When it comes to transfer students, Bakari Nixon knows the score.
“You’ve got to hit the ground running,” Nixon said. “I am a transfer student, so I know.”
Taylor Steen, a fellow mentor in the Transfer Transitions Program, agreed. “Transfer students don’t have a freshman year to get adjusted,” she said. “It can be frustrating, but we can help make it less stressful.”
Both undergraduates, Nixon and Steen are a new breed of mentors on campus in the 1-year-old Transfer Transitions Office. With three other mentors, they are reaching out to The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s approximately 500 new transfer students this fall.
The growing number of students starting their college careers in community colleges has created an emphasis on building bridges between two-year and four-year colleges.
UNCP has an active recruiting campaign on community college campuses, said Lela Clark, interim executive director of Enrollment Planning and Recruitment.
“For the first time, this year we have a full-time recruiter working specifically with community college students,” Clark said. “More students are seeking to make the transition to a four-year college, and we are responding to meet their needs.”
Transfer Transitions Office Assistant Director April Whittemore Locklear is launching a program on community college campuses called “Snapshot.”
“We give them a snapshot of the university and the transfer process,” Whittemore said. “The earlier we can make a personal contact and start the process, the easier the transition.”
Whittemore and the staff are making the rounds in many places to get out the word.
“Besides community colleges, we are meeting with local government boards and the Lumbee Tribe,” she said. “We’re letting people know we are available.”
As a transfer student, Nixon said he knows the bumps in the road from experience. Transfer students jump straight into their major without time to shop around or get adjusted.
“I ended up changing majors to social studies education, which cost me an extra year,” Nixon said. “Because I’m an education major, I get the transfer students who are education majors. I give them the vibe for the School of Education.”
That “vibe” can be worth its weight in gold for a transfer student.
“A community college is a smaller place, and UNCP can seem intimidating,” Steen said. “We’re a one-stop shop for transfer students.”
Nixon nodded in agreement. “When I got here, I ran all over the place trying to get help,” he said. “This office is only one year old. It would have been great if it had been here for me.
“My goal is to make sure other students get it right the first time,” Nixon said.
Steen said a job at Transfer Transitions Office is a good fit for her.
“I’ve always been the person other people came to for help,” she said. “Also, I am from Pembroke, so I can help new students find their way around the entire university community.”
Finding your place and becoming engaged on campus is a challenge for transfer students, Nixon said.
“I commuted during my first year here,” he said. “I never even went to the cafeteria. I didn’t want to eat by myself.”
Nixon’s fortunes took a positive turn after moving on campus.
“It just took time; once you know your way around, it’s good,” he said.
“That’s what we do; and that’s what I’m good at,” Steen said. “I want transfer students to read this, then come to our office.
There is lots more work to do, both mentors agree. Nixon would like to see a special day on campus — “a day when all transfer students wear the same color and everybody makes a point to say hello to them.”
For information, call the Transfer Transition Office at 910- 521-6693 or email email@example.com.
Scott Bigelow is the associate director of public relations for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.