New school. New classes. New study groups. The transition from a community college to a four-year institution can be difficult but the opening of a new transfer student center at UCR’s Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering will help prepare transfer students as they begin the next step in their academic careers. The center, located in Winston Chung Hall, will officially open during a ceremony held on January 8, 2019 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and offers transfer students access to important resources that help them quickly adapt to their new educational setting.
“STEM transfer students face a unique set of needs such as identifying undergraduate research opportunities, establishing rapid connections with faculty members, and accessing a community of engineering peers. The center serves as a bridge, connecting students to the resources they need and seeing our transfer students to the finish line of graduation,” said Marko Princevac, Associate Dean of Student Academic Affairs.
Guadalupe Ruiz, transfer initiatives and professional development coordinator, is housed at the center and is dedicated to assisting students with identifying undergraduate research opportunities, establishing rapid connections with faculty members, and accessing a community of engineering peers. She also oversees the transfer transition program (TTP), a year-long initiative designed exclusively to support incoming transfer students by pairing them with peer mentors who share an academic major and are previous transfer students themselves.
“TTP is more than a resource, it’s a big family who helped me through my entire time at UCR. The support I received from TTP made me believe in myself to achieve higher goals in life and my career,” , TTP Alumni, Transfer Peer Mentor, Bioengineering, 2018.
In addition to building a community for transfer students, the center helps connect them with undergraduate research opportunities that take the classroom experience, apply it to a real life setting, and bring what they learn back to the classroom. The center also connects them to an expansive network through the college’s more than 20 active student professional organizations. These groups are vital as they offer valuable opportunities to expand on what students learn in the classroom by building new skills and introducing interdisciplinary experiences.
According to the National Institute for the Study for Transfer Students (NISTS), four-year universities are typically designed and managed with traditional, 18-22 year old residential students in mind, which can create unnecessary challenges for transfer students coming in to complete their bachelor’s degrees. Since the launch of TTP, the college is seeing improvement with transfer student outcomes.
NISTS reports 42 percent of transfer students earn a bachelor degree within six years of starting at a community college. The study also shows income plays a role in graduation rates for transfer students with higher income students being more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than lower income students. Of the 700 transfer students who have gone through TTP, nearly two-thirds are first generation college students and nearly half are considered low-income.
In October, the college received a $750,000 Training Undergraduates through Navy Engagement (TUNE) grant from the Office of Naval Research to increase the number of STEM students who transfer from community college into the BCOE. This grant will expand the efforts to enlarge and sustain the pipeline with additional services available to transfer students.
Since TTP began in 2014, annual enrollment of engineering transfer students has doubled, which is also due in part to a campus-wide initiative developing several new programs and collaborations with Inland community colleges. In 2017, UCR committed to visiting 114 California community colleges each year. In July of 2018, UCR enrolled over 8,000 transfer students, a 27 percent increase from 2016 enrollments.