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Bonita C. Jacobs Transfer Champion Award Winner (2021)

Bonita C. Jacobs Transfer Champion Award Winner
Estela headshot_web.webp

University of Southern California

Dr. Estela Mara Bensimon, USC University Professor Emerita, is President of Bensimon & Associates, continuing her lifelong commitment to normalizing racial equity—helping higher education leaders, faculty, organizations, and staff feel empowered to accurately and effectively address the subject and make changes leading to improved outcomes for racially minoritized students. Known for her creation of the term “equity-minded,” Dr. Bensimon has published extensively about racial equity, organizational learning, practitioner inquiry, and change.


As Founding Director of the Center for Urban Education, which Dr. Bensimon created in 1999 and led until its merging in 2020 with the USC Race and Equity Center, she developed the Equity Scorecard—a process for using inquiry to drive changes in institutional practice and culture, increasing racial equity in higher education outcomes.


Dr. Bensimon’s efforts led to her election to the National Academy of Education and a Governor’s appointment to the Education Commission of the States; in 2020, she was honored with ASHE’s Howard Bowen Award for a Distinguished Career as well as the McGraw Prize for innovation in higher education. Her most recent book, From Equity Talk to Equity Walk: Expanding Practitioner Knowledge for Racial Justice in Higher Education, co-authored with Tia Brown McNair and Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux, was published in 2020.


Dr. Bensimon currently serves on several boards, including the Campaign for College Opportunity and Complete College America. A longtime professor of higher education at the USC Rossier School of Education, Dr. Bensimon earned her doctorate in higher education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Previous Winners: 

Debra Bragg (2019)

Charlene Stinard (2017)

E. Elaine Moore (2016)

Thomas J. Grites, Rebecca McKay, Robert T. Teranishi (2015)

Transfer Champion-Catalyst Award Winners (2022)

Transfer Champion-Catalyst Award Winners (2023)

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Executive Director

The RP Group

Dr. Darla M. Cooper, an educational leader and expert in research and evaluation, is dedicated to using inquiry, data, and evidence to improve the lives of all community college students. She currently serves as the Executive Director for the Research and Planning Group for the California Community Colleges (RP Group). Dr. Cooper has worked in the California Community College system for more than twenty years, with previous positions as institutional research director at multiple community colleges. She led Student Support (Re)defined, a landmark research project that examined what supports student success, and has been invited to present on this work at various venues across the state and nationally. She also recently served as a coach for the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) Pathways Project and is currently co-directing Through the Gate, a research study that examines what happens with students who appear ready to transfer but do not. Dr. Cooper has extensive experience serving as an external evaluator for several federal and private foundation grants and has worked on various other projects designed to promote student success, including the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and the RP Group’s Bridging Research Information and Culture (BRIC) initiative.

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Assistant Director, ADVANCE Operations

George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College

Rita Snyder Furr is the Assistant Director of Operations for ADVANCE, a nationally recognized transfer pathway partnership between George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) that currently serves over 3,000 students. Her nominator wrote, “What stands out to me about Rita’s transfer work over the past decade is the level of sophistication and scale she brings to the transfer infrastructures she designs for this dual institutional initiative. It is a transformational and replicable model. And a model that I use daily as an example of excellence in transfer practice and policy.” Another recommender stated, “Her passion lies in helping students, building teams that support student learning operations, and looking closely at the practices that may impede student success. She is a tremendous advocate for students, especially as they are transitioning from the community college to Mason.”

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Executive Vice President

The Campaign for College Opportunity

Over the past decade and a half, Jessie Ryan has spearheaded efforts to simplify the transfer pathway from community colleges to four-year universities in California and currently serves as the Executive Vice President at The Campaign for College Opportunity. Her nominator explained, “Against strong opposition, Jessie succeeded in gaining the approval of significant legislation in California that has made it easier for students to transfer from community colleges to the California State University and University of California campuses (SB 1440 and AB 928).” Jessie is also a nationally recognized transfer policy leader. She serves on the Tackling Transfer Policy Advisory Board led by the Aspen Institute, on Complete College America’s policy advisory council, and on the Intersegmental Transfer Implementation Committee appointed by Governor Newsom in California. She has co-authored several reports on transfer policy, and multiple national higher education media outlets have featured her work, including Insider Higher Ed, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, EdSource, and Politico. Another recommender highlighted how Jessie draws on her own transfer experience to advocate for others: “She grew up in the California Central Valley, and given her family’s limited economic means, began her education at Sacramento City College. She later transferred to San Francisco State and earned a bachelor’s degree—a path she intimately knows is more difficult than it should be for far too many people.” Jessie’s work has made a significant impact for transfer students both in California and nationally.

