A strengthening community of transfer students

Caroline Kapp (left) and Fedelene Camille, president and vice president of Tau Sigma respectively, work to build a strong community of transfer students through support and empowerment. 
By Genesis Cosme

Caroline Kapp (left) and Fedelene Camille, president and vice president of Tau Sigma respectively, work to build a strong community of transfer students through support and empowerment. 

A strengthening community of transfer students

By Genesis Cosme
The Department of Orientation and Commuter Student Involvement and Tau Sigma offer transfer students the opportunity to put down roots during National Transfer Student Week

For some, going to college is as simple as applying, getting accepted, and attending for four great years. For others, the journey includes twists and turns at one, two or even three schools.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, between 23 and 35 percent of students transfer to one or more institutions within the first few years upon beginning their post-secondary education. Twenty percent of newly enrolled students at the University of Miami were transfer students in fall 2018. At the University of Miami, the Department of Orientation and Commuter Student Involvement (OCSI) provides a variety of resources and services to support these students' transition to UM.

“Similar to first-year students, the transfer student experience is a transition into a new environment and new group of people,” said Stephanie Fleitas, the department's assistant director. “Although attending a new school might be difficult, transfer students have the advantage of understanding the type of involvements, academics, and career paths they want to pursue while being open to exploring opportunities at the University of Miami.”

One opportunity designed specifically for transfer students is Tau Sigma, a newly established and nationally recognized honor society that acknowledges and promotes the academic excellence and involvement of transfer students. While Tau Sigma is designed to motivate transfer students to succeed during their college career, UM’s chapter prides itself on providing a common bond for the transfer community.

“I transferred in when Tau Sigma was not a club,” said Caroline Kapp, president of Tau Sigma. “I felt there was something missing in my transition and I wanted to merge into my class with everyone else. Transfer students come here with a brand-new slate and just want to feel recognized like everyone else.”

During their first few weeks on campus, transfer students are also connected with a Transfer Assistant who serves as a guide, mentor and even a first friend. Much like a Resident Assistant, Transfer Assistants are especially helpful in making a good first impression of the University for transfer students during ’Cane Kickoff, UM’s orientation program for all new undergraduate students.

"There was a lot of support available to me, I just didn't know about them," said Transfer Assistant and vice president of Tau Sigma, Fedelene Camille, recounting her transition into the University. "I wanted to be a Transfer Assistant to help spread the word more so that transfers don't need to feel alone in this mass of incoming new students."

Last year, more transfer students found their footing at UM than ever before. According to the Office of Institutional Research and Strategic Analytics, the 2018 new transfer student retention rate reached 94.2 percent – a 10.3 percent increase from 2005.

The new transfer student retention rate reached 94.2 percent in 2018. SOURCE: Office of Institutional Research and Strategic Analytics Retention Rate (Benchmark) Database /University of Miami
SOURCE: Office of Institutional Research and Strategic Analytics/University of Miami

"The transition is going to get overwhelming and difficult, especially when people already have their friend groups and aren't looking to branch out.

In OCSI, I have found my niche and a place I can call home with people who are here to support me," Camille added. "Take advantage of the people on campus that are advocating for you, representing you and recognizing you as a transfer student."

OCSI and Tau Sigma invite transfer students to participate in the annual National Transfer Student Week, kicking off Oct. 21. Events throughout the week include a resume workshop, bowling night, and the fall Tau Sigma Induction, all designed to build empathy for and instill pride in the transfer student journey.

And for those who are not transfer students, Kapp challenges students to think of the benefits they can get from befriending someone with an experience different from theirs.

"People already have their friend groups set, but we're just trying to meet people since we're basically starting new,” she said. “Plus, there are so many amazing people coming into your class each year that could add a lot of value, whether social or academic, to your life."