Students who are looking to help incoming undergraduates become better acclimated to a college lifestyle may want to consider becoming commuter assistants.

Charles Park, Peifeng Liu and George McGinley play a game of Go together between classes in a commuter lounge. (SARA SUPRIYATNO / THE STATESMAN)
Charles Park, Peifeng Liu and George McGinley play a game of Go together between classes in a commuter lounge. (SARA SUPRIYATNO / THE STATESMAN)

According to a student profile done by the university for the fall 2012 semester, there were 6,320 undergraduate commuter students, which accounts for 39 percent of the undergraduate student population.

Because Stony Brook has such a large amount of commuters, the Commuter Assistant Program can play a pivotal role for those who want to get a leg up on learning about the university.

The Commuter Assistant Program is one of many leadership opportunities students can pursue on campus.  The program, which has been at Stony Brook since the late 90s according to Emily Resnick, a senior adviser with Commuter Student Services, provides students with the opportunity to help others find their way during their first year on campus.

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According to the Office of Commuter Student Services, the Commuter Assistant Program “pairs incoming commuter students with ‘seasoned’ student volunteers who provide support, advice and camaraderie during the new students’ first year.”

Students are first introduced to the program during their commuter orientations.  They then fill out a request form and view video bios of all the commuter assistants for the upcoming year. They then pick their top three, and from there they are paired up with a prospective partner.

The commuter assistant position is a competitive one.  According to Resnick, this is attributed to the large candidate pool of students. She also credits it to the fact that students gain a valuable set of skills as part of the program.

“Especially because of the fact that it is a student leadership position meaning the incentive is primarily professional development, leadership development and networking, it’s very valuable,” Resnick said.

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Training to become a commuter assistant involves a plethora of information, which includes learning about the resources on campus and getting a full understanding of them so they are able to refer students.  Also discussed is communication, since commuter assistants are required to keep in touch with their students throughout the semester.

Junior business major JoAnna DeStefano, who serves as an undergraduate assistant in the Office of Commuter Student Services as well as a commuter assistant, reflected on her experience when she joined the Commuter Assistant Program.

“I feel like I have definitely improved with a lot of communication skills and becoming more familiar with the campus as well as getting to know more students and become more outgoing,” DeStefano said.

Before becoming a commuter assistant herself, DeStefano utilized the services of the program by signing up for a commuter assistant during her first semester at the university.

“When I first came to Stony Brook I was introduced to the program through the commuter orientation,” DeStefano said. “My commuter assistant was very helpful she answered all my questions, she gave me a tour and showed me where all my classes were.” One particular instance during her relationship with her commuter assistant stood out to DeStefano that led to her taking an active interest in the program.

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“When the semester first started I was interested in joining one of the clubs on campus and she reached out to them on her own time and found out where they met and gave me their contact information,” said DeStefano.  “She inspired me to be a commuter assistant.  I knew right away when I had her as a commuter assistant I wanted to become one the following year.  It was my first student leadership position on campus.” Resnick says the experience of being a commuter assistant yields rewards that are noticeable and enriching.

“There is something very special about student leaders who choose to be a part of something and be an active part of something where the rewards are not necessarily visible.  They are not getting paid, they are not getting credit, and yet they still see the value in the program,” Resnick said.

If students want to be paired with a commuter assistant or are interested in becoming an assistant themselves, they can contact the Office of Commuter Student Services.

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