Transfer center gives students a home on campus

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Kavya Narendra Babu/Staff

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For transfer students who feel alienated from their peers or who are in need of support, the Transfer Student Center gives them a space of their own.

The center, nestled in the César E. Chávez Student Center on Lower Sproul Plaza, is dedicated to helping transfer students transition and study at UC Berkeley. Students inside the center can study at the tables, lounge on the couches or just grab a free cup of coffee in the morning.

The center’s peer advocate leads — campus students who help run the center — are responsible for different programs to help transfers, according to peer advocate lead and transfer student Medina Kohzad. Programs at the center include events for transfer applicants and students, classes, outreach and center operations. Interns help run each of the center’s programs.

“It’s a very welcoming environment compared to other spaces on campus,” said Julio Bautista, a junior transfer student from Berkeley City College. “People are willing to engage in conversation here.”

Transfer students, according to peer advocate lead and transfer student Eric Mazariegos, face unique challenges on campus.

The ratio of students on campus who entered as freshmen to transfer students is more than three to one, according to the campus Office of Planning and Analysis.

Programs

Mazariegos said that, as a transfer student, it “never feels like a lot of things are geared toward us,” but that the center has opportunities specifically for transfers.

Events held at the center include resource workshops that help students with a variety of issues including financial aid, study abroad opportunities and admissions to campus, Kohzad said. According to Mazariegos, there is “always room for improvement” in outreach geared toward transfer students.

The Starting Point Mentorship Program, which mentors transfer applicants through the process of applying to campus, also runs through the center. In addition, the Major Insights program pairs first-year transfer students with second-year students in their major to help them in their transition to campus.

“Transfers can feel alienated on such a big campus,” Mazariegos said. “As a transfer, you come here in this weird situation where you have time, but you don’t have as much time.”

Mazariegos, who leads the events team at the center, said the center hosts events where transfer students can build a sense of community, such as the hike to the Big C that the center leads every Thursday. Mazariegos added that transfer students are more likely to attend events that they know other transfer students will take part in.

In addition to admissions programs and events, according to Mazariegos, the center also hosts an Education 198 class that exposes transfer students to campus knowledge that students need to succeed. The course, which is assisted by a peer advocate lead, makes students familiar with campus resources, time management skills and the campus library system, among other things.

Mazariegos, who took the course, said, “I felt it was super helpful.”

Resources

The center, which is part of the campus’s network of Centers for Education Equity and Excellence, is underresourced, according to Kohzad. It has a limited amount of space, Kohzad said, and the center shares its room with the neighboring Student Parent Center. A makeshift wall physically separates the two centers.

“We have limited seating,” Kohzad said. “Sometimes it’s full. I feel bad for people who want to come in and there’s no space available.”

The amount of space that the center has, according to Mazariegos, is a frequent subject of conversation for the center.

Mazariegos said the center could use any additional funding to provide computers to students studying in the center, as some students do not have laptops of their own. Additionally, Kohzad said funding might be used to provide more supplies and services that students have asked for, such as printing.

Funding for the transfer student center, according to both Kohzad and Mazariegos, would allow it to better achieve the center’s goal of serving transfer students and providing resources.

Lorena Valdez, the director of the center, was not available for comment as of press time.

Despite issues with gaining more resources, the peer advocate leads at the center are always willing to help students however they can. Whether or not they know the answer to a student’s question, Mazariegos said, they can point them in the right direction. The staff members, who are Mazariegos’s favorite quality of the center, always greet students with a smile.

“We (transfer students) are an underrepresented group in the school,” Kohzad said. “This is like a home for transfers.”

Contact Henry Tolchard at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @htolchard.