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Transfer students enrich campus

January 3, 2008

Transfer students enrich campus

Each year, PLU admits anywhere from 250 to 300 transfer students to campus. It’s a diverse mix of students from all walks of life. Some are in their 50s, looking to complete a degree they’d left unfinished. Some are a year or two out of high school. Some are first generation college students. Others transferred from a four-year university looking for something more to their liking.

“There is no typical transfer student,” explained Joelle Pretty, director of transfer recruitment.

And that may be exactly why many on campus see the influx of transfer students as a good thing.

“The one thing they do have in common – they are focused. Going to college is an opportunity they are not going to waste,” Pretty said. “And they have a depth of experience that traditional age students can’t contribute. That’s an invaluable asset to have on campus.”

Take Riley Relfe (pictured), a transfer from Green River Community College. There, she was extremely involved, serving as the president of the local honor society and working at the local radio station. When she came to PLU, there was never any question that she’d get involved, simply where. Her advisor suggested she consider student leadership with ASPLU. The next day, Relfe was running for an off-campus transfer senator position – which she won.

The experience gave Relfe her cause: improving the orientation process to make transfer students feel more comfortable.

“It can be hard, especially at first, to make sure transfer students feel connected to their new school,” she said. “We may be a little bit older than the freshmen, but when we get here, we are just as confused as everybody else.

“The chance to get involved and make real changes – that makes you feel powerful,” she continued. “In doing it here, I know it can work in the real world.”

Donald Kinsey knows a little something about the real world. By his own admission, he’s been in it for a long time. He retired from the Army after serving 16 years and came to PLU to complete his business accounting degree.

Kinsey pretty much sticks to the Morken Center, where most of his classes take place. He understands much of the programming beyond the classroom is largely geared toward younger students. That’s fine by him – he’s here for the degree. As a pastor of a local church, Jehovah Baptist, he wants to make sure he can be a caretaker for the entire church, both for his fellow worshippers and financially as well.

Meanwhile, Jake Taylor’s college career has meandered from the Evergreen State College to North Seattle and Tacoma community colleges before ending on the PLU campus.

The trip has given him a wealth of experience from which to compare notes. For Taylor, his previous experiences didn’t allow him to get what he wanted out of the university experience: namely, a personal connection.

“At some of the other schools, I really had to put myself out there to meet new people, and it was hard,” Taylor recalled. “Here, I can do that. This place has been really accepting and open-minded. People can really be themselves here.”

His experience playing on the men’s soccer has been a great teaching experience, he said. Nicknamed “uncle” by the younger players – which are just about everyone – Taylor has been teaching fellow players Spanish and picking up some Norwegian.

“Each transfer student is different, but that is why they are so valuable,” Pretty said. “Every individual journey they have taken makes the PLU community that much stronger.”

University Communications staff writer Steve Hansen compiled this report. Comments, questions, ideas? Please contact him at ext. 8410 or at Photo by University Photographer Jordan Hartman.