By DANELLA DONADO
This summer a big change happened at the office of Residence Life. A new section branched out to form the Office of Transfer and Commuter Student Services. This office will cater to the needs of transfer and commuter students. A group that makes a large portion of Mary Washington’s student population. Run by director Chris Porter, former director of Residence Life, with the help of volunteers, this new branch offers a variety of resources and help.
The decision to branch out from ResLife came as a result of the growing off-campus and transfer student community.
“Since the group of off-campus and transfer students has grown, we recognized that we needed to do something different for the group as a whole,” said Porter.
To accommodate the need for space, the transfers’ and commuters’ office moved to the second floor of the University Center where there is more room for students to hang out and study in. The Talon Lounge and the suite of offices in the Center for Honor and Leadership has become the designated area this population.
In the time that has passed since the semester began, students have already found the Talon Lounge to be a relaxing place to spend time at.
“I like the Talon Lounge better than the small room we had to hang out in last year,” said sophomore, commuting student, Megan Anderson. “It has a lot more space to relax and has more TV’s and more comfy couches.”
For those who need a place to hang out between activities without having to drive back and forth, the new commuter lounge is the perfect place to stay.
“I basically live here,” said Baninder Kang, another sophomore commuter student who plans to major in biology. “I get to come here in between classes and work at the bookstore or just hang out during those gaps.”
Porter expressed excitement over how the new spaces are being used by the students.
“We [the Office of Transfer and Commuter Student Services] are very excited to be in the UC to have larger spaces for our off-campus community to spend time in,” said Porter.
The organization now offers students coffee hours during certain times of the week. The new members of the leadership team have plans to help make the most of the new office in order to help transfer students throughout the school year. They will be working under graduate assistant for Transfer and Off-Campus Student Services, Jess DeMers.
“Since the Transfer student resource office is brand new, we are diligently working to collect data and information to determine what will make student’s transition as easy and enjoyably as possible,” said DeMers. “If a transfer student has any questions or concerns, we encourage them to stop by our office.”
Another reason the Office of Transfer and Commuter Student Services decided to branch off from ResLife is because the off-campus and transfer students have different needs than students who live on campus. Transfer and off-campus students have problems ranging from housing issues, to needing advice from Porter since they do not have a Resident Assistant (RA) available to them.
Porter believes that a huge part of her new job is helping to integrate these students into the UMW community, as well as to help solve problems this community might have at home. One way that the organization helps students is by organizing a big clean-up session around certain neighborhoods near Mary Washington the day after homecoming.
The student services wants to help new transfers or first-year commuters to fully settle in and get accustomed to campus. They plan to help ease this transition through a new transfer-peer mentor program that Porter wants to start. This program would pair transfers who have been at Mary Washington for more than a year, with new transfers. The returning transfer student would help the new transfers find their way around campus and give them insight into what being a student here is like.
Chris Porter encourages all transfer and off-campus students to become involved around campus.
“Take advantage of the benefits and experiences that offer high-impact learning opportunities,” said Porter.
This includes signing up for internships, studying abroad or joining any of the clubs on campus. Porter wants transfer and commuter students to know that they can come to her office at any time.
“My door at the UC is always open and I am always happy to talk to students who need my help with anything,” said Porter.