Since its inception as the York County Academy, incorporated in 1787, York College has long been an institution supportive of local students. The College's mission statement, in fact, includes the goal of "playing a special role in addressing the higher education aspirations of the people of York County."
Throughout its history, the College has enrolled numerous commuter students. (It wasn't until 1963 that the first residence hall was built to accommodate students from outside of the area who wished to attend the College.) Many of these students sought out York College as a convenient and accessible provider of an affordable, high-quality educational program.
That remains true today, as local students continue to fill the College's classrooms. Some might think that commuting students are "missing out" on valuable components of a college education by making this choice. Here are a few who decidedly disagree and are enjoying a fulfilling experience right in their own backyards.
Kara Snyder '13 visited a lot of colleges and universities, but none "seemed to compare to the student-centered culture at York College, with its small class sizes. You can't put a dollar value on the lifelong relationships that are made at York," she said. "I am so thankful, in particular, for the relationships that I have built with my professors, because they can make the material come alive in their teaching through their real-world experience."
A senior, Snyder has sought out her own such experiences, taking advantage of several opportunities to learn outside the classroom. She has served as an intern for organizations including Voith Hydro and Legends Hospitality at the York Revolution Stadium, and has served for two years as President of Enactus York (formerly known as Students in Free Enterprise/SIFE). "I have been able to develop skills like leading a team and giving effective professional presentations while making a measurable difference with our projects on campus, in York City, and even abroad in the country of El Salvador," she said. "My ability to empower people is a competitive edge that gives me confidence as I enter the job market."
Snyder credits her involvement with organizations like Enactus York, as well as her job as a Zumba instructor on campus, with allowing her to become a part of the campus community. "A common misconception is that a commuter student doesn't get the college experience, but it's easy to meet people and get involved at York College," she said. "As a commuter, I also have the advantage of having an early start on networking, as well as being able to save money while I'm in college."
Keith Wiley '14 had every intention of going away to college, but a spring visit to York College during his senior year of high school changed his mind. "The facilities were attractive, as well as the grounds," he said. "The atmosphere was welcoming, and each conversation I had – whether with student, faculty or professor – was engaging and enjoyable. With this experience in mind, and knowing it was a viable and growing institution with an MBA Program and many options for majors and minors, I knew where I belonged."
As a commuting student, Wiley plays an important role in the life of the College. A member of the Student Senate, he represents the organization – and his fellow students – on the Presidential Search Committee and on the Academic Senate (faculty governing organization) Student Welfare Committee. He is also a student intern at the Information Technology Help Desk, chair of the Student Senate's Student Services Committee, Vice President of the Model United Nations student organization, and an Orientation Leader.
"The key to my feeling connected was getting involved," he said. "As I grow, in many ways, the College also grows. Being involved with committees, organizations, and especially clubs, allows me to connect and express myself in boundless ways. Through such involvement, I have made close friends, professional friends, and developed relationships with professors and administrators."
Wiley has some good advice for current and prospective commuting students: "Just get involved in any way possible!" He suggests seeking a job on campus, joining one of the 90+ student clubs and organizations, and attending campus events. "In the end, it is all about being open-minded and willing to explore and seek things out that are of interest to you," he said. A final hint from Wiley: "Eliminate the perspective that a commuting student typically comes and leaves the College like a job, because at York this is not the case at all! Opportunity is there, just reach for it."
Asra Khan '15 was attracted to York College's "amazing Biology program." She also appreciated the College's strong relationship with York Hospital, which would provide her with opportunities for internships and volunteer experience in the health field. And she couldn't ignore the College's tuition, which is "amazing for a private college."
Khan has made connections inside and out of the classroom that make her feel a part of the College. She regularly attends group study sessions for most of her classes, and she is parliamentarian of the Commuter Club (a good platform to make connections with other organizations), a tutor and lab assistant for Chemistry, Public Relations Chair of the Pre-Med Society, and a sophomore senator in Student Senate. "I like dedicating time to various organizations, which helps me stay involved with the College and community," she said.
Khan also spends a great deal of her time hanging out with resident students in the dining center and at student organizational activities. "I know the area well, so I've taken my out-of-town friends to various local spots," she said. Although Khan spends most of her time on campus —"I live seven miles away, but why go home when there's so much to do here?" — she does like the opportunity to "catch a break" at home when she needs a place to relax.
Khan's plans for the future – medical or optometry school – will give her the chance to move away from home. For now, she is completely happy with her commuting experience. "People who feel like they're missing out are those who don't get involved," she said. "Through being actively involved on campus, I've met so many different types of people and have gained experiences that I will always remember."
Misty Parshall's '15 decision to come to York was influenced by the positive experiences of her two older sisters Melody '10 and Mandy '11, but she definitely owns her choice. "I skipped my senior year of high school and commuted to York College," she said, "but I still looked at other options before enrolling here. I decided to come here because I liked it."
