When Morgan Carver Richards starts classes this week, she won’t need the typical orientation advice on how to reach out to her professor or ways to create a balance between studying and fun.
Richards’ biggest study aid is her kids’ bedtime.
“I work during the day,” she said. “So I do a lot of studying at night when they go to bed.”
Richards, a mother of three who lives in the North Valley, is a transfer student to Arizona State University and will begin pursuing her degree in anthropology through ASU Online. She has been taking classes through the Global Freshman Academy, ASU’s partnership with edX in which students can take freshmen-level classes for free online and pay for credit when they pass.
Richards is part of a growing transfer population to ASU Online, which increased more than 5 percent this fall over last, with more than 4,400 students. The overall transfer population to the university is up 1.5 percent this fall compared with last year, according to the latest numbers.
With a total of more than 15,000 transfer students enrolling in the 2015-2016 school year, ASU has spent the past few years developing ideas to smooth the transition for this group.
One is Transfer Connections, a special orientation program, held at the Tempe and Polytechnic campuses that’s now in its third year. Sarah Bennett created the program while she was pursuing her doctorate in education leadership in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.
“I interviewed transfer students, who said that they had great advising, but they missed out on finding out about services that are available and a ‘welcome to ASU,’” said Bennett, who is now associate director for university academic success programs.
Transfer Connections is run like a conference, with a series of workshops, and is designed to engage the students with one another. The most popular session was a panel of transfer students who answered questions from the crowd.
“They see that they’re not alone in the experience,” she said of the students, who have ranged in age from 18 to 61.
Transfers students also have an interactive online orientation linked to their My ASU portal, according to Katherine Yeager, senior director of community college relations at ASU.
ASU’s outreach begins before the students even reach campus. The Transfer Ambassador program sends students to local community colleges to encourage them to think about pursuing a bachelor’s degree. That program, now in its second year, also supports events for transfer students at ASU’s locations.
Mario Marquez, a junior who’s majoring in public policy and public service, transferred last spring and decided to become an ambassador so he can share his story.
When he was a freshman in high school, Marquez’s parents were deported to Mexico. Born in Arizona, he went with them for a few months but returned to Phoenix, where he lived with relatives, friends and co-workers and changed high schools three times.
“I matured at a young age,” said Marquez, who realized as a sophomore in high school that he needed to be laser-focused. By the time he graduated from Paradise Valley High School, he had earned 22 credits from Paradise Valley Community College — accomplished while working full time at a fast-food restaurant.
“I was working 40 hours a week, going to high school, going to community college and had no transportation. I had no cellphone. I had to rely on friends. But I knew I had to sacrifice my time to be where I am now,” he said.
Marquez continued at Paradise Valley Community College, taking classes and working on campus. He graduated with an associate’s degree. Even though he knew he wanted to transfer to ASU, Marquez wasn’t in the Maricopa to ASU Pathways Program, so some of the credits he took did not apply to his degree program at ASU.
ASU encourages transfer by allowing students at the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges to map out their courses for most majors, so they take only classes that go toward a degree. The Maricopa to ASU Pathways Program, or MAPP, can prevent students from wasting time and money on credits that don’t transfer. Unfortunately, only about a quarter of the community college transfers are in a MAPP, according to Yeager.
“As a transfer ambassador, our job is to promote the MAPP program, but I didn’t listen to that advice,” said Marquez, who now stresses its importance to community college students. “I like being in this position because I can impact the life of students by sharing my story.”
Marquez said that his story shows that transfer students, who usually have jobs, can take a different route to ASU, but “they’re very focused on getting that degree.”
That’s also the case with Richards, who works as a writer and comedian and decided to start taking online classes through the Global Freshman Academy while her family was living in Dubai for her husband’s job.
“I busted my butt with the Global Freshman Academy because my intention was to pursue my degree further,” she said.
When the family moved to her husband’s hometown in January, she decided to complete her degree through ASU Online, and she also plans to take some face-to-face ASU classes. Richards’ husband and many of his relatives are ASU alumni.
“My adviser has been above-and-beyond helpful,” she said. “And I’m so excited.”
Top photo: Iris Richards (left), 7, takes a sip of coconut water as her sister Heidi, 9, and mother, Morgan Carver Richards, eat their dinner at their home in the North Valley. Richards and her family recently returned to the Valley after living abroad. Richards is transferring to ASU, taking 18 credits this semester through both Global Freshman Academy and ASU Online. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
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