Letter: St. Thomas caters to commuters, too

On October 6, 2009, Zach Thielke posted an opinion piece to TommieMedia.com highlighting the importance of new first-year students making connections with the St. Thomas community. Those connections are critical and I want to share how they can be formed for our first-year students that do not live on campus.

About 10 percent of our first-year class this year lives off-campus. In the Commuter Center & Off-Campus Services, we offer Commuter Connections – a program that pairs a small group of first-year commuter students with a Commuter Advisor who communicates with the group and plans activities for them. We also have our Commuter Center lounge with activities happening every week to connect commuter students with the each other and the university’s services and resources. A survey we conducted last spring with over 1,000 UST students that live off-campus shows that those commuter students who visit the Center are more likely to feel connected to student life at St. Thomas than those who haven’t and are significantly more likely to say they feel that UST cares about them.

The work in the residence halls is clearly important. Residence Life does a fantastic job in facilitating the connections for their resident students and has even partnered with the Commuter Center to offer our Commuter-Resident Partnership program. In this program, first-year commuter students become honorary members of a residence hall floor, offering another opportunity for them to connect with their on-campus peers.

Different backgrounds and experiences can affect how individual students seek connections to our community. What St. Thomas does exceptionally well is provide a variety of opportunities for students to engage in the community – from residence halls to commuter programs, service learning to study abroad – so each student can find what fits for them. Thanks for highlighting the diversity of opportunities for all of our first-year students.

Josh Hengemuhle

Area Manager Commuter Center & Off-Campus Services

Dean of Students Office

University of St. Thomas