Home away from home

New Collegium offers space for commuters

Caleb Cissna and Vy Khanh Vu

The collegium is a perfect place for commuters to relax, study, spend quiet time alone or catch up with friends. (Sharli Mishra)

For many students living on campus, whether in the dorms or in campus housing, having multiple spaces open to study, eat, or hang out is a given. With commuting times ranging from a few minutes to upwards of an hour, many commuter students often do not have the same opportunities of luxuries. For these students, the Collegium is a home away from home – somewhere to relax, study, eat, have some quiet time, or catch up with other students – especially as many commuter students are less connected to campus. After almost two full years of closure, the Collegium has reopened its doors to commuters.

Twenty years ago, the rate of commuter students at Seattle Pacific University was rising exponentially, but the school had no place to house them. ASSP wanted a space for these students and began conversations about creating a dedicated space for commuters.

In 2015, the Collegium, as it is known today, was given an official location, budget, and staff. In 2019, a tree fell into the old Collegium space, prompting a closure that was extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After opening initially in the Student Union Building, the Collegium moved into its current location on the first floor of Weter Hall during the summer of 2021.

Collegium manager Nate Canny is excited about the new location and the new opportunities it provides.

“The biggest positive difference is more room. The old one was cramped sometimes,” Canny said. “It’s the opposite here. We have more space, more opportunities to seat people.”

He explained the dramatic increase of first-year commuter students’ involvement in on-campus activities, ranging from large group events to one-on-one interactions with their fellow students.

“The first-year students here, the first-year Collegium members here, wanna be involved…Like First Friday was the biggest event we’ve ever had, and we had to ask ourselves why? And it’s because people are missing connections, and this space hopefully provides a good place for people to do that. And it provides a space for people to slow down,” Canny said.

To provide commuters with essential utilities, there is a kitchen area located in the Collegium where students can come in to warm up their food, store their goods in the refrigerator, or enjoy a mid-day cup of coffee. A range of disposable utensils and containers are available for students to use freely as they wish.

Chloe Newton, Collegium staff member and fourth-year theatre-performance major, shared some of the basic rules and expectations for anyone using the Collegium.

“We like to keep it respectful. So if you’re having a conversation, keep it relatively quiet, so that other people can study, or do homework or whatever. You can eat in here, it is a COVID safe place, so you can have your mask off while you’re actively eating, but otherwise wear your mask,” Newton said.

As for COVID-19 safety guidelines, kitchen limitations are just one of the changes that have been implemented this year. The Collegium requires masks to be worn at all times other than for eating or drinking. Students are not required to social distance, but it’s recommended for anyone who has not been vaccinated.

With the rush of the new school year, in-person classes and other activities, students spending time at the Collegium are often occupied with homework, lab reports and readings. First-year music therapy major Zak Williams enjoys his time in the Collegium, but wishes for a greater sense of community.

“I wish people would talk more, it’s just so stale in there,” Williams said.

Fourth-year nutrition and dietetics major Fanneze Jaswal said that the Collegium is a calm, relaxed place to study as a commuter student. Jaswal thought the art and decorations in the Collegium could be improved, in order to create a more welcoming feeling.

“[It could use] more art, like on the walls,” Jaswal said. “It is a good place, like the trees are making it pretty, but I would love to have some inside area that is motivating commuting students.”

Newton hopes to increase the amount of furniture inside the Collegium, in order to create a more comfortable space for students. Newton also has plans to add some decorations throughout the quarter.

“I definitely like this space, I’m just waiting for them to get the rest of the furniture and stuff in so it can really be as comfortable as the other place,” Newton said. “There will be some decorations that will go up throughout the quarter. I have plans for some.”

For commuters looking to eat or study in between classes, the Collegium offers a good space to do this. Events are held on a regular basis, hosted by Collegium staff members. While improvements will continue to be made to the Collegium throughout the year, commuter students are glad to have a place to come together again.

Applications for the Collegium are being considered and continued to be accepted on a case-by-case basis. The Collegium application is open to all undergraduate students commuting to SPU. For more information, email [email protected] or [email protected].