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Why the commuter student’s experience must change

The University does a fine job of promoting the lifelong connections to be made during one’s time as a student. They boast that with the convenience of Wall Street being a mere 10 minute walk away, and the rest of New York City at one’s fingertips, building invaluable connections both within the University and around it are feasible—if not easy—undertakings.

Long regarded as a commuter school, the University has stamped out this reputation through sheer buying power—building new residence halls, for example—and by creating a sense of community by hosting countless events. The events, which range from “Midnight Breakfast” to “Welcome Week,” certainly help resident students find their place, but don’t do much for commuter students. There seems to be a lack of distinguished events for the commuter population. The Homer screens attempt to keep everyone caught up on the latest events, but most event advertisements come from word of mouth from an RA or flyers in the residence halls, which misses the large population of commuters.

While a large majority of students commute, it does not mean that they don’t crave a sense of community, even if said community was amongst other commuters. On the University’s website, the Office of Student Development and Student Activities is presented as a resource for commuters looking for a sense of community. The office’s vision statement is: “To foster an inclusive, experiential learning environment and create dynamic co-curricular opportunities for the intellectual growth of our students as they prepare to be global leaders of the world.” They go on to note that they also support adaptability by supporting “a campus climate that serves as agents of change through meaningful contributions within the campus, locally and globally.”

While these are amazing attributes to have in a campus office, most commuter students are unaware of its purpose or even existence. If there were more of an effort to promote this office aimed at creating and cultivating the University’s community, there would be a more united feeling among students. It takes great effort for many to push themselves out of their comfort zone to connect with others—whether it is in a student organization or even just making friends.

Senior Mercedes Rodriguez has been commuting from New Jersey for four years as a full-time student. She shared, “Your experience at Pace as a commuter is also dependent on how much you apply yourself at Pace. You can easily meet many commuters and non-commuters and make many friends. At the end of the day, it’s really about how much you want to get out of Pace.”

However, for students who have a hard time keeping up with what’s going on on-campus, more commuter friendly activities, resources, and promotion of these events would definitely aid the issue of faltered communication among the commuter population. Rodriguez feels the University has overall done a good job of promoting a commuter experience, saying, “They have many events and programs that are always open to commuters.” She noted, however, “It would be nice to have a commuter based group in Pace where commuters can interact and hang out with other commuters.”

But no such place exists at the University’s NYC campus. The Student Union is not a designated commuter lounge. It is often used for events and therefore is not always accessible to commuters looking for a place to relax. At the University’s Pleasantville campus, Kessel Student Center is a designated commuter lounge, offering TVs, air hockey, computers, and more as a space to “hang out between classes.” The Pleasantville campus also has the Commuter Advisory Board, which provides services and programs for commuters, including commuter orientations and welcome back receptions. CAB does not exist on the NYC campus. This would definitely help bridge the gap between the commuters and the rest of the student population.

For a number of students, commuting means getting up two to three hours before a class, spending upwards of an hour on a train, and finding the odd nook and cranny between classes to kill time before heading home for the day. That doesn’t sound like an ideal situation. These commuters are getting burned out very quickly, with their engagement with the University campus and their peers slowly disappearing. The initial connection with the University will start to deteriorate, and soon enough, they will show up to One Pace Plaza just for class.

One of the areas which the University excels at is providing a community of resources for its resident students. From RA’s, RD’s, RHA, to the Faculty in Residence program and the limitless connections to all offices and departments, the resources provided to our resident students is remarkable.

But commuter students need that same kind of support—sponsorship, access, and engagement. They need a place to call home. The commuter versus resident experience is not equal. We need to empower commuters with resources, student mentors and events.

So let’s fix it. After all, we want to empower students with the proper tools for them to succeed in achieving their goals and chasing their dreams. Luckily, our campus is growing every single year, and the diversity of our students is unfolding to be one of the most unique in the tri-state area. We have a powerful student body that is not only capable of excellence, but also action.

We are calling for action by the University to provide commuters with a rich and prosperous experience—A Commuter Office with a functioning staff, Commuter Advisors and resources, opportunities and connections. We are asking for an environment where commuters and all students can come together and feel appreciated, supported, sponsored and most of all, understood. We desire a central place at the University that recognizes that need. Let’s take initiative and tap into an idea that can be golden, because we can harbor a campus community that makes our students unstoppable.

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