Previous Award Winners

Deb Bragg_edited.jpg

Debra Bragg is Director of Community College Research Initiatives at the University of Washington in Seattle, and she is also the Founding Director of the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was also named an endowed university professor.


Dr. Bragg’s research focuses on transitions and transfer from K-12 education to community colleges and universities, as well as to employment. In recent years, Dr. Bragg led the study of Credit When It’s Due (CWID) to assess changes in transfer policy to confer associate degrees through reverse transfer. She is currently leading a study of high-performing transfer partnerships with higher than predicted baccalaureate attainment rates for students of color and low-income students.


Dr. Bragg’s research portfolio also includes a national study of applied baccalaureate degrees conferred by community colleges nationwide. New America, the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), the Community College Baccalaureate Association (CCBA), and other groups are valued partners in this work.


In April 2015, Dr. Bragg was recognized as a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and she received the Distinguished Career Award from the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) in November 2016.

University of Washington, Seattle


Previous Winners: 

Charlene Stinard (2017)

E. Elaine Moore (2016)

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


Eboni M. Zamani-Gallaher is the Associate Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she also serves as a Professor in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership and the Director of the Office for Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL). Balancing research and practice, Eboni is “one of the few woman of color scholars that examines the intersections between equity, diversity, community college transfer, and student affairs.”  Through her numerous publications and presentations, along with her willingness to mentor others, she builds the capacity of emerging scholar-practitioners.


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

John Fink.JPG

John Fink is the Senior Research Associate for the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College in Columbia University. Since joining CCRC in 2014, John has authored a number of informative and influential publications that explore vertical transfer and degree completion rates. Focusing on two and four-year institutional partnerships, John’s work directly impacts transfer students nationwide, and his research is transforming how both practitioners and researchers view transfer. Describing his work on the Transfer Playbook, one nominator writes, “… [it] has provided an opportunity for institutions to review effective strategies and change the services they offer for students in building a more effective transfer pathway.”


Community College Research Center, Teachers College in Columbia University


Paulina Palomino is the Dean of Student Services at East Los Angeles College, where she is an essential part of increasing partnerships between two and four-year institutions in southern California. Paulina is passionate about student success. Her enthusiastic leadership and ability to form deep, collaborative relationships has led to increases in involvement among students, staff, faculty, and community members. According to one colleague, “Her dedication to making higher education accessible for historically underserved students is an integral part of who she is, and she has a strong commitment to increasing the number of underrepresented students who transfer to four-year universities.”


East Los Angeles College

Russell Baker is the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Ivy Tech Community College. During his longstanding tenure at Ivy Tech, Russ has transformed transfer pathways by emphasizing smooth transitions and expanding the number of Transfer Single Articulation Pathway (TSAP) degrees available to students. As one nominator states, “Russ serves as the anchor to all elements of our transfer work, which ranges from course-to-course transfer through guaranteed transfer programs all the way to reverse transfer.” Russ is a member of several statewide committees, where his advocacy and leadership have been integral in creating a transfer-friendly culture and improving the transfer experience for Indiana students.


Ivy Tech Community College

Previous Winners:

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

Kathy Silberman, Maria Campanella, Artis Gordan (2017)

Crystal Flowers.jpg

Crystal Flowers is a Transfer Coordinator and Admissions Specialist at Florida A&M University where she is also an award-winning Student Life Skills (SLS) instructor. “If I had to describe Ms. Flowers in two words,” one nominator states, “perseverance and selflessness best epitomize Crystal’s character.” She has a “keen ability to communicate and collaborate effectively” and was instrumental in implementing IGNITE, a 2+2 completion program offered in partnership with Florida College System schools. Crystal serves on several university committees and has been “the driving force” behind campus efforts to promote and celebrate transfer student success, all while meeting key retention and graduation performance goals.


Florida A&M University

Jason Dodge (2).JPG

Jason Dodge is University of Central Florida’s Director of Transfer and Transition Services (TTS). As one nominator states, Jason is “an extremely creative and innovative leader” who is “committed to designing programs and initiatives that significantly improve the transfer student experience.” Jason is an enthusiastic advocate for transfer students and “is always very thoughtful to ensure that the necessary partners and stakeholders are included in the conversations.” Although relatively new to UCF, he has already pioneered several initiatives that support thousands of prospective and first-year transfer students, including: STEP into UCF, Transfer Tuesdays, the Transfer Alliance, and a Transfer Readiness Course.


University of Central Florida


Robert Charlebois is a Transfer Coordinator for Academic Advising and Transfer Services at the University of South Alabama, where he launched an academic advising and transition support program for prospective transfer students called Pathway USA. Affectionately known as “Pathway Bob,” students have directly attributed their success to Bob’s efforts to provide them with trustworthy and accurate transfer resources. As one nominator notes, “Bob is leading culture change at our institution. Transfer students have always been an expected part of our enrollment; now we are being intentional in advising, integrating, and supporting this important group of students. He is a fierce student advocate.”


