For the thousands of new undergraduate transfer students enrolling each fall, adjusting to the academic environment of UCI – or just learning their way around campus – can be challenging. To help them along, the Division of Undergraduate Education has created the Transfer Student Center to provide support and guidance.
The need is great. One-third of each new undergraduate class at UCI are transfer students, most of them from California’s community colleges. For many of them, the Transfer Student Center – located in Student Services II building across Ring Road from the Student Center – becomes a welcoming new home.
Joanna Hernandez, the director of the TSC, says that the center “is committed to supporting transfer students in their transition into the university, maximizing their educational and professional development experiences and supporting them in making their next life step.”
Hernandez grew up as a first-generation Latina and former foster youth student, and she is dedicated to advocating for first-gen and low-income students’ needs. She is also dedicated to ensuring that higher education environments including UCI are safe and inclusive environments for all student communities, including transfer students.
“I think it’s really important that transfer students have a sense of belonging on campus, because sometimes, from day one, they might feel excluded,” says Ananda Van Boeyen, a transfer counselor coordinator at the TSC. “A lot of the language that we use as a university refers to UCI as a ‘four-year institution,’ but a lot of the student population are actually transfers here, and to them it’s a two-year institution. Transfer students are not freshmen, so I think it’s really important that their identity is being seen.”
Van Boeyen is one of the six TSC counselors and coordinators, each of whom support a different cohort of transfer students based on their experiences. While each counselor is usually dedicated to one particular cohort, as well as general transfer support, Van Boeyen is currently supporting two groups: formerly incarcerated and system-impaired students, and students who are parents and their families. She began with the TSC in April 2022 and has worked with families on campus during a previous role within graduate student housing.
“I call it a ‘transfer student superpower.’ Since most of them have already graduated, usually from a community college, our transfers know exactly what they want to get out of the UCI experience,” she says. “We often hear the term ‘the two-year sprint,’ because our transfers are really trying to make the best of their two years. My job is to help them prioritize those goals.”
Aside from Van Boeyen’s support cohorts, the TSC also has counselors dedicated to supporting the Gateway Initiatives & Gateway Scholars Program, DREAM Scholars, Freshman Edge, Foster Youth Resilience in Education and the UMOJA Program.
“The Transfer Student Center is a safe space to connect with a professional staff member for one-on-one individualized counseling support, study, and get connected to other transfer students,” Hernandez says.
The TSC team also includes peer educators who are usually second-year UCI transfer students, such as Natalya Wynter Muro. Set to graduate this spring with a major in criminology, law & society, with a minor in creative writing, Wynter transferred into UCI last fall from Chaffey Community College in Rancho Cucamonga.
“My journey so far has been learning to navigate UCI life, and also trying to help other students navigate it, too, because I know it’s such a difficult process for people,” she says. “It’s all the more rewarding when I’m able to help somebody out, and it’s just really nice to be able to be there for somebody when they’re having a hard time.”
As a peer educator, Muro enjoys being able to greet fellow transfer students who visit the center. The TSC peer educators provide general transfer student support, Ananda calls them “the beating heart of the center.”
Aside from scheduling meetings with TSC counselors, transfer students often come in to ask the peer educator for advice on recommendations for the right classes to take and good places to eat near campus.
Muro says she did not know about the TSC until she applied to be a peer educator there last spring.
“I think if I had known that the Transfer Student Center existed, I definitely would have felt a little less lonely my first year,” she says, “I hadn’t known that the center was there, so I was just figuring out things on my own. It really could have been as simple as going to the center and having them connecting me to somebody that might be able to help, instead of trying to go about that process myself.”
This winter quarter, the TSC plans to launch a buddy program, which will pair first-year transfer students with second-year transfer students. The buddy program will follow the recently started transfer social hours hosted by the TSC to help facilitate more connections between students.
“We just really want the Transfer Student Center to be a place where transfer students feel like they can drop in for any reason, whether it’s for a snack, just to relax, use our computers, talk to a transfer counselor or just have their lunch with us,” Van Boeyen says. “We want it to feel like a home away from home.”
If you want to learn more about supporting this or other activities at UCI, please visit the Brilliant Future website at https://brilliantfuture.uci.edu. Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. To support programs and initiatives in the Division of Undergraduate Educations, which include the Transfer Student Center, go to: https://secure.give.uci.edu/donation/?COA1=004774&COA2