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Off-Campus and Commuter Community

by Jeanine Ortiz

Out of the 28,000 students that attend the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, about 20,000 of those students live off-campus and commute to school. From the 20,000 students, about 500 students are first-year commuters. While commuting may feel like you’re alone, there is a community of students who are going through or have been through the same experiences.

If you don’t live on campus, commuting to school can be exhausting with the different factors you have to consider every morning. Sometimes you have to leave your home one to two hours before your class actually starts to make it in time. You have to worry about traffic, parking, walking distance from your car to your classroom, and if you choose to, you’ll end up waiting for the T. During my undergrad, I was a commuter student who lived 30 minutes away from campus. While it was great because I saved a lot of money and I got to go home to my family, I struggled a lot due to the factors I listed above. Thankfully, we have the Center for Student Engagement (CSE) who support their off-campus and commuter students by offering commuter friendly events, a FYS 101 Commuter section course, hosting an Adulting 101 series, and connecting student to resources to make their college journey easier!

The CSE has many plans and initiatives for first-year commuter students and strives to make campus feel like a second home for students who don’t live on campus. With these students in mind, the office focuses on scheduling daytime programming that is friendly for commuter students who do not stay on campus for evening hours. Programming like this includes events such as a free waffle bar where students can make waffles and add all of the delicious toppings their heart’s desire! Be on the lookout for upcoming dates and times.

Another way commuter students can get involved on campus is by taking FYS 101. This course is taught by the coordinator for special programs and events Meghan Woodward. This course is taught during the fall semester every Thursday from 11:10 a.m. to 12 p.m. is a conversation-based course that allows students to connect with other students. This will help first-year students transition to a university environment. A bonus point with this course is that students will be connected to a peer mentor who is also a commuter student and can answer or help with problems students may face.

In addition to FYS 101, Woodward will also be hosting a life skills series called Adulting 101. These sessions will occur once a month on a Tuesday evening and will educate students on basic life skills that will help them to be successful after they graduate such as healthy living, how to cook balanced meals, financial wellness, what is credit is and why it is important, and during the spring semester they plan on having a session about filing taxes.

CSE hosts a Housing Fair each semester where students and members of the UT community can learn more information about living off-campus. Student can learn about the benefits of renting or buying, what properties are available, and how to find roommates. For more information on where students can look for apartments, roommate profiles, and subleases, visit the UT Housing website.

There are a lot of great resources out there to help off-campus and commuter students have a smooth semester. The CSE has a suite in the Student Union that is open to all students. Something that I discovered sitting in the lounge myself is that they have a TV where they track the traffic around Knoxville. They also have a newsletter that gets sent out to first-year commuter students that talks about upcoming events hosted by the Center for Student Engagement, parking and transit updates, and many more!

My name is Jeanine Ortiz and I am a rising Senior at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. I am majoring in communications with an emphasis in public relations, advocacy, and persuasion. I am involved with SGA at my institution and I have been appointed Chief of Staff for 2019-2020. I work part-time at Tidewater Community College assisting the Coordinator of Student Leadership and Development. I was a NASPA Undergraduate Fellow (NUFP) Intern for the Summer of 2019 and worked with the Associate Vice Chancellor, Dr. Frank Cuevas, and his team. When I graduate from my undergrad institution, I will be attending graduate school to pursue a Master’s Degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs.