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Conquering the transfer student world and going on to lead others.
Outside the Students in Transition's office, there’s always action. There's a constant stream of parents and prospective students on campus tours. Inside, is a place where Ashly Westerman and other current students hang out. “It’s inviting and comfortable here,” she says. It’s also the place where she received some good news. “I got full credit for all the classes I took before I came to UMD.”
That was a big deal. One of the biggest problems with transferring is figuring out how classes taken at a previous school apply to UMD. Because there are so many universities across the country, students need to help UMD’s registrar match previous classes with UMD requirements.
Ashly, a graphic design major in the School of Fine Arts, was pro-active. She worked with an academic advisor since high school making sure her classes from Century College would transfer. "After two years of generals and a color-coded binder of all those classes, I transferred to UMD almost seamlessly.” Ashly says. Every major has its own set of hurdles and Ashly's graphic design program was no exception.
Incoming transfer students have plenty to worry about when it comes to switching schools. Some of the questions are the same as freshman. Where will they park, where will they live, and how do they find a job?
Other questions are unique to an older student who has a clear career path and a history of living on their own. For Ashly, at her advisement and registration (A&R) date in 2016, transfer students and freshmen attended A&R dates as one group. She registered for fall classes, but it wasn’t ideal. There weren't people to talk to who understood her situation.
By the time spring semester 2017 rolled around, Ashly had a few questions. She walked into the Students in Transition office, and she left with a job. She joined the team to design a plan to help future transfer students find a place at UMD.
The New Program
With Ashly’s help, the Students in Transition office is shaking things up. Transfer student coordinator Dauli Menze and orientation coordinator Emily Borra set up A&R orientation dates exclusively for transfer students with information on financial aid, parking, and transfer credits. That way incoming students receive more of a individualized schedule with personalized help from the student advisors. Another innovation was made a few years ago, Transfer Welcome, which is a condensed version of welcome week.
Dauli also helped create a new transfer student connect program. "We want to help transfer students find a community within the school," Dauli says.
The connect program features a calendar of events on a wide range of experiences from football games, hikes in the Bagley Nature Area, a tour of Glensheen, and more. "Attending events together can help create a sense of belonging," says Ashly.
Above: Ashly Westerman in the UMD Tweed Museum of Art, one of her favorite places on campus.