- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - Meagan Mullen spends eight hours a week phoning, texting, emailing and meeting with freshmen commuter students at Ball State University.

A student herself, Mullen is one of five commuter ambassadors whose job is to get commuters engaged in campus life so they don’t drop out - or as they call it in higher education, to increase the retention rate.

Her job is similar to a resident assistant.

But because commuters don’t live in residence halls, “they didn’t get that experience before this position was created,” Mullen told The Star Press (https://tspne.ws/1w8vEf3 ). “They didn’t have that mentor to be that kind of big sister or big brother.”

Mullen is an interpersonal communications major from Tippecanoe County who is paid minimum wage to serve as an ambassador to about 60 commuters. There are four other ambassadors each responsible for 60 commuters or 300 in all.

Since the program was established eight years ago, the number of commuter students who return to campus for their sophomore year has increased from 68 percent to nearly 77 percent, according to Kay Bales, vice president for student affairs.

Students who live with their parents within a 60-mile radius of campus are among those who are exempt from the university’s on-campus residency requirement.

Before starting school, the new commuter students are required to complete Commuter 101, where they learn how to interact with professors, explore Ball State’s digital resources and get other help.

“I took mine through the library and talked about how there’s a bunch of comfy chairs you can sleep on when you have no class - because I sleep in the library sometimes,” Mullen said. “Because they just can’t go back to their room.”

During the semester, Mullen takes commuters out to dinner. The university picks up the tab, but there are limits on what they can order.

The students experience the same problems as on-campus students “but they also have these other issues that involve commuting,” Mullen said.

“A lot of my students enjoy having me around,” she said. “They run into me all the time. They recognize me more often than I recognize them because there are 60 of them and only one of me. It’s a lovely school and everybody can enjoy it if they get the right help.”

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Information from: The Star Press, https://www.thestarpress.com

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