By Serena Truong/VCU Student Journalist
Twenty-four graduates from John Tyler (soon to be Brightpoint) and Reynolds Community Colleges transferred to Virginia Commonwealth University for the 2021-22 academic year, with help from more than a year of focused coaching, events and workshops.
They’re participants in the Pathways Program, which provides a bridge for humanities and arts students for successful transfer to VCU’s academic and cultural environment. The program is funded through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Transfer can be challenging:
Nationwide, about 80 percent of community college students start off intending to earn a bachelor’s degree, but the path is not easy. Only 15 percent of students who enroll at a community college manage to earn a bachelor’s degree six years later, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
Money, the demands of adult life, and often complex transfer requirements are major roadblocks to success.
The Pathways experience:
“Being in the Pathways program made the whole application process a lot easier for me,” said Alana Rising (on left) accepted from Tyler/Brightpoint into VCU’s Cinema program. The VCUarts program is highly competitive and one of the top public art programs in the nation.
Rising said the Pathways Program boosted her skills and confidence and honed her screenwriting abilities by preparing practice portfolios to be shared with other program participants.
Other students in the Pathways program took mentorship roles along with their acceptance to VCU.
Carlton Nivens (right), a Reynolds transfer student, trained over the past summer as a peer mentor for the program.
“I just thought it would be nice if I could get my foot in the door, and hold that same door open, then everyone else can do this too,” Nivens said.
Nivens said the peer mentoring training he received was engaging, and said he was glad to be able to connect with other mentors and students over their similar experiences.
Nivens is majoring in philosophy of science with a concentration in computer science, and says he is currently taking as many in-person classes as possible to get the full college experience.
The Pathways Program began in fall 2019 with an initial cohort of 35 students. Doubling in size each year, the program now has 114 active students at Tyler/Brightpoint and Reynolds, along with 27 students who completed the program at the community colleges and are now at VCU. An additional 12 students fulfilled all requirements of the program, which includes completion of the associate degree, and transferred to other four-year schools.
Director Micol Hutchison credits the retention and university transfer rates, both of which are above 80%, to the strong sense of community and to the staff’s ability to help students identify their interests and strengths and gain clarity and confidence in their abilities and goals. “Our students come from so many different places, with such a diversity of experiences and backgrounds. We have traditionally high-achieving students alongside those who are just starting to figure out what they want to do, confident students connecting with those who are just figuring out the talents, skills and interests they bring.”
Learn more about the Pathways Program here.