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While the newly-minted class of 2021 gathered for the first time in their dorms on the day of convocation, a smaller group of students gathered in Slayton Arboretum: commuter students.

Although most students live on campus, 17 students commute in from the surrounding area, according to the dean’s office. Not living in the dorm, the students said, presents plenty of challenges, making it hard to form friendships during meal times and on-campus events.

“Freshman year is hard for everybody,” junior Morgan Channels said, “but then you add the challenge of being a commuter.”

So Channels, who commutes from Hudson, Michigan, decided to do something about it: She held an orientation just for commuters in the arboretum.

Channels came up with the idea during her internship this summer with the Kendall Contact Center, which required her to do a presentation about what change she wants to see at the college. Channels said she was inspired by her own orientation experience, where she noticed that when the freshmen go to dorm activities, commuters just go home.

Around ten students attended the orientation, which was the first of its kind. Consisting of commuters from all graduating classes, the group exchanged numbers and parking tips. Channels also made sure the new students got their welcome bags — a gift normally left for incoming students in their dorm.

Sophomore Victor Beeker, who also commutes from Hudson, Michigan, said he would have appreciated something similar when he was a freshman. Not having a dorm made it difficult to form friendships, he said.

“Especially in men’s groups, they have a loyalty to their dorms,” Beeker said. “In general, the campus is inviting. They aren’t intentionally excluding you, but there is a barrier there.”

Angela Lashaway ’95, project manager for the college’s business improvements department, attended Channels’ presentation. As a student, Lashaway commuted from Cambria, Michigan, and she said she often felt disconnected from campus.

“You just always felt a little bit separated,” she said.

Lashaway said she hopes the school keeps doing the orientation.

“Channels is obviously passionate about it,” Lashaway said. “Commuters are often overlooked as a segment of the population.”

Channels said she just wants the orientation to be a resource and understands the challenges for commuters will still be there.

“I consider it a gift to be at home,” she said, “but that translates to having to work harder.”