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Jennifer L. Brown, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Shannon K. Sakaue, Kapiʻolani Community College

Shannon Sakaue.jpgJennifer Brown.jpgTransfer programs are of increasing importance on college campuses, because transfer has become the norm for undergraduate students in the U.S. (Koch, Raymond, & Nutt, 2014). As student mobility and transfer increases, it is imperative that advisors work to effectively serve this student population through the challenging transition between two institutions. Although more than 80 percent of community college students report that they intend to earn a bachelor’s degree, only 17% of these students do so within six years of transferring (Jenkins & Fink, 2015). Collaboration between both the sending and receiving institutions can transform the transfer process and improve the success of the shared students. Connecting a transfer-sending culture on the community college campus to a transfer-receptive culture on the university campus can ease the transfer process through active efforts to improve the transfer between partner institutions.  

According to Herrera and Jain (2013), a transfer-sending culture actively normalizes the transfer function at the community college, while a transfer-receptive culture alters the conception of the transfer function at the four-year institution to develop a shared responsibility for the success of transfer students.  This article will discuss the transfer-focused partnership between Kapiʻolani Community College and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM).  This collaboration has been enriched by the focus on our shared responsibility for transfer students and the development of a transfer-sending culture at Kapi‘olani CC and a transfer-receptive culture at UHM.   

Institutional Partners

As the leading transfer community college in the University of Hawai‘i System, Kapi‘olani CC has developed a strong partnership with UHM over the years to best support the nearly 80% of all intended students who plan to transfer to UHM.  Kapi‘olani CC and UHM are not only close in partnership, but also in physical space, as the institutions are only three miles apart.  Students who attend Kapi‘olani CC with the goal of transferring to UHM are able to take advantage of a wide breadth of courses in the arts and sciences division that are articulated to meet general education and pre-requisite requirements for baccalaureate degrees at UHM.  The small class sizes of a maximum of 35 students allow for transfer students to take several lower-division courses in a small classroom environment, allowing for a strong ratio of instructor to student, in addition to having the feeling of a small college environment while preparing to transfer into a larger university.

The goal of intended transfer students at Kapi‘olani CC is to meet the majority (if not all) of the lower-division requirements of the baccalaureate programs at UHM.  Due to the wide breadth and depth of arts and sciences courses, students are often able to complete general education and pre-requisite requirements while simultaneously earning the required 60-credits to graduate with an associate degree in Hawaiian studies, liberal arts, or natural science.  Although Kapi‘olani CC offers much to the incoming transfer student, navigating the requirements of a baccalaureate degree can be intimidating and overwhelming.  Also, students sometimes assume that if they follow the curriculum options in liberal arts, they are taking the courses they need for transfer.  While this can be true, it is not the case for all baccalaureate programs, and it is imperative that students are aware of how to plan their coursework to minimize the number of classes they take and maximize their time at Kapi‘olani CC.

The University of Hawai‘i at Manoa is a land-, sea-, and space-grant public research university with a student enrollment of approximately 17,500.  Each year, about half of the incoming students have transferred from another institution (Lassner, 2017).  As such, transfer student needs are at the forefront of advising and retention efforts.  In 2014, the Mānoa Transfer Coordination Center (MTCC) was founded to implement and manage the Kaʻieʻie Degree Pathway Program on multiple community college partner campuses and to advocate for and assist transfer students at UHM.  Kaʻieʻie was developed initially as a partnership between Kapiʻolani CC and UHM in 2008 as a way to address transfer between the two campuses.  This program has formalized the transfer partnership between the two campuses and has allowed for development of a variety of transfer-sending and transfer-receptive practices on both campuses.

Pathway Partnership

The Ka‘ie‘ie Program Transfer Specialist has an office within the Maida Kamber Center (MKC), and spends approximately 60% of her time at Kapi‘olani CC.  This arrangement between the two colleges has been instrumental in serving as an in-house resource that has direct contacts within the UHM institution.  As a result, MKC counselors receive timely updates about UHM baccalaureate programs, which results in providing students more accurate information and ultimately leads to providing better academic advising to students interested in transfer.  The physical presence of a university advisor on the community college campus provides greater access to students and signals the university’s commitment to transfer.

