By Maddie Bruegger, The Circuit
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a townie is defined as “a person who lives in a town that has a college or university, but does not work at or attend the school.”
However, there is quite the sociological background to the word ‘townie.’
Dr. Amy Posey, Professor and Chair of the Psychology Department, specializes in social psychology.
“In social psychology, one of the things we study is person perception,” Posey said. “That body of research tells us is that the first thing we do when we encounter a person is put them into a category, it’s called social categorization. So we put a person into some sort of a category or group and then we decide, is that a group to which I belong or is that a group to which I do not belong?”
Groups to which individuals do not belong to are categorized as all acting and being alike.
“One thing that really happens is we tend to focus on how people are different from us as opposed to what we have in common once we put them into the outgroup,” Posey said. “We would really accentuate the difference between ourselves and the townie.”
However, what happens when one is a member of both the in and the out group?
Noah Baniewicz is a freshman who has lived in Atchison for 11 years. By definition, he is a townie. However, his definition is a little different from the dictionary definition.
“I think townie is more specifically for people who have always been here,” Baniewicz said. “You’re from Atchison and there’s certain characteristics that people can tell you’re from Atchison.”
Prior to living in Atchison, Baniewicz lived in Phoenix, Ariz. He hopes to move away from Atchison one day and pursue his goal of becoming a musician.
“I would rather not be called a townie,” Baniewicz said. “I feel like it puts you in a box and people automatically expect things of you. It paints a different image of yourself.”
Posey suggests a solution to the problem.
“The best way to (change) it is to re-categorize,” Posey said. “If I have placed these people into a group that do not belong, how can I redefine my groups such that we’re in the same group.”
When living in a particular area, individuals typically participate in commerce in that area. While Posey lives in Kansas City, she still has close ties to the Atchison community.
“Even those of us on the faculty that commute, I spend at least 40 hours of my week in Atchison,” Posey said. “To a certain extent, I’m a townie. I go to Subway, I go to Walmart, my doctor is in Atchison. I think certainly students who are living here for roughly nine months out of the year, if they could envision themselves as townies, then they could start to look at what do I have in common with people who live here 12 months out of the year.”
While Baniewicz has met life-long friends during his residence in Atchison, he has also met many new friends through the Benedictine College community.
“A lot of times we refer to this Benedictine bubble, but the Benedictine bubble can actually be a very positive thing because it allows students to get immersed into the identity of the institution and to enjoy many of the characteristics of the institution,” Posey said.
Many students attending Benedictine College may be from different cities, states, or even countries. The similarity between the life of a townie and the life of a Benedictine College student lies in the formed community.
“What I’ve learned [growing up in Atchison] is how special relationships are and how much people can help you,” Baniewicz said. “Here, everyone knows everyone pretty much. Having those connections and actually knowing how to build a real relationship is really going to help me in the long run.”
“The presence of the college brings a lot of resources here to Atchison, but there is potential for some level of conflict and a sense of superiority that could exist,” Posey said.
There are opportunities both on and off campus for students to bring resources to the community ranging from the new Service Learning Community in the Psychology department, volunteering in Atchison or grabbing a bite to eat in town.
“What I’m suggesting to a certain extent is to break down the wall and pop the bubble every once in a while or maybe encourage students to get outside the bubble,” Posey said.
Whether you’re an Atchison resident or a student studying in Atchison, everyone is a townie somewhere. Everyone has some town, big or small, that they call home.