Club Corner: Commuters at Rowan

As a commuter, it can be hard to balance the typical load of classes, jobs, commitments and a social life in addition to getting involved in on-campus clubs and activities when a majority of one’s time is spent rushing to campus to search for a parking space.

When she was a freshman, Maria Marchi, current president of Commuters at Rowan and commuter leader at the Office of Community Standards and Commuter Services, felt the same way. Living about 10 miles from campus, Marchi is a commuter.

“Four years ago, the problems in parking consisted of just having to walk further to classes, rather than available spaces” Marchi said.

Marchi said that she wanted to be a part of campus as a freshman, but she felt her commuter status was keeping her separate from the university, until one day when she attended an interest meeting at the Office of Community Standards and Commuter Services. According to the office’s website, its mission is “to articulate to students the standards of behavior expected within the university community.”

The main focus of the office for the fall semester of 2010 was to generate interest for a place in which commuters could express be part of the university. In the spring semester of 2011, CAR became an established organization within the Student Government Association, with Marchi, one of the co-founders, as president.

“We wanted to be an outlet in which students could communicate their concerns as commuters, and we would be their advocate with administration,” Marchi said.

Since then, Rowan has expanded its enrollment, resulting in an increase in commuters and faculty.

“We made it our mission to establish ourselves as an advocate for parking,” Marchi said.

In the fall of 2013, CAR made its presence known as an effective organization on campus.

“The majority of students at Rowan are commuter students, and CAR has the potential to be a huge resource for them,” said CAR Vice President Olivia Fiebig. “This past semester, we have been focusing on fundraising and advertising our club. We are selling CAR T-shirts so people can show support for the club. We have had bake sales, Yogo Factory fundraisers and soft pretzel fundraisers. In May, we are doing the MS Society Walk for the team ‘Jenny’s Angels,’ created by our former vice president and adviser Alexis Johnston in honor of her mother.”

Having created a petition to establish more parking spaces at Rowan, while sending representatives of the organization to attend committee meetings regarding the issue, CAR was able to assist in designating Lot X as a commuter lot. Until the completion of the Rowan Boulevard parking garage, the lot had been used for residents.

“As more and more students enter Rowan University, there is more demand for housing and parking and less space to put both,” Fiebig said.

CAR has also been working closely with Sodexo in creating commuter-friendly options on campus.

“The needs of residents and commuters, food-wise, is very different,” Marchi said. “A lot of commuters are on the go, and the food options don’t really reflect that lifestyle.”

Though there are a small number of active participants, Marchi said the club continues to attempt to provide a place for commuters who want to feel like a part of the university.

“I have found that a lot of students who complain about parking, actually are calling on the university to feel recognized,” Marchi said.

With construction for the new engineering building about to take place by Lot A, and the groundwork for the new Freshman Village in the works on Lot X, CAR faces new obstacles to a shortage in parking, something that Marchi said her organization is looking to fix.

“The university is expanding, which is good,” Marchi said. “But we need to show the university that commuters are still a significant part of the university, and we have been committed to doing so.”

The next event CAR has planned is the CARnival, set to take place on the Chamberlain Student Center Back Patio on April 10.

“We are trying to get as many clubs involved as possible and we’ll have different games, prizes, etc.” Fiebig said. “There tends to be a separation between residential and commuter students at Rowan. We want these groups to unite into the one student body that Rowan should be. The CARnival is one way to encourage this.”

Marchi invites everyone to attend, not only to support the organization, but also to get involved with the campus, just as she did four years ago.

“If you’re looking to get involved, focus on what you want to do, don’t be afraid to search or email someone, or get out there,” Marchi said. “It can be easy to get things done on campus, you just have to get out there.”

CAR has a lot planned for the upcoming year as well.

“We try to help bring commuter concerns to light,” Fiebig said. “We are planning to make ‘A Day in the Life’ video documentary about commuters. Basically it will show footage of commuters going throughout their day and show the challenges of being a commuter at Rowan. We are hoping to use this video to help the university administration realize the difficulties of commuting as we advocate for commuter issues.”

For those interested in becoming part of CAR, find their page on Facebook, “CAR Commuters at Rowan,” or email the club at commutersatrowan@gmail.com.

For comments/questions about this story, email features@thewhitonline.com or tweet @thewhitfeatures.

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