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Commuter Assistants Help Ease the Transition to College for Nonresident Students

By Barton Murray

Adelphi University offers many programs oriented towards making student life easier. One of these is the Commuter Assistant (CA) program, which is similar to Residents Assistance, but differs in that it is aimed to help both first year and transfer commuter students adjust to college life. The university has 18 designated CAs who come from all over the world along with many pursuing different areas of study. Each is assigned a group of students and their job is to basically be a mentor and focus on trying to get them involved in student life on campus.

Tiffany Martino, assistant director for the Center for Student and Community Engagement and the CA advisor, said the program has been around for at least 10 years.

The 2022-'23 Commuter Assistants team. Photo by Tiffany Martino

“The Commuter Assistants help students adjust by hosting programs throughout the year, bringing their mentees to various on-campus events to help get them involved in different organizations, and assisting in answering any questions that their mentees might have so that they can be directed to the right place,” Martino said. “I personally think that the program is very valuable because I've seen firsthand how the Commuter Assistants positively impact their mentees. A lot of incoming freshmen that have a Commuter Assistant will become CAs themselves because they said that their CA made such a difference in their life when starting college.”

One of these is Julia Lincoln, a junior majoring in health sciences who said she benefited from joining the CA program when she was a first year. “I felt like there was a dynamic change in how my days would go. I went from getting in my car and going home to having more options and things to do on campus,” she said. “I felt like I was flourishing. This club gave me more reason to put myself out there and get involved.”

As a CA, Lincoln sends a weekly email to students giving a breakdown of what may be going on that week along with checking in with them and giving them an open door to reach back with questions. “For many freshmen, along with students transferring in, their first connection at the school comes from this program,” she added.

The CA program offers many valuable tools that can assist students in finding who they want to be on campus. CAs do this by helping the students find clubs and events to get involved with. There are also events like a recent dessert and coffee break in between classes in the University Center lobby. A program exclusively for full-time, first year commuter students is the Dine + Connect meal plan, which allows students to use their student ID to buy snacks, beverages, Starbucks and full meals anywhere on campus, sales-tax-free.

Martino said the program makes a difference to student retention. “Ninety-six percent of incoming freshmen that have an assistant decide to stay at Adelphi,” she said.

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