More than 15,173 undergraduates attend St. John’s University, and 83 percent is made up of commuters according to the Office of Institutional Research. With such a beautiful campus and classes that challenge even the perfect “A” student to think critically, it is no wonder the applicant pool continues to grow each year. With so many students swarming Marillac Hall and the Great Lawn, is it possible for anyone to have difficulty establishing friendships and campus connections? For the some commuters, this is the case.
It can be much easier for students in the Residence Village to meet new people and form friendships because residents spend the majority of the academic year on campus and are likely to get to know other people in the Residence Village. Commuters do not have that advantage. Instead, they rely on interacting with fellow classmates and extracurricular activities to form lasting bonds at the University. However, some commuters do not have the opportunity to join clubs or organizations because of outside commitments, such as a part-time job and time constraints because of their long commutes. So unless the commuters are social butterflies that can easily strike up a conversation with strangers, their resources are somewhat limited.
It should be understood that this disadvantage does not necessarily mean that St. John’s is not a commuter-friendly campus. Students will find commuters in most, if not all organizations. Coming from anywhere except the dorms does not brand a student as isolated. However, more can be done to help commuters experience the campus lifestyle.There is the University Center lounge, which is not only out of the way since most commuters hangout in Marillac, but it is lacking where entertainment is concerned, and somewhat uninviting because of its barren atmosphere. If there were a commuter lounge, it would be a place set aside for commuters to study or relax, away from the sometimes loud environment in the cafeterias, but most of all it would serve as a great place for commuters to get to know the other commuters at school. It would become a sort of meeting place where people could go and see familiar faces each week. A place like this could break the ice and spur interactions between people who continue to come back each week.
In addition to the commuter lounge, activities designed to encourage interaction with other commuters would be a big help in forming a bond with other students. This is not a suggestion meant to put a dividing line between residents and commuters. However, a few events scattered here and there across the calendar is not asking for much. One idea for an event is hosting a commuter camp out, which could be used to foster commuter/resident friendships by having the students stay out on the Great Lawn or in Carnesecca Arena, have a movie screening and games.
College should be the place where students’ best experiences occur. Yes, academics are extremely important during these years, but the social aspects are just as crucial. It is important for all students to develop a strong connection to the school; it would help the campus community and would create stronger alumni ties by students to remember their time in school fondly. St. John’s is a fantastic school that many students love and will deeply miss upon graduation. If the University can just push a little bit further to give commuters the opportunity to interact with more of the residential student body and enable them to have more of a foundation here on campus, it is certain commuter support will grow.