UNCA transfer students struggle to integrate

By Kari Barrows – kbarrows@unca.edu – Contributor | April 1, 215 |

Transition can be difficult for many students, but for some, it can be as fun as learning how to make sushi.

Jeff Witherow, a junior accounting student from Asheville, said he transferred from A-B Tech to UNC Asheville this semester.

Witherow attended two events hosted by UNCA Transition and Parent Programs this semester. He said one of these events was a sushi preparation class.

“I’m a very picky eater, so I wasn’t exactly a fan of it,” he said with a smile and quiet chuckle. “But it was just fun making it.”

According to the T&PP website, the department hosts events to help transfer students, including community college transfers, veterans, and any non-traditional students transition smoothly into the university.

Shelby Mast, a senior psychology student from Mocksville, said the transition events she has been to this year have been enjoyable.

“They’ve been great, they’ve been really fun,” Mast said, “and like, really cheap as well, if not free, which helps with inclusion.”

Stephanie Franklin, director of T&PP, transferred from UNC Charlotte to UNC Chapel Hill as an undergraduate student, and said she understands the struggle transfer students face.

Franklin said one of the struggles many students face with transitioning is inclusion into the student body.

“Transition is a process,” Franklin said, “and it doesn’t start the moment orientation begins.”

A staff member since 2007, Franklin said she has seen a trend in the transfer student population at UNCA. During her first years working, there would be about 250 incoming students for the fall semester and about 150 for spring. Now, she said, the incoming population has increased substantially.

“For this upcoming fall, we’re looking at getting 350 transfers in,” she said. “So, it’s definitely been a significant jump for us.”

On Jan. 20, President Barack Obama pointed out this growing trend of community college transfer students in his State of the Union address. He said 40 percent of college students in America are currently enrolled in community colleges. He then highlighted his proposal to make community college free for all students.

According to the Community College Research Center website, 81 percent of all incoming students have the goal of obtaining a bachelor’s degree. However, only 25 percent of students actually do so within a five-year period. To accommodate this 25 percent, UNCA continues to work within T&PP, Franklin said.

The department was revamped about a year and a half ago, Franklin said. In the past, it hosted events for specific types of transition students, and individual events for each group. Since its regeneration, all transition students are invited to each event as another way to increase inclusion and socialization.

Franklin said she believes this integration of diverse students with each other is invaluable.

“I love the flavor and perspective that transfer students bring,” Franklin said. “They have different experiences, they come from different places, and I think that that’s really beneficial, especially from the aspect of being in the classroom.”

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