Driving toward success

DKS Editors

Leader of commuter student organization wants to tackle locker, parking problems

Senior managerial marketing major Andrew Deckert is the associate director of the Commuter and Off-Campus Student Organization. He juggles one paid job, two voluntary jobs and 13 credit hours as a commuter student this semester. Photo by Rachel Kilroy

Credit: DKS Editors

On a Wednesday night Andrew Deckert stands in Rosie’s, lugging a giant promotional sign about pizza night. It’s almost 10 feet tall, but the ceiling is not. The cashier holds back no comments about the problem, while customers just stare or nearly run into him. He chuckles and calls his boss to assess the situation. This is another hectic day for him and another trivial incident amid his long list of responsibilities.

Later, he crams in homework and studying time. He usually squeezes this in between classes, office hours and his campus jobs.

He wakes up before dawn and commutes home after dark. He works toward change with his constant involvement. He’s your average student as if on steroids, he explains.

“I’m not your typical commuter student, or student in general,” he said. “I’d like to call it training myself for executive work ethics.”

As a senior managerial marketing major, Deckert is in his fourth year of commuting to Kent from Firestone in Akron. Juggling one paid job, two voluntary jobs and 13 credit hours, his planner bursts with obligations and activities. Three highlighter colors separate important notes and due dates pressing down on him. No day is the same in length or responsibilities.

Deckert is the associate director of the Commuter and Off-Campus Student Organization, the student organization for commuters.

Seventy-three percent of Kent State students commute with schedules varying in similarity to this, according to Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness statistics. Deckert understands the drawbacks to living off campus. He joined COSO to voice his opinion about improving campus conditions for commuters. As assistant director, he recognizes that the term “commuter” encompasses students living closely off campus, adult students and students living 20 or more minutes away.

Commuters deal with problems like long drives, heavy bags and packed lunches. Roads can be treacherous. Professors can require group activities or library research. Parking lots like Allerton and Summit East require a bus ride to class, adding to the commute. Not every commuter has a friend to stay with for afternoon naps or lunch breaks. Some must cook dinner and help with kids’ homework when they arrive home.

“I want to make sure all the different kinds of commuters are represented,” he said.

At the second COSO meeting of this semester, Deckert targeted auto repair insurance and vehicle winterization. He said he’d like for commuters to be able to pay a monthly rate for a service that will cover any needed repairs. This could help those with a tight budget that still need a safe car for school. Deckert believes the university’s biggest concern is safety, and he follows this belief.

Cold and icy conditions get treacherous in Northeast Ohio, especially for commuters. On Oct. 14, he ran an event focusing on preparing student vehicles for winter weather. People were able to have their cars inspected for free in the M.A.C Center parking lot.

Deckert wants to push for more lockers, especially in academic buildings. He envies the students carrying only a folder and a notebook. He must carry everything he needs all day.

He remembers the long trek from parking lots his freshman year. Driving, parking and taking a bus made it take a while to get to class. He said he and other members of COSO would like to bring up that problem. They can address concerns like parking and lockers at the meetings with the board.

“I want to make sure the commuter voice is heard,” he said about the meetings that occur every other Thursday.

Lauren McVay waits 30 minutes for a parking spot by White Hall after her 30-minute drive from Austintown. As a senior human development major, she chose to commute this year, but she isn’t always so pleased.

“It bothers me that so many places don’t take cash or credit,” she said about buying food or supplies on campus.

Carole Edwards remembers the nursing building lounge existing 13 years ago. Now an adult student, she wishes it was still there. She came back to Kent State to finish her degree but has challenges as a commuter now.

“They need to cancel class earlier,” she said about snow days where she finds out the university has canceled classes during her 30-minute drive.

These commuters – and likely others – have suggestions for improvements. This is why the organization plans to have a section on the COSO Web site for students to anonymously share their ideas and concerns.

Another way commuters can get more input is if they participate in COSO. Deckert said he would like to get commuters more involved on campus. He’d like to get a bulletin board with information and important dates, so students can get the scoop on campus life and choose events interesting to them.

Improving commuter conditions is Deckert’s main goal. He feels the exhaustion of commuting every day. This motivates him to push for the changes he believes will help others like him.

“It’s taxing and draining, but I think it makes me a better person,” he said. To stay at his best for school, driving and work, he surrounds himself with equally driven students.

Deckert stressed that he doesn’t regret it. He strives for improvements, but can look back and categorize his commuter experience as beneficial.

“I feel like I was somewhat able to get the college experience because I wasn’t accepting that I wouldn’t,” he said. “I was going after it.”

He immerses himself in the campus experience by getting involved and spending time on campus. He stays with friends in their residence halls or apartments to get the feel of living on campus and recommends this for other commuters. Living off campus isn’t always the easiest or the most exciting, but he said he is thankful.

“If I wasn’t put through the same things that I was, I don’t know if I’d be the same person I am,” he said.

Deckert quoted his father’s advice: “There’s a difference between wanting to and having to.” Commuting fits under both for him. He chose to get the job done despite difficulties and offer a little advice along the way to his fellow commuters.

Getting the best out of your commuter experience:

&bull Talk to your professors. They can help with jobs, internships and your career path. They most likely have experience in the field you are majoring in. If not, they might know someone to refer you to.

Give yourself extra time. Surprise problems can arise. Being late reflects poorly on you, whether it is for class, friends or a meeting.

&bull Have a money cushion. If possible, have extra money to fall back on. You don’t need this to worry about on top of school.

Maintain your vehicle. Take care of what you depend on to get to class. Learn how to do minor upkeep like fluids and brake pads. Learn how to change a tire for emergencies on the road.

&bull Slow down. Class, work or your meeting will be there. “You may be a great driver, but not everyone around you is,” Deckert said.

Keep an emergency kit in your car. You might need just a bandage, but it’s good to have a first aid kit. Keep extra clothes and necessities in case you can’t get home one night.

&bull Be selfish. People will want you to do them favors. School is first, so you can’t always say yes.

&bull Get involved. Make the most of your college experience. Attend events, shows, sports and meetings. This is a great way to meet people.

&bull Share your concerns. If you have a suggestion or problem about commuting, let COSO know.

Meetings are at 6 p.m. in the Student Center Room 321 every Monday.

Source: Andrew Deckert, associate director of COSO

Contact features correspondent Jessica Roblin at [email protected]