National Transfer Student Week — Oct. 19-23 — marks an opportunity to highlight some of the efforts that Colorado State University is doing to support students for whom “transfer” is a thing.
According to transfer advocates, it is vitally important to build awareness of the multiple experiences, successes, common transfer barriers and the diverse student needs and identities within transfer populations. Although the transition between institutions is inherently complex, transfer is a good and valuable pathway to bachelor’s degree completion.
Bridges to Baccalaureate — B2B — is a National Institutes of Health-funded grant program at CSU that has been the bridge between Front Range Community College and CSU for the past five years. Starting in 2020, B2B will continue to provide this amazing support for transfer students under a new name: Wolves to Rams.
The Wolves to Rams S-STEM program, also known as W2R, is a collaboration between the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation that aims to support underrepresented transfer students, such as first-generation, limited income, and students of color pursuing a career in STEM. W2R currently provides scholarships, stipends, workshops, mentorship, and paid research training to more than 80 current or incoming CSU transfer students from FRCC.
This year, the pandemic has added a unique twist to the experience of those students who have made the transition to CSU this fall. Their paths and stories are great testament to this year’s transfer student experience.
Vanessa Alvarado with her children.
Vanessa Alvarado is a first-generation, limited income, single mother, veteran, and a student of color.
“It is easy to feel invisible in a college setting,” Alvarado said.
But Alvarado shared that W2R’s scholarship program has “helped alleviate some of the financial burden associated with college, which allowed me to dream big.”
“Being a transfer student during a pandemic has proven to be quite the challenge,” Alvarado said. “Balancing my course work, assisting my children with remote learning, and trying to be the best mom ever, is stressful, to say the least. To overcome these challenges, I have learned that taking it a day at a time may well be your best option. On a positive note, you would be surprised what you are capable of when placed under pressure.”
Alvarado is a horticulture major with a minor in soil science. As a transfer student champion, Alvarado “no longer wishes to stop at a bachelor’s degree” and plans to pursue graduate school after she graduates from CSU.
Julio C. Ledezma Olivares
Julio C. Ledezma Olivares is first generation transfer student of color who transferred from the Front Range Community College Larimer campus.
“Graduating high school in my family is a big leap since neither of my parents got to finish middle school,” Olivares said. “I am happy and nervous at the same time being in a position that none of my family has ever been in before.”
Olivares experienced some of the challenges of being a first-generation college student such as the intimidating process of seeking out information and support.
“While at FRCC, I was not planning to transfer to CSU when I did, nor did I have an idea where to begin,” he said.
Programs like W2R provide that support and guidance to transfer students like Olivares.
“I am glad I am a member of Wolves to Rams and having the support from someone who has been through these situations,” Olivares said.
His transition from FRCC to CSU has been a good experience, adding that “W2R has helped me in many ways, the most important has been finding resources on campus and online. I can always rely on the W2R staff and mentors when I need help.”
Julio C. Ledezma Olivares
Olivia Carter transferred in spring 2020, the same semester COVID-19 arrived on campus.
Carter, a biological science major at CSU, is one of the peer mentors for the W2R program and the teaching assistant for the seminar-style class just for new transfer students called IU300: Becoming a Scientist.
Carter said she is the type of person who does best when she can connect with professors and peers.
“Being a transfer student, trying to navigate bigger classes, weird schedules, and having less social interaction overall because of the pandemic have made this semester very challenging,” Carter said. “I am trying my best to stay connected and create group chats with classmates, so I’m hopeful that we can get through this together.”
Carter has found part of the campus connection by being a peer mentor for Wolves to Rams.
“I love helping new transfer students navigate this new environment,” she said. “Some things we’ve done together are learning how to create a STEM resume, seeking out scientific workshops on campus, and finding other resources at CSU.”
Carter said she has gotten internships and developed networking skills thanks to CSU and has had the opportunity to make many deep connections with the university community.
Carter encourages transfer students to get connected to with organizations on campus that can offer support because “it makes the transfer process easier and it will benefit you in so many aspects of your life.”