New Knowledge Center Launches with Memo on How to Support Transfer Students of Color in the CSU

By CSU Student Success Network Staff

September 2021

The CSU Student Success Network launched its new Knowledge Center with the release of a new memo that identifies steps that CSU campuses can take to improve persistence and completion for Students of Color who transfer into the CSU. The memo, called “Supporting the Success of Transfer Students of Color by Strengthening your Transfer-Receptive Campus Climate,” is directed to faculty, staff, and administrators in the CSU and is based on findings from a review of research literature in postsecondary education. 

The Knowledge Center is an online resource that provides curated, synthesized, and succinct information to support CSU faculty, staff, and administrators in adopting equity-minded and student-centered approaches on their campus. The new webpage, which launched in full on September 30, offers quick access to practice-based memos drawn from research; tips and strategies shared by CSU middle leaders and experts; research reports, summaries, and discussion guides; and other information, including blogs, to support equitable opportunities and outcomes for students in the CSU. The Network defines middle leaders as faculty, staff, and administrators in the CSU who have leadership roles on campus regardless of whether their position title acknowledges these roles. 

“We get that middle leaders in the CSU are incredibly busy and committed to student success,” said Madeleine Kerrick, Ph.D., research director of the Network and responsible for the Knowledge Center. “They don’t have time to do a comprehensive research review every time they have a question about how best to support students. And a lot of information out there about higher education may not be relevant to the CSU. We designed the Knowledge Center to provide quick and easy access to the evidence that’s available on key issues related to equitable student success, with an eye toward translating research into practice in the CSU.” 

“We’re just getting started,” Kerrick added, “but already we have research memos, case studies about CSU practices, interviews with topical experts, and original research on student success in the CSU system. It’s very exciting.”

“There’s no other resource like this for the CSU, so far as I know,” said Bianca Romina Mothé, Ph.D., director of the Network and professor of biological sciences at Cal State San Marcos. “There’s no dashboard or collection for faculty, staff, and administrators that offers one place to read about equity-related memos, blogs, and action-oriented research in the CSU. I can’t wait to see how this expands as a resource by and for middle leaders.” 

Memo on Supporting Transfer Students of Color

The Knowledge Center’s newest memo, written by Breaunna Alexander, M.P.P., research associate at the Education Insights Center (EdInsights) at Sacramento State, suggests that CSU campuses can take two crucial steps to improve persistence and completion for Students of Color who transfer from community colleges: (1) explicitly identify transfer Students of Color as an institutional priority, and (2) validate the sense of belonging for transfer Students of Color on campus. For each of these steps, the memo identifies a range of options for CSU faculty, staff, and administrators to consider, based on the research findings.

Alexander said that what’s important about this memo–and others like it on the Knowledge Center–is that it shares research-based information that CSU campuses can consider and adapt right now, this year, to improve student success for transfer Students of Color. “What makes this work exciting is that we are producing usable memos that support middle leaders wherever they sit,” she said. “These literature reviews provide concise, action-oriented strategies.” 

The memo also identifies several key challenges that transfer Students of Color face at four-year campuses: 

  • unclear and inconsistent articulation of credit hours across institutions; 
  • campus climates and engagement services that prioritize first-year students over other student groups; 
  • remarks by instructors, counselors, and other key individuals that question and serve to undermine the academic abilities of these students; and 
  • lack of understanding among instructors, counselors, and other key individuals about these students’ intersecting identities, for example, as parents, commuters, or justice-involved students.

Other memos on the Knowledge Center offer research reviews about supporting undocumented students in the CSU and approaches to online instruction that are engaging for students. Several of the most popular items on the webpage–in terms of traction online from CSU faculty and staff–feature interviews with middle leaders and experts in the CSU about addressing racism in the university. Blogs featured on the site include: 

  • A case study of how middle leaders at San Diego State made headway in supporting transfer students on campus, including innovative programming, a new centralized office, and improved graduation rates.
  • A profile of how middle leaders from Chico State worked to include equity language in the campus’s new strategic and master plans.

Conference Session to Focus on Knowledge Center Research

Research findings from the new Knowledge Center will be featured during a session at the second annual CSU Student Success Network Conference, to be held virtually on Oct. 13 and 14. The session will feature Alexander and fellow research associate at EdInsights, Jaquelyn Caro-Sena, M.A., author of “Supporting Undocumented Students in the CSU.” The session will be held on Oct. 13 and will explore: How have colleges and universities supported justice-impacted students? What can they do to better support undocumented students? What are the implications for the CSU? What are the implications for Network research moving forward?

According to Caro-Sena, “One of the challenges of academic research, in my opinion, is that it does not always reach the people who can benefit from it most. That’s why I am excited about the Knowledge Center and this conference session, because we’re connecting with faculty and staff in the CSU about existing research that can impact their practice.” 

“These research reviews feed my own passion for learning, too,” Caro-Sena continued. “I’m building my knowledge and sharing it with others about student populations and marginalized groups that are crucial to talk about and serve well in the CSU system.” 

The Student Success Conference, called “The Time is Now: Forging New Visions for Equity in the CSU,” will bring together faculty, staff, and administrators from across the university to build momentum and share strategies for achieving equity on all 23 campuses. You can register for this free event here, by September 29.

The CSU Network creates spaces for CSU faculty, staff, and administrators to share ideas and take the lead in supporting equitable opportunities and outcomes for students. The Network is facilitated by EdInsights at Sacramento State, a research and policy center devoted to student success and the public benefits of education.