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 2022 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.
Jan Paolo Canteras is a PILOT, a Viking, and a leader. He moved to the United States from the Philippines to be with family despite being only a few classes away from finishing a Business Finance degree in his home country.
In fall 2016, he enrolled at Long Beach Community College, a school that he viewed as a gateway to the top universities in the nation. He felt welcome in California, a state that prided itself on its diverse population including immigrants like himself. Paolo quickly emerged as a student leader, running for and eventually being elected Associated Student Body President. One professor described Paolo as a PILOT: a Pioneer with Initiative, Leadership skills, Open-Mindedness, and Tenacity. In fall 2018, Paolo was awarded the Viking Award, the highest LBCC student award, which recognizes outstanding leadership, success in academics, and extensive community service hours.
Paolo successfully transferred to University of California-Irvine, where he is double majoring in Psychology and Sociology. Paolo had a rocky start at UCI and realized that “transfer shock is real.” His own experience motivated him to utilize his advocacy and leadership skills to help create the Student Transfer Engagement Access and Mentorship (STEAM) course. STEAM helps incoming transfer students integrate into campus life and provides support and community to curb the negative effects of transfer shock.
“As an immigrant in pursuit of education,” Paolo says, “I have faced so many barriers like a new college system, unclear pathways to academic success, financial challenges, and recovering a sense of community.” He believes his purpose is “to help fellow transfer students amplify their voices and break down barriers that impact their experiences.”
Read Paolo's pre-conference blog post to learn more about his transfer journey.
Herman Luis Chavez, son of Bolivian immigrants, has a passion for social justice, music, and service to others. He started his higher education journey at a university near his home in Colorado, with the goals of “trying to bring a culturally informed perspective to music education curriculum, engage with campus research, and work with students of color.” Unfortunately, he felt discouraged: “My plans to pursue justice in music and to engage in research outside of the canon were completely unsupported, and, in many instances, dissuaded by the very faculty and peers who were supposed to be my academic community.”
Herman began exploring other options and discovered the fields of Ethnomusicology and Comparative Literature. He decided to transfer to UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music when he learned they had these programs. He quickly connected with faculty in his program: “I was so amazed that there could be another person like me, someone who identified as queer and Latino, who had succeeded in becoming a professor and was doing exactly what I wanted to do—mentoring marginalized students to increase their access to music education.”
Herman wasted no time getting involved. Upon his arrival on campus, he became an advocate for transfer students. Seeking to be a servant leader, Herman started engaging with the Transfer Student Center immediately. Soon after, he was elected to serve as Transfer Student Representative for the campus. In this leadership role, Herman is responsible for supporting and advocating for the equity of UCLA’s undergraduate transfer population, which consists of over 2,000 students. Currently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, he is helping facilitate initiatives to acclimate transfer students to campus.
Herman says of his experience, “Being the Transfer Student Representative and helping fellow transfer students access the university across and beyond campus has been the cornerstone of my college experience.”
Read Herman's pre-conference blog post to learn more about his transfer journey.
After budgetary cuts at her former university resulted in the reduction of faculty and other resources, Noelle Dana made the difficult decision to transfer to the University of Notre Dame in the fall semester of her sophomore year. Notre Dame had been Noelle’s initial dream school, so she entered with a “heart full of high hopes and a desire to redefine the place [she] called home.”
However, her high hopes were quickly dashed. Her first real memory of Notre Dame is of sitting in a “pool of tears” during Transfer Welcome Weekend. The tears came after being turned away from participating in first-year activities with other incoming freshmen students. Her Transfer Captain consoled Noelle by sharing her own transfer story and reminding her that as a transfer student, she deserved to be at Notre Dame as much as anyone else.
In the time since her arrival, Noelle has made the decision to embrace her new school and become actively involved in student engagement. She has met with several student leaders, faculty, and staff to discuss increasing services for transfer students. Some of her areas of focus include creating a “hub” where off-campus transfer students can stay between classes, extending eligibility to transfers for various honors program opportunities, and expanding criteria to allow tutoring for transfers.
Noelle says, “My experiences have shown me that it is people who make a difference in how we feel welcomed to our new campuses and new homes. And though we are often an afterthought, transfer students add incredibly diverse experiences to the general student body and must be valued as much as any student.”
Katie Ibsen is a community college transfer student who currently studies Anthropology at UC Berkeley. While in high school, Katie suffered from undiagnosed ADHD and struggled academically in her courses. During her senior year, she was overwhelmed with school and did not submit any college applications. At the time, she did not realize that she had alternative options to a four-year degree, and so she ultimately took a gap year to work and consider her own goals. This is when Katie learned about the benefits of pursuing a community college education. She shared that she was “Quite frankly, shocked!” given that her high school did not promote community college as a viable pathway to earning a bachelor’s degree.
Katie’s pursuit of her community college education was not an easy path. She suffered a number of disruptions to her education due to family obligations and financial constraints. At times, Katie found it difficult to remain optimistic and did not always believe that she would continue her education. However, during her time at community college, Katie found a community of “vloggers” on YouTube whose main content centered on community college. She began to watch videos focused on study skills and tips for submitting applications. Through these videos, Katie was able to regain stability and motivation. She enrolled at the community college full-time and decided that it was her turn to promote the community college pathway by developing her own vlogs about her educational journey.
Today, Katie actively works to spread the word to others about the benefits of a community college education. Using her YouTube channel, the Vintage Academic, as a platform, Katie connects with hundreds of students to provide them with valuable information and vlogs that detail her transfer pathway. For Katie, vlogging “is something that has brought me countless moments of joy, new skills, connections, friends, and an incredible community of like-minded students and academics.”
Read Katie's pre-conference blog post to learn more about her transfer journey.