Eye on the Triangle

Speaking with transfer student JT Duley about his first impression of NC State. In addition, also speaking with Director Micheal Coombes about the opportunities available to NC State transfer students.

Show Notes

For this episode, JT Duley- a transfer student from Maryland, sits down with Jonathon Eigenmann to discuss his experiences as a recent transfer student to NC State University and his thoughts on what NC State has to offer. He also sits down with Director Michael Coombes of the New Student Programs to discuss the incoming transfer students, giving them advice and his views as well as making them more aware of whats available to them at NC State currently

What is Eye on the Triangle?

Eye on the Triangle is WKNC 88.1 FM HD-1/HD-2’s weekly public affairs programming with news, interviews, opinion, weather, sports, arts, music, events and issues that matter to NC State, Raleigh and the Triangle.

Provided by Otter.ai

Jonathan Eigenmann 0:00
Transferring to a new school isn't easy, as many challenges and new experiences can barrage you all at once. Each level of education, whether it comes from elementary school, or all the way to go into a bigger school, that transition as well as the distance traveled to get there could be a journey in itself. Thankfully, there are many organizations and teachers that are helpful to those students. JT Dooley is one of those students who is a sophomore transferring from a small school in Maryland going to achieve his goal of a career through NC State majoring in political science. He's joining me today to talk about his experiences as a recent transfer student to NC State University and his thoughts on what NC State has to offer. JT Dooley, welcome to the Eye on the Triangle.

Jonathan Eigenmann 0:36
Thank you. All right, my first question for you is I would like you to tell the listeners more about where you came from and why you decided NC State was the right college to transfer to

JT Duley 0:46
Alright, so I came from a small school called McDaniel College. It's in Western Maryland. And I came to NC State because I really wanted to experience a bigger school, a bigger community, and just get to meet more more people from all different walks of life.

Jonathan Eigenmann 1:08
Do you feel like a bigger school is better than the smaller school in that way? Because it gives you more opportunity to meet people? Or do you just or do you just wanted? Or did you just want more people overall?

JT Duley 1:17
Yeah, definitely gives you more opportunities to meet people, because there's so many different clubs and organizations and so many different things that you can join and so many people to meet.

Jonathan Eigenmann 1:29
Have you joined any clubs yet?

JT Duley 1:32
Yes, I'm on the club lacrosse team. And I'm also in the french club.

Jonathan Eigenmann 1:36
Awesome. Awesome. So my second question for you is, what are your impressions from your first few weeks here at NC State? Obviously, since it's been a couple weeks since we started and we've gotten our class setup. So what are your impressions so far?

JT Duley 1:48
the school is really nice, everyone is really friendly, and always looking to help you out and the atmospheres really. It's just like, like college like I like the, for lack of better terms, just college atmosphere. everyone just wants to learn and just get to the next step.

Jonathan Eigenmann 2:09
What are some of the struggles you face at NC State? Because you are because you are a transfer student? I guess in other words, what I want to ask is like, what are some struggles that you're going through? Because because you are a transfer student at the moment

JT Duley 2:23
definitely getting used to campus. Well I mean, a lot of people are getting used to campus like, especially sophomores who weren't on campus last year. But I think meeting uh, meeting new friends, too, because a lot of the kids from North Carolina, all went to like the same high school together knew each other from high school, so. So it's kind of hard to meet people that you know, because I live so far away.

Jonathan Eigenmann 2:51
Have you had any luck? meeting people and making friends? Has that all been good for you?

JT Duley 2:56
Yeah, so far do like different clubs and just through classes too.

Jonathan Eigenmann 3:03
What type of resources do you think NC State needs to have for students in order to improve their experience here?

JT Duley 3:11
I think for transfer students maybe like a group chat or something that can connect us better, because a lot of us are just not really. I guess we're kind of lost, just like everyone else. But I guess we all have something in common. So it'd be a nice way to meet new people or meet similar people.

Jonathan Eigenmann 3:34
So in your opinion, you think a, like a group me specifically for transfer students would be a solution you could go towards?

JT Duley 3:42
Yeah, or like a club or something like that?

Jonathan Eigenmann 3:45
Do you believe there are enough resources that you receive from the organization such as the new student organization, and that does work with transfer students here at state to help you with your transition here?

