The University’s new Commuter Student Mentor Program (CSM) is under constant revision in the ongoing strategic planning process, as the new program is set to be in place this summer, beginning with new student orientation and continuing through the fall 2015 semester.
Vaughn Clay, Director of Off-Campus and Commuter Services, is involved with this new commuter program. “It began with the idea of having current commuters available during New Student Orientation, which stemmed the idea for a commuter mentorship program,” said Clay.
Work on the program started in Fall 2014 and continued into the spring semester when Clay sent out interest emails to all commuter students. Out of a candidate pool of 24 students, Clay chose 12 students who “are going to play a very active role in helping first year commuter students transition into life at the University.”
Being involved in New Student Orientation has inspired Clay to get the gears moving on this program. He said of the Orientation Leaders (OLs), “They have substantial impacts on the lives of Monmouth University students and they’ve done a really great job.”
Yet, the OLs are very much involved with the residential side of things. What Clay envisioned, inspired by the Orientation Leaders, is a type of Commuter OL and friendly face for commuter students on campus.
Clay, who has been working with commuter students for 15 years, said, “Commuter students have needs and concerns, which are a little more unique to the lives they lead as compared to the resident students. They are distinctive and different.” The CSM Program has two facets to its method: first is the interaction at new student orientation, and second is following through in the fall semester.
During New Student Orientation, commuter students will have their first face-to-face contact with the chosen mentors. This interaction is very important for the mentors in establishing a base with the incoming commuter students and getting them to feel more comfortable with the mentors, according to Clay.
The second facet, the fall semester, will be based more on mentors having an independent interaction with his/her mentees.
The program hopes to have mentors and their groups engage in group activities as well as one-on-one meetings and interactions with the mentees. Getting involved will be a large goal for the fall semester.
Cristin Bosko, a senior chemistry student, said, “There is RHA (Resident Hall Association) for residents, but there is no equivalent for commuters,” she said. “I think a mentor program would be very helpful for new commuters. I would have been interested in this program if it had been available to me as a first year student… something like this mentor program would have been extremely helpful in finding activities and clubs on campus.”
Clay is very optimistic about the start of the program. “There is a lot of positive interest amongst my colleagues in Student Life for this program,” he exaplined. Clay said he is very encouraged by students he has selected to be the University’s very first group of commuter mentors. The mentors said they could not be more thrilled to be involved in this budding program as it provides a unique leadership opportunity for these commuter students.
Susan Schuld, a freshman english student, said, “I wanted to be a part of CSM because, as a commuter, the college experience is daunting. Without a roommate or suitemate to lean on, you don’t always know where to go for advice. I wanted to be a role model that first year students can look up to and rely on,”
“Whether they need advice on academics, extracurricular activities, or just want a friend to talk to, I will be there as a support system and confidant that they can turn to.,” she said.
Schuld speaks as a spokesperson for all of the new mentees, according to her, they are all bursting with enthusiasm and ready to lay a strong foundation for the years to come with this new and hopeful program.
“This program is about injecting seasoned guides into the lives of our first year students and being their extra resource in this big journey,” said Clay.