Commuter Life builds a community

By Katharine Menning

Good Morning Commuters will be happening again on April 7 (photo courtesy of @UNWCommuterLife on Facebook).

Commuters have to do a lot of planning when a commute is involved in their day-to-day plans. Commuters are students who live off-campus and drive to get to classes. They live off-campus for multiple reasons, such as saving money, age and flexibility. About one third of students who attend classes on-campus are commuters, including PSEO students, undergraduate students and adult and graduate studies students.

Commuter Life at the University of Northwestern–St. Paul has its own lounge on the ground floor of the Billy Graham Commons near other Student Life offices. It is a great place for not only commuters but also other students to come hang out, play games, engage in great conversations and try to get some studying done. There are almost always at least one or two commuter students in the office, along with Commuter Assistants, who spend a lot of time there.

This team on campus hosts fun events for both resident and commuter students throughout the school year. These events include online escape rooms, island picnics, campus-wide scavenger hunts and Good Morning Commuters, which provide coffee and donuts for commuters.

Aside from giving commuters a place to hang out and belong, there is a deeper purpose behind Commuter Life at UNW.

According to the director of Commuter Life, Darrin Geier, “The goal for us is to create environments and opportunities for commuter students to connect.” 

Geier continued, “We try to support commuters as they navigate the unique realities of attending school while living off-campus. Whether through the direct care and support of our student leaders [Commuter Assistants], creative and engaging programming or serving as an advocate for commuters on campus, we hope to be an important resource and a vital part of a commuter’s experience.”

Geier also expressed that “Commuter Life seeks to create connections not only amongst commuter students, but between commuters and residents.…. Our desire is to nurture the connection and community that students naturally form by being involved at UNW….” 

He continued by talking about ways they have implemented these ideas: “To this end, we have remained intentional about hosting some of our events for all students, not just commuters … [and] supporting and promoting the things that all of our different campus groups have going on. We hope to see well-rounded students enjoying all that UNW has to offer.”

Geier enthusiastically said that his favorite thing about Commuter Life is “The commuters. As I’ve gotten to know commuter students, it has been so inspiring to hear stories of building resilience, caring for families, managing jobs and balancing life’s complexities. It is an honor to walk alongside commuter students during this significant time in their lives.”

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