for the University — they support us in everything we do."
Turton encourages students to come to City Council meetings and join in on the unified City/University events.
"People say 'the town or the University' and I see it as one," Ham said. "Nothing reigns truer to me than that realization.
SGA President Jacqueline Keck said she is thrilled with the turnout and loved the initial idea of hosting events that integrated the community and campus. Keck said students should try their best to be aware of what's going on to "promote engagement" in the City and University.