On-campus organizations foster commuter involvement

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The dorms are not the only hub for a true college experience.

“Most commuters get involved because they want to have the most real college experience,” said Bibi Yasmin Moghani, chair of the Committee on Student Organizations (COSO).

About 25 percent of engaged student leaders on campus are commuter students, according to Danielle Howard, director of the Department of Orientation and Commuter Student Involvement.

Commuters get involved to this extent because of their familiarity with the university as South Florida natives, according to sophomore Dariel Fagundo. It also helps them from being excluded from a complete college experience that is often equated with residential life.

“Since commuters stayed at home, they want to immerse themselves at UM and get involved,” he said.

Without a dorm on campus, commuters tend to congregate in the International Lounge located on the second floor of the University Center. The Association of Commuter Students (ACS) and La Federacion de Estudiantes Cubanos (FEC) offices are located in the I-Lounge, and they help commuters adopt a social and cultural life at the university.

Commuters have solidified their foothold as leaders in organizations, such as Student Government (SG), FEC, ACS and programming boards such as COSO. Commuters have also worked as resident assistants and academic fellows in the residential colleges.

For example, SG President Nawara Alawa and newly-elected SG Vice President Justin Borroto are commuter students. Commuters have a tradition of being part of SG executive boards and administration, addressing concerns such as parking and campus involvement.

UM is one of a handful of schools nationwide that has a department that focuses on the needs of commuter students.

The Department of Orientation and Commuter Student Involvement emphasizes building relationships and networking opportunities among commuters.

Junior Elan Aleman said that the department does a good job in presenting itself and the opportunities available for commuters through programs such as Great Start.

Great Start is a weekendlong, pre-orientation program that takes place in the summer.

It is designed to promote and emphasize college adjustment and campus involvement opportunities for first-year commuter students.

“Great Start is the pivotal motivation for some of us to get involved,” Moghani said.

About 21 percent of commuter students are active leaders in universities across the United States, according to an article in US News and World Report. The low percentage is due to the fact that major universities are located in small cities and do not have many options for freshmen.

Universities in larger cities, however, such as Marquette University, Indiana State University, University of Pittsburgh and Stony Brook University, usually offer commuter student services. Like UM, these services include a lounge, commuter assistants and programs to help students get involved on campus.

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