Building Pathways for Success: Supporting Student Transfer from Two-Year Colleges to Four-Year Colleges and Universities


This session was designed to help participants with strategies and approaches for bridging the gap between two- and four-year ocean science programs. It explores the following topics:

  • Advising/support strategies;
  • Development of important student skills through curricular and co-curricular experiences;
  • 2YC-4YCU faculty interactions;
  • Cross-institutional collaborations including recruitment and student research projects, field trips, and bridge programs; and
  • Programs that support the transition and integration of students into the 4-year institution.

Session goals

The goals of the session are to:

  • Explore promising practices and share strategies for supporting transfer students in their pathways from their first geoscience course at a community college to graduation from a four-year college or university
  • Share and learn from others, increasing communication and collaboration of those interested in building pathways to success for transfer students
  • Develop individual or team action plans and get feedback from other participants

Workshop session structure

This session is based on a half-day workshop delivered at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting. The Workshop Slides (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 5.6MB Feb5 18) were developed by Jan Hodder and Norlene Emerson who facilitated the workshop. Almost all of the workshop content is discipline agnostic and the few parts that are specific to ocean science can be easily swapped out for other geoscience or STEM disciplines.

  1. Setting the Scene for Transfer - Discussion of Scenarios: Each table of participants is given a scenario to read and discuss. First they individually read and write notes about the scenario. Then each table discusses their scenario and generates a list of issues raised by the scenario. Finally there are short report-outs from each table about their scenario and the issues they saw in it.
  2. Transfer Journeys - Gallery Walk Activity: Participants are regrouped an introduced to a gallery walk activity to gather ideas about specific questions related to their transfer success. The groups spend 5-6 minutes at each poster writing their ideas on large poster paper, then switch to the next. If an idea has already been posted by a previous group, they can "boost" it by placing a sticker on the poster beside that idea. After each team has been to all four posters, they go back to the one where they started, spend a few minutes synthesizing the wisdom of the group and then provide a short 1-2 minute report out about the ideas that were generated. (Note: one of the questions in the original workshop session dealt specifically with ocean science pathways, but this could be changed to any geoscience or STEM pathway depending on the needs of the session.)
    Questions for Gallery Walk Posters
    • What skills do 2YC students need to have mastered by the time they transfer?
    • What are strategies we can use to help students successfully navigate the transition from 2YC to 4YCU?
    • What are strategies to help transfer students be successful at, and connect with, their 4YCU community?
    • What are some specific ways to support students interested in an ocean science pathway.
  3. Successful Programs and Assessment: This part of the session consisted of a brief presentation by an NSF program officer (Brandon Jones) about the NSF Geopaths Program followed by very short presentations from four faculty about different program-level efforts to strengthen transfer pathways that were funded by NSF.
  4. Small Group Discussions/ Work Sessions: Participants were given a choice of 6 different topics to discuss with others. Two half-hour discussion period allowed participants to discuss 2 of the 6 topics. Notes of discussions were kept by a scribe and hour was followed by report-outs of one strategy to come out of the discussion. (Note: Again, one of the groups was focused specifically on attracting students to ocean science. This could be changed to any geoscience or STEM discipline depending on the needs of the session.
    Discussion Group Topics
    • Provide academic experiences that prepare students well for transfer
    • Provide supportive advising with a focus on students' long-term goals
    • Building partnerships: connections and collaborations between 2YCs and 4YCUs to promote and support transfer
    • The role of undergraduate research in supporting transfer
    • Strategies for recruiting students into the ocean sciences
    • Supporting the transition: strategies for addressing academic, social, and financial issues
  5. Action Planning: Participants are given time to reflect on what they have learned and formulate an action plan for using their new knowledge to make changes in their home context. Participants spend 15 minutes individually working and then share their action plans in groups of three for discussion and feedback.


This session was designed as a half-day, stand-alone workshop.

1:00-1:15 Welcome and Introductions
1:15-1:35 Setting the Scene for Transfer
1:35-2:25 Transfer Journeys: Supporting Student Transfer at Critical Points From Recruitment to Transfer and Beyond
2:25-3:00 Successful Programs and Assessment: Program-level Efforts and 2YC-4YCU Partnerships including Examples from NSF-funded GeoPaths programs.

3:00-3:30 Session 1: Small Group Discussions/ Work Sessions on Strategies and Practices to Support Transfer
3:30-4:00 Session 2: Small Group Discussions/ Work Sessions on Strategies and Practices to Support Transfer
4:00-4:15 Report outs from session discussions

4:15-4:45 Planning Time and Sharing of Ideas in Small Groups
4:45-5:00 Reflections, Closing Remarks, and Workshop Evaluation

Additional Resources

SAGE 2YC Support Geoscience Transfer Students