Leaving his “baby”


Commuter Council president graduates

COLLEEN DOHERTY / The Journal Chris Penberthy leads the last Commuter Council meeting of the semester in the Sunnen Lounge on April 24 for the last time.

Chris Penberthy is in his last days as president of Webster University’s Commuter Council, a title that he has held since the group started in Spring 2009.

“I’m weirded out. I don’t know if I have managed to cope with it,” Penberthy said.

His last two duties as president were the Commuter Council meeting April 25th and Commuter Appreciation Day on April 26th.

Penberthy is leaving something that has been a part of his college career for three years.

“It’s like my baby,” Penberthy said. “I will probably say something sappy at the end of my last commuter council meeting.”

The idea for the Commuter Council goes back to 2008. A group of seniors thought a group like the Commuter Council was needed but felt they couldn’t commit to forming a Commuter Council in their senior year.

The University Center also knew that there was a need, but didn’t have a group to develop a Commuter Council.

Jennifer Violett, assistant director university center & student activities, met Penberthy at a WebsterLeads Emerging Leaders Retreat and said she knew Penberthy was the right fit to lead the council.

“Chris is great to work with. He really understands the student needs as well as university politics and climate,” Violett said. “I think we work really well together. As an advisor it can often be difficult because you don’t really have say in the group, but Chris really listens to my advice and makes me a part of the process.”

The Commuter Council first worked on revamping freshman orientation in Fall 2010 to extend the event to commuters.

The last night of orientation the University Center was opened to the entire freshman class for the first Commuter Social. The goal was to encourage freshmen, regardless if they are living on campus or not, to come together and make connections with one another.

Penberthy said one of Commuter Council’s biggest accomplishments was the Commuter Lounge, a goal he didn’t expect to reach in fall 2010.

“I thought it would have been five years down the line,” Penberthy said.

Penberthy said he hopes whoever takes his place makes students feel at home. He added he wants to help the next Commuter Council president.

“It is always difficult to think about how organizations will change and grow after their original leadership is gone, but I think Chris has really helped to lay the groundwork for the group .to have more successes in the future,” Violett said.

Penberthy said he wouldn’t change anything in his experience as the Commuter Council president, but there is one thing he will miss.

“The relationships with the people; Nicole King, Jen Violett, Mike Heumann and Sean Barber are my four best friends. I know I’ll keep in contact with them long after this.”

Sean Barber, a junior video production major, has been named the new president of the Commuter Council. Barber has been working with Penberthy for two and half years, and said he will miss Penberthy’s openness.

“Chris respected every opinion and took everything into consideration,” Barber said. “His willingness to work with anybody to get a goal accomplished was unmatched to anybody that I have met.”

Barber said for next year he sees the Commuter Council improving their audience at general session meetings, collaborating more with other organizations and clubs to get noticed and moving forward in improving the commuter experience at Webster.

Mike Heumann, a sophomore computer science and business administration major and newly appointed vice president, said it was a true honor to work with Penberthy.

“Thanks to his inspiring vision and hard work ethic, this student organization made notable progress shrinking the gap between resident and commuter students,” Heumann said. “The Commuter Lounge is one of my favorite places to hang out on campus.”

As the weeks to graduation are growing closer Penberthy is making different plans for life after graduation. He is coming back to Webster in the fall for his masters in media literacy and he has also applied for a graduate assistant position.

“I’ve applied for almost everything I’m eligible for on campus as full time,” Penberthy said. “In the next few weeks I hope to find out  if I got something and maybe have a couple of interviews.

He said he feels that Webster has more than prepared him and his time as president of the Commuter Council has helped his leadership skills and he is ready to graduate and move on.

“I’m ready to primarily take over the world,” Penberthy said.

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