5 keys to productive transfer partnerships

February 4, 2019
  • AACRAO Annual Meeting
  • Competencies
  • Leadership and Management
  • Meetings, Workshops, and Trainings
  • Reverse Transfer
  • Transfer and Articulation
tangled lines go into the left side of a yellow symbol of two hands shaking, then emerge on the right as straight arrows Transfer partnerships look great in writing. But what do they look like on the ground?

Sometimes the intention is there, the words are on the page, the press releases promise brighter futures for students -- but in practice, the learners’ needs aren’t being served. 

That’s because the institutions aren’t working together closely enough to ensure that what’s enshrined in the agreement is finding its way into the practices, processes, and routines of faculty, staff and administrators.

These five underpinnings can help transfer partnerships work.

1. Define success. Start with a clear, shared vision of what a successful transfer student looks like. It may sound obvious, but it’s often left out of partnership discussions.

2. Understand your students to identify appropriate partners. “To create and maintain a successful partnership you have to understand who your students are and where they are coming from/going,” said Lee Furbeck, Executive Director of Admissions, Central Michigan University. This step will help you identify appropriate transfer partner institutions, as well as observe how students are transferring (laterally, vertically, reverse, swirling, etc.).

“Once you understand how and where students are transferring, you can work to meet their needs,” Furbeck said. 

3. Make sure leadership is fully committed
. “Partnerships don’t work well if there isn’t a leadership vision,” Furbeck said. That doesn’t mean the momentum has to begin at the top -- a grassroots effort can instigate great change -- but rather that key leaders on campus have to be on board, willing to dedicate the time and resources necessary to make the partnership successful.

“It’s important to have engagement and commitment at all levels,” Furbeck added.

4. Partner in as many ways as possible
. Joint meetings, joint marketing, joint advising, articulation agreements, curriculum alignment, dual enrollment, and other collaboration efforts should be deployed as appropriate. The deeper the interconnection between institutions, the better students can be served.

5. Involve the right people
. Data will help you to understand what students are doing, but not necessarily why. Although leadership must be engaged and committed, front-line staff have substantial insight into the needs and motivations of transfer students. Be sure that those who communicate regularly with students have a seat at the table. Communication lines need to be open within institutions as well as between them.

Furbeck and co-presenter Chris Dorsten (Cuyahoga Community College) will further this discussion in their preconference workshop “Developing and Maintaining Meaningful Transfer Partnerships” ahead of the 2019 AACRAO Annual Meeting. Attendees will discuss how to identify and approach potential partners, who needs to be involved in developing the agreement, and what the next steps are to ensure success. They’ll also explore case studies of partnerships that worked well -- and those that didn’t -- for examples and models that can be modified and applied to any campus.


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