Story and photos by Theresa Smith
GCU News Bureau
On a hot afternoon in mid-June, the blast of cool air welcomes a half-dozen Grand Canyon University students who have unloaded their stuffed backpacks, spreading their books, laptops and lunches all over the tables and comfy couches in the Commuter Lounge inside the Media Arts Complex. Small packs of summer school students who also happen to be commuters welcome the persistent air conditioning, refrigerators and microwaves, vending machines and lockers.
“This is essentially a giant bedroom for us. You see people sleep in here,’’ said Ruben Garcia, a College of Education major. “I skateboard all around campus, so I just leave my skate stuff in a corner. The cool thing is every one really knows that if you see something there, someone left it, so no one is going to touch it. We all have that respect. I have never heard of an incident of someone’s stuff being stolen or someone’s stuff being tampered with.’’
The summer school factor has made the Commuter Lounge — located between the Student Life and College of Humanities and Social Sciences buildings — even a little more social for Garcia.
“I have more time to talk to some of the students I see in the lounge,’’ he said. “Now that it is summer, we dive and delve.’’
Pointing to a student across the room, Garcia said, “Me and that guy are crazy alien conspiracy theorists together. It is fun. You get to see a different side of people because they are only taking one or two classes and it’s summer, so the stress level is better. You get to hang out with people and see them in a different light, so we are all bonding in a cool kind of way.’’
Garcia is taking one summer school class, EDU 470, teaching math to students in grades K-8. It keeps him on track to graduate in December. He already has been hired for a teaching job, beginning in January. A transfer from Glendale Community College, Garcia has paid his way through school via scholarships and part-time jobs, including his current position at Lowe’s. He appreciates the serious mindset of his GCU peers, which he attributes to what he calls “the Christian slant.”
“Because there is that Christian slant; there is a moral code,’’ he said. “They keep it Christ-focused with Chapel. And in a lot of my classes, there are morning verses and morning prayer time. With that, there is that implicit need to stay more focused and stay more grounded and stay more ready for your academics. Sometimes when you go to other universities to visit friends, the weekend is just a giant party, and here it is not. I really like that aspect, and that’s one reason why I chose GCU.’’
Across the lounge, Marina Alvarez is focused on an assignment on her laptop. While she is literally chilled out, her friends from her usual Girl Scout camp summer job are baffled by her absence. “Why are you going to summer school?’’ they ask.
Her answer sounds like a GCU commercial.
“I want to be out there serving my purpose,’’ Alvarez said simply. “I love the phrase ‘serving my purpose’ because it encompasses everything.’’
An organic chemistry class and a physics class in Summer School Session 1, and three more classes in Summer School Session II beginning July 2, will help Alvarez get “out there’’ sooner — she is scheduled to graduate in December.
“A lot of jobs open up at Christmas when everybody retires, so the job market is a little bit better,’’ said Alvarez, who plans to parlay her forensic science major into a job as a crime scene investigator.
“My ultimate goal is to be a medico legal death investigator, to declare people dead at crime scenes,’’ Alvarez said. Chuckling, she added, “The living are harder to deal with.’’
The girl who was never grossed out by dissecting found her career path by compromising two of her interests: law and medicine.
After three years in GCU dorms, the senior from Los Angeles found an off-campus apartment and new social outlets in the Commuter Lounge.
“The air conditioning is really nice and everybody gets to be really social,’’ she said. “I have made friends just by sitting in the Commuter Lounge.’’
Nearby, aspiring nurses Kelly Craig, Rhyann Woodard, Allie Parkinson and Hope Dickinson gather to eat and quiz each other between classes. After two years taking prerequisites in anatomy, physiology and chemistry, among others, the fabulous four started a 15-month registered nursing program earlier this month. The Commuter Lounge is a money saver.
“We bring our lunches, and we use the fridge and microwave,’’ Dickinson said.
“We don’t have the Lopes dining dollars now that we don’t live on campus, so if we eat on Lopes Way it is out of pocket,’’ Craig said. “Plus, we like hanging out here.’’
The experience will be different in the fall when the Commuter Lounge, the Veterans Center and the ROTC vacate the Media Arts Complex, which will be demolished, and reopen in the nearby Kaibab Building.
But as long as the air is cool, the lunches are hot, and the conversations are lively, commuting students have the opportunity to continue to make themselves at home in their “giant bedroom.”
Contact Theresa Smith at (602) 639-7457 or email@example.com.