In the weeks leading up to the NISTS 2021 virtual annual conference, we're highlighting the transfer stories of this year's National Transfer Student Ambassadors. All four students will attend the conference and participate in a student panel conversation during concurrent session five on Thursday, February 25th. You can read more about Keirra's story and meet the other 2021 ambassadors on the NISTS Blog.
What’s your major? Why did you choose it, and what do you hope to do after graduation?
I chose to major in General Studies because it allowed me to explore various interesting subjects, gave me a variety of different skill sets, and helped me prepare for several career options. After graduation, I will attend The Ross School of Business Masters of Management program, which begins the summer of 2021.
Did you complete an associate degree before transferring? What led to your decision to complete it (or not)?
In September 2010, I tragically lost my mother and was left to care for my two-year-old daughter and 16-year-old little brother. After months of grieving, I decided that I wanted a better life for us and knew that education was a key component to attaining that life.
I enrolled in Macomb Community College in 2012 after learning from a friend that the classes were more affordable than a four-year university, and they transferred. Unfortunately, I felt lost throughout the registration process and enrolled in many unnecessary courses that did not count towards a degree. After two semesters of taking the wrong classes, I dropped out.
But, determined to finish, I enrolled at MCC again in fall 2014—this time taking classes that counted. But as fate would have it, my grandmother became ill that semester, and I had to drop all my classes to take care of her.
Tired of working hard for minimum-wage at Burger King, I began a career as a plumber. Although I like problem-solving and enjoyed assisting customers with their plumbing issues, I knew in my heart that that was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
For months I wrestled with the thought of going back to school and trying again, but the 2016 election results were the turning point for me. To have no simple explanation when my daughter asked me, “Why can’t a woman be president?” shook my core in a way that I will never forget. Determined to bring about social change, I enrolled at Henry Ford College in the winter of 2017 and completed my Associate in General Studies in the fall of 2018.
What were your concerns about changing schools? What was most challenging about transferring/ acclimating to a new campus?
After going in circles and taking so many unnecessary classes at my previous community college, I did not want to waste any more time. Some of my fears included not having adequate help with selecting my classes and not keeping up with my schoolwork. I am a non-traditional student and a parent, so the thought of going to school with many students who were often 8-10 years younger than me was intimidating. I worried I would feel lonely on campus.
What did you do to find support/community on campus?
To find support on campus, I joined several student clubs such as the Black Males and Queen Focus Group, the African American Association, the Democracy Institute, and optiMize, which helped me personally and professionally. Upon joining them, I had a network of support, friends, mentors, and exposure to several leadership opportunities.
What has been your best/worst transfer experience so far?
Choosing to attend Henry Ford College was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Although it was not my first time attending college, it was the first time I felt like I had the support I needed to succeed. The feeling I got from being on campus and interacting with students was indescribable.
Attending HFC also allowed me to participate in the University of Michigan’s Transfer Bridges to Humanities initiative. After transferring to the University of Michigan in the fall of 2019, I joined the student organization optiMize. I currently serve as a student advisor for the Transfer Bridges to Humanities program, a peer mentor, and am on the optiMize leadership team. Throughout the school year, we work with transfer students hosting various workshops to help them navigate the transfer experience.
I’m also proud to be a 2020 fellow of the Social Innovation Contest. I started my non-profit called United Detroit, which helped increase voter turnout by 1.2% in Wayne County for the 2020 presidential election.
What one piece of advice would you give students who are considering a transfer between schools? What about the faculty and staff who work with transfer students?
Never give up! Do not become discouraged because obstacles get in your way. Instead, view them as adversities that you must overcome to help others in similar situations. And to the faculty and staff who work with transfer students, I would tell them to be intentional with forming relationships with their students because you never know the impact you can have on a student’s life and everyone connected to them.