University of South Alabama

Previous Winners: 


Holly Herrera (2018)

Carmen Robinson, Rajan Shore (2017)


NISTS Transfer Student Ambassadors (2019)

Jay Francis_cropped.jpg

After moving to the United States from the small island of Jamaica, Jay was taken aback by the American collegiate system. He had a very specific major in mind but was disappointed to learn he did not have the prerequisite skills required for the program. Jay was forced to reevaluate his college options late in the enrollment cycle and ultimately began his journey at Wake Technical Community College. While there, he experienced significant academic and personal growth and eventually learned that the key to success is asking for and accepting help. Jay is now a Transfer Student Mentor at Appalachian State University, where he is known for his charisma and passion for helping others.


He encourages new students to get out of their comfort zones and create meaningful connections to others. "Yes, transfer students are in a new, unfamiliar environment," Jay says, "but that doesn’t mean they can’t put their [best] foot forward."

Appalachian State University


Jennifer Hernandez_cropped.jpg

Jennifer plans to leverage her experience as a first-generation, Latina student to influence higher education policies, particularly those that govern the transition between community colleges and universities. In describing her transfer journey, Jennifer explained she felt totally lost, confused, and disconnected until someone at Harper College took the time to help her chart key milestones in the transfer process. Jennifer is thriving at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and her determination and passion for transforming transfer shines through her undergraduate research and personal blog,


Jennifer says, "Thousands of students face these barriers every single year, [so] I love the idea that policy influencers invite students into their professional circle. After all, it is the work of professionals that can make or break a student’s education.”

University of Illinois at Chicago


Bianca Hill_cropped.jpg

Bianca’s college dream came true when she enrolled at Carnegie Mellon University. Unfortunately, the fit never felt right, and her transition struggles were exacerbated by a series of unexpected hospitalizations during her first year. Bianca returned to Texas and took time to heal while earning her associate degree at Brookhaven Community College. When she transferred to Baylor University, everything finally fell into place, and she felt more connected to her academics and herself than ever before.


As an ambassador and student intern for Baylor's Transfer Student Success Office, Bianca uses her personal experience to shed light on the transfer process and advocate on behalf of transfer students. "Every transfer student may struggle to adjust to their new school," Bianca explains, "but with the support they need, every transfer student can also experience great success and personal growth."

Baylor University


Taylor Smith_cropped.jpg

Although Taylor’s college journey began at American University, it wasn’t until she transferred to Spelman College that she found the welcoming and accepting sense of community she craved. The stark contrast between campus climates she experienced, along with limited transfer-focused acclimation activities, propelled her into action, and she now holds several leadership roles that allow her to amplify transfer student concerns with campus administrators. With an emphasis on smooth transitions and inclusion, Taylor uses her story as a platform to expand others’ views and tackle tough issues like credit articulation and affordable housing.


She even hosts events such as “Tea with the Transfers” to promote engagement and connection. As Taylor explains, "Regardless of their reasoning, deciding to transfer is a life-altering shift that needs to be met with support and understanding from administrations and student bodies alike."

Spelman College


Previous Winners: 


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

Bianca Dirige, Jordan Gomes, Hillary G. Allen, David Nguyen, Erin Georgia (2017)

BKT Dissertation Winner_Laura Yavitz_Pro

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

This study examined the impact of the academic momentum theoretical framework on adult community college students. The results show that academic momentum impacts adult success on the transfer pathway, but also suggest that the effects of momentum variables differ between adults and traditional-age students. Findings challenge widely accepted interventions that may need adjustments when considering adult community college students. For example, full-time enrollment was not shown to be essential for adult students, who may have other strategies to be successful. Finally, through the study’s design, Yavitz developed a model that institutional researchers can use to better understand transfer outcomes in their student populations.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Vicki J. Rosser, Dissertation Chair)


Previous Winners:

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


Examining Vertical and Horizontal Transfer Student Experiences and Identity Development at Four-Year Institutions in Texas

Transfer students are a growing population on college campuses nationwide. Despite their prevalence, there is a lack of understanding about vertical and horizontal transfer students’ academic and social experiences on campuses. Additionally, little is known about how students construct identities related to being “transfer students” and how this identity affects their transitions. The study will be a case study of two four-year institutions in Texas, one private and one public. Researchers will use a mixed method approach, including interviews, observations, and surveys, to understand vertical and horizontal transfer students’ experiences and identities at both four-year institutions.


Research questions for this study: 


  1. What are the academic and social experiences of vertical and horizontal transfer students?

  2. What role does students’ identity as transfers play in their experiences and integration at their new institutions?

University of Texas at Austin


Previous Winners:

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

Mary Von Kaenel (PI), Clemson University (2016 Winner)

Examining the Transfer Pipeline Connecting a Two-year College and a Four-Year Research Institution in South Carolina


NISTS | University of North Georgia

82 College Circle, Dahlonega, GA 30597

NISTS © 2019 All Rights Reserved

To report a technical problem or page error, please email

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube