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VCU Transfer Center captures national advising award

The Virginia Commonwealth University program that serves prospective, incoming and current transfer students has been recognized for its innovative and exemplary practices resulting in improvement of academic advising services.

The National Academic Advising Association awarded the VCU Transfer Center with the 2014 Outstanding Institutional Advising Program Award. Artis Gordon, director of the Transfer Center, received the award at a special ceremony and reception held at the annual NACADA Conference in Minneapolis in October.

Transfer students are advised directly through the department of their intended program of study. The Transfer Center complements this departmental advising, offering resources to ensure a smooth, seamless transition to the university and to support successful progress toward graduation.

To do this, Gordon and his team offer a full suite of programming and services that starts early.

Before students arrive on campus, the Transfer Center prepares them with extensive advising that includes two critical components: transfer articulation agreements and transfer pathways.

Articulation agreements stipulate the requirements that — upon completion — guarantee admission to specific programs at VCU. Transfer pathways help community college students select appropriate course work at their current institution based on the major they plan to pursue at VCU.

Because the articulation agreements have the input and approval of VCU faculty, Gordon and his team can tell students with confidence, “If you follow this path, you’re probably going to be successful here.”

“As an office we’ve been pushing that more than anything: Follow something … come in with some sort of structure,” Gordon said.

Thanks to the Guaranteed Admission Agreements that VCU has established with the Virginia Community College System and Richard Bland College, students who complete a General Education Certificate or a transfer-oriented associate degree at VCCS or Richard Bland — with a minimum GPA of 2.5 and no grades below a C in all transferable courses — are guaranteed a general admission to VCU.

And, according to Gordon, coming in with at least 30 credits or either a certificate or an associate degree is the greatest predictor of transfer retention and success.

Since the introduction of the Guaranteed Admission Agreements in 2009, prospective transfer students have many more choices of where to attend school since similar agreements exist with Virginia’s other four-year colleges and universities.

“It’s important that we elevate the Transfer Center so students on the outside can see that, ‘Hey, VCU has a support system for you,’” Gordon said.

After transfer students get to VCU, they benefit from increased transition programming: workshops during Welcome Week, events coordinated with the Division of Student Affairs and other activities that increase the visibility of the Transfer Center and raise awareness of its support services.

In their first semester at VCU, transfer students are invited to take UNIV 101, a one-credit course designed to orient them to the traditions, purposes and expectations of a university education. Assignments include activities that help students succeed by encouraging their engagement with VCU and Richmond: scheduling an appointment with a career adviser, attending a majors fair, visiting the Writing Center and Campus Learning Center and completing a community engagement project.

Later in their career, thriving transfer students have the opportunity to become transition leaders and assist the Transfer Center with its mission.

“I wanted them to be a student organization, with me as their adviser,” Gordon said. “But I also wanted them to be an extension of our office.”

About 40 leaders are currently paired with transfer students who identify themselves as needing support. What started as a pilot in 2012 today promises to be an increasingly important component of the Transfer Center’s expanding initiatives.

Since the beginning of his tenure, Gordon has focused on moving the Transfer Center well beyond its core function of evaluating credits and entering transfer data. A survey he conducted after becoming director in 2011 suggested a serious need for transition programming and services that would accomplish the critical task of connecting transfer students to the university community. Today, with transfers comprising nearly 40 percent of incoming students, that task is more important than ever.

“Just being an advocate for transfer students is what we really want to do,” Gordon said.

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Front Row: Artis Gordon, Anna Clark, Cary Cronemeyer, Samantha Simpson. Back row: Whitney Lovelady, Jason Rowe, Angela Aslanska, Nathan Bickett
Front Row: Artis Gordon, Anna Clark, Cary Cronemeyer, Samantha Simpson. Back row: Whitney Lovelady, Jason Rowe, Angela Aslanska, Nathan Bickett