Bonita C. Jacobs Transfer Champion Award Winner (2021)

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)

Nicholas DeFalco_Catalyst.webp

Director of Transfer Admission

University of Southern California

A higher-education professional with ten years of experience, Nicholas (Nick) DeFalco currently serves as the Director of Transfer Admission for North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. In this role, Nick oversees a team of four transfer admission counselors and one transfer admission administrative assistant. His colleagues view him as “the instrumental voice of transfer enrollment for North Central.” They also speak highly of his ability to be creative, tenacious, broad-thinking, and strategic as he advocates for transfer students. One example is his leadership in creating the Transfer and Degree Completion Taskforce, which regularly convenes twenty faculty and staff who work to make impactful change related to articulation agreements, bridge and degree completion programs, external grant seeking, transfer experience, and more. Nick also works to establish sustainable, collaborative relationships with departments across campus. In particular, he works closely with First-Generation Initiatives, the Office of Veteran & Military-Affiliate Student Services, and Athletics. He collaborated with these colleagues to plan the National Transfer Week for students on his campus. One of his nomination letters spoke of him as someone who “disrupts the status quo and is a risk-taker.”

Shelley Lemons_Catalyst.webp

Executive Director, Office of Student Transitions

University of Southern California

Shelley Lemons, a higher-education professional with years of experience, has held many roles in the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC). She began as the Director for the Transfer Center at Truman College and is now Executive Director of the Office of Student Transitions, overseeing the Transfer Centers and Career Centers for CCC. Shelley strives to support others in becoming transfer change agents on their campuses. Nominators described her as passionate, data-driven, and consistently student-oriented. One example of her drive and vision is the creation of an innovative district-wide transfer framework that has shaped the strategic direction of Transfer Services and Programs. In a nomination letter, Shelley’s colleague described how “her transfer framework is rooted in corrective and restorative justice.” Another colleague shared that her work shows how transfer can serve as a conduit to fight national social justice issues. Shelley is a true transfer advocate with the ability to elevate student voices in the transfer process. She has worked tirelessly to create a culture of transfer at CCC, inspiring transformative and collaborative transfer services.

Previous Winners: 

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)

Barbara Lerner, Lisa McIntyre, Nancy Lee Sanchez (2018)

Transfer Champion-Rising Star Award Winners (2022)

Le Quanda Cole_Rising Star.webp

Director, UNLV/CSN Transfer Program

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Le Quanda Cole is a motivational leader who believes in access and equity for all students. She is committed to making the transfer experience at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) a positive one through program development and direct student service. The Rebel Transfer Student Organization (RTSO), which she created, serves as a bridge to connect students from the College of Southern Nevada and UNLV through peer mentorship. RTSO aims to serve transfer students holistically: academically, socially, and developmentally, by promoting a sense of belonging and connection for transfer students which in turn leads to student success. One nominator stated that Le Quanda always strives, “to make the transfer experience as seamless as possible” and, “empowers students to achieve their desired transfer and career objectives.” As one student shared, “She laid a clear road map for me to follow to transfer to UNLV and provided me with so many contacts and tips to make the confusing process so much clearer. I was extremely impressed by Le Quanda's professionalism and ability to implement her own personality into her work and make a confusing process actually fun.”

Megan Drangstveit_Rising Star.webp

Director, Project RAISE, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

California State University, Fullerton

Dr. Megan Drangstveit is the project director for Project RAISE (Regional Alliance in STEM Education) at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). The program, funded through a US Department of Education HSI-STEM grant, is a partnership between the CSUF College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, College of Engineering and Computer Science, and eight partner community colleges. Under Megan’s leadership, Project RAISE has not only served the students in the program well, but has had a positive impact across the institution. As a nominator described, Dr. Drangstveit, “shares data and observations about the challenges facing Latinx and low-income STEM transfer students and influences recommendations for institutional enrollment management plans.” Peer advising is a strong component of the program. An external evaluator for the project stated, “Project RAISE peer advisors have, with support from their director, transformed from helpful employees to fully engaged stakeholders. This transformation is directly attributable to Megan’s leadership style, her dedication to the pursuit of continuous improvement, and her genuine concern and compassion for CSUF’s transfer student community.” Based on the success of Project RAISE, Dr. Drangstveit continues to lead the recently funded next iteration of the program.

Michael DuPont_Rising Star.webp

Senior Program Officer, Tulsa Grantmaking

Schusterman Family Philanthropies

Michael DuPont, senior program officer with the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, works to promote stronger collaboration among Tulsa’s higher education institutions to improve transfer students’ experiences. The Tulsa Transfer Project and the subsequent Tulsa Higher Education Consortium are the result of his vision and leadership. A colleague explained, “Michael brought together institutional leaders from seven colleges and universities in the Tulsa-area to ideate around what a citywide transfer-supportive culture might look like. All seven institutions participated in the Gardner Institute’s Foundations of Excellence transfer focused self-study process, and worked to strengthen their transfer-affirmative cultures. The project laid the groundwork for cross-institutional collaboration and produced stronger transfer cultures, articulation agreements, and transfer maps. Throughout this process, Michael ensured that all institutions had a voice, worked together, avoided territorial and history-based conflicts, and remained focused on supporting students.” A collaborator in the project added, “He challenged us to think big, and outside of the constraints we thought prevented significant change.” Finally, another nominator stated, Michael, “sees possibilities where others don't. He doesn't just award grants but becomes actively involved in helping facilitate their execution. He does so in an extraordinary collegial, patient, way.”

