Jodi Allen, a 20-year-old junior and transfer student at the University of Oregon, didn’t think she needed the transfer seminar offered by the School of Journalism and Communication.
But after she spent a fall day doing the “library scavenger hunt” assigned by the seminar, she went home knowing more about the library than her roommates did, and they came to UO as freshmen.
Transfer students like Allen make up almost a quarter of UO’s yearly fall enrollments, according to the UO Office of Institutional Research. Despite this, transfer students can feel isolated on campus, said Nina Kerkebane, the Nontraditional Student Union co-director. Though some transfer student programs have been reduced in the past decade, UO still has programs to support transfer students and is building more.
For transfer students, finding resources like housing, tutoring and recreation, can be daunting. Research about transfers is limited, said Emily Kittrell, the assistant director at the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students at the University of North Georgia. But she said it shows they often have other commitments and responsibilities in addition to school.
“Transfer students are super busy,” said Kittrell. “Their schedules prevent them from getting involved.”
This is true for Jessica Domenici, 20, a junior transfer from the University of Colorado Boulder who works up to 18 hours a week and is taking 18 credits a term to make up for credits she lost when she transferred.
Domenici said she doesn’t have time to research extracurriculars. “When I was a freshman, it was kind of all presented to you,” she said.
A transfer-receptive culture on campus is also important, Kittrell said.
Transfers are considered nontraditional students, but Kerkebane said many students don’t know they fall under the nontraditional student umbrella. Both Allen and Domenici didn’t know this either.
The Nontraditional Student Union just began rebuilding, but Kerkebane’s goal is to create a community for nontraditional students, who she said are considered “high-risk” of dropping out due to their isolation on campus.
She said they want to eventually create “affinity groups” within the NSU for more specific groups like transfers to connect.
She and Maria Kalnbach, the nontraditional and veteran student engagement and success coordinator, said they are working on communicating to nontraditional students about the resources for them, but they haven’t found the best strategy yet.
Feeling comfortable and oriented is also crucial to transfer students making the transition successfully into a new school, said Kittrell. That starts when they get to campus.
IntroDUCKtion is a mainstay of the freshman experience, but, according to Keith Frazee, the assistant director for IntroDUCKtion and Week of Welcome, transfer students didn’t sign up for two-day transfer IntroDUCKtion sessions when they were offered in the past. Instead, transfers are offered abridged IntroDUCKtions that last one day.
Next year, IntroDUCKtion is adding a transfer team within their student orientation staff and dedicated transfer programming to the Week of Welcome, according to Frazee.
Orientation, the Nontraditional Student Union and Nontraditional Student Programs have also been working together to create new programming for IntroDUCKtion, including a social for nontraditional students.
Once transfer students get to campus, other supports for them aren’t always visible.
Until Friday, the UO website listed transfer seminars through the First-Year Programs department as a way to orient new students, similar to First-Year Interest Groups. But most of those seminars were cut due to budget reductions a decade ago, according to First-Year Programs Director Amy Hughes Giard. The website continuing to list these seminars was likely an oversight, said Giard.
However, the SOJC transfer seminar, originally funded through First-Year Programs, was popular enough that the SOJC continued to fund it, according to Sally Garner, SOJC director of student services.
Allen said she was “surprised by how effortless” her transfer from the University of Arizona was and said it was in large part due to that seminar.
The seminar is offered every fall term, and Allen said it connected her with faculty immediately, and she made friends with students who shared her experience.
According to Garner, only the SOJC has offered a transfer seminar every year since the program started, although other departments offer them with less regularity.
The Tutoring and Academic Engagement Center offers a transfer seminar in fall and sometimes winter term, though Associate Director Amy Nuetzman said it’s not guaranteed.
The seminars usually have around 25 spots, but they often don’t fill up, Neutzman said. She said she wanted to investigate why, but there was “strong interest” for bringing it back next year based on good feedback from students.
Once transfer students get their bearings, they still need more academic support, Kittrell said.
Though there are no advisers specifically for transfers, they are all trained to work with transfer students, according to Ted Calcaterra, an academic adviser at UO who helped develop an Oregon law to facilitate the transfer of community college credits to public universities.
Calcaterra recommended transfers come to advising early and often; at least once per term.
“In the eighth week, there’s not much we can do,” said Calcaterra. “They really need to be that squeaky wheel out there.”
Academic Advising also communicates with transfer students who haven’t declared a major, and Calcaterra said they recently started placing holds on transfer student registration if they haven’t declared within three terms, compelling them to see an adviser and keep them from drifting.
Though Allen’s transfer was simple, she said it was still overwhelming sometimes, and she wanted to see more programming specifically for transfers. She said she’s thinking about starting a transfer club herself.