National Transfer Student Ambassador Taylor Smith from Spelman College reflects on her experience as a TSA attending the NISTS 2019 annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia, February 13-15, 2019.
What were your original thoughts on transfer professionals/initiatives, and how did they change with your conference exposure?
When I initially learned about the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students, I was so excited. I could have never imagined that so many different people care about the difficult transfer transition that I experienced. I was amazed by the collaborative and innovative efforts of everyone present at the conference. Not only were all involved dedicated to improving the student experience, but they were also dedicated to do so utilizing student input. What an amazing change of pace!
The overarching theme of the conference was, “Working Together to Simplify Transfer.” What were some ways you learned that could simplify transfer?
I really learned a lot by being able to participate in this conference. I think one of the most compelling insights that I gained was the benefits of utilizing and investing in technology as a way to simplify transfer. While that sounds like a very basic takeaway, I had never considered that transfer technology existed. After the conference, I was able to meet with one of our newly hired transfer admissions counselors who is now pushing for the use of Transferology at Spelman, which was one of the programs that I learned about at the conference.
What did you learn from the other Transfer Student Ambassadors?
I want to thank Bianca, Jay and Jennifer for making the conference such a worthwhile experience. Getting to meet them, and hearing the diversity in their experiences was a learning in it of itself. The biggest thing that I learned from them was that even though the experiences between transfer students vary widely, the aspects that improve the process are very similar. Things like compassion, support, or the ability to give feedback were all things that we agreed drastically improve the transfer experience regardless of campus or reason for transfer. I think they really taught me that I’m not alone. We all want for the same type of care and attention paid to our unique experience, we just might have to use different methods of getting there on our respective campuses.
What was your biggest takeaway?
My biggest takeaway from the conference came from one of the pre-conference workshops, called, “Transforming Higher Education Through a Transfer Receptive Culture.” The presenters talked about creating a transfer receptive culture as it relates to the fundamentals of critical race theory, which might have been the most interesting thing that I have ever heard. Not only did this workshop push me to think about transfer more critically, but it also introduced me to the five elements of a transfer receptive culture, which I have been able to use as an anchor in my proposal to shift the administrative ownership of the transfer process on Spelman College’s campus.
What are you going to do next in regard to transfer based on something you learned at the conference?
Right after the conference, I put together a presentation for the Spelman Student Government Association (which I’m apart of) to talk about what I learned and what I think we should do moving forward. Currently, our Office of Undergraduate Studies is the owner of the transfer intake process. I think it would be beneficial to create a partnership between offices, so that the process is shared with offices that are closer to the student experience and less administrative. In doing so, I think we’ll be better able to address issues with campus climate and engagement for our Special Populations. As I mentioned earlier, I was able to use the five dimensions of a transfer receptive culture as a gauge for where we are currently and how we might improve with that change.
All in all, I had a wonderful experience at the conference, and I’m very thankful to have been chosen to represent Spelman College and myself.