JT Duley 3:56
Oh, yes, I have received a lot of emails from the new student organization program. But I just received so many that I don't really look at them a lot of the time. So.

Jonathan Eigenmann 4:10
what advice would you give to someone who is a current transfer student or someone who's thinking about transferring to NC State right now?

JT Duley 4:17
If someone's thinking of transferring, to NC state, I would definitely go ahead and do it. It's well worth it. And the transition has been very easy for me. And like, there's so many opportunities for you here.

Jonathan Eigenmann 4:31
For you personally. In regards to this question, what was someone that gave you advice that come here? Or let's say they give you advice to transfer to NC State or what convinced you to come here?

JT Duley 4:44
Oh, my brother did go here. So I kind of was very familiar with the school and knew of its good reputation. So it was kind of an easy choice when I got accepted.

Jonathan Eigenmann 4:56
Did Did he tell you his biggest memory his fondest memory.

JT Duley 5:01
No, he hasn't but, I mean, I can ask him, he'll probably tell me.

Jonathan Eigenmann 5:05
He might tell you later on.

JT Duley 5:06

Jonathan Eigenmann 5:07
Alright, so my last question is, is there anything else you would like to say to any of the listeners out there who may be who may be transfer students who may be, you know, thinking about transferring to NC State that maybe you would like to say to them right now.

JT Duley 5:23
Um, it seems hard at first just he's got to wait it out, though. He'll get easier and you'll, you'll find your pack.

Jonathan Eigenmann 5:32
My next guest on this episode is director of New Student Programs, Michael Coombes. He's currently in charge of the new studio programs after being a part of NC State for nearly 13 years. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in history and German from Miami University, and a Master's of education at University of South Carolina Columbia. He has come on the show today to give advice to transfer students and to make them more aware of the resources available to them at NC State. Director Coombes, welcome to the Eye on the Triangle.

Michael Coombes 5:58
Thank you very much appreciate the opportunity to be here.

Jonathan Eigenmann 6:02
Thank you. Um, the first question I have for you is I would, I would like you to tell our listeners a little bit about what your role here is NC State is.

Michael Coombes 6:10
Yeah. So currently, I serve, as you said, Director of new student programs. And so our office is responsible for assisting new undergraduate first year and transfer students in their transition to the university. So some of our programs are required, like new student and family orientation. And some programs are optional, like our summer Start Program. Obviously, Wolfpack Welcome Week is optional for students. But those types of programs, we are really striving to try to help students create a foundation for success not only in their first year, but then obviously, something that can carry them beyond their first year at NC State.

Jonathan Eigenmann 6:48
Would you I know, since of COVID, would you consider like second year sophomores kind of part of that too, because they obviously didn't have that chance to be on campus?

Michael Coombes 6:57
I definitely think so. I think there's been a push by the university to recognize the experience that sophomores had last year and try to make sure that they are coming to the university this year and feeling that sense of community, feeling that sense of connection. So I know there's various groups that are working on second year programs. But things like convocation, which happened in Fall 2020, virtually, this year, we were able to host a second year convocation for those students so that they were able to get that experience in person, that maybe they weren't able to last year. And I know there's a few other ongoing programs that are specific to the needs of second year students that'll be occurring- either have occurred in the, in August, or will be occurring in the fall.

Jonathan Eigenmann 7:41
Alright, and then I want to focus specifically on transfer students, um, about like what you do within this role for transfer students like my roommate, for instance, who transferred from Maryland, I guess I want you to talk about more about what you do for those specific students.

