Commuter student lounge opens in Harden Hall

Recently established Commuter and Non-traditional Student Organization opens new space to welcome students.
COMMUTER KITCHENETTE — Students make and pour coffee in kitchenette attached to The Lounge. The kitchenette features a coffee cart set-up, a microwave and a fridge.
COMMUTER KITCHENETTE — Students make and pour coffee in kitchenette attached to The Lounge. The kitchenette features a coffee cart set-up, a microwave and a fridge.
Ryley Wilcox

The Commuter and Non-traditional Student Organization has opened a new lounge in Harden Hall intended to provide commuter students with a dedicated space on campus, although all students are welcome.

The new space, formerly known as the eSports lounge, is located across the hall from Fieras. The space is complete with tables, booths, other comfortable seating options, board and card games, a TV and a kitchenette. Students are able to store meals or snacks in the fridge located in the kitchenette as long as they are labeled.  

The recently established student group intends to get cubbies, lockers and a gaming console for the lounge in the future. Eventually, it hopes to extend its space across the hall to include another lounge located behind Fieras, which is expected to be completed during the Harden Hall renovation.

THE LOUNGE — Commuter and Non-traditional Student Organization Co-Presidents Dana Hinckley (left) and Carolyn Eagle (right) work on upcoming Commuter Student Appreciation Week advertising projects in The Lounge. (Ryley Wilcox)

Co-President Dana Hinckley has been working on this proposal since she was a freshman at Northern. She struggled with being a commuter student on a campus that is mostly geared toward on-campus students. She submitted a 30-page proposal to the campus administration advocating for a dedicated area for commuter students to gather, study and hang out.

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“When I was a freshman, I distinctly remember coming to campus every day with my backpack weighing 20 pounds, because I had my lunch and my dinner in my backpack, and then I had all of my books because I needed to do homework,” Hinckley said. 

So far, members of the student group have seen an influx of commuter students enjoying the new space around noon on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, said Co-President Carolyn Eagle. 

“I came in the other day, and pretty much every section had at least one or two people in it and there [are] a lot of groups that will come in and eat together,” Eagle said.

With both the student group and the lounge, members hope to bust the myth that commuter students are unable to be involved on campus. 

“We’re hoping with this initiative to be more inclusive of commuter students,” Hinckley said. “You are still a student and you’re still part of the campus and you can still participate in things. Just because you are a commuter doesn’t mean that you can’t be involved.”

The Commuter & Non-traditional Student Organization intends to give commuter students a group to be involved in to participate in events like those hosted during homecoming week, which are restricted to residence halls and previously established student groups.  

“The way you’re split up is usually by your [residence] hall. So, if you don’t live in a hall, you don’t have a group to be split into,” Eagle said. “[People] forget that commuters are their own group, so they don’t make a group for commuters. So, there’s no way for commuters to participate in the games or participate in all the events without [living in] one of the halls.”

Additionally,  the organization says commuter students do not have the same support as on-campus students who have access to housing staff, the Northern Lights Dining hall, The Lodge and their dorm rooms.

“Residents have a space they can go back to, and they have a space [where] they can hang out,” Eagle said. “They don’t have to worry about ‘Do I have somewhere to eat lunch? Do I have somewhere to keep my lunch? Do I have to spend money today?’” 

The Lounge features a front desk that currently staffs one student, but the hope is to hire someone who is there more of the time. 

“I wanted somebody to be in this space to be able to answer questions and be that [resident advisor] type of connection with commuter students in the lounge,” Hinckley said. “So ideally, there would be somebody working here [whose] sole job is to connect with other commuters and answer questions.” 

The organization is putting together a Commuter Appreciation Week with four days of events hosted in The Lounge to encourage more students to visit the new space.   

The scheduled for Commuter Appreciation Week events are: 

  • Monday, Feb. 5 from 9-11 a.m. – Caffeination Station & 12-1 p.m. – Wildpups Meetup
  • Tuesday, Feb. 6 from 1-3 p.m. – Queso and Questions Trivia
  • Wednesday, Feb. 7 from 5-7 p.m. – Open Mic Night
  • Thursday, Feb. 8 from 3-5 p.m. – Mocktail Mixer (intended for resident and commuter students)

“[The Mocktail Mixer] gives commuter students an opportunity to engage with students who live on campus, because a lot of times they’re secluded to either just being by themselves or [in] class,” Hinckley said. “It’s really difficult to make friends as a commuter student.”

In addition to hosting the events in Harden Hall, the group is also providing vouchers for free soda and popcorn at the hockey game on Friday, Feb. 9.

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