The Commuter Perspective – It’s All About Communication
Life as a commuter student at GCU used to be about eating lunch in your car between classes. John-Paul Reiger, GCU’s Director of Student Leadership and Commuter Life, is first to admit that there was a serious disconnect with students who commuted to class. Students were on campus everyday, but not involved.
John-Paul and Commuter Director Catie Whiffen have responded to several of the issues that, in the past, left commuter students out in the cold. The first step was to improve communication.
What a difference a year makes
Nicole Hill is a Junior Nursing and Christian Studies student, and is in her second year as a commuter. She says the differences for commuter students this year, compared to last, are remarkable.
“We are getting a lot more support this year,” she says. “John-Paul works hard to support the commuter students and communicates with us often.”
She adds that more commuters are getting involved and leading the way for activities this year. Not just for commuter-specific activities, but all campus activities have benefited from commuter student presence.
Not only is communication more frequent, but the quality of presentation is much improved.
“John-Paul is very excited and is offering some creative, and frequent advertisements for activities,” says Nicole. “Instead of just throwing up some signs, they take the time to create nice signs and advertisements, and they are all over campus.”
According to Catie, an increase in commuter reps has proven beneficial. The commuter reps are out communicating with students, planning activities and brainstorming ideas to build the community.
“Last year I went to a lot of events and never saw any of my commuter friends there, only residents,” says Catie. “I was a commuter last year. I had resident friends and they would ask if I was going to events, and that would be the first I had heard about it.”
This year the Commuter Life team is trying to make the students more united, she says. Students who live off campus can still be just as involved, connected and plugged in.
Communication is a two-way street, and this year commuter students have taken the steps to get involved and help change the commuter culture.
According to Nesha Smith, Freshman in Nursing, the challenge of being a commuter student is the commute itself – dealing with the traffic. The Goodyear resident commutes about 45 minutes to campus each morning, and by the time she arrives it is difficult to find a parking space.
Nesha considered living on campus but the cost was too much. However, the recent information about the housing cost cuts has her reconsidering living on campus next year. Despite the challenges, she has immersed herself in campus life.
Nesha works as a flight attendant. One of the benefits is she can determine her own schedule. She decided to work weekends, to have enough time during the week to focus on school and activities on campus. She is also preparing to try out for the basketball team.
“I stay for activities all the time,” she says. “The University has a lot of great options, and I love it. This school is amazing to me.”
While credit is given to John-Paul and his team for their efforts, it is the students who have taken advantage and are now leading the efforts.
“Commuters want to be involved,” says Catie. “Last year the timing was weird because so many activities would be at night, and that is hard for commuters, especially those who travel far. We are planning activities earlier in the day and at times that are more convenient.”
According to Catie, commuters have begun to plan their own activities off campus, extending the GCU community into their own homes and neighborhoods.