We are pleased to celebrate and amplify voices that represent the students at the heart of our work. Nominated by transfer professionals and selected for their commitment to promoting transfer at their institutions, these outstanding individuals remind us that each student has a unique journey, and it is essential that we listen to and learn from them. The ambassadors will share their stories at the annual NISTS conference and will play an integral role as we explore the power of connections in creating an inclusive and comprehensive transfer student experience. Congratulations to this year’s TSAs!
Ashton hoped to play football for a university and then for the NFL. He entered the football team at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College as a walk-on player, and then his story took an unexpected turn when the Covid pandemic changed the trajectory of his life. As a non-scholarship athlete, Ashton was eventually cut from the community college team and began to explore opportunities at four-year universities. He settled on the University of Southern Mississippi due to its criminal justice program. Once again, however, he was unable to play football when a new coaching staff was hired.
“I needed to pivot and find ways to make an impact on this campus,” Ashton says. “Just because football ended did not mean that my life or school was over.” He decided to dive into campus involvement, becoming a leader in various organizations like Men of Excellence and the Transfer Student Association. His favorite service opportunities involve being a mentor for transfer students and for minority freshmen.
“Although your time is short wherever you may transfer to, you can still make a difference,” Ashton insists. “You can still leave behind a legacy worth remembering.” He is certainly creating a memorable legacy at the University of Southern Mississippi and is excited to add the role of National Transfer Student Ambassador, helping professionals learn how to better serve students like him.
Crystal started her college education twenty years ago but left school when she got married and became a mother. After several years of work in the corporate world, she felt dissatisfied. It was time to go back to college. Crystal was accepted to Texas A&M University-San Antonio, where her feeling of unrest continued. As an older student, she struggled to make connections on campus.
Undaunted, she kept going to events and found an on-campus job as Transfer Retention Student Coordinator. This job helped her realize how many resources were available for students like her, and she decided to make them more accessible to other transfers. “I did not have it all together,” Crystal said, “but the home I found on campus in the Student Engagement office empowered me to feel like it was possible. Ever since then, I knew I had to help others experience that same sense of empowerment.”
That is exactly what Crystal is doing. Knowing that transfer students can be any age and of any background, she wants to be sure they have smoother transitions to new schools. Her goal as a National Transfer Student Ambassador is to “guarantee that students don’t have to go searching for help, but rather have resources find them before they even realize they need them.”
Emily Hernandez Alzamora
Emily had to support her own college education, so she was grateful to receive a scholarship from Salt Lake Community College. As she began her first year, she served as a student ambassador, communicating with high school students about the benefits of community college. Then, as president of the Student Association, she explored how to help students at her school transfer to four-year universities.
In spite of this preparation, Emily’s first few weeks as a transfer student at the University of Utah were discouraging. She missed the close-knit community of her two-year school and felt that she was becoming just another number in a database.
Her determination kept her going, and she found a job in a new office for Transfer Student Success. Transfer students, Emily said, “are driven, focused students who hold higher retention and graduation rates than the students who have only studied in their current institutions. Because of this, our needs are different. We are encouraging institutions to rethink the transfer experience and provide a holistic approach in how we serve the population.”
As a National Transfer Student Ambassador, Emily looks forward to helping institutions, including the University of Utah, better support new and current transfer students with a community.
Sam had to leave her first undergraduate program when the costs were too high for her to manage. She also felt unsure about her chosen field of study and began to see her withdrawal as a “blessing in disguise.” She worked hard to pay off debt and began studying mathematics at Bucks County Community College.
Through the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, introduced to her by a transfer advisor, Sam earned a full tuition scholarship to Rider University in New Jersey. She changed her major to computer science and was thrilled when Rider extended her scholarship to a fifth year so she could complete her requirements.
Sam has worked as a Transfer Ambassador at Rider and is now the Lead Tour Guide for potential transfer students, sharing her story with them. “Being a first-generation working college student,” she said, “it felt uncomfortable starting a new school in person without knowing anybody. Although things felt uneasy during the first few weeks, I knew my purpose was to inspire and help other transfer students navigate their journeys.”
Sam has served on the Dean’s Council, interned with IBM, and works as a Software Engineering Aide at Lockheed Martin, but she says her “proudest achievement is becoming the Founder and President of Rider’s first transfer student organization, the Transfer Student Association.”