Oakton Community College
“We have all been on a journey through COVID, and what a long, strange trip it’s been,” said Julian Parrott, Ed.D, as he reminisced about this past and present season of COVID-19 and engaging with students. Dr. Parrott has led a wonderful opening keynote pertaining to his own collegiate journey, days in advising, and tips that can and should be gleaned from Homer’s Iliad and The Odyssey.
Since 2017 I’ve been a part of the IACAC Transfer Advisory Committee. I can recall prior Transfer Summit sessions ranging from transfer data metrics, strategies in communicating with students, “Goodbye, Transfer Fairs” (yours truly), and collaborative institutional partnerships. It was comforting and constructively challenging to attend sessions that covered familiar themes like student engagement, encouraging early and intentional transfer planning of students. Perhaps what sets this Transfer Summit apart for me is that “we’re all on this journey together,” (Julian Parrott, Ed.D.). This message takes on a different tone over recent history and experience. Through the lens of COVID-19 and the longevity of this turbulent past year, I miss my colleagues at fellow 2-year institutions, 4-year institutions, and high schools. A nostalgia sets in when attending a virtual conference, juxtaposed with the memories of camaraderie during an in-person event. It is, however, comforting to engage with colleagues around this shared pain point and to engage in conference sessions where these familiar topics are suddenly fine-tuned and inspected under the scope of a global pandemic. “We’re all on this journey together.”
Dr. Parrott began his keynote by highlighting some of what makes Illinois stand out as a state that does “transfer” incredibly well. From being “number one in transfer student degree completion” and the “superb Illinois Articulation Initiative,” this is evident, but I believe social and engaging events like the Transfer Summit complement these finer points. The rewarding nature of participating in a student’s story requires a personal commitment that is not easy but, instead, rather challenging. Student mental health and matters of equity are at the forefront of a great many higher education topics currently under discussion. These are not unfamiliar topics, as evidenced by similar sessions in prior Transfer Summits (and other conferences) but topics like Melanny Buitron’s (TheDream.Us) “Supporting Undocumented Students in Accessing and Succeeding in College” need to have a place at any higher education conference and it is rather affirming to find professionals that are committed to measures and practices in equity. As newcomer, Tim McDonald of Oakton Community College, mentions, “Melanny did a great job of allowing us to see how undocumented students face challenges other students don’t and why they may neglect help that is offered because they are worried about their citizenship status and getting their own families in trouble.” “Your presence, your interest, your caring will be an important safe harbor for your students” (Julian Parrott, Ed.D.).
I’m deeply appreciated to have attended this year’s Transfer Summit and anticipate many more worthwhile and engaging Transfer Summits in future years, especially given the incredible higher education professionals that exist in Illinois. Shoutout to Julian Parrot, Ed.D. of the University of Illinois System, Melanny Buitron of TheDream.US, the UIUC Transfer Team, Bridget Drury and Amira Shotwell of Chicago Scholars, Aseret Loveland and Matthew Klein of Illinois Valley Community College, Eric Lichtenberger of the IBHE, Nick DeFalco of North Central College, Samantha Meranda of Illinois State University, Ashley Jarrell of College of DuPage, and Jessica Specht of Governors State University. These conferences are only as good as the planning team (here’s looking at you, IACAC Transfer Advisory Committee), presenters, and presentation topics. This year’s Transfer Summit was no exception and it delivered without disappointment. I am proud to work in a state that takes pride in transfer student success and sincerely hope to see you at one of these conferences in the future.