This structure is beneficial for both institutions as Kapi‘olani CC can better equip students to transfer and UHM receives students who are more prepared for their baccalaureate programs.  A transfer sending culture is only as strong as the partnership between both the sending and receiving parties.  It creates a smoother transition for students and more effective communication for the professionals who work to support these students.  Providing a physical space for the university transfer specialist within the transfer center at Kapiʻolani CC sends a strong message of support for transfer.  It also allows for closer collaboration and the development of transfer focused efforts on the part of faculty and staff at the community college.

Partnership Strategies

To normalize transfer on the Kapiʻolani CC campus, an MKC counselor and the transfer specialist developed a joint liberal arts and transfer workshop for New Student Orientation (NSO).  This workshop is co-presented by the Ka‘ie‘ie transfer specialist and a Maida Kamber Center counselor and highlights the importance of academic planning by encouraging students to begin thinking about transfer from the beginning of their higher education experience. The workshop also introduces new Kapi‘olani CC students to the structure of their associate degree program, the necessary components of transfer to a four year institution (with UHM as the primary focus), and the resources available to students—inviting them to engage on campus early and often.

One strategy that has successfully increased communication between MKC and the baccalaureate programs at UHM is regular workshops offered by the Manoa Transfer Coordination Center.  The workshops are on the Mānoa campus and are incredibly valuable, as academic advisors are able to visit with department contacts, learn helpful information about the various baccalaureate options departments offer, and better understand the goals of the programs, which in turn allows for advisors to assist students with finding a program that is a good fit.  These workshops help bring the majors to life by providing a well-rounded experience for academic advisors.  Further, these workshops highlight the transfer student population to the UHM school and college presenters and increases the focus on transfer needs at the university.

Transfer partnerships require an investment of personnel, resources, and time, but can greatly improve the experience of students who transfer between campuses.  Beyond improving articulation agreements, the relationships built between faculty at both institutions greatly increases communication and collaboration.  The regular physical presence of a university advisor on the community college campus both increases joint efforts with faculty members and signals to students that the university values their needs.  “Transfer works most effectively in those instances in which four-year institutions are fully engaged partners with community colleges” (Handel, 2013, p. 11).  This partnership has deepened over time due to the commitment and interest in improving the transfer function between the two campuses at both institutions.  Additional support and effort is required to address the needs of an evolving student body that will include increasing numbers of transfer students. 

Jennifer L. Brown
Transfer Specialist
Mānoa Transfer Coordination Center
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
[email protected]                                                                             

Shannon K. Sakaue
Maida Kamber Center
Kapiʻolani Community College
[email protected]


Handel, S. J. (2013). Recurring trends and persistent themes: A brief history of transfer: A report for the initiative on transfer policy and practice. New York, NY: College Board Advocacy & Policy Center. Retrieved from http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/advocacy/policycenter/recurring-trendS-persistent-themes-history-transfer-brief.pdf

Herrera, A., & Jain, D. (2013). Building a transfer‐receptive culture at four‐year institutions. New Directions for Higher Education, 2013(162), 51–59.

Jenkins, D., & Fink, J. (2015). What we know about transfer. New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center.

Koch, A. K., Raymond, D., & Nutt, C. (September 9, 2014). Advising and the completion agenda: Key voices in higher education [webinar]. NACADA Advisor Connect Web Events. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Events-Programs/Events/Web-Events.aspx

Lassner, D. (September, 2017). Welcome address given at the Academic Advising and Transfer Network Annual Conference, Honolulu, HI. 

Cite this article using APA style as: Brown, J.L., & Sakaue, S. (2018, September). Partnering to build the transfer pathway from the community college to the university. Academic Advising Today, 41(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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