Imagine a college where no one talks to each other. The halls are dead silent, as students are caught up in their own world while they wait for class. Everyone just goes to class, and then goes home, not bothering to interact with fellow students and teachers.
This environment is a result of a commuter culture mentality.
What is commuter culture?
In short, commuter culture is when a person just goes to class and then leaves campus immediately after.
There is no staying after class and chatting with the teacher, no hanging around campus to run into people.
“They just really have this…‘don’t talk to me’ vibe,” said Adam Kaminsky, a Communication Studies assistant professor at College of the Canyons.
Community colleges, such as COC, are places where this mentality has the opportunity to manifest.
“We save a lot of money in community college, which is one of the biggest benefits to going to a community college, but the problem is there’s this culture where…people are not ok with making friends even (though) they’re just as vulnerable,” Kaminsky explained. “Students just don’t connect because they commute in and commute out.”
This can take a toll on both a student’s education and health, according to the professor.
He should know; he experienced this mentality himself when he was a student at COC.
“When I was doing that 22-minute drive, I lost motivation,” Kaminsky said. “So my first year here, I didn’t do very well because I honestly didn’t come to class as often as I should, and I really didn’t enjoy being here.”
What helped him to regain his motivation was getting involved on campus.
“Before I got involved, I was crazy lonely, my grades suffered. Once I started getting involved, my grades improved and I started meeting people,” Kaminsky explained.
One easy way to become more invested in the college community is to join clubs on campus, according to Chase Longan, a longtime COC student and a former officer of the Associated Student Government.
“Joining organizations where you can meet other people…gives you a reason to stay on campus,” said Longan.
He added that it also helps students with prioritizing time and form connections, building networks they can utilize to succeed.
Members of Sigma Chi Eta, the honors program within the Communication Studies Club for which Kaminsky is the advisor, decided to showcase an interactive wall to help people combat the commuter culture mentality.
The wall included different resources the college offered, such as The Learning Center, library, clubs, counseling, and others.
Students could post a note card on the wall with their reasons why they utilize that particular resource, interacting with each other in the process.
Upbeat music in the background further contributed to the positive and welcoming environment that Sigma members were trying to create.
“The wall was really just a chance for us to get out there and not just talk about it behind closed doors in our meetings, but really to try to go out there and find the students who are walking around potentially feeling lonely and see if we find a way to help them focus on the fact that you don’t need to be stuck in the commuter culture,” said Kaminsky.
“It’s a choice, and as soon as you start getting involved, you can find like-minded people, people you want to be friends with, and that, again, (the) majority of the time, leads to more success, because they have more fun while they are on campus.”
But students do not have to participate in an event to overcome commuter culture.
They themselves can start making a difference by learning people’s names, even though it may seem uncomfortable at first.
“If you work on your interpersonal skills and learn to approach people,” Kaminsky explained, “you’ll find people who want to do better, who want to connect and who want to basically feel like they have a family on campus.”