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Revolutionizing Transfer: A Novel and Holistic Programmatic Model that Eliminated the Visible and Invisible Barriers to Student Success

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

The Challenges that Two-year College Students Face when Transferring to a Four-year College for Engineering and Engineering Technology Program

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Two-Year College

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Paper Authors


Doris J. Espiritu Wilbur Wright College- One of the City Colleges of Chicago

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Doris J. Espiritu, PhD is the Executive Director of the College Center of Excellence in Engineering and Computer Science and a professor of Chemistry at Wright College. Doris Espiritu is one of the first National Science Foundation’s research awardees under the Hispanic- Serving Institutions (HSI) Program. She pioneered Engineering at Wright and had grown the Engineering program enrollment by 700 % within two years of the NSF-HSI project. Doris founded six student chapters of national organizations including the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and nine times Outstanding Chapter Awardee, the American Chemical Society-Wright College Chapter. Doris promotes collaboration between K-12 schools, other community colleges, 4-year institutions, non-profit organizations, and industries. Doris' current research is to design and implement practices that develop Community of Practice (CoP), Professional Identity, and Self-Efficacy to increase diversity in Engineering and Computer Science and to streamline transfer from community colleges to 4-year institutions.

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Ruzica Todorovic Wilbur Wright College - One of the City Colleges of Chicago

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Ruzica Todorovic is the Engineering Coordinator for the NSF: HSI “Building Bridges into Engineering and Computer Science”. She is also a faculty at Wilbur Wright College.

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Natacha Depaola Illinois Institute of Technology

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Dr. DePaola is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). She has over 3 decades of combined experience in biomedical engineering research, education, and academic leadership. Dr. DePaola is committed to excellence in engineering education and the empowerment of a diverse and agile workforce to succeed in today’s rapidly changing technological-driven industry and society. Her research investigates the role of physical mechanisms on cellular behavior stressing its importance in the understanding of human disease, the development of new therapies, and the engineering of functional tissues and devices. Dr. DePaola is the founding and current Director of IDMET - IllinoisTech Digital Medical Engineering & Technology Center, which focuses in the development of educational solutions and the application of advanced digital tools in biomedical engineering research. Dr. DePaola holds a Ph.D. in Medical Engineering/Medical Physics from the Division of Health Science and Technology at Harvard Medical School – Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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The Guided Pathways initiative is among many reform efforts that have been implemented by hundreds of community colleges in the country. Four main practice areas are intrinsic of Guided Pathways: 1) mapping pathways to students’ end goals, 2) helping students choose and enter a program pathway, 3) keeping students on a path, and 4) ensuring that students are learning. Although this approach is an important step toward successful transfer placement, the Guided Pathways do not address the visible and invisible barriers to student success once students transfer to a 4-year institution. This paper presents a novel and holistic approach to transfer that eliminates visible and invisible barriers to student success. The Holistic and Programmatic Approach for Transfer (HPAT) model includes early and active participation of the 4-year transfer partner, structured within a well-thought-out transfer articulation agreement that builds on a joint commitment to quality and student success. Integral to the agreement is the requirement for the rigor of the curriculum at the community college to match that of the 4-year partner, along with exceptional student support, financial assistance, and mentoring from the point of admission at the community college, through transfer and up to the bachelor's or master's degree completion. Unique to this model is the fully collaborative and holistic approach to admission; curriculum alignment, including content; participation in co-curricular activities; co-advising; co-mentoring; and data sharing that drive continuous improvement. Students in the program are concurrently registered in both the community college and the 4-year partner institution, becoming part of both student communities from the start. These students take classes at the 4-year partner at a discounted price while still enrolled at the community college, thus eliminating curricular barriers, ensuring placement as juniors, and facilitating belonging at the transfer institution. In addition, program-specific courses and activities at the transfer institution aim to eliminate the socialization and adjustment barrier upon transfer, further increasing belongingness to both institutions. Preliminary outcomes promise a ninety-five percent (95%) transfer rate within 2-3 years from admission. The Program's success is attributed to a holistic and programmatic approach for transfer that emphasizes cross-institutional commitment, effective mentoring, rigor, quality, and increases in the engineering profession (measured through a belonging survey and "Appreciative Inquiry" case study interviews). Although this approach is Engineering specific, our model is positioned to revolutionize transfer that can be duplicated for other Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and non-STEM disciplines.

Espiritu, D. J., & Todorovic, R., & Depaola, N. (2021, July), Revolutionizing Transfer: A Novel and Holistic Programmatic Model that Eliminated the Visible and Invisible Barriers to Student Success Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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