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Grant supports pilot program for CVTC-to-UW-Eau Claire transfer students

RELEASED: Nov. 17, 2011

Transitions Grant
Drew Hagen, left, who transferred to UW-Eau Claire from Chippewa Valley Technical College in 2008, serves as a peer mentor to Anthony Donovan, who transferred from CVTC this fall, through a new program helping transfer students make the transition from the technical college to UW-Eau Claire. (UW-Eau Claire photo by Rick Mickelson)

EAU CLAIRE — A University of Wisconsin System grant has made possible a pilot program at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to ease the transition for and success rate among students who transfer to UW-Eau Claire from Chippewa Valley Technical College.

The CVTC to UW-Eau Claire Transitions Program is funded by a grant of $47,350 from the 2011-12 Growth Agenda Grant Program, established to support initiatives to advance the goals of the UW System Growth Agenda for Wisconsin. The Growth Agenda seeks to leverage the UW System's strengths to develop human potential, create new jobs and strengthen local communities across Wisconsin.

The transitions program serves CVTC transfer students both while they are still enrolled at CVTC and after they enroll at UW-Eau Claire, said Bonnie Isaacson, nontraditional student coordinator in Academic Advising at UW-Eau Claire. The grant supports a half-time UW-Eau Claire advising staff member who facilitates increased collaboration between staff members at CVTC and UW-Eau Claire, a student-to-student mentoring program, more specialized advising for transfer students from CVTC and information sessions about the transfer process for CVTC students thinking about transferring to UW-Eau Claire, Isaacson said.

"The goal of this program is to ensure that CVTC students who transfer here will be successful because they'll be familiar with our processes, the courses we offer and the services available," Isaacson said.

More students transfer to UW-Eau Claire from CVTC than from any other school, said Debbie Gough, UW-Eau Claire's director of Advising and New Student Initiatives and the Student Success Network. During the 2009-10 academic year, the last year for which data is available, 143 students transferred from CVTC to UW-Eau Claire. That number represented 15 percent of UW-Eau Claire's transfer students, said Gough, who was the principal author of the transitions program grant proposal.

The majority of CVTC students who transfer to UW-Eau Claire have been enrolled in the technical college's liberal arts-associate of science degree program, which offers a variety of general education courses for students who have not chosen a major field of post-secondary study, helping them in the process of choosing a major while fulfilling many requirements of a university baccalaureate program. CVTC implemented the liberal arts-associate of science degree program in fall 2007, and the number of students in the program has risen each semester, said Cherrie Bergandi, CVTC dean of general education.

Bergandi said the transitions program for CVTC students transferring to UW-Eau Claire meets several needs among CVTC liberal arts students.

"It provides them with information concerning transfer to UW-Eau Claire, information concerning which courses to take at CVTC for specific majors at UW-Eau Claire, and a support system with the contact opportunities with UW-Eau Claire counselors and advisers and with the peer mentor program," Bergandi said.

The transitions program objectives are to improve the retention and graduation rates among all students who transfer from CVTC to UW-Eau Claire and to increase the number of multicultural students who transfer, Gough said. Both objectives are in keeping with the UW System Growth Agenda's goals that state universities attract more individuals from underrepresented populations, people from lower-income families and first-generation college students, she said.

"Given that CVTC is our largest feeder school and that it is literally right next door, it makes sense that we reach out to these students, make certain that they are taking appropriate courses and begin to connect them to campus even before they arrive here," Gough said. "Transferring from a smaller, two-year school with a technical emphasis to a relatively large four-year liberal arts based university can pose challenges."

Also, transfer students from CVTC often commute to UW-Eau Claire rather than live on campus, "so they lack the automatic support system provided by living in the residence halls," Gough said. "Student mentors are a particularly effective way to help these students make this transition."

It benefits both UW-Eau Claire and CVTC to work with the transfer students, said Heather Pearson, UW-Eau Claire associate director of admissions and a co-author of the program grant proposal.

"If they can receive guidance about the courses to take, expectations for their major and the process of applying to transfer, they will be more likely to have a smooth transition and be on track to graduate in a timely manner," Pearson said.

The transitions program came at just the right time for Anthony Donovan, a sophomore from Eau Claire who transferred to UW-Eau Claire from CVTC this fall.

"It can be an intimidating transition going back to school when you're a bit older than the average student or have had a break in schooling," said Donovan, who is still deciding on his academic major. "Then just as you've got the hang of one institution and how it operates, you're thrust into one that has so much more happening and going on and people that it's overwhelming at first."

Donovan participates in a mentoring program that matches new transfer students from CVTC (or current CVTC students planning to transfer) with current UW-Eau Claire students who transferred previously from the technical college and have made a successful transition. The student mentors are paid a stipend and meet regularly with the transfer students, serving as resources for information about academics, services and campus life at UW-Eau Claire.

Drew Hagen, Eau Claire, a UW-Eau Claire junior majoring in art, applied to be a mentor in the program as a way to "give back" to those who helped him when he transferred from CVTC to UW-Eau Claire in 2008. He now serves as a mentor for Donovan and one other student currently attending CVTC and planning to transfer to the university.

"After transferring from CVTC, I remember feeling very intimidated by the much larger campus, completely lost as to where anything was, including my classes," Hagen said. "UW-Eau Claire has a lot of resources, but at first I felt too intimidated to really reach out for most of them."

Hagen said that as a nontraditional student who had never attended a university, he would have benefited from a program focused on helping him make the transition from the technical college.

"I wish there was a program like this when I transferred," Hagen said. "I believe it would have made my life a lot easier. In my opinion, the less the student has to worry about outside the classroom, the more he or she will be able to focus on academics inside the classroom, focusing on the chief reason they are here: to learn and grow as a student."

Donovan said he has found the mentoring program helpful, noting Hagen has given him valuable advice about creating and applying for a topical minor. He said he would like the chance to provide similar help to future transfer students from CVTC.

"Given the opportunity, I would like to take on the responsibility of being a mentor so I can help someone out in a similar situation as me — you know, pay it forward," Donovan said.

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JP/DW

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