Creating the Hierarchy of Needs for Transfer Students [In Progress]

My position is currently involved with a specific population of students: Transfer, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) students. I also work to help all transfer students at UMBC transition successfully in their academics. Before starting this position, I had not worked directly with the transfer student population. So I have spent quite a bit of time researching this group of students that start their academic career at one institution and transfer their credits to one or more different institutions to obtain a degree.

I specifically wanted to analyze the transition a student undergoes when moving to the receiving institution to find more ways we could support our transfer students. This was magnified when I was invited to help reimagine the transfer orientation at our institution. We were trying to analyze the transfer student transition to UMBC and find the most basic needs. That is how we would identify the “mandatory” sessions and the sessions we offered in conference style.

Now, knowing what we know about transfer students and transition theory, transfer students are not easily identified by stereotypes. They are a heterogeneous group that identifies so differently in their needs that it is difficult to give them a characteristic to describe their transition or disposition when entering a new school.

From the conversation in trying to reimagine transfer orientation, I was driven to look for research on Transfer Student needs to help inform our strategic planning. I searched high and low for a “Transfer Student Hierarchy of Needs,” but to no avail. So I set out to create my own.

Here is the process I am using:

  1. Dive into Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs again
  2. Designate higher education offices and students development jargon to mimic the Needs descriptions in Maslow’s Hierarchy model, while keeping my experiences with and research on transfer students in the forefront of my decision making
  3. Place services, resources, and ideas of success within a triangle similar to maslow’s hierarchy
  4. Meet with different groups for feedback (Transfer Orientation group, supervisors, etc…)
  5. Revise/add to the triangle and started to think of the hierarchy as a multidimensional model for representing the diversity of transition needs of transfer students

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I had a couple of questions along the way that I have not completely been able to address so far. One of them being, “wouldn’t this be the same for traditional freshmen too?” Another asking, “How are you going to show the chutes and ladders affect related to the constant transition in multiple areas of a student who is transferring from institution to institution?” All great questions that would help the model develop to be a little more solid.

I am still working on how to create a visual representation that will correctly display the ideas of the ever-changing transition for any student to move up, down, and through. Let me know if you have questions, comments or suggestions!


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