Jeff Mayo_Rising Star.webp

Assistant Director, First-Year Experience, School of Undergraduate Studies

University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Jeffrey Mayo serves as the Assistant Director of the First-Year Experience Office at The University of Texas at Austin. One nominator stated, “he constantly reminds me that our mission as scholars is to amplify and to center transfer student voices and to use equity-driven approaches to do so.” This is evident through the depth of his student focused work. His employment of best practices and current research to implement and assess initiatives and programming, such as the Transfer Interest Groups, transfer only Signature Courses, and Transfer Living-Learning Communities, have made what will be a lasting impact on the student experience for those transferring into UT Austin. His impact on transfer students reaches beyond those attending UT. The Transfer Student Summit, created by Dr. Mayo, is a transfer student-led event that brings together students and professionals from universities and community colleges from across the state of Texas and provides an opportunity for students to highlight their experiences as leaders while learning from their peers. Dr. Mayo’s work goes beyond direct practice. He utilizes qualitative and quantitative research to drive new programming and has published several works which have explored the transfer student identity and experience; and specific research on the Latinx and veteran transfer student experiences.

Keith Shaw_Rising Star.webp

Director of Transfer, Veteran, and Non-Traditional Student Programs
Emma Bloomberg Center for Access and Opportunity

Princeton University

Dr. Keith Shaw serves as the inaugural director of Transfer, Veteran, and Non-traditional Student Programs at Princeton University. Shaw has worked tirelessly to develop new initiatives and advocate for policies that will impact the transfer student experience at Princeton. One successful high-level program that Shaw initiated involved creating a residence life experience for the growing number of transfer students with inclusive and welcoming families. His persistence working with campus administration and other stakeholders led to the university compromising on its long-standing campus residence hall policy and expanding the offerings to include on-campus apartments for transfer students. He continues to improve campus resources for transfer students in residential housing and beyond. Shaw is currently the advisor for the Princeton Transfer Association, a student organization with the mission to develop transfer-friendly initiatives on campus and strengthen the transfer student community. Shaw also created a peer-mentoring program, teaches a writing seminar for transfers, and has worked side-by-side with students to improve the experience for veteran students at Princeton. Shaw serves as a tremendous advocate for the inclusion of transfer students into the fabric of Princeton University. Additionally, Shaw is actively involved off-campus as he continues to nurture partnerships with the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, the Warrior-Scholar Project, and Service to School to name a few.

Previous Winners: 

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)

Holly Herrera (2018)

National Transfer Student Ambassadors (2022)

Jan Paolo Canteras_TSA.webp

University of California, Irvine

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.”

Herman Luis Chavez_TSA.webp

University of California, Los Angeles

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.”

Noelle Dana_TSA.webp

University of Notre Dame

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.”

Katherine Ibsen_TSA.webp

University of California, Berkeley

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.”

Previous Winners: 

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)

Diana Castro, Brandon Cheatham, Veronica Sanders, Louis Veloz (2018)

Barbara K. Townsend Dissertation Winner (2021)

Dustin Grote.webp

Virginia Tech

Enhancing the Community College Transfer Pathway: Exploring Aspects of Transfer Receptivity at 4-Year Institutions in Engineering

Dr. Grote’s dissertation, comprised of two manuscripts, explored aspects of transfer receptivity at four-year institutions to understand how they relate to the efficacy of vertical transfer pathways in engineering disciplines. The first manuscript was a case study of an articulation agreement partnership between a four-year institution and two public community college partners. The second manuscript examined how transfer policies and institutional characteristics of four-year institutions in the U.S. relate to the enrollment, graduation, and reporting of transfer students in engineering. Grote used a combination of quantitative and qualitative methodologies across both manuscripts. The results of these studies revealed that:

  1. Specific challenges for transfer in engineering suggest that adequate examinations of transfer receptivity need be discipline-specific.

  2. Institutions encounter dissonance when simultaneously managing aims to increase access and prestige.

  3. There is a need for shifts in policy and ranking systems that incentivize increases and improvements in vertical transfer.

  4. There is a need for more transparency of transfer-related policies and transfer student data.

  5. Our understanding of transfer matriculation remains well ahead of graduation outcomes.

Previous Winners:


Laura W. Yavitz, Ph.D. (2019)
University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Vicki J. Rosser, Dissertation Chair

Vertical Transfer and Baccalaureate Completion for Adult Community College Students: Milestones and Momentum Points that Matter

Dalinda Martinez, Ph.D. (2016)
Michigan State University, Marilyn J. Amey, Dissertation Chair
Transitioning: The Transfer Student Experience 

Loni Bordoloi Pazich, Ph.D. (2015)
New York University, Robert Teranishi, Dissertation Chair
Influencing Transfer and Baccalaureate Attainment for Community College Students: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Texas

Erin E. Shaw, Ph.D. (2014)
University of Missouri, Cassandra E. Harper, Dissertation Chair
Sense Making for Community  College Transfers Entering a Public,  Liberal Arts University

NISTS Research Grant Winners (2022)

Dustin Grote.webp

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.

Shannon Hayes Buenaflor_Research Grant.webp

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