Worth the Drive

Although Loyola is a residential university, a small group of students continue to commute

By Michele Wojciechowski, ’90

Between 1986 and 1990, I spent nearly every weekday for two semesters walking around Loyola’s campus carrying a backpack, a purse, and a bagged lunch.

Most days found me also lugging a camera bag, art supplies, an umbrella, and whichever class project was due that day.

Why did I have so much stuff with me? Was I an aspiring nomad, about to travel around the world? Was I a walking hoarder?

No, I was something considered far more exotic—at Loyola, anyway: I was a commuter student.

Recently I started looking into the history of commuting at Loyola and spoke with some of the students who still commute to the campus today.

Flickr Creative Commons / Paul Hamilton

Streetcar School

Nicholas Varga, Ph.D., professor of history at Loyola and its archivist for many years, writes in his history of the University, Baltimore’s Loyola, Loyola’s Baltimore: 1851-1986, that Loyola College was established in 1852 by the Jesuits to provide an all-male Catholic school after St. Mary’s College closed.

In its early days, Loyola was referred to by students and locals alike as a “streetcar school.” Students were commuters who took the streetcar, which ran on public streets throughout Baltimore City, from their homes to its downtown campus daily to attend classes. While the students were commuters, professors and the pastors of the adjoining church lived at the school building.

At the time, Loyola was located in downtown Baltimore on Holliday Street. Loyola’s first residence hall—Hammerman House, on the main Evergreen campus—wouldn’t be built until 1967.

In the 1993 spring issue of Loyola magazine, former president Fr. Joseph A. Sellinger, S.J., said that when he came arrived in 1964, Rev. Vincent Beatty, S.J. (Loyola’s president from 1955-1964), was opposed to Loyola being residential.

“In my attempt to trying to have a little vision, in my inaugural speech, I talked about the need for students outside of Maryland,” Fr. Sellinger said, going on to talk about a 1982 strategic plan to recruit students outside of Maryland and Loyola’s need to expand the residence halls.

Parking Pros

During the late 1980s, the number of commuter students was equal to those who lived on campus, said Mark Broderick, director of student activities and of commuter affairs at Loyola. Broderick remembered the Commuter Students Association having hundreds of members. At the time, the biggest complaint commuters had was the problem of parking.

Overflow parking at Cathedral was an option, but only two shuttles ran between the lot and main campus, so students preferred to park as close to the Academic Quadrangle as possible. Today Broderick says there are about 12 shuttles running constantly—and there’s an app to notify shuttle users of the shuttle’s location on the route and the time they should arrive at stops.

Commuters who want to park on campus can pay different fees, depending on where they want to park. For $125 per academic year, commuters can park during the day at the 5104 York Road lot, the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, or Loyola’s Fitness and Aquatic Center.

Flick Creative Commons / Annie Mole

A Commuter’s Community

Today commuter students still make up a small percentage of Loyola’s student body—2.5 percent, to be exact.

Broderick estimates there are between 100 and 120 commuting students each year. And with students carrying most of their class materials in iPads or laptops, spotting commuters is more difficult. “If someone’s carrying a backpack, chances are they’re going to the Fitness and Aquatic Center after class,” he said.

The reasons students choose to commute are as diverse as the students themselves.

Mary Kallab, ’17, originally became a commuter for financial reasons. After living on campus as a first-year student, she moved home to Lutherville, Md., to save money to study abroad during junior year. When that fell through, she decided to keep commuting for her remaining years at Loyola because of the savings.

Kallab said she feels just as engaged in the Loyola community as the students who live in the residence halls. As an Evergreen, she works with first-year students and their parents from the orientation process through move-in weekend; as an Iggy, she gives campus tours to prospective students and their families. She also serves as co-president of the Arabic Club and is a member of the French Club.

“I like being a commuter because it allows me to have a life outside of campus. I love my Loyola friends and my college life, but being able to drive to an off-campus job allows me to have a work life, too,” she said.

“I also am still able to have my family life, because I get to see them every day. It’s also awesome that I get to eat home-cooked meals every night, and I get to sleep in my own room.”

Independent living

Despite the drop in commuter population, the Commuter Students Association (CSA) is still active—and Laura Amortegui, ’16, is serving as its president for the second year.

A native of Colombia, Amortegui explained living at home until marriage is part of her culture. She lives with her family in Potomac, Md., and spends anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes each day driving to and from school.

But like many commuters, she loves living at home. “I feel like there’s a lot more freedom to commuting. Family is such a huge part of my life. And I like to travel,” she said. Commuting allows her to take trips to Washington, D.C., on the weekends, or attend her brother’s hockey games.

In addition to heading CSA, Amortegui is on Loyola’s women’s ice hockey team and has started a club with friends called Ours to Change, which helps education worldwide. And when she wants to get her campus fix, she spends time in the newly remodeled Commuter Lounge, located in Avila Hall.

“They say that if you live on campus, there’s more freedom to it, but I see it otherwise,” she said. “I’m more independent.”

Special thanks to Anna Clarkson, head of archives and special collections, for providing historical research.

Read other stories from Loyola’s home issue here.

Bookmark and Share

No Comments

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment