Meet Brandon Cheatham
Where did you begin your college career? Where did you end up?
My transition into the successful transfer student I am today began with a crucial experience at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. I was lost in the masses and could not find my classes, let alone myself. I had dreamed about being at a large school, but I soon realized that I was not at a stage in my life where I could live in such an unfamiliar setting. Because of this, my planned path unexpectedly changed.
The second semester of my freshman year I began my educational journey at Stockton University in New Jersey. The school was close to home, and I saw it as simply a placeholder until I found the school where I belonged. I went to class, most of the time, then went directly home with minimal social interactions.
My experience illustrates some of the most common issues facing transfer commuter students in higher education. I had no motivation and lost the spark that used to fuel my desire for success. When entering my new institution, I feared that I was not going to have the college experience that I had dreamed of. The puzzle pieces just weren’t fitting, but I soon realized that all I needed to do was take on a new perspective and simply rotate the pieces.
Thankfully, with the help of friends from my high school, I was pulled into the university's student programming board. The Stockton Entertainment Team helped me find my lost passion for involvement, and it was the first domino in a long chain of events that has led to my success today. Through my involvement, I flourished and I found the program that changed my life.
Being a member of The Activity Leaders of New Students (T.A.L.O.N.S.) allowed me to give all incoming students, freshman and transfer alike, an initial step in the right direction. I was able to directly impact students' lives and become a mentor and a friend to them. Upon the completion of my year with T.A.L.O.N.S., I applied for the Head Mentor position and once again the dominoes began to fall in place. Serving in the Head Mentor position of T.A.L.O.N.S. gave me endless experiences and opportunities with one of the most important people in my life.
Who was the one person at your institution who helped you as you made your transfer? My supervisor for T.A.L.O.N.S., Jennifer Radwanski, helped me since day one at Stockton without me even knowing. Jen is the director of New Student and Family Programs and was in charge of the orientation program that welcomed me to the institution back in 2015. While I did not directly interact with Jen during my first semesters at Stockton, she soon became a large influence on my life.
Working with Jen in previous positions and now working as her intern, helped me find my love of Stockton, higher education, and most importantly myself. Jen, as well as the entire faculty at Stockton, had open arms to give me any assistance I needed. Her passion for helping students has been demonstrated in the many initiatives she has led to welcome transfer students at Stockton. Currently, I am working with her to develop a student leadership retreat for incoming transfer students. I know after my time at Stockton, she will continue to work for students' success. I am a stronger believer in actions speaking much louder than words, and by Jen enacting these changes at Stockton, transfer students will hear very clearly that their experiences matter.
What support, info, or advice do you wish you'd received before starting the college transfer process? As I am preparing to finish my undergraduate education as an Osprey, I am reflecting on how I can continue to assist future transfer students in their transitions. As an ambassador for NISTS, I hope to emphasize to transfer students something that I didn't understand when I entered my new school. You have endless opportunities at your new institution, and you are just as important as any other new student. Take these opportunities head on, and if you do not see an opportunity that you like, then create a new one for yourself.