$2.2M grant to help UC Merced transfer students

tmiller@mercedsunstar.comDecember 9, 2013 

— The difference in expectations between a community college and UC Merced became apparent to Nisha Dale right away, she said.

Dale, who transferred in August from Fresno City College, said the amount of time spent reading and studying is drastically different from community college.

“I have to write 10-page papers, whereas at community college, the most I ever had to write was two (pages),” the 21-year-old said in citing an example.

She said making the adjustment was difficult, and she might have benefited from someone who could give her some tips.

Dale will soon be part of the team that will do just that for other transfer students as they try to make a smooth transition to the university. A $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education will go to the Degree Attainment for Returning and Transfer Students program at UC Merced, according to staff.

The program is new to the Calvin E. Bright Success Center, which is home to tutoring, academic advising and other student services.

Elizabeth Boretz, director of the Bright Center, said transfer students can feel alienated on a campus full of freshmen. This year, UC Merced enrolled 1,654 freshmen, but only 103 transfer students.

“Since transfer students can’t recognize each other as they pass in the hallways, they don’t form a community the way everyone else does,” she said. “They’re going through a different transition.”

Boretz said that while basically every freshmen is a teenager, the transfer students are more likely to be older and have a family and job. Those students are also more likely to be first-generation college students, she said.

The money being infused into the program pays for three new staff members to fit the specific needs of transfer students. The first is a career coach who will be based in the university’s career center and is charged with providing job counseling and help with internships.

Since transfer students are typically juniors, they should move quickly toward their intended career path, Boretz said. “We’re requiring them to use this career coach,” she said. “If you are a transfer, you should be aware and on it.”

The other two positions will work in the Bright Center with transfer students. Boretz said she will hire four to six transfer students to act as part-time peer instructors for those seeking advice.

The extra help may be necessary on campus with the proposed influx of transfer students that could be on their way. During a UC Board of Regents meeting in November, University of California President Janet Napolitano expressed a desire to increase transfers to UC schools from California community colleges.

Hector Sambolin, the assistant director of the Bright Center, will oversee the transfer student program at UC Merced.

“We don’t want (UC Merced) to just be a place they go to class and then leave,” he said. “We want this to feel like a home, a place where they belong.”

Sambolin said he hopes the Bright Center will be a place for the transfer students to meet and find fellowship.

He said the program is set up to make sure students are completing what is expected of them already. “It’s not extra work,” he said. “It’s just making sure that you do it.”

Some of the other services transfer students can expect to see include a textbook-lending library, an “emergency” laptop-lending program, special workshops and on-demand tutoring.

The current funding will carry the transfer student program through 2018.

Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or tmiller@mercedsunstar.com.

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