UIS Students 'Recharge' Before Night Classes

Mar 25, 2014

Commuter student, by nature, spend less time on the UIS campus.  But the University is trying a new way to engage those students in activities.  There's a bribe involved, a practical one.

Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

I'm standing in a restaurant area in the most high traffic part of the university, the Public Affairs Center.  The restaurant is a dimly lit room mainly used for meetings and donor meals.  In the corner a few people are sitting around a table.  I sit down and plug my dying iPhone into one of the power-strips on the tables.

This sparsely populated event, called "Recharge" is hosted by the school's Office of Transition Services, a new university office aimed at commuter and transfer student retention.

Next to me is Jill Briggs. She's a third year Human Development Masters student.  She says she came to relax before class.

"I actually work on campus, you know a normal 9 to 5 schedule and I have class at six.  So it's kinda' nice that they have this as kind of a break between work and class to, you know, take a break and have a snack before class," Briggs said.

The event is promoted as a chance for students to "get plugged in before evening classes" - students can charge their devices, like phones, laptops and iPads. Refreshments are provided and it's free for students to attend the events, which are planned for every other week.

Briggs says this is the first time she's attended 'Recharge,' and, she says, came unprepared.

"I meant to bring my charger for my iPad, and I forgot my charger.  But at the next event I plan to. It's nice though, it's just kindof a chance to chat with folks and, you know, take a little breather before I go concentrate for two and a half hours in class," Briggs said.

Commuter students are both undergrad and graduate students who take classes at UIS but live elsewhere.   Historically, UIS has been known as a commuter college as most of the student body traveled to campus for class.   In recent years, more students live at UIS but they remain a minority of the overall student population.    

Lori Giordano, Director of the Office of Transition Services, says a lot of the commuter students at UIS have full time jobs. Between work, families and schools, their schedules are packed.  Since night classes start at 6, Giordano says Recharge gives them a break.

Relaxing before class at 'Recharge.' Students came and went.

"We thought, between the hours of 5 and 6, as they're getting off of work and they're coming out to campus and getting ready for their six o'clock class that it would be nice to provide some snacks and some drinks for them," she said.  "Also, recharge any of their devices that might have been, you know, they've been using all day before they go to class."

Giordano says the "Recharge" event also allows commuter students to have a set time to meet each other and socialize. The office of Transition Services is relatively new.  It was created in September.  Giordano says it gives new students a place to ask questions and raise concerns, for those who don't know where to go or who to ask.

"And so when they get to campus they're trying to figure out things on their own, for the most part and really don't have those resources. They don't really know who to ask," Giordano said.

She says that lack of resources has been among the reasons the school has seen declines in retention  .. In the fall of 2011, 28 percent of transfer students left UIS before completing their degree.   About two thirds of UIS students are considered "transfers" and most commute to class.   

"Give them some sort of support system, because we know that students who connect with campus and have support system, other students that they can talk to about classes or issues or concerns, that those students we tend to retain, they tend to stay and graduate," Giordano said.

At the Recharge event in the Public Affairs Center, a fresh batch of popcorn is made a few minutes  before six.   Everyone continues to carry on talking over some snacks and soda.  Soon they will unplug, pack up and head off to night classes.  And then commute  home.