These individuals were selected through a national competition to find outstanding students who represent the heart of our work. Nominees were asked to submit a letter of recommendation, resume, and a written and video response describing their transfer journey, advocacy efforts on behalf of transfers, and how their personal interests match this opportunity.
This year's winners stood out for their demonstrated excellence in leadership, public speaking, and their potential for sharing meaningful information with higher education transfer professionals. The ambassadors will participate in the NISTS 2021 virtual annual conference and will play an integral role throughout the year as we empower transfer professionals to challenge the status quo to improve the transfer student experience.
Growing up in Belize, Dipti Karnani anticipated the traditional college experience abroad to support her goal of becoming a physician but started at a local community college because of its affordability. She received a scholarship and enrolled at a private four-year school in Florida, wanting to make an impact and hoping it would be her home away from home. Unfortunately, she was discouraged by limited opportunities within her major, felt there was a lack of support for incoming transfer students, and little diversity within the student population. She tried adjusting, but wasn't performing well academically, wasn't happy, and decided to transfer to the University of South Florida (USF).
Dipti entered USF discouraged, determined to focus solely on academics, and feeling ashamed for being a two-time transfer. The school's large size was overwhelming, but she appreciated the diverse students and opportunities in her major. Her orientation experience was also a critical part of a successful transition. She was surprised by the warmth and attention of the orientation leaders, faculty, and staff who “understood what it meant to be a transfer student.” She felt seen and heard. “My narrative wasn’t dismissed.” Dipti became a transfer orientation leader, sharing her story and inspiring other transfer students.
She says, “My journey as an international transfer student has mostly been about shifting the narrative of being limited by the label you’re defined by.”
Read Dipti's pre-conference blog post to learn more about her transfer journey.
As a first-generation student, Michael Morgan was excited to enroll at the Ohio State University, but the size and climate left him feeling isolated. “Where were people who were like me? As a Black man who doesn't run a football or shoot a basketball, I did not feel like there was a place for me.”
Michael decided to transfer and join his friends at the University of Cincinnati. He enjoyed a year there but moved to Georgia when his mom got a job in Atlanta. Michael applied to several schools, including well-known HBCU’s, but he stumbled on Oglethorpe University while exploring his neighborhood. His positive impression of the campus was cemented when he met an encouraging library faculty member who connected him with an admissions officer.
Once accepted, Michael’s journey got off to a positive start through a caring and helpful academic advisor. Over time, the advisor saw Michael's potential and invited him to be the first transfer student liaison based in the office of academic success. Michael said, “Finally, someone could see me, not just my degree audit or how many credit hours I had left for my degree. He saw me. He saw my passion, my drive, and my willingness to help anyone who may need it.”
Michael says, "I want to share from a student perspective how universities can best help their transfer students acclimate and how they can support them.”
Read Michael's pre-conference blog post to learn more about his transfer journey.
Keirra Scott’s college journey began at a for-profit school, leaving her with debt, no job, and feeling discouraged. Around this time, she gave birth to her daughter. Then, her mother unexpectedly died. In addition to grieving, she faced the responsibility of caring for her daughter alone, and now her brother.
Determined to provide a better life for them, she returned to school at a public community college. Although she no longer faced predatory practices, she didn’t feel supported and ultimately enrolled “in many unnecessary classes that did not count towards a degree." She took time off to care for her grandmother then returned to the same community college to take “classes that counted.”
Tired of minimum wage jobs, she worked as a plumber but knew she didn’t want to do it long-term. This realization, along with frustration at the 2016 elections results, motivated her to return to school, this time at Henry Ford College, focusing on social change.
Keirra thrived, describing it as “the first time I had the support I needed to succeed.” She became a leader in several student groups and participated in the University of Michigan (UM) transfer bridge program. Yet even with this strong foundation, she was initially denied admission based on a technical error.
Instead of becoming discouraged, Keirra applied again, was accepted, and received a scholarship. Now, she is a student advisor for the Transfer Bridges to Humanities program and a Transfer Student Leader Fellow. She says, “I now understand the difference a support system can make. I want to help others through the process.”
Read Keirra's pre-conference blog post to learn more about his transfer journey.
Emily Sturm began as an elementary education major at North Central College. When her parents divorced her junior year, she decided to support her siblings financially rather than spend her hard-earned savings on tuition. This break lasted ten years while she worked in the restaurant industry, often in leadership roles.
During this time, she joined the Pink Boots Society, a community of women in the beer industry. Emily credits this group with her decision to return to school and major in neuroscience. “For the first time in my life, I saw women with non-traditional paths being taken seriously and acting as leaders in our male-dominated community … and they treated me like I could do it too.”
Emily enrolled in Front Range Community College because of the low cost and the supportive community in the Wolves to Rams (W2R) program. W2R offers advising, community, and programming at both the community college and Colorado State University (CSU).
Staying involved with W2R once she transferred to CSU contributed to Emily’s success and helped her adjust to the much larger campus. She was encouraged by seeing other transfer students navigating CSU, graduating, and reaching their goals. Emily became a peer mentor for W2R, encouraging non-traditional transfer students to get involved and complete their degree.
She says, “It is important that transfer students hear that it is possible to overcome challenges like non-traditional age and financial concerns.”
Read Emily's pre-conference blog post to learn more about his transfer journey.
National Transfer Student Ambassador Finalists:
Matthew Guiliano is a senior at the University of South Florida studying finance and theatre. He transferred from Central Connecticut State University.
Ivan Quintana is a senior at the University of Arizona studying Criminal Justice and Criminology along with Public Service and Public Policy. He transferred from Mesa Community College.
Jennifer Solis is a senior at the University of Redlands studying Psychology. She transferred from Crafton Hills Community College.
Cheyenne Young is a senior at the University of Central Florida studying Political Science and Criminal Justice. She transferred from Lake Sumter State College.