February 4, 2016 | 3 p.m.
By Monique Kleinhuizen ’08, Communications Strategist
The Bethel Office of Student Life has launched a series of new-and-improved services geared toward making commuter students feel at home even if they don’t call campus home. There’s a new Commuter Lounge—complete with a kitchenette, coat closet, and recreational and study spaces—along with regular communication and programming designed just for them.
Commuters can still access the shuttle and campus resources, attend student events, and take part in Bible studies, Chapel, and Vespers. Commuters also have added meal plan options and can receive discounted rates on public transportation.
At Bethel, about 30% of traditional undergraduate students commute, a quarter of them living with family and the others with friends or a spouse.
“[For commuter students], it’s harder to get to know people because they don’t have the natural ways to encounter others in dorms…the more they can connect on campus, the more they can be known,” says Christy Coulter, assistant dean for campus engagement. She notes that many commuter students have found community by getting a job on campus, joining clubs or musical ensembles, and getting to know other students outside of class.
Peyton Witzke ’17 is a nursing major with a minor in journalism. As managing editor of the Clarion student newspaper, a member of Bethel Student Government “Traditions” Committee, and a Homecoming cheer captain for the off-campus student group, she’s got her hands full when she’s on campus.
“Bethel has been a beautiful place to grow with the Lord…I've met some really great friends at Bethel who I know will be my lifelong friends,” says Witzke. Commuting has given her an opportunity to connect with the campus community even more fully than during her two years living on-campus. “My junior year, I was the seasonal events director for Student Activities, and was basically surrounded by a mass amount of fellow students 24/7 while I planned my events, and that was incredibly overwhelming. I am so entirely thankful to have been able to leave campus just to be able to breathe!”
“I think Bethel does a good job at helping commuter students get connected. If a student is intentional about meeting people and getting involved, there are so many ways for them to do so,” says Sterling Harer ’18, a political science and international relations major with a business minor. He was originally a Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) student at Bethel. “The Loft helps commuters to get to know each other more, so it facilitates fellowship…sometimes I feel like I'm missing out on the whole dorm experience, but then I remember how much fun I've had.”
Jonah Venegas ’17 is majoring in linguistics—with a Spanish minor—and says he hadn’t planned to stay long-term after he was a Bethel PSEO student. “But over the course of my first year here, I ended up joining Welcome Week, signing up to be a TA for a class…by the time that first May rolled around, I sort of got sucked into Bethel by getting so plugged in and connected that I just felt like I couldn't leave after that,” says Venegas. He’s since been an editor for the Coeval, the Department of English student literary magazine; served as the commuter life assistant for the Office of Student Life; and has been a teaching assistant and SHIFT campus Bible study leader.
As a commuter, he says he’s been able to balance a full life on campus while calling Roseville, Minnesota, home. “There's also a little bit of fear of missing out sometimes when it comes to late night fun things or weekend events that happen on campus. Being a commuter gives me the best of both worlds... I do genuinely like living at home, and sometimes it's nice to be able to leave campus at the end of every day and have that drive to sort of decompress.”Find out more about Bethel’s Commuter Life services.