Task force to increase campus involvement for nontraditional and transfer students

Formed in mid-September by Vice President of Internal Affairs Fernando Echeverria, a transfer and nontraditional student task force seeks to provide greater representation for student parents, veterans, disabled students, transfer students, commuters, students with a break in their education and other underrepresented groups on campus. Nontraditional students are generally defined by UCR Admissions as those who are homeschooled or have a high school education from a “blend of sources,” such as from a community college.

The idea for the task force was born after the 2014 UC Student Association conference, where a caucus of transfer students came together to discuss issues that transfers face in the UC system. After attending the conference, Echeverria felt that transfer students and nontraditional students had limited space when it came to bringing up concerns on campus and wanted to help. “Why not give them a space and a voice?” he said.

Composed primarily of undergraduates, the task force currently has about 10 members, all of whom identify as nontraditional students. The task force plans to organize support groups and informational workshops about the resources UCR has to offer. One of the first events included a workshop on Monday to encourage transfer students to get involved with the University Honors Program and ASUCR.

UCR currently offers a number of resources for nontraditional students, such as the Transfer Outreach Program (which helps new transfer students acclimate to the UCR campus); wheelchair, crutch and cane loans for students with disabilities; peer mentors and a support team for veterans; and R’Kids, a support network for student parents, but the task force believes that these resources are not sufficient.

Cinthya Gonzalez, an active member in R’Kids and the Transfer Outreach Program, played an integral part in developing the task force. She joined the taskforce because she feels it gives transfer students a voice that has been minimal to nonexistent at UCR, citing that transfer students often face difficulties accessing campus resources and academic programs. Gonzalez also hopes to increase child care accessibility for student parents, a group she believes has been invisible.

Over 1,300 transfer students gained admission to UCR this year. A fourth-year transfer student, Child Development Center employee and task force member Francisco Ilabaca says a specific goal is to turn the task force into an official ASUCR committee with its own bylaws and structure.

Students are hopeful for what the task force will bring. Mary Shanahan, a single mother of two children and a transfer student, is concerned with the health of student parents, as balancing school work, caring for children and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is often an unrealistic goal.

“I have to work harder (and faster) to complete my readings and papers. There are times during the quarter when I exist on four hours of sleep daily,” she says. “Yet my health is often the least of my concerns.” She wishes to see UCR promote physical and mental checkups for student parents.

Shanahan also commented on information that transfer students might miss out on, and regrets that she was ignorant of the possibility of obtaining a minor, specifically in classical studies. “I will only be one class short … I found out too late, but perhaps others will not,” Shanahan said.

As one of more than 14,000 commuters on campus, fourth-year student Chelsea Blakeley feels that commuter programs aren’t very “well-advertised” after the first week and recommended that commuter programs make a greater effort to reach out to commuters about upcoming events and opportunities.

Echeverria expressed his optimism for the future of the task force. “Our only hope is to bring stability to a community who has historically been marginalized on our campuses,” he says. “At the end of the day we are here for the same objective of attaining a degree, and absolutely no one’s failure should be due to a lack of resources provided to them.”

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