Smoothing Transitions

If you live off-campus or commute to school and need support, guidance or help finding and participating in on-campus activities, the Office of Student Activities and Union Services (SAUS) at the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz has plans to reach out to you. SAUS is piloting a new leadership program on campus: the commuter mentor.

Beginning in the fall semester of 2010, commuter mentors will help assist new transfer students and current students who reside off campus for the first time to help those students easily transition. The mentor position is designed to offer students tips, support, insight and guidance for off-campus living.

“This is the first time we will be offering this program,” said Joshua Gorfein, graduate assistant at SAUS. “SUNY Stony Brook has a similar program and I adapted it for use here at New Paltz.”

All commuter mentor applicants must meet general qualifications in order to be considered for a position. The applicant must have lived off-campus for at least one semester, hold a 2.5 cumulative GPA and be in good standing with the Division of Student Affairs.

“This semester, there were fliers put up around campus and an e-mail went out to faculty and staff asking them to recommend students they might know for the position,” said Gorfein.

For many transfer students, on-campus housing is not available. Transfer students need to find a place to live off campus and for some, this is a difficult and stressful task.

Elyse Martin, a second-year education major, transferred here this past spring semester. She said she was well aware on-campus housing was unavailable.

“When I got accepted, they let us know right away that there would be no on-campus housing for transfers,” Martin said. “I was definitely upset about it, but I knew I wanted to go to New Paltz either way, so it wasn’t going to change my mind.”

Martin said she and her family repeatedly called SUNY New Paltz to see if any dorm rooms had opened, but the school told her that since other students were already living in forced triples, priority was given if a dorm room became available.

“[SUNY New Paltz] let us know about the off-campus housing bulletin on the school website. I searched through a lot of them, and found some I liked based on the post,” Martin said. “If a commuter mentor was available when I came here I would definitely go talk with them,” Martin added. “It would be nice to have someone to talk to about being a transfer and commuter as a brand new student here, without a resident assistant (RA) in the dorms to talk to.”

The commuter mentor position requires some dedication. The mentors must be able to work two to three office hours per week, plan programs to encourage off campus and commuter involvement on-campus, participate in Welcome Week (the opening week of the fall semester) and assist the SAUS in events.

According to Gorfein, students who are  interested in getting help from mentors will be able to meet with them during office hours and can contact them via e-mail.

Martin said after living off-campus, she would not want to move on campus, but it would make things easier to be on campus as a new transfer student.

“If I had the opportunity to live on campus as a freshman, I would definitely do so,” Martin said. “It would have been a good experience living in the dorms here, and it probably would have made for an easier transition as a transfer student.”

Prospective commuter mentors can apply online at or contact SAUS at 845-257-3025.

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