Previous Winners: 

Nicholas DeFalco, Shelley Lemons (2022)

Ellen Goldberg, Lynn Tincher-Ladner, Xueli Wang (2021)

Amanda Quintero, Janie Valdes, Heather Adams, Kerin Hilker-Balkissoon (2020)

Eboni Zamani-Gallaher, John Fink, Paulina Palomino, Russell Baker (2019)

Transfer Champion-Rising Star Award Winners (2023)

Transfer Champion-Rising Star Award Winners (2022)
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Coordinator, Transfer Services

Rowan University

Mayra Arroyo is the Coordinator of Transfer Services at Rowan University in southern New Jersey, where nearly half of the undergraduate students are transfers. Mayra initiated a Transfer Mentor program. Her nominators say that she “provides ongoing training and support to her Transfer Mentors to ensure all transfer students have a voice and support system. The Transfer Mentor program not only supports new transfer students, but provides continuing transfer students with a high-quality, on campus experiential education opportunity.” Mayra also created the Transfer Services Advisory Board, including stakeholders within University Advising Services (UAS) and Student Support Services. In addition, she has been an active collaborator in grant-funded projects like an NIH-funded Bridges to Baccalaureate program and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) inclusive excellence award project focusing on two-year and four-year partnerships to improve transfer student experiences. Finally, Mayra is proactive in cultivating relationships with community colleges in the region by meeting with them regularly and coordinating annual meetings with their academic advisors.

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Program Manager for Transfer Student Success

University of California, San Diego

Dr. Jaclyn Duerr is the Program Manager for Transfer Student Success at UC San Diego. One nominator wrote that she “has assumed a key leadership role in creating new programs and services that have significantly put the spotlight on creating a culture of care and support for transfer students.” She was instrumental in designing and providing leadership for the university’s Transfer Peer Coaching program and Transfer Edge, a hybrid summer program that prepares first-generation, historically underrepresented transfer students to successfully transition to UC San Diego. She also created Triton Transfer Ally Training, a virtual, asynchronous professional development opportunity for faculty and staff to learn more about the transfer experience. Since its inception in spring 2020, over 340 campus community members have participated in this training. Dr. Duerr has also served as co-chair of the UC Transfer Success Coalition (UCTSC) and “has worked hard to make this group a fun, welcoming, and empowering space.” One of her nominators described her impact: “Many campus administrators, staff, and faculty are now thinking about and prioritizing transfer student support and needs. I attribute this to Dr. Duerr’s influence, presence, outreach, and more importantly to her love and care for our transfer students.”

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Interim Assistant Registrar

College of Southern Maryland

Jacqui Rogers-Frere is the Interim Assistant Registrar at the College of Southern Maryland (CSM), where she previously served as the Coordinator of Transfer and Articulation. During her time at CSM, she has worked with faculty members and administrators to more than double the number of articulation agreements. “In addition to creating new partnerships,” she explains, “I ensure that previous articulation agreements are managed and updated. I believe that articulation agreements are the beginning of the relationship, not something that is just signed and put away on a shelf.” Jacqui has also led webinars, developed transfer-related training for faculty and staff, hosted transfer fairs, and created major-specific transfer programming. One nominator described her as “a champion for educating all faculty and students about transfer student success.” In addition to her contributions at CSM, she is actively involved in and has held leadership roles in a range of regional and national organizations including AACRAO, ACPA, NACADA, and NISTS.

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Director, University Transfer at Tulsa Community College (past)

Program Manager, Ithaka S+R (current)

Emily Tichenor served as the founding director of University Transfer at Tulsa Community College (TCC). In this and previous roles, she has positively impacted both TCC and the region through her involvement with the Tulsa Transfer Project and the Tulsa Higher Education Consortium. One of her recommenders described her as “a leader in the formation, creation, and sustainability” of these initiatives that brought together seven Tulsa-area higher education institutions to improve the transfer experience for students in the region. Her nominator explains her continued role: “A critical outcome of the Tulsa Transfer Project was the establishment of the university transfer office at Tulsa Community College (TCC), the largest community college in Oklahoma. Because of her role in leading cross-institutional collaborative work, Emily Tichenor was selected as the founding Director of University Transfer at TCC. In this role, she supported over 22,000 students with information, connection, and access to transfer resources.” Her nominator added that Emily “is an admired leader among higher education institutions in the Tulsa region and beyond because of her unique ability to guide projects, create and execute plans, and effectively communicate with diverse stakeholders.” After serving students at TCC and in the Tulsa region since 2015, she has recently accepted a position with Ithaka S+R.

