Transfers Add Key Element to Campus Community
University Public Affairs
Andre Enow arrived at VCU in the fall of 2010 unclear of what lay ahead. A native of Cameroon, Enow was a recent arrival in the United States. He came equipped with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from a Cameroonian university, but he’d learned that he would need significant additional undergraduate study to attend medical school in the U.S. He had no idea how much.
Like many transfer students, Enow visited the Transfer Center, part of VCU’s University College, soon after coming to campus. Artis Gordon, director of the Transfer Center, worked with Enow on his complex case, helping link him with the proper administrators and advisers, including Seth Leibowitz, Ed.D., who at the time served as director of pre-health science advising programs in the University College. Enow, who is both outgoing and ambitious, made the best possible use of the leads, asking questions and pursuing opportunities.
Soon, he’d received credit for a portion of his previous college credits, and he understood the courses he still needed to take. The road ahead to medical school had been cleared of confusing debris. He felt set up to succeed.
“They guided me in the right direction,” Enow said.
Enow is one of the thousands of transfer students of a wide variety of backgrounds currently at VCU. The university welcomed 2,021 new undergraduate transfer students in the fall. Transfer students are largely in-state students (1,860 in this fall’s contingent) and full-time (1,712), similar to the rest of the undergraduate population at VCU.
Gordon said transfers are an essential component of VCU’s campus community.
“They add an important dynamic to VCU,” Gordon said. “As a group, they are good students. There’s a maturity factor. They’re very appreciative of the opportunities that they have here. They add a diverse perspective to the university and a real pride in being part of VCU. Some are non-traditional, older students and they have some life experiences that they bring to the table that can be helpful for the traditional student population.”
Transfer students can get overlooked when they arrive at a college. They do not require the level of attention necessary for freshmen from high school, but they also are new on campus and more in the dark than entrenched peers already wise to the ways of VCU.
“It’s so easy to feel like you’re not part of the university at first,” said Samantha Schaefer, who transferred to VCU from Northern Virginia Community College in the fall of 2010.
The Transfer Center’s presence at VCU helps.
Founded in 2009, the Transfer Center aims to make the transition to VCU as seamless as possible. Transfer Center staff work with incoming students on transferring their credits and understanding their academic options. They also help integrate transfer students into the wider VCU population, emphasizing the university community and their part in it.
That effort includes programs such as orientation for transfer students, a UNIV 101 course that focuses on adjusting to life at VCU and understanding the resources it offers and a set of peer advisers who transferred to VCU themselves.
“The Transfer Center works really hard to include everybody and to get the students feeling like they’re part of the community here,” Schaefer said.
Schaefer, who is scheduled to graduate in the spring of 2014 with a major in art education and a minor in craft and material studies from the VCU School of the Arts, jumped at the opportunity to serve in the peer adviser program.
“I want to be there for other students like me because I know what they’re going through,” Schaefer said. “I know how stressful and scary things can be.”
With her educational background at a two-year Virginia community college, Schaefer resembles the majority of VCU’s transfer students. Sixty-six percent of the undergraduate transfers arriving at VCU this fall were from the state’s two-year schools. Since 2003, VCU has seen a 59-percent increase in incoming transfers in the fall from two-year schools. A major factor is the guaranteed admissions agreement that VCU has with the Virginia Community College System and Richard Bland College for students who meet minimum eligibility requirements.
Schaefer’s list of possible four-year college destinations grew short after a VCU campus tour while she was at Northern Virginia. She found inspiration in the urban setting, the sense of history and the diverse student body.
“I thought, ‘Wow, this is awesome. This is where I want to be,’” said Schaefer, whose mother is a VCU alumna. “The other schools didn’t matter to me anymore.”
Schaefer quickly adapted to VCU, embracing the opportunities that she found. Similarly, Enow said that becoming part of the campus community proved to be a routine transition for him, a student with an international background.
“The first thing that you notice about VCU is its diversity,” he said. “There are accents left and right. It’s easy to adjust and get along here.”
Enow’s early interactions with the Transfer Center proved to be the ideal launch for his VCU experience. Enow, who is majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry in VCU Life Sciences and the College of Humanities and Sciences, will graduate in May and then realize his dream of attending medical school in the fall. He received acceptances from six medical schools. After much internal debate, Enow opted for the VCU School of Medicine.
“All of these medical schools are good, but VCU and Richmond are like a home for me,” Enow said. “I don’t feel like leaving this place now.”
To view a video welcome for VCU transfer students, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlfQWS2bdq8&feature=youtu.be.
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