Michael Coombes 7:55
So I think what we do is really focus on the orientation, helping students understand what needs to happen as they come to the University, whether that's tasky-type items, like our new student checklist, and spelling out everything so that students hopefully have an easier way to navigate. I'll say quote, unquote, the business end of starting at the university. And then with orientation, we have transfer orientation that's specific to the experiences and needs of transfer students. And so not only are we trying to take care of some of the business stuff with advising and, and connecting to the colleges, but really trying to help them understand the expectations of the university, that they're coming into, helping them understand how to connect in this space, but also hopefully acknowledging and respecting the experience that they brought with them. Whether it's coming from Maryland, like your roommate, or coming from Wake Tech down the road, we recognize that students are bringing with them, whether it's life experiences, academic experiences, all types of experiences. And so as they come to the University, it's not the same as a first year student. There might be some things that are similar. But the reality is for some of our students, they've been college-ing, quote, unquote, for a few years now. And so they have a different understanding of the environment and what's expected and what's needed. And so through orientation, we're trying to help reinforce some of that from an NC State perspective. The way we kind of talk about it is we know students maybe have lived in a big city before, right, so maybe they're moving from New York to Chicago, lived in a big city, so you know what it's like to live in an urban area. But Chicago's transportation systems, different grocery stores may be different. The culture may be different. We're helping students understand a little bit more about that. And then once we get to the semester, there's various programs that are kind of across campus that help them connect. So there's different things during Welcome Week. One specific thing is NC State hearts transfers, which is a really informal program that we run during Welcome Week. We also have the state village through University Housing which is a great opportunity for them to connect if they're living on campus, and that's focused on the needs of second year and transfer students specifically. And then there's a lot of stuff actually happening in the academic colleges, geared towards transfer students as well to help them feel connected, whether that's socially with each other and their peers, or whether that's academically focused on research or connecting with faculty or connecting with career opportunities. And almost all of our colleges right now, essentially have a transfer transition course, that incoming transfer students either are required to take or can take to help them get connected to some of those things within the college. So some things are a little bit more centralized. Some things are a little bit more decentralized. But depending on the needs of the transfer students, depending on what their interests are, there's opportunities for them to get connected and feel like a part of NC State. So I think one thing I'll point out too, is I think it's difficult. It's difficult to have a one size fits all approach, because each of these students are coming with different experiences, like we talked about, they're coming from different places, some of them have a lot of context for NC State and have a lot of friends here. Some of them have no one. And they they're meeting people for the first time. And so it's difficult to assume transfer students need one thing or transfer students need XYZ, it's really kind of an individualized experience. I would also say, with transfer students thinking through them coming to the university, each of them identifies in a different way, right. So some students are really into the idea of being a transfer student, and let people know that, hey, I've transferred to you, I've had this other experience. Now I'm here, some students don't want to identify that way. They just want to be an NC State students or College of Agriculture and Life Sciences student, whatever the case may be. So each student's a little bit different, how they want to engage, how they want to experience NC State, what their purposes are for being here. So it's a wide ranging group that not only in age and experience and likes, and dislikes, all that kind of stuff as well.

Jonathan Eigenmann 12:11
For sure, for sure. I kind of want to take a personal approach to this next question. Um, I want you to consider your biggest motivation for doing what you do right now, obviously, since when you do a job, you do it because you're interested in it, obviously, I mean, for me, I want to, you know, do something in the future that I personally have interest in, but I want to consider your biggest motivation for doing what you do right now.

Michael Coombes 12:33
Um, I think the biggest motivation right now is I think our office and myself genuinely enjoy helping students, especially new students, as they come to the university, I think it's a great opportunity, not only to share the university with students, so what's great about this university, what are things that maybe need to change? What are the things that we can help them understand about the university that can help them in the future? Because we have some students that come to NC State with a lot of what I would say institutional context, right. So they may have brothers or sisters or siblings, excuse me, they may have family members who came here, so they have a lot of NC State knowledge. And then we have some where it's their first time, they might be the first in family to go to college, they might be their first in family to go to college in the United States. So how do we help them break down some of the barriers that may be there from an institutional perspective? I think also how do we help them connect to each other and find their support network, whatever that may be for that. So that they can navigate, just day to day life, right, and feel fulfilled as they're going through this. And I think for me, personally, I honestly enjoy working with the students and families because I like hearing the stories. I like hearing where they're from, I like hearing how they got here, what they're looking to do, I just find it really interesting and fulfilling to, to be able to be a part of that.

Jonathan Eigenmann 13:59
Yeah, I would agree, that would probably be a bigger motivation for you. So I want to take a little step back, obviously, with with all we've gone through with COVID and trying to do everything online, there's been a lot of trials and tribulations we've all had to go through, especially if you in your department since you guys had to do all your stuff online orientation, all that stuff. I've heard a lot of stories to myself of transfer students talking about what they've done online and you know, how the end you know, all that stuff. So, um, if if you can't, I want you to describe not only the process, but your own personal view on to the success you've had, despite the challenges that come up because of COVID.

Michael Coombes 14:38
I'm gonna ask you to say that one more time to make sure I got it.

