Community College Research Initiatives

July 22, 2020

CCRI awarded UW’s Resilience Lab seed grant

CCRI awarded UW’s Resilience Lab seed grant to support transfer students in 2020-2021

Our team is honored to be a recipient of one of the University of Washington’s Resilience Lab seed grants. Our applied research project will lift up the incoming transfer student experience to discover ways to support the growth of their resilience and transfer capital. 

Transfer students, now more than ever, need our support as we prepare and look towards the start of a new academic year grappling with the impacts of COVID-19. Our project proposes to identify and support community college transfer students through their transition process to UW this fall 2020 and through the first year. CCRI’s existing research has lessons to share about what transfer capital looks like, in particular for students of color, first-generation and low-income students. Transfer capital builds on notions of social and cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1986) in that students need the knowledge and skills to perform as well as the networks, relationships, and resources to thrive. Higher education has tended to place the burden on transfer students to navigate the system. They were expected to possess sufficiently deep knowledge of higher education to transfer credits and manage day-to-day processes, often without considering their diverse backgrounds and experiences. 

The literature on community college and transfer shows that students transferring from community college to a four-year institution are more likely to be successful and persist into their second year if they have a high competency for resiliency, meaning their ability to develop knowledge and skills to help adapt to change and adversity. Higher education institutions can help build resilience in students by improving the transfer capital elements needed for a successful transition to and completion of a four-year program. These elements include counseling, financial awareness, mentoring, study habits, coping skills, and other skills to enhance their well-being. To anchor these concepts in the project, a framework will be used to understand how the institution is providing resilience or transfer capital support to transfer students during this health crisis. We will use the Northeast Resiliency Consortium’s Resilience Competency Model that highlights five competencies for high resilience: critical thinking, adaptability, self-awareness, reflective learning, and collaboration.

The COVID-19 pandemic adds, as yet, unknown layers of adversity that will test the resilience of incoming transfer students to UW. This is particularly true for students from vulnerable populations such as people of color and low-income families. Intrusive research to discover what transfer capital these groups need to successfully transfer and persist is crucial for more equitable outcomes. The overall goal of this project is to document transfer students’ resilience competencies, and ascertain how higher education programs can help raise their transfer capital with compassion for their health and well-being. Uncovering this information to better support transfer students who may be at risk of dropping out is important. Sharing this information to enable faculty and advisors to communicate with compassion while giving avenues to help them create community in this crisis is extremely important.

CCRI intends to support incoming community college transfer students as they transition to the UW community during COVID-19 for the AY 2020-2021 through qualitative research methods. The qualitative data gathered will assist in identifying the students’ most pressing needs and how they can be supported in the transfer process. Examining their resilience competencies relative to their navigating the transfer process is critical in supporting transfer student success during the COVID-19 health crisis. 

CCRI will conduct this inquiry to disseminate what we learn to the UW and its network of community and technical colleges in the state. Doing so will assist UW and these networks in their own processes for assisting students requiring aid in the transfer process.