A curricular approach to student affairs work utilizes the processes and methods of teachers in the classroom and adapts it to the out-of-class setting. Setting learning objectives and planning strategies and engagements with students works regardless of whether they live on campus or not. You may need to think about your curriculum differently, however.
Given that commuting students spend less time on campus than those that live in residence halls, you may need to rethink your strategies. For example, you may consider utilizing more electronic means of engaging your students–through social media, email newsletters, and even outreach to students via telephone or text. For events, you may need to intelligently schedule them when most students are likely to be on campus. You might also consider creating an event series at a predictable day and time (perhaps during a mealtime?) to help students make it part of their routine. Your college may even contemplate instituting an “all campus” hour for such programming.
Do you have a commuter center on campus or a space where commuters can engage and meet one another? This might be another avenue for engaging your students. Having all-day experiences, such as a fair, that allow students to come and go, may fit better with your students’ schedules.
Since you may engage commuting students differently or have less contact with them, you may also need to consider “right-sizing” your learning objectives. When setting the broad goals and outcomes of your entire curriculum, be practical about what a student could reasonable achieve and what your staff could reasonably deliver. It may be that you have to scale back or modify your learning objectives based on the reality of the student experience. Finally, because commuting student populations can often vary widely in age and other identities, make sure you fit your learning objectives to the context of your students. When doing this, the work you did in your archeological dig can be a big help.
Are you a school that constructed a student life curriculum for your commuting students? I’d love to hear about it.