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Coach’s Corner January 2018: An Inside Look Into The Seamless Transfer Pathways Challenge


If you were given a magic wand and could make any ONE thing happen to increase successful completion among your students, what would that be? What are the most significant hurdles transfer students face on their journey to complete a degree?


These are just a couple of the questions we have been asking advisors, counselors, and administrators these last few weeks. The answers are brilliant, frustrating, but most importantly, optimistic.

As the seamless transfer pathways, #seamlesstransfer, coach I have had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with students, counselors, advisors, administrators, and more, since the Lab, through a grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation started digging deeper into transfer student stop-out. The statistics within this demographic are startling, but what is not surprising is that there is no single reason, there are not even three or four standard reasons that our students are leaving higher education before completing a degree. Our student population is dynamic and diverse, which means our innovations must follow suit.

I am happy to report that this diverse, dynamic thinking is happening throughout all four institutional pairs in the #seamlesstransfer project. After our first convening in October our teams went back to their campuses to continue exploring who their transfer students are, where are they falling out of the transfer pipeline, their experiences, both good and bad, at these institutions.

Teams are examining important, relevant topics, all from a student journey perspective, like diving deeper into STEM and Biology pathways in Florida and taking a closer look at what services are essential and necessary, at all levels of study, to the students of Northern Virginia. Our Illinois team is examining how college and career readiness can start in high school and carry on into the two and four-year institutions. And, the academic leaders of Northern Texas are learning more about the importance of communication, starting in high school and moving through the two and four-year systems, when it comes to creating Business pathways to ensure that they have enough qualified and engaged workers to aid their fast-growing economy.  One key group that faces struggles and risk across the cohort is the “undecideds,” students who don’t begin the process knowing what they want out of either the AA or BA/BS.

Most importantly, these pairs are thinking differently they are embracing the growth mindset and letting the student’s voice lead them on their #seamlesstransfer pathway. The New Year will bring new insights as we move from the “what-is” phase to exploring the “what-if’s” and create numerous prototypes that will continue to dig deeper into our transfer student needs. Our goal is that each team has a pilot in place by Fall 2018, a lofty, but important goal, as we move to make 2018 the year for improved, innovative, and student-focused #seamlesstransfer pathways.

As a coach for the Seamless Transfer Pathways Design Challenge, Leslie oversees the cohort’s design work and helps teams coordinate research, design strategies, and activities as well as facilitate in-person design sessions.

Leslie began her higher education career working as an admission counselor at a small four-year private liberal arts university. In this role, she saw an immediate need to build better pathways for transfer students transitioning from the two-year to the four-year institution. Leslie transitioned to the world of academic advising at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where she helped create academic maps and curricular plans for students, focusing on how to increase communication between faculty at the two and four-year institutions to ease the overall transfer experience. She expanded this work while serving as the Transfer Coordinator at SIUE. In this role, she worked with community colleges to create seamless 2+2 and dual admission programs, which included placing and integrating full­time SIUE advisors on the community college campus. She also worked directly on the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant. Her work on this grant included bridging the gap between technical associate degrees and the paths to baccalaureate degree attainment.

Leslie has a Master’s degree in Educational Studies and is working on her doctorate in Higher Education Leadership focusing her research on student perception to reverse transfer initiatives, specifically transfer students who left the four-year institution before earning a degree.