Jonathan Eigenmann 14:40
Okay. Can you describe not only the process, but your own personal view on the success you've had, despite the challenges?

Michael Coombes 14:47
So I think the process I'm specifically looking at our programs, is, as we looked at moving online with COVID, and obviously with the second summer, this past summer, of doing kind of a hybrid model for programs, I think the first thing that we looked at was obviously with with the university is, how do we do things in a safe manner? Right. So the decision was made to, to move online because we needed to make sure we could ensure the safety of our participants. And in 2020, we weren't able to do that in 2021, we had kind of a hybrid way of doing that. But I think beyond safety, it's also what do students need? When do they need it? And how are we able to deliver that in a meaningful way? And I think some things we learned from 2020 that, that we updated for 2021, right? Like you always learn from what you've done, and hopefully do it better. And so I think, as we went through 2020, it was really reactionary. And as we look towards 2021, we were able to be a little bit more proactive, and how we either utilize technology, or how we were able to, you know, have some in person opportunities for students that were starting in Fall 21 that maybe we didn't have for fall 20 students. And I think there's a lot of motivation there as well, because we know that for students who were starting fall 2021, they may not have had an opportunity to come to campus and have like an official tour or an official visit, because of the time when they might have been doing that might have been when we were shut down for tours and things like that. So their experience was a little bit different. So we wanted to make sure we could do that. I think for me, personally, I think, looking at some of the successes, I do think that being able to offer some in person, campus visits this summer was a huge success, we were able to do that safely. We were able to provide an opportunity for a couple thousand students and family members to come to campus. And I think out of that, off the top of my head, I'd say we probably had about, I'd say maybe 500 transfer students that ended up doing that with their family members. But also, I would say just personal success, our students, staff and our professional staff, and the way they adjusted and the way they were able to implement programs to be cognizant of accessibility. So if we're going to be doing things with technology, how are we able to accommodate people who may or may not have access to that, or may have different accommodations that needed need to be addressed. But also how do we connect students to each other, either in person or through technology in a meaningful way. And I think with our summer Start Program, which is a Summer Bridge Program for incoming first year and transfer students, we were able to do that as well, by having half of our cohort, essentially virtual and half of it in person. So our summer start mentors did a really good job of adjusting and being able to not only meet the people in person and be able to address those needs, but then also pivoting and then having that same conversation with you virtually in a meaningful way to hopefully help those students feel like they connect.

Jonathan Eigenmann 17:55
Yeah, so I guess an add on to that would be. So do you feel like that trying to build that connection, even online is super important. Because obviously they said during COVID the one of the major things that was lacking between, you know, between each other even between like neighbors, or you know, people at work was like the in person connection cause that's like, so important to our socially as far as our health, mental health, physical health, everything. So do you feel like that success you said about the tours and all that stuff? That was like, a big step towards getting back to normal?

Michael Coombes 18:26
I think so. And I think, you know, I think as an institution, we we recognized how important that social connection is, right? Even the language, right? So when we started with COVID, it was we all have to social distance, right? And then we change the language to say, No, we need to physically distance because we want people to be socially connected. So even from a language perspective, we changed after the initial kind of outbreak, I think. I think it's incredibly important. I think it's incredibly difficult to be able to do that over zoom or to do that in a meaningful way, online. And so I think we put a lot of resources into trying to figure that out. I think what we also tried to do was, how do we allow students to engage in a way that they they deem appropriate or that they deem that they're interested in? Or they want to right? Instead of saying, we're going to tell you, you have to engage this way, which may not work for you? How do we provide some options that will allow you to engage in a way that you feel comfortable you feel like you're able to do and bring your bring yourself to that conversation, some of them that may be having their cameras on and seeing people face to face for some people, they might not feel comfortable doing that. And so we tried to provide a few different ways for students to feel comfortable doing that, whether it's through summer start and some of our co curricular programming. We tried to encourage some of those peer connections through orientation in our small groups. We also tried to encourage peer connections while also obviously delivering some University messages and having students think about their experience as well. And so, it is incredibly important. It's just also incredibly difficult to figure out how to do that. And I think, you know, even classes seeing that in classes, right, like, how do we how do we facilitate that? that connection. in an online environment, I think we've seen some people do some really amazing things. And I'm seeing some people, maybe struggle with that. And I think some of what we tried to do was reach out in different ways, whether that's through Instagram, or igtv, whether that's through some of our more specific zoom opportunities, like learning about a specific department like undergraduate research, so you're really there with peers who may have the same interests. So hopefully, maybe that is a way to facilitate some of that peer to peer connection around a specific interest.

