10 Ways to Engage Your Faculty in the Transfer Student Experience
Written by Kim Morton and Nate Weigl, Appalachian State University
Faculty play a critical role in college student success. They inspire students’ passion for learning, provide opportunities to conduct research, connect students to potential future employers, encourage personal and academic development, and much more (Cuseo, 2018; Kuh & Schneider, 2008). Yet it is not uncommon for faculty members (even seasoned ones) to hold misconceptions about what transfer students are capable of achieving in the classroom and beyond. These misconceptions may impact relationships between faculty members and transfer students (Burack, Lanspery, Pineros Shields, & Singleton, 2014), and they may ultimately hinder persistence towards the completion of a postsecondary degree.
Engaging faculty in the transfer student experience is key to dissolving misconceptions and creating a transfer-friendly institution. At Appalachian State University (Appalachian), we have found that faculty members who are engaged in the transfer student experience are more likely to:
● Conduct research with transfer students;
● Participate in transfer recruitment;
● Consider equivalent credit for transfer students;
● Consider the impact of curriculum and other campus changes on the transfer experience;
● Participate in transfer events;
● Pursue funding for the transfer population;
● Help debunk myths about your campus’ transfer students; and
● Recruit other transfer advocates from across campus.
In the Office of Transfer Services (OTS) at Appalachian, we have purposely focused time, resources, and energy toward engaging faculty as one of our main strategies to inform our campus community and help our transfer students transition, integrate, and succeed.
The purpose of this article is to provide you, the practitioner, with realistic ways that you can engage faculty on your campus in the lives and experiences of your transfer students. We’ve provided a list of “Quick Wins” (for speedy implementation with little to zero budget), as well as more “Involved Strategies” (which require greater time and effort and possibly a budget) for consideration. We suggest that you find some colleagues who want to see transfer students succeed as much as you do, pick two Quick Wins and one Involved Strategy, and get to work!
Staff and Transfer Student Mentors in Appalachian State University’s Office of Transfer Services wearing black and gold “Appalachian loves transfers” T-shirts pose for a photo at the university’s Camp Broadstone facility in Valle Crucis. Photo by Tanner Mizelle.
Appalachian and the Office of Transfer Services
Appalachian is a public, four-year institution located in Boone, North Carolina. Nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains and part of the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian is a school approaching a student population of 20,000 and offers over 150 undergraduate and graduate majors. Appalachian is currently home to approximately 4,500 main campus transfer students.
The Office of Transfer Services exists to eliminate barriers for transfer students. One way our staff of eight full-time and two part-time employees accomplishes this is by engaging our outstanding faculty in the lives and experiences of our transfers.
The following strategies may be implemented quickly and with little to no budget:
● Present data to tell a story of your transfer population that will help faculty better understand student demographics at your institution. By partnering with your Institutional Research office, you can present an infographic to your campus to tell the transfer story and highlight key pieces of information (e.g., age, average credits transferred) and challenges (e.g., percent living off campus, first-generation) that may impact integration and success for transfers. We send a campuswide email with the infographic, share it in meetings and trainings, and print it in poster size to display throughout National Transfer Student Week and at other events. Data like this can also help you build a case for additional resources, staff, and space.
● Introduce new department chairs to your campus’ transfer students. Our office requests a one-hour meeting with each new chair to engage in a conversation about transfer students, with the intent of asking them to encourage further work with transfers by their staff. This is a great way to keep transfers at the forefront of the campus conversation. Some topics of discussion include: key data (see our Infographic above); transfer resources; processes overseen by our office (e.g., course petitions, coursework taken away from Appalachian by current students, articulation agreements); statistics specific to the department with whom we are meeting (e.g., comparison of the GPA of native vs transfer students, information about top sending institutions for the department and its programs of study); and specific contact person(s) within our office who can be reached at any time with a question related to transfer.
● Develop an internal advisory team that works collaboratively across campus, disciplines, and divisions and helps identify and meet transfer needs. It is essential that transfer professionals, especially in an office of one or two, find transfer partners to help impact transfer success on your campus. To form your team, start by identifying other units across campus that provide transfer student programs, invite faculty in majors that attract large numbers of transfer students, and be sure to have student representatives. Keep your team’s size manageable (no more than twenty) and plan to meet at least once a month. The team’s purpose is to aid you in raising awareness of transfer student issues among faculty and staff and to help identify solutions for your campus. Over the last few years, our Transfer Services Team has expanded the Common Reading program to include new transfers, created a Transfer Champion Award, and developed proposals for a Transfer Student Center and an Early College Residential Learning Community. We are currently developing a campus strategic plan for the transfer student experience that will guide our work in the coming years.
● Be present and active at New Faculty Orientation. Most institutions offer a New Faculty Orientation, usually led by the Provost’s Office or faculty professional development department (at Appalachian our Center for Academic Excellence organizes the yearly event). This is a wonderful opportunity to introduce the transfer student population and resources to your institution’s newest faculty. Depending on the schedule, you may be able to present specifically about transfers, be part of a panel or joint presentation on supporting subpopulations, participate in an Education Mall (e.g., information fair) where resource offices introduce their services to new faculty, or add your data infographic to the information packet given to new faculty. Reach out to those planning your New Faculty Orientation and see how you can get involved.
