UH to bring commuters into community

David Delgado//The Daily Cougar

David Delgado//The Daily Cougar

As if the overfilled parking lots aren’t proof enough, it is commonly known that UH has a large commuter student population.  Commuters — and some students who live in on-campus housing — often find that it is difficult to create a bond with the Cougar spirit when they are unaware of, and therefore detached from, campus activities.

Then we have the incoming freshmen.

These new Cougars have a chance to create a new life when they come to UH. I know it is a cliché, but the chance to reinvent oneself and get involved with something new is at the tips of our Cougar-proud fingertips. However, the clubs and organizations that have the potential to become a niche often go unseen in the chaos of a new environment.

Now we need to combine the fear of the anxious freshman with the stress of being a commuter. From this, we have a possible antidote for this worry and anxiety: the Commuter Assistant Program.

The Commuter Assistant Program is a transitional tool for UH’s Commuter Student Services. However, instead of focusing on the mass of the commuter student body, like CSS does, CAP targets the population of new students who do not live on campus.

According to the CSS website, commuter undergraduates make up about 85 percent of the student population.

This large statistic is a driving force for the creation of this program.

Created by Branston Harris, a graduate assistant for Transfer Commuter Services, and Assistant Dean of Students Alison Wells, this program is intended to help make first-year commuter students feel less nervous and make the transition from home life to college life a little easier.

Created in Fall 2013, this program is meant to help students learn about resources on campus and teach them how to navigate through our intricate community.

Wells described how CAP is handling the change from dream to actuality.

“When we were created back in Fall 2013, we were really starting from scratch, so it’s really trying to create a program that focuses on communication. It’s (about) building a website and building a social media platform,” Wells said.

CAP is currently using Mapworks — a survey-like program — to find out how incoming commuter students are feeling about college life and whether they are having any issues. Following the Mapworks survey, CAP will contact students to make sure they are settling in.

“There’s also a follow-up in the spring so we can see if they’ve persisted through the semester. So really, it’s about retention. That’s the big focus of the institution and President (Renu) Khator — is the retention of students,” Wells said.

“Hopefully we’re catching students early during their first semester and correcting any issues they have, so they are more likely to persist and stay at the University until graduation.”

In addition, CAP is looking for commuter student leaders to help guide incoming freshmen through their first semester at UH for a position as a Commuter Assistant.

Information on how to be a CA can be found at uh.edu/commuter.

The deadline to apply to be a Commuter Assistant is at 5 p.m. March 3.

Harris said that one might occasionally see CAP stationed around campus, in the future.

“We not only promote through our social media, but we also set up a table as foot traffic comes from students walking in,” Harris said. “The main goal is awareness — getting people to know that we are here, we’re available and we have valuable resources that all commuter students at UH can take advantage of.”

Regardless of a student’s classification, existing on a college campus can be hectic.

Commuters can sometimes be heard expressing their concerns with their lack of knowledge of on-campus events. Others feel that they are not receiving notifications of these events and are therefore missing out on some of the perks of being a Cougar.

With the beginning of the Commuter Assistant Program for freshmen, hopefully commuters as a whole will be targeted to be further integrated into the UH community.

Senior staff columnist Kelly Schafler is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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