Please, Linger On Campus!

In the May 17 New York Times, columnist David Brooks identifies the single challenge facing our era as social isolation. Feelings of isolation and solitary study are a particular challenge facing students at all “commuter schools” (both 4-year and community colleges) largely because students often come together for a handful of hours for class each week, then return to their jobs, families and non-academic life. High prices for parking, erratic public transit and demanding employers and family members only work to strengthen the pull away from campus. Students may not fully appreciate it but academic life goes beyond the classroom experience. Whether it is the lunch with a fellow student you don’t know who explains her passion for chemistry, or the casual chat with a professor in office hours (or facilities like Alexandria’s Science Resource Center), you gain much by using the campus to learn beyond the walls of the classroom. In an era of increasingly interchangeable sources of educational material (you can learn facts by diligently using resources on the Internet or even taking online classes), the live, in person experience is what can help you learn and work with others to shape your future. So despite obstacles, I encourage students to spend time studying at school, getting involved with activities, making a new friend in the cafeteria or asking a professor (even one you don’t know) a question. And if I randomly ask you a question in the hall (and I don’t know you), stop and chat because you are learning at a rare institution: an academic environment with many faculty assigned to relatively few students. My college freshman biology class? 300+ students!  What are the obstacles holding you back from being a more active part of the campus community?  What are obstacles you’ve encountered from students, faculty or the physical layout of campus?  Are there suitable locations for you to engage with others?