Commuter students look for ways to connect to campus

By Leah Huyard – News & Feature Editor

If you passed through the library around 3 p.m. last Tuesday, you may have noticed people gathered in the foyer, relaxing after a long day of classes, enjoying each other’s company, and most importantly, eating the apple pie cinnamon roll bread that freshman Zach Smisor had brought to share.

Freshman Zach Smisor shares his home baked goods with professor Andre Swartley.

Sharing food is not uncommon on Hesston’s campus, but what makes this event special is that Zach baked this bread himself, in his own kitchen.

Smiler is an off-campus student, which means every day that he has class, he drives 27 miles from his home in Valley Center, to Hesston. It also means he’s had to give more of an effort to make friends. Once he did, he said, he formed “some great relationships with some great people.”

Currently, about 31 percent of Hesston students, including Smisor, commute to campus for their classes. That’s about 138 students this year.

According to Smisor and other commuter students, there are definitely benefits to living off-campus. Smisor enjoys his lunch everyday, a meal his mom has packed for him and a luxury only residential students can dream about. He says he also has a much more consistent sleep schedule than dorming students.

Caitlin Waits, a non-traditional sophomore commuter, likes not having the distraction of dorm life while she’s trying to get her homework done. Freshman off-campus student Lacey Biggerstaff  “can’t imagine not seeing [her] little brother everyday,” and because she only has class three days a week, she can use Tuesdays and Thursdays to focus on her homework at home.

But, there are downsides from living off-campus. Biggerstaff dislikes the 10-minute drive it takes her to get to campus, when her residential friends can just walk across the hall to visit each other.

These three students are actively involved in campus life at Hesston, just like a lot of other off-campus students. Theatre, chamber orchestra, study groups, and various clubs are just some of the activities commuter students have the chance to participate in alongside dorming students. Off-campus students are also given the option of being “adopted” into a mod if they choose to do so.

Dean of Students Juli Winter says that the college tries hard to include commuter students at the beginning of each semester with the off-campus student orientation.

“Emails with weekly CAB activities go out to all students and we always take CAB activity posters to the Nursing Department for posting there.” The Student Advisory Board also includes off-campus students, which meetings with the VPs once a month.

Biggerstaff says Hesston does a great job of communicating with off-campus students. They get all the emails than on-campus students get, as well as the same academic and social opportunities.

Smisor would like to see more interaction between on and off campus students, but he agrees that the college has done pretty well.

Waits thinks Hesston could do a bit better. Considering the large number of commuters, she says, Hesston should increase the number of opportunities and communication.

Winter is open to suggestions. 

“We’re always looking for other ways to include them in our campus community.” 

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