● Offer transfer-related workshops. Professional development workshops (we call ours Talking Transfers) are great ways to introduce your transfer population to faculty, provide a more robust discussion of the student demographics, discuss transfer needs and how faculty can support them, and answer questions faculty may have about transfers. A student panel allows faculty to hear transfer student experiences directly from the students, which personalizes their stories. Offering the workshops a few times at different points in the semester will allow more faculty to participate. If you weren’t able to be part of the New Faculty Orientation (see above), this would be an alternative way to approach and inform new faculty.
The following strategies may require greater time, effort, and a budget.
● Host a Transfer Symposium. One way to help your campus understand and rally around transfers is to host a day-long campuswide symposium. Invite departments to send teams of faculty and staff members to learn more about your transfer population, their needs, and the kinds of support employees can provide. Appalachian hosted its first symposium not long after the creation of the Office of Transfer Services (A Campus Conversation About Transfer Student Success), and it aided in raising awareness for transfers across campus. Since then we’ve held three more symposiums, including one where we bused faculty and staff to a community college for a tour and discussions. For another, we focused on curriculum alignment, where our faculty met with community college peers from a dozen different institutions. These symposiums, while a lot of work, have drastically altered the way our campus views transfers. They have also helped our office recruit many new transfer advocates from key campus stakeholders. You can view schedules and notes on our symposiums at this website.
● Initiate a Faculty Transfer Mentor program. Recognizing the influence of faculty and staff on a student’s sense of belonging and success, we have trained over 115 colleagues who volunteer their time to be a resource for transfers. After completing a ninety-minute training session, the Mentors provide curriculum and academic guidance to our new and current transfers; host department visits with prospective students; guide new students on securing research, internship, or study abroad opportunities; and are available to support students when needed. While not a true one-to-one mentor/mentee match, we help students learn about this program through communications throughout the admission and transition phases. Mentors, who were often transfer students themselves, can use this program to fulfill promotion service requirements while also becoming transfer advocates. Written to celebrate National Transfer Student Week, this recent article highlights our Faculty Transfer Mentor program and their research with transfer students.
Madeline Newlin, a junior from Winston-Salem majoring in psychology, right, serves as a research assistant to her Faculty Transfer Mentor, Dr. Mark Zrull, a professor in Appalachian State University's Department of Psychology. Faculty Transfer Mentors are available for students transferring to Appalachian and may offer research opportunities in addition to curriculum advice and guidance. Photo by Marie Freeman.
● Work with an academic department to host a social. Academic departments open to hosting socials between faculty and transfers can create meaningful relationships outside the classroom. Recently, we received a small grant from our Parents & Family Association to provide money for food and drinks so that five academic departments could each host a transfer social. The events connected departmental faculty with students in a more casual setting, allowed transfers to feel valued, and encouraged integration into the academic departments. They also allowed the academic departments to see the benefit of the socials without the initial outlay of funds with the goal of encouraging the departments to continue to host socials in the future on their own (which all agreed to do!). Identify your academic departments with the largest number of incoming transfers and approach them with this idea.
● Host a transfer STEM day. Our College of Arts & Sciences has partnered with departments and provided funding to hold a transfer STEM day. Various departments (e.g., Mathematics, Computer Science, Physics & Astronomy) communicated with their counterparts at community colleges within the region and invited instructors and students from those schools to visit Appalachian for a day. The visit included tours of labs on campus, conversations with Appalachian professors, and a Q & A with a panel of Appalachian transfer students majoring in mathematics. We found that students and faculty from the community colleges learned about transfer pathways to Appalachian and that the day enhanced curriculum alignment discussions. This type of transfer day could certainly be replicated to fit a College of Health Sciences, a College of Business, and many others.
● Create a new articulation agreement. Formal articulation agreements exist to support the seamless transfer of credit--often for students who have taken Applied Science coursework that may not have necessarily been approved for transfer without an agreement. Collaborating with faculty at both institutional levels provides a natural way of engaging faculty in the transfer conversation. Anyone who has worked on an articulation agreement knows how cumbersome it can be to create one as you attempt to align two curriculums into one pathway. At Appalachian, we have a formal Articulation Agreement Guidelines Manual to guide the process when faculty decide to pursue an agreement. We have found that following the manual promotes transparency and trust, offering a go-to process for completing the job while also getting the appropriate people on campus involved in the conversation.
Call to Action
There are, of course, many ways to engage faculty. We would love to hear the creative ways you are finding success on your campus. For those just getting started, we encourage you to pick two Quick Wins and one Involved Strategy to implement on your campus. We look forward to hearing about what you’ve implemented at the next NISTS conference in Portland!
About the Authors
Kim Morton is an Associate Director in the Office of Transfer Services, working with transfer students once they arrive and providing transitional support, facilitating engagement in campus life, and overseeing retention efforts. Through targeted communication, transfer specific events, and encouragement, her goal is to ensure every transfer student integrates successfully into campus and academic life at Appalachian State University.
Nate Weigl is an Associate Director in the Office of Transfer Services. His main responsibilities within OTS involve providing oversight to the articulation unit and ensuring that systems are running as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Before moving to Boone, he spent six years teaching math and coaching high school basketball in Maryland.
Cuseo, J. (2018). Student–Faculty Engagement. New Directions for Teaching & Learning, 2018 (154), 87–97. https://doi-org.proxy006.nclive.org/10.1002/tl.20294
Kuh, G. D., & Schneider, C. G. (2008). High-impact educational practices : what they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Burack, C., Lanspery, S., Pineros Shields, T., & Singleton, S. (2014, January). Partnerships that Promote Success: Lessons and Findings from the Evaluation of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Community College Transfer Initiative. Retrieved from https://www.jkcf.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/CCTI_Report_Final.pdf