Jonathan Eigenmann 20:57
So I, I've talked to other transfer students over time, there's surprisingly a lot on campus Now recently. And they they told me personally, they haven't heard much about the programs like they got the emails, news, but they haven't really heard much like they get the emails, but there was like, there isn't really anything like grand, they had heard or like they haven't been involved too much. So I guess my question to you would be is what ways can you use your position to help more transfer students become aware of the of your organization, the new student organization and overall resources available at NC State?

Michael Coombes 21:29
There's opportunities to do that. So I will say I, we try to push stuff out through communication channels as much as possible. And I realize we're talking about emails here specifically, I do think we have a really robust social media presence with Instagram and, and Twitter that I would I highly encourage students to follow us when, when they're coming through programs. I do think a lot of what we're trying to focus on, too is how do we not only connect students, but how do we also address things on the front end? So we spent a good a good amount of time the past, I'd say, a year or so trying to figure out how do we facilitate some of the advising and course registration, since some of that's changed a little bit. And that tends to be a point of stress for for transfer students as they're coming in not only trying to figure out what classes they need, obviously, but just figuring out like, how do I transfer my, my credits, all that kind of stuff. But I do think we can do a better job of using some of that orientation time, or potentially rolling out some different opportunities to transfers, I think we're still trying to figure out just as an institution, to be honest with you is how do we program for transfers in a way that meets their needs? And that brings them out to programs in a meaningful way? And I don't know that we've identified that as a in a large way, meaning I think we have pockets of that working really well. But I don't know from a university perspective, if there is, if there's a great, what am I trying to say? Maybe initiative that kind of encaptures all that. So I think we're still trying to, think we're still trying to figure that out. So that makes sense.

Jonathan Eigenmann 23:14
Yes, it does. So I asked this question to my other guest, who is a current transfer student, I interviewed another transfer student about his, his view and opinion on this subject now. So I want your view and opinion on this too. What would you say to someone who's maybe considering transferring to NC State? And in other words, how would you convince them that this will be the best school to pursue their dreams? Whether it be academically or you know, afterwards, for that matter?

Michael Coombes 23:43
Um, well, I may have a different perspective than than the transfer student, I would say, I don't know. And this may come across sounding weird, but I don't know if my job is to convince them, that NC State is the best option for them. I think my job if I'm having that conversation with a student, my job is to be honest and open about what opportunities exist. How does that play into their future plans and what they want to do. And, and is NC State the best option for them, right? We want people to come here who know what to expect, who are able to thrive here who are able to reach their potential reach what their their goals are. But for some people, that may, NC State may not be the best place, we may have a student coming in who's really interested in NC State because of a family history or they're from Raleigh, whatever it is, but maybe we don't have their program and it's better for them to go to another institution that fits their educational and life goals better. And that's okay. NC State may not be for everyone, for the students who, whose programs we do have and who want to find a home here. I think the nice thing about NC State, I will say and I'm going to I'm going to steal a line from College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. So I apologize to all My friends there. You know, NC State is a large school, that means we have a lot of different resources and a lot of different opportunities. But I do think there is that small school feel at NC State where students have a lot of opportunities to make smaller communities within the larger NC State sphere. And so as students are coming here, and if I'm having that conversation with the student, I'm trying to figure out what some of those interests and goals are, to maybe hone in on some specific opportunities that they may want to take advantage of, that may help them build that community for themselves in a meaningful way, when they get here and facilitate some of that connection and an opportunity down the line. So but to be perfectly blunt with you, I do think, I think that's an honest conversation with the student to say, Is this the place for you, if it is, let's great. But at the same time, I think we need to be honest with students and make sure that this is the right place, but I'm always at least helping them think through that process so that they can make the best decision for themselves. So my goal is to help students succeed, whether that's at NC State or another institution, I want them to be successful. And so we need to have that conversation.

Jonathan Eigenmann 26:14
So even he talked about honesty. And I guess the little add on question I want to ask is, you talked about how like, he kind of gets that small school feel. Would you consider NC State a good school for maybe people who come from maybe a community college or maybe a smaller school to transfer into like