A member of three athletic teams – track, indoor track, and cross country – Parshall arrives on campus early in the morning and typically stays until 9 or 10 p.m. throughout the academic year. Her days are filled by early-morning or late-afternoon practices, classes, and work as a math tutor, a classroom mentor (who holds exam review sessions and tutors students in Calculus II), and a tutor for local high school students. "My mom says I only come home to sleep," she said.
Parshall has friends on campus and spends time – including dinners and study sessions – with her teammates. She also participates in the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, and is very involved with her church. "That's an advantage of commuting," she said. "I can still participate in the activities around home that are important to me."
Parshall plans to get her Master's degree in Education – maybe at York College – and teach in the local region. Getting an education degree from York, she believes, ensures a number of opportunities. "As an Education major, I came to York because of the strong program, which is pretty well-known in the area. York has taken the time to build a relationship between our Education department and nearby high schools and elementary schools. Through the College, I've made contacts in institutions that could possibly be my future employers. This certainly gives me a head start in getting a job after graduation."
When Jaron Starner '12 and Kyle Murphy '12 met in a freshman class, they forged a strong bond that would eventually lead to the creation of a student organization designed to improve the York College experience for commuters like them.
Starner and Murphy didn't come to York College for the same reason. Starner – a Marketing major with a Hospitality Minor – wanted to go to college close to home so that he could remain involved with his family's business, Cedar Lake Family Campground in Dover. Murphy, a Finance major, followed a friend to York after graduating from Spring Grove High School.
Starner joined the Student Alumni Association (SAA). Murphy didn't join any organizations during his freshman year; in fact, he planned to transfer to another college at the end of that year. Starner – and the connections to other students Murphy made through him – was a big part of why he stayed at York.
Eventually, both became active in the life of the campus, serving as members of SAA and as Orientation Leaders. Murphy also served as Treasurer of the Class of 2012, while Starner took on the role of Orientation Coordinator and served as Marketing Chair for the senior class. In addition, the two shared a strong desire to encourage commuters to get involved and stay on campus. "We wanted to ensure that other students didn't miss out on opportunities or make the mistake of not getting involved," said Starner.
Starner and Murphy created the Commuter Club during their senior year. They had worked the previous year with an intern in the Student Activities Office to plan and promote the College's first Commuter Appreciation Week, which "laid the foundation for the organization," Starner said.
"That first year, we had 20 to 25 active members, but they came and went," he said. "That was good, because we created the Commuter Club as a liaison, a way for students to come together and meet students from other organizations. That's why it was so important for the Club to be open to all students, not just commuters."
The organization also served another purpose, according to Murphy. "During my freshman year I wasn't aware of the services or the facilities that were available to us. The Commuter Club could serve as that resource for future students."
The group's original advisor, Associate Professor Ken Slaysman, "has been a great advocate for the Club, trying to get faculty involved as well, as they are all commuters themselves," said Starner.
Starner is currently Manager at his family's business, and Murphy is a Financial Advisor with Primerica Financial Services in York. The two remain active as alumni, serving as members of the Young Alumni Committee, of which Starner is Chair.
Phyllis Bowers '87/'91 – and the entire Bowers family – know a thing or two about life as commuting students. Phyllis was married and the mother of two children while she attended classes at York College. Her husband, Richard '87, was also a student there at the time. Both graduated in 1987 – Phyllis with an Associate degree in Management, Richard with a Bachelor's degree in Long-Term Care Administration. Phyllis went on to earn a Bachelor's degree in Behavioral Science from York in 1991, and Richard earned a Master of Divinity.
At one point, they were joined at York College by their son, Jeffery, as all three commuted from their home in Jacobus. Jeffery earned an Accounting degree in 1994 and then an Education degree in 1995. He also served as Co-captain of the soccer team during his senior year, and is currently Director of Men's and Women's Soccer at Virginia Wesleyan College.
Phyllis, who manages a $30 million religious nonprofit organization says, "I owe so much of what I've been able to accomplish in my professional life to York College. My college diploma is worth more to me than any dollar in the bank.
As a student, Phyllis was part of a group called the Late Bloomers, which had been created by Jean Semmelman, longtime Director of Advising and Scheduling at York College. "We had our own gathering place inside Campbell Hall with a seating area and a refrigerator," she said. "Our commuter group was a real tight group."
Phyllis felt like she belonged to the campus community, thanks in part to students and faculty. "Professors were very accommodating to nontraditional and commuter students," she said. "I never felt too old or inferior."
"As a family, we have a strong commitment to the College and a deep appreciation for what it has contributed to our community," said Phyllis, who served for 12 years as a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors.