Commuters Find Connection in Armstrong

Red wall with a Miami logo for the Commuter CenterFor most Miami students, the commute to class involves walking or taking a 5-minute bus ride from their residence hall or off-campus house to the lab stool in their geology class.

But for a smaller group of students, the commute to campus is a 20 or 30 minute (or longer) drive from Cincinnati, Hamilton, West Chester, and beyond. These students typically live with family. They check traffic reports in the morning. And when they come to campus for a long day of class, they aren’t able to quickly run home for a nap or a bite to eat.

For these students, the Carruthers Commuter Resource Center often becomes a regular part of their day at Miami.

The Commuter Center is in a secluded spot on the second floor of the Armstrong Student Center where commuters are greeted with a hand-crocheted bulletin board, string lights, and lockers covered in colorful decorations. Further into the space, students can be found settled in comfortable couches, playing games, or studying for their next class.

The center provides a home away from home for more than 50 students on a regular basis.

“The Commuter Center gives students who may not have a home base on campus a place to go and relax,” said Hannah Muldoon-Davis, associate director of campus engagement for the Armstrong Student Center. “When the students are here for long days, they have a dedicated space to unwind and do the work that allows them to be successful.”

Miami has provided support for commuter students for decades with commuter programming and space on campus. Prior to 2014, the Commuter Center was located in the Shriver Center. It moved to Armstrong when the building was opened in 2014.

Commuter Center view of a wall of lockers with the words "Welcome Commuters" aboveSince then, the space has evolved to meet changing commuter needs. A charging station was added in 2015. New furniture and a TV were added in 2018. A small kitchenette with a fridge and microwave was added in 2019.

The center works with students to plan events that focus on social programming and networking within the community. Recent events include locker decorating, Commuter Prep Day, cookie decorating, and planned dinners and other outings for groups of commuter students.

The events and the new features attract students like senior Jessica Certain. “It was difficult to feel like you could get involved with events and activities on campus, and it was hard to find people that you could relate to,” Certain said. “The Commuter Center has really helped me get connected and feel like I’m a part of a community that gets me.”

The Student Experience Inside the Commuter Center

For some students, the commuter center has been a home away from home since their first day at Miami, but that’s not the case for every commuter. Learning about the center came as a surprise to some students.

“I didn't know it existed. I had a really hard time switching from the regional campus to here and it was overwhelming for me,” said senior Kara Reynolds.

It wasn’t until Reynolds was encouraged to visit the commuter center by a professor that she found it. “It’s been nice to be able to just talk to people. I feel comfortable bringing my 5-year-old here and being able to catch up on homework and relax after classes.”

Providing space on campus for commuters to find each other is one of the center’s key functions.

“It’s a great way to meet people in the same situation as you, and there are not many commuters so it helps to have a place to go and see people that understand each other,” said junior Calista Brooks.

Finding ways to support incoming and current first-year students is the Commuter Center’s next big goal. During the fall 2022 semester, they brought back a commuter section of UNV101.

“It helped the first-year students in that class build connections with each other in a way they hadn’t before,” said Muldoon-Davis about the class. “That sparked us to think more deeply about other ways we can do that.”

The center is also exploring ways to provide first-year students the opportunity to meet individually with Commuter Center Assistants to talk about things they may be struggling with and help directly connect them to resources that will help them succeed.

The ultimate goal of the commuter center is to allow commuters who are having similar college experiences to connect and help make Miami feel like home.

Students in the Commuter Center gathering around a table of cookies and cookie decorating supplies

Decorating cookies for an event in fall 2022. 

Commuter students sitting on central quad holding pumpkins and paint supplies

Commuters attend a pumpkin painting event on central quad, fall 2022.