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2021 TSA: Emily's Conference Takeaways

In this post, National Transfer Student Ambassador Emily Sturm reflects on her experience attending the NISTS 2021 virtual annual conference in February. You can read more about Emily's transfer story on the NISTS Blog.


blog cover photo that includes a screen shot of Emily during the TSA's panel session at the NISTS 2021 virtual conference.

Transfer Agent Transformation

by Emily T. Sturm


The most important thing I gained from this conference was a new understanding of what transfer agents can be and why it’s necessary to follow in the paths of these truly remarkable individuals. Before the conference, I thought I knew what a transfer agent was. I would have said it’s someone who helps a transfer student navigate the systems and skills needed to reach graduation. Thanks to powerful presentations by transfer agents like Dr. Danyelle Tauryce Ireland and Francesca Carpenter, I learned that a transfer agent listens to what students say about themselves and their goals to empower them to achieve their dreams.


When Dr. Ireland said, “students don’t see themselves as being retained,” it was like a lightbulb turned on in my mind. I realized that one of the most important qualities of the transfer agents who helped me obtain my degree was that they empowered me to get involved with research and seek the extra-curricular activities that would help me get the job of my dreams. They were not just trying to get me to graduation. The institutional agents that helped me most taught me how to connect the dots between finishing my undergraduate education and becoming a researcher. They had to listen carefully to my values and convince me that my degree wouldn’t be a “bridge to nowhere,” as Dr. Baston suggested in his impactful presentation. Those transfer agents were so much more than helpers; they became guides on my lifelong journey toward a fulfilling career and providing for my family.


Emily waves at the camera from the desk in her research lab. She is proud of her four-monitor set-up!

After the conference, I realized that I could do a better job of being a transfer agent. Merely telling my story and welcoming new students at orientation isn’t enough. That’s why my new goal is to create a more direct connection between students at the community college and research labs at the four-year university. When I transferred, one of my main challenges was finding a research lab that would let me volunteer, even though I was brand new to the school. By creating a research club that invites students from both 2- and 4-year institutions, I will help others see that getting involved in research and communities at the university boosts their ability to both graduate and reach the goals they have set for themselves. Introducing students to these connections before they even transfer could have a powerful impact on their ability to get involved with research and obtain the kind of jobs that work with a student’s schedule.

I will continue to strive toward the excellent examples that the transfer agents at this conference provided. By carefully considering the individual stories of transfer students and remembering that they are transferring for many reasons beyond obtaining a degree, I hope to encourage others to overcome barriers like getting involved with research at a new school. Thanks to this conference, I am filled with renewed motivation to assist transfer through graduation and beyond.


Do you know an outstanding transfer student?

Then please let us know! The Transfer Student Ambassador program invites up to four outstanding transfer students to add their voices to the national transfer conversation. In addition to registration and attendance for the NISTS annual conference, ambassadors receive a $500 scholarship plus a $500 transfer program grant to be used in collaboration with a faculty or staff member at the student's previous or current institution. More information about the award and application process is available on the TSA webpage.