Student Stories: The Community College Journey


When educators discuss two-year to four-year college transfer pathways, they tend to discuss broad and important topics such as credit alignment and program mapping. Something is often missing: the stories of the various life experiences of the students.

But during a recent afternoon event in early May, transfer students were at the forefront by showcasing e-portfolios – personal websites they had worked on for months to help. to articulate their unique narrative. The goal: to tell their story in a professional manner as they prepare to leave a two- to four-year campus in Virginia. They spoke through Zoom with professors, counselors, employers and leaders of non-profit organizations. They woven their classroom lessons and what they learned from Pathway program events with their experiences as first-generation students, students of color, working students, and returning students after pursuing other goals. .

The showcase is a key part of the collaboration between John Tyler Community College and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College to support students interested in the arts and humanities during their transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University. Known as the Mellon Pathways program, it aims to provide a seamless transfer experience for community college students who wish to pursue a four-year study in arts and humanities programs.

The Pathways program helps align curriculum and credits between two- and four-year campuses; It also offers the opportunity to explore career and study options, as well as peer mentors, counselors with transfer expertise, and programs to introduce community college students to VCU resources.

Prospective students transferring from the program have the opportunity to apply to become Mellon Research Fellows, where they receive a stipend to work on a research project with guidance from the faculty. The program, now in its second year, is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

During the e-portfolio showcase, as it is called, Randi Bratton (who uses the pronouns they / them), a student at Tyler, gave a presentation on their non-linear educational journey that leads them to four-year university.

Bratton knows the importance placed on STEM fields these days, but said that STEM is closely related to the arts and humanities: a solid foundation in the humanities is helpful in understanding what is going on in the world and how it works. affects people. “If you’re going to develop technology or software, it’s not just about what you try to do with it, but what other people might do with what you develop,” Bratton said in a commentary. interview.

Of the 115 students in the Pathways program, 20 will transfer to VCU this academic year. Bratton and other attendees said the program allowed them to connect with other students and engage with faculty members at their future campus. According to Bratton, the weekly events help participants think critically, engage with faculty, and learn more about topics outside of their class.

The Portfolio Showcase is a highlight of the Pathways program. Portfolios are personal websites that include student backgrounds, accomplishments, and resumes. Transfer students bring rich and varied life experiences to campuses across the country. The Pathways Program Cohort reflects this reality serving a broad spectrum of students, from first-time freshmen to mature returning students, working students full-time, and formerly incarcerated students. , and more.

Bratton appreciated receiving feedback from reviewers and mentors on how to present the website to different audiences. Creating this digital portfolio helps students translate their life experiences and focus on what they want to study, they added.

“It was a really good way to reflect on yourself, your academic goals, your academic history, and your professional goals,” said Bratton.

Brianna Gray, e-portfolio reviewer and head of professional learning at ACS International Schools, explained that digital portfolios can channel student creativity into something marketable while showing employer growth and resilience. .

“I can always teach you how to use the newer version of Excel or Photoshop,” Gray said in an interview. “I cannot teach you to persevere.”

Gray said the showcase allowed students to brag about the “soft” skills taught in the Pathways program – and these are in fact crucial life skills, such as researching, communicating with people, and achieving multiple public.

Why focus on digital wallets? Micol Hutchison, director of the Pathways program, explains that these portfolios help students identify skills, passions, and goals during the early years of college. During the Pathways program, students continue to document these areas in their electronic portfolios. Hutchison adds that “our students transfer to university with greater knowledge of their options and achievements, and increased confidence.”

University faculty, staff and administrators who attended the showcase agreed. Students “identify and develop their cultural capital,” said showcase critic Scott Oates, VCU’s director of academic integrity and assessment.

To learn more about the transfer programs described in this edition of the “Tackling Transfer” blog, check out the resources below:

  • Pathways to the Arts and Humanities
  • John Tyler Community College Mellon Program
  • Reynolds Community College Mellon Program
  • Mellon Research Fellows Projects

Serena Truong is a student at Virginia Commonwealth University specializing in digital journalism with a minor in political science. She hopes to continue writing, whether it’s in the news, digital marketing, or her own novel. His work mainly focuses on diversity in the media. She works as a communications assistant with the Pathways program, showcasing the achievements of transfer students and promoting transfer-oriented programs. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books, saving money and drinking tea.

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