Maryville College through a commuter’s eyes

I never pictured myself commuting to my college campus. Yet here I am, driving to class each morning after ensuring that anything I could possibly need for the day is stowed in my car, considering I don’t have the ease of running to my room in between class to grab something I forgot. 

On a recent morning, as raindrops began hitting my windshield, I realized I didn’t check the weather forecast. At that point it was too late to turn around and get a rain jacket or umbrella, so I resigned myself to getting soaked on my walk to class from the commuter parking lot.

The refurbishing of the commuter lounge, which just recently reached completion, was an exciting development on campus for commuter students. This is the first commuter-focused project that I have been aware of at MC so far. While I feel that this was a great endeavor and will be appreciated and utilized by commuting students, it is just a step in the right direction. There are many more areas of campus life that make no considerations for commuter students who wish to stay involved on campus.

Maryville College is a residential school, meaning that students are required to live on campus aside from a few exceptions. Students living with a parent or guardian within 30 miles of campus, students who are 23 years old or above, international students living with host families and students who are married, have children or are pregnant can request to live off-campus. 

According to US News, 38% of MC’s students commute. Despite this, it has felt very isolating to be a commuter, and finding a community on campus has been a challenge for me.

Even events such as the recent commuter social (which has been the only commuter-focused event this semester, as far as I know) and amenities like the commuter lounge can alienate students from the rest of the campus by reminding them that they are not part of the campus community in the same way that resident students are. Not to say that having a lounge for commuters is a negative; I myself have appreciated efforts such as these to make commuter students feel comfortable on campus. It is simply a reminder that we don’t have the convenience of being able to lounge in our own dorm ro om.

The commuter lounge was MC’s response to commuter students’ need for an area to rest or study between classes. I was excited to visit it and see what the designated area for students such as myself was like. However, when I arrived at Bartlett 201, I was confused to find a sign marking the room as “conference room.” I decided to circle around the alternate entrance, just to ensure I was in the right place before possibly barging into a conference. The second door was labeled “exercise room,” so I decided to take my chances and hope that neither plaque was correct. They weren’t.

Inside, the lounge was what I expected. A bit sparse in the furnishings, but there have been reports that there are plans for ongoing improvements to the room. I hope these improvements do come to fruition, and I hope that they include updating the plaques next to the doors.

An easy and effective way that I think the college could make commuters feel involved is by simply making it easier for them to stay informed about campus events for all students—not just commuters. If I had not had resident friends at MC informing me of campus happenings, there would be occasions where I would miss out on events due to their announcement being spread primarily by word of mouth. Home football games, tailgates, Clayton Center events and other fall festivities put on by the Student Programming Board are a few examples.

The more unofficial events, such as tailgating before football games and get togethers on campus, are not publicized through the [email protected] announcements or in any way that would ensure non-residential students would hear about them. For someone who is only on campus long enough to attend class, the news will likely never reach them. These unofficial events, though, are the type that I feel could benefit commuters the most to attend and help them feel more involved in the everyday aspects of campus life.

Perhaps installing a bulletin board in the commuter lounge on which students and faculty alike could post announcements, information and invitations would be more effective in notifying commuter students to campus happenings than receiving details through the grapevine. I also encourage commuter students to follow @maryville.commuters and @mcspb on Instagram, as this is a great way to see announcements and get information about campus happenings.

Commuter students are just as much a part of MC’s student body as anyone else, and whether students are commuting by choice, for financial reasons or for other personal reasons, Maryville College should be striving to make our experience a positive one.

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