LARAMIE — While the University of Wyoming welcomed roughly 1,700 freshmen during the fall 2017 semester, it also took on more than 1,000 transfer students, hailing from both in- and out-of-state colleges.
To support this often overlooked — but substantial and diverse — segment of the student body, UW is establishing a Transfer Success Center, headed by Director of Transfer Relations Mary Aguayo.
“Some students are 18 years old and they did one semester at a community college and they’re making that transition,” Aguayo said. “Others are 30, who are re-entering the university from the workforce — maybe they have some college (but) no degree. Many students are coming to us with associate’s degrees from our community college partners.”
Despite accounting for roughly 40 percent of the student body, Aguayo said, transfer students have historically benefitted from fewer university resources than freshmen — who are given more support and attention as they move through recruitment, enrollment and their first semesters.
She added most people at the university — including many transfer students — are unaware just how sizable the transfer population is.
“They do not know that so many students are transfers,” Aguayo said. “Almost all the transfers I speak to feel like they’re kind of the only one and everybody else came in as a freshman.”
The Transfer Success Center is still being set up. Aguayo said the center plans to hire both a manager of articulation and manager of transfer relations in early 2018. Aguayo and center staff will work out of Knight Hall’s second floor, developing initiatives and programs designed to make the transfer process less daunting for students.
“Working to deliver programming, to build community and to help students that might be at risk will really go a long way toward helping transfer students achieve and be very successful on our campus,” Aguayo said. “This center is all about identifying students who might be at risk and delivering support, providing all of the kinds of social supports that transfer students need. It’s really trying to meet students where they are, regardless of the type of student.”
Even as the physical center is being established, UW has started awarding more scholarships to transfer students, Aguayo said.
“A total of one in three transfer students received a scholarship,” she said. “So, we spent about $900,000 on that effort this fall, which is tremendous because it really benefits the transfer students coming to us and help make the University of Wyoming a really affordable option for them to complete that education.”
Some of these scholarships were dependent on a prospective student’s educational attainment, rewarding students who had attained an associate’s degree at one of Wyoming’s seven regional community colleges — something UW hopes to encourage, Aguayo said.
“We know that students who come to us with associate’s degrees are the students that do the best here,” she said.
Part of this push for more associate’s degrees involves working with community colleges to make sure credits transfer to UW properly. Aguayo said UW is developing “two plus two” plans, detailing how a prospective community college student can make the most of their time at both institutions and graduate in four years.
“So, we’re really making significant inroads in terms of signing these agreements with all of our community college partners so that we do have a really clear pathway for students.”
Center staff will also be more visibly involved in recruitment, making special efforts to attract the oft forgotten transfer population.
“We’ll absolutely be traveling to all the community colleges this spring to host orientation and advising and registration days on their campus,” Aguayo said. “We will be working to put an online orientation into place.”
Other center efforts aim to help struggling UW transfer students graduate on-time.
“One thing that we’re piloting this spring — that I’m really excited about — is an academic success skills class, specifically for transfer students who went on academic probation after their first semester,” Aguayo said.
She added the center will do more as well, expanding to offer a greater number of resources.
“We will be working to stand-up transfer peer mentor programs so we can help students get connected,” Aguayo said. “We’ll be expanding class intervention, like the academic success skills class that we’re piloting this spring. I hope to have several more transfer-specific classes on the books starting in fall. So, we just really got a lot of neat opportunities to work on helping these transfer students be successful.”