For many years, Biola’s commuter students didn’t have much of a place to go between classes, meaning they often had to resort — resort to hang out in the library, resort to kill time under a shady tree, or even resort to nap in their cars.
But for the past decade, they’ve had something that feels more like, well, a resort.
The Collegium, which opened 10 years ago this fall to serve Biola’s growing off-campus community, is one of the most elegant and inviting spaces on campus. And as the number of commuters has climbed over the past decade — up from 23 percent of Biola’s undergraduate population in 2004 to about 41 percent today — the facility has played a major role in helping them to develop friendships and feel more connected.
In May, dozens of students who have called the Collegium their “home away from home” over the past decade gathered to celebrate its 10th anniversary and reflect on how it shaped their Biola experience.
“It is wonderful to have a warm, cozy place to go in between classes,” one student wrote in a testimonial for the event. “Because commuters can often become disconnected, I appreciate the Collegium for being a place to meet people and hear about upcoming events. It is like our big, giant and deluxe dorm room!”
Inspired in part by the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa at Disneyland, the Collegium is designed in the Craftsman style, complete with intricate woodwork, rustic art and a roaring fireplace. (The fire, mainly for ambience, is designed to generate minimal heat; this is Southern California, after all.) The facility offers plenty of comfy couches and study spaces, as well as computers for finishing up and printing out classwork. There’s also a nicely stocked kitchen area where students can cook meals together or pick up low-cost snacks.
Ken Campbell (’87), who helped to plan the space as Biola’s manager of planning, design and construction, said the facility is a far cry from what he had in his own days as a commuter student in the ’80s.
“There was a vending machine at McNally — that’s about what we had,” he quipped. “There may have been a chair next to it.”
But more than just a space, the Collegium is a community. Katie Tuttle (Ph.D. ’98), Biola’s director of commuter life, said everything about the facility was carefully researched and designed to foster connection and community — offering students a place for personal, intellectual and spiritual conversation. Students are supported by a team of well-trained staff, and they’re given plenty of chances to connect at monthly birthday celebrations, shared meals and events such as “Story Time with Dave” (an evening with David Nystrom, Biola’s provost and senior vice president).
“The Collegium community absolutely changed my entire experience at Biola,” wrote graduate Cynthia Pimentel (’11). “The Christmas Party, Murder Mystery Party, and of course the free PB&J Bar during finals were definite highlights! I met lifelong friends being part of the Collegium, and that alone makes every second spent there worth it.”