Life for a commuter student is often dictated by an outside schedule as many are reliant on public transportation to get to and from school. For this reason, it can sometimes be hard for these students to feel like they are a part of campus life and to get involved to the extent they may otherwise want to.
That’s why last year, as part of a senior project, Will Johnson ’16 created the commuter assistant program. Commuter assistants (CA) function much like their resident assistant (RA) counterparts with duties including planning special programs during commuter friendly times, hosting the annual Commuter Appreciation Week, and helping make sure commuters know about everything from parking to meal plans.
According to Clayton Allen ’19 one of two commuter assistants for the 2016-17 academic year, it is the job of the CAs to make sure commuter students “don’t get lost in the shuffle.”
“Like everybody else on campus, commuters want to be appreciated and they want to feel welcomed as a part of college life,” Allen says. “The commuter assistant program really helps us to do that and make sure we are best meeting the needs of these students.”
The other commuter assistant this year, Andrew Conboy ’18, is actually a former commuter but one who knows very well the importance of being informed about all of the amenities available to commuter students.
“I think a lot of students don’t know this, but there is a meal plan available to commuters which is a really good thing to have,” says Conboy, who won the Commuter of the Year award last year. “That’s one of the things we as commuter assistants try to educate the students on.”
In addition to meal plans, Allen says many commuter students aren’t aware of many of the other things Chestnut Hill College offers including the Bikeshare program, the Fall in Love with Philly ticketing program and some of the best places on campus to study or go for some quiet time. That’s why the commuter assistants give tours of “commuter hot-spots” and why they have been present at orientation weekend for a special commuter orientation program.
“Being commuters ourselves, it’s important that we do what we can to really make the commuter experience one these students can enjoy without having to worry so much about missing out because they had to catch a train or they left campus and didn’t want to drive back,” says Allen.
With that in mind that the commuter assistants plan their events during the day, to give as many students as possible an opportunity to be involved. It was with this same goal, that this year’s Commuter Appreciation Week was organized. The events included an early morning breakfast to accommodate commuters who arrive early before class, an afternoon of video games in the commuter lounge, an ice cream and cookie social and a day where students could plant a seedling in a mason jar while enjoying pudding dirt cups. According to both Allen and Conboy, all of the week’s events were a success.
“I think there was a definite sense that the commuters really appreciated everything that was organized just for them and there was a level of excitement because of that,” says Allen. “Just by this program alone I think, hands down, that life for commuter students has improved and that the College has 100 percent supported us in these events. That matters for the students to see that just because they are commuters doesn’t mean they don’t have an important place on this campus.”
Marilee Gallagher ’14