Date of this Version
Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council 20:1 (Spring/Summer 2019), pp. 79-105.
In the ever-growing discussion of how to build and support honors programs that reflect the diverse communities our institutions serve, the recruitment of transfer students has only recently been identified as a key avenue to enacting more equitable programs. Reflecting on four years of recruiting, enrolling, and graduating transfer students in the University Honors Program at the University of California, Davis, we push the conversation beyond how to welcome transfer students in honors to how to meaningfully support them. We present the initial findings of our ongoing self-assessment to stimulate discussion about the unique challenges and opportunities transfer students experience in honors as well as how administrators and practitioners can rethink how our program structures and processes help our transfer students achieve success or hinder them from doing so. Drawing on descriptive statistics and focus groups, we found that, while transfer students in honors outperformed non-honors transfer students with similar backgrounds in terms of GPA and engagement with undergraduate research, many still struggled with not feeling, as one student described, “honors worthy.” Our preliminary findings suggest that concerns over belonging in honors can be mitigated by a cohort model that provides a sense of community, by a restructuring of the GPA requirements to cushion “transfer shock,” and, critically, by mentorship from administrators and faculty. Given the pool of diverse potential honors students currently in the community college pipeline and the recognition within NCHC that diverse cohorts best prepare students to engage meaningfully with the world around them, now is the time to increase the admissions of transfer students into honors programs. Lessons from early adopters such as UC Davis can help initial programming meet students’ needs and cultivate their talents.