Parking Garage Advising: How Florida Atlantic is Test Driving a New Approach to Advising Commuter Students

Advising Commuter Students - Signage at Florida Atlantic University
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by Lisa Cook, Academic Impressions

Why We're Taking a Close Look at FAU

Florida Atlantic University has piloted several innovative strategies for providing students more timely advising and support. In fall 2014, FAU's University Advising Services office started a resident hall outreach but struggled to come up with a plan to reach out to commuter students, who frequently attend part-time and only in the evening due to work and family commitments. Historically, all university offices closed at 5, which posed an additional challenge to reaching out to students with full-time jobs.

The reality is that commuter students, who are often part-time, take longer to graduate, making outreach to that population especially critical. We talked with Joe Murray, director of University Advising Services, to learn more about the initiative.

Taking Advising to the Parking Garage

The idea to reach out to commuter students was the brainchild of Florida Atlantic University academic coach and advisor Jennifer Coisson, who herself had once been a commuter student and knew that commuter students often miss out on campus support services. Yet outreach to these students is difficult because FAU doesn’t have commuter lounges or any one spot on campus where commuter students congregate.

Except the parking garages.

"The only place they are is in their cars and that’s where we should be finding them," she told colleagues at a brainstorming session.

Joe Murray, the director of University Advising Services, brought the idea up to campus leadership at a holiday party at the university president’s house. Murray suggested they roll out the outreach for the Fall 2015 semester, but the provost liked the idea so much that he said, “Let’s do it now.”

That gave Murray three weeks to get everything in place.

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