Commuters Connect to Campus Life

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Student representatives of the Commuter Student Association

Student Organization Provides Commuters "a foot in the door" to campus life

When a new high school graduate says he is going to college, it's typically assumed he is going AWAY to college. Residence hall living, dining hall food and newfound freedom are all considered part and parcel of the “college experience.” Still, there are myriad reasons students elect to cut the “away” part out of going to college. Local students who attend The University of Scranton cite things like being able to study without distractions and the desire to pursue academic programs that enjoy the University's reputation for excellence and rigor. However, an age-old and growing reason students choose to commute is financial. There are big savings realized by skipping “room and board.” Whatever the reason, commuters still want to be a part of vibrant campus life. Stephanie Adamec, the University’s director of off campus and commuter affairs, helps commuters find ways to meet and mingle with their dorm-living peers and weave themselves into the fabric of campus life.

Her office is barely two years old and is on the cutting edge of a growing trend in higher education. As more students seek ways to cut costs, commuter populations grow. The University is pioneering strategies to integrate these students into college life beyond the classroom.

“This is an emerging field in student affairs,” Adamec said. “We can't just assume commuters' needs are the same as residents'. This is part of Cura Personalis, the University’s concern for the whole person. Academically, commuter students excel. They have some of the highest GPAs on campus. But what about their other needs?”

Adamec said the biggest challenge for commuter students can be something as simple as “physical space.” If a student's classes end at noon, it's very tempting to just go home, since it seems he or she has no other reason to be there and no place to go. Adamec said that the University made a conscious decision to avoid creating a specific “commuter lounge.” “We don't want to isolate them,” she said. Instead, the campus has a variety of convenient student spaces for both residents and commuters. The spaces were there, the challenge was to get commuters to use them.

Adamec said she established the Commuter Student Association (CSA), now an official University club, as a way to give commuters “a purposeful reason to stay on campus and develop a peer network on campus.” The Association hosts monthly coffee hours and topic dinners on campus and also holds joint events with other clubs and residence halls. In addition, Adamec revamped instituted “Commuter Day the Royal Way,” an orientation session just for new commuter students that introduces them to CSA and all the resources the Off Campus and Commuter Affairs Office offers.

Junior Heather Derenick of Taylor is the incoming president of the Commuter Student Association. She said she got involved with CSA after talking to Adamec at an event for transfer students. “So I went to my first CSA meeting and started to branch out,” she said. “I really feared I was going to miss out, but the Commuter Student Association is a foot in the door of campus life. I met all kinds of people. It's a segue into becoming a part of the campus community.”

Derenick said she was immersed in campus life through activities like intramural sports (CSA has its own teams); a collaborative event called “The Taste of Scranton,” which featured a pizza tasting; and a carnival CSA hosted this past spring on the rooftop of the parking pavilion. “It was an end-of-year party cosponsored with the Residence Hall Association,” Derenick said.

As incoming president, Derenick is already working with Adamec to plan Commuter Day the Royal Way and looks forward to helping a new crop of students find  ways to integrate beyond their classes.

“We want them to stay on campus,” Adamec said. “They have to put themselves out there and connect.” As the semester unfolds, she and the CSA will be there to do just that.