Previous Winners: 

Le Quanda Cole, Megan Drangstveit, Michael DuPont, Jeffrey R. Mayo, Keith Shaw (2022)

Shannon Hayes Buenaflor, Renee Esparza, Randi Petrauskas Harris, Danyelle Tauryce Ireland (2021)

Jennifer Brown, Sara Price, Alexandrea Deerr (2020)

Crystal Flowers, Jason Dodge, Robert Charlebois (2019)

National Transfer Student Ambassadors (2023)

National Transfer Student Ambassadors (2022)
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University of Utah

Atziri started her higher education journey at a community college “because, as a first-generation undocumented immigrant, it was more accessible.” Her first semester was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but her experience improved after that.


Faculty and staff at Salt Lake Community College provided her with mentorship and support. During a business class, a professor pushed her academically and encouraged her to join the college’s DECA chapter, which focuses on developing future business leaders. Through this opportunity, Atziri competed in national competitions and won awards. The same professor encouraged her to apply for a position with the Student Executive Council, where she served as Vice President for Clubs and Organizations. This opportunity enriched her college experience as she advocated in administrative spaces for other students like herself. She also trained and connected student leaders across the school’s ten campuses, helping them restart their programs after the pandemic.


As Atziri considered her transfer options, another mentor on campus encouraged her to apply to the University of Utah. Initially, Atziri felt intimidated and planned to go to a smaller school. But her mentor described opportunities for connection and support and expressed her belief that Atziri would succeed there, so she decided to apply.


Atziri was accepted to the University of Utah but faced a rocky start. Looking back, she links her feelings of isolation to being a “minority student in a primarily white and affluent institutional space.” She persisted and found “a small community that was waiting to expand.” She got involved with the Dream Center, which supports undocumented students, as well as the group First Generation Scholars. Reconnecting with high school friends also helped.


“Being a transfer student means a lot of self-advocacy,” Atziri says of her experience. “I saw that there is a lot of emphasis on [helping freshmen] to feel acclimated. Transfer students—not so much. Having some sort of mentorship on and off campus, with former transfers and new transfers, would make the transition more frictionless.”


“Atziri is someone that is constantly working to collaborate and make others feel they belong in the spaces they enter,” says her nominator, and “she holds peers, staff, and faculty accountable to the social change we all strive to achieve.”

You can read more about Atziri's transfer story on the NISTS Blog.

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University of California, Irvine

Jolynna’s transfer journey began during her senior year in high school, when she learned about Dual/Concurrent Enrollment. Provided through Golden West College, a local community college, this opportunity allowed her to test her interest in business through a college-level Business Marketing class. Her positive experience led her to enroll at Golden West after she wasn’t accepted at her first-choice school. At the community college, a transfer counselor helped Jolynna craft her transfer admission essays and encouraged her to gain leadership experience. Following this advice, she served as the student representative on the campus planning and budget committee, a shared governance committee chaired by the college president. Her nominator noted her “leadership abilities, organizational skills, and team approach” in this role.

After completing her transfer requirements in one year, Jolynna applied to UC Irvine. Though excited to be accepted, she found the transition challenging and felt “out of place and alone.” Towards the end of her first quarter, she learned about Visions Leadership, a class offered in collaboration with student government that focused on advocacy and leadership development. Part of this class included developing and executing a group project. “Working in this team with the goal of improving the campus experience was something that I enjoyed and wanted to continue,” she says. She applied to be the Transfer Student Support Commissioner and now works to plan events and advocacy efforts to improve the transfer experience and community at UCI. She will also lead a transfer mentorship course to facilitate workshops and other opportunities for incoming transfer students.

“I strongly believe in the power and benefits of community college and see how there are many misconceptions revolving around it,” Jolynna says. “The transfer journey is something I believe to be extremely underrated because it encompasses a wide range of students from different backgrounds but all working towards a goal that will benefit them and their future.”

You can read more about Jolynna's transfer story on the NISTS Blog.

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University of California, Santa Barbara

Oso first enrolled at a community college, but his hours-long commute on public transportation was exhausting. When he saw a billboard for another community college, he decided to apply. “I was stumped by how every educational system operates under its own meritocracy and different procedures,” Oso says. He was asked to provide multiple official documents that he wasn’t sure how to obtain, and then he was sent to five different individuals who couldn’t assist him. Finally, a counselor helped him obtain the needed documents, and Oso was finally enrolled.


His path to finding his purpose began with a general education sociology class. He wanted to work with foster youth who are in and out of the prison system and chose to major in Sociology and Ethnic Studies. “With the help of my mentors,” he explains, “I found my purpose and became aware that working with system-impacted individuals was possible.” He began searching for a place to complete his bachelor’s degree.


Visits to several university campuses proved unfruitful, but several mentors encouraged Oso to take one last trip to UC Santa Barbara, and this school felt right. He learned about UCSB’s “rich history of activism that has been driven by people of color.” He adds, “Learning about the scholars who pioneered the way in 1969 to ensure that our generation would have a whole Chican@/Latinx department at UCSB...lit a fire in me, a hidden passion, and gave me the hunger to know more about my ancestry and roots.”


Since his arrival at UCSB, Oso has excelled as a leader in activism and service on campus and in the community. His nominator states, “What makes him a leader is his work ethic and love of learning, coupled with a sincere concern for his fellow students and community.” He co-founded Gaucho Underground Scholars (GUS) at UCSB, which supports formerly incarcerated, system-impacted students. As part of this work, he built a collaboration with the Santa Barbara Alternative Violence Project where GUS members facilitate workshops with teens, teaching them how to deal with their surroundings in positive, healthy ways in order to reduce violence in their schools and communities.


He also co-founded Tri Alpha Honor Society to honor and celebrate the academic achievements of first-generation students, faculty, staff, and alumni. In addition, he is a mentor with PRomoting OPportunity and Equity in Learning (PROPEL) which serves high-achieving, first-generation, low-income students majoring in the social sciences. Oso celebrates that he has “been able to accomplish so much for not only myself but for my local community and future generations to come” and that “by my mere presence here I am liberating my people.”

You can read more about Oso's transfer story on the NISTS Blog. 

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Union College

After high school, Emily enrolled in a flagship university about five hours from home but struggled to transition to the large campus. When she realized this institution was not the right fit for furthering her education, she began her transfer journey. She enrolled in a few courses at Hudson Valley Community College while searching for a smaller university closer to home. 


She found Union College and met an incredible support system of friends, family, faculty members, and fellow students who, as she said, “are excited to be there, support one another, and explore the opportunities in front of them.” Motivated by what she saw, she enrolled as a commuter student. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, she continued to face uncertainty and struggled to fully acclimate.


As COVID restrictions were lifted, a faculty member suggested that Emily live on campus, where she could “dive into in-person opportunities.” Equipped with a strong support network, she began to get involved. Through a tour guide program, she learned to connect with her community and began to appreciate the importance of advocating for transfer students like herself.


Now, as a transfer ambassador, Emily advocates for students who take the nontraditional path and works as a mentor and as the Transfer Orientation Advisor. According to Emily, “Representation of transfer experiences in addition to sustained support and connections are incredibly important…to show that there’s not just one path.”

You can read more about Emily's transfer story on the NISTS Blog.

Previous Winners: 

Jan Paolo Canteras, Herman Luis Chavez, Noelle Dana, Katherine Ibsen (2022)

Dipti Karnani, Michael Morgan, Keirra Scott, Emily Sturm (2021)

Kaylee Cheng, Jahine Grady, Tanya Nasrollahi, Macia Outlaw (2020)

Jevaughney "Jay" Francis, Jennifer Hernandez, Bianca Hill, Taylor Smith (2019)

Barbara K. Townsend Dissertation Winner (2023)

Barbara K. Townsend Dissertation Winner (2021)
Courtney Green.jpg

University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Persistence of Engineering Transfer Students: Identifying Student-Influenced and Institution-Influenced Academic Success

Due to the shortage of knowledge, further empirical research is necessary to determine how institutional context at receiving institutions either promotes or detracts from the academic performance and the persistence of engineering transfer students. Understanding the institutional characteristics experienced by vertical transfer students in engineering majors at four-year institutions is crucial in understanding their overall adjustment, and was the guiding purpose of this dissertation study.

The overarching goal of the dissertation was to examine the student and institutional factors that influence the academic success and persistence of vertical transfer students pursuing baccalaureate engineering degrees in the UNC System. 

Four research questions were explored:

  1. How do student and institutional factors predict first term academic success?

  2. How do institution-influenced factors moderate the relationship between pre-transfer academic factors and first-term academic success?

  3. How do student and institutional factors predict baccalaureate engineering degree attainment?

  4. How do institution-influenced factors moderate the relationship between post-transfer academic factors and baccalaureate engineering degree attainment?

This study contributes to the research on engineering transfer students by using advanced statistical methods to explore statewide, longitudinal data. Multi-institutional or statewide samples allow for a greater understanding of how higher education system structures within states promote or detract from the persistence of engineering transfer students. Specifically, this study yielded findings that can better help to understand how differences in college/department of engineering environment (i.e., Carnegie Classifications and college/department of engineering's faculty makeup and average class size) impact students' academic success during the first semester and their persistence to baccalaureates.

Previous Winners:

Dustin M. Grote, Virginia Tech (2021) 
Enhancing the Community College Transfer Pathway: Exploring Aspects of Transfer Receptivity at 4-Year Institutions in Engineering

Laura W. Yavitz, University of Nevada, Las Vegas (2019)
Vertical Transfer and Baccalaureate Completion for Adult Community College Students: Milestones and Momentum Points that Matter

Dalinda Martinez, Michigan State University (2016)
Transitioning: The Transfer Student Experience 

Loni Bordoloi Pazich, New York University (2015)
Influencing Transfer and Baccalaureate Attainment for Community College Students: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Texas

NISTS Research Grant Winners (2022)

NISTS Research Grant Winners (2022)
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Assistant Professor of Teacher Education

Weber State University

David Reeping_Research Grant.webp

Assistant Professor in Engineering Education

University of Cincinnati

Developing a Theory of Curricular Complexity for Transfer Students: Establishing Content and Construct Validity

Challenges in coursework transfer for vertical transfer students are well documented. Less attention has been paid to how transfer students navigate sequences of courses at both two-year and four-year institutions that may not be well-aligned for timely degree completion. This project will continue the researchers’ development of a modified theory of curricular complexity (i.e., Transfer Student Curricular Complexity (TSCC)) that is inclusive of transfer student experiences, focusing especially on gathering content and construct validity for the revised metric through focus groups with transfer experts via zoom. Through these focus groups, the researchers will 1) refine curricular complexity to include transfer student issues, 2) accrue construct and content validity for associated metrics, and 3) develop a tool that quantifies and visualizes the TSCC of transfer pathways that is accessible to practitioners and researchers working with transfer students.

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Assistant Director, Transfer Student Advising & Admissions

A. James Clark School of Engineering, University of Maryland

Alberto Cabrera_Research Grant.webp

Professor Emeritus of Higher Education

University of Maryland

Transfer Efficacy and Goal Orientation Among Potential Transfer Students: An Exploratory Study        

While many scholars have discussed the challenges faced by students during the transfer process, only a few have begun to look at factors enabling students to navigate this challenging process. In an effort to address this gap, Buenaflor (2021) recently advanced the Conceptual Framework for Transfer Efficacy, which views transfer as the product of self-efficacy perceptions, which in turn are shaped by unique social and organizational contexts to the transfer process. This project will field test a survey that would operationalize Buenaflor’s model. Guided by four research questions regarding the relationship between transfer efficacy and goal orientation, this study will use exploratory factor analysis, confirmatory factor analysis, and item response theory to test the researchers’ hypotheses related to transfer efficacy. Findings from this study will have direct benefits to both students and practitioners by highlighting students’ intent to transfer as well as the various factors contributing to transfer student self-efficacy.

Previous Winners:


Jason Mastrogiovanni (PI), Texas A&M University (2020 Winner)
Collaboration in Transfer Student Work: A Cultural Historical Activity Theory Study at Four-Year Institutions

Catherine Hartman (PI) & Jeffrey Mayo (Co-PI), University of Texas at Austin (2018 Winner)
Examining Vertical and Horizontal Transfer Student Experiences and Identity Development at Four-Year Institutions in Texas

Yu Chen (PI), Linda Serra Hagedorn (Co-PI), Ran Li (Co-PI), Iowa State University (2017 Winner)

International Reverse Transfer in Iowa: Perspectives from Both Sides

Erin Lynch-Alexander (PI), Virginia Linares (Co-PI), Austin Peay State University (2017 Winner)

Perception of Campus Climate for Military Affiliated or Military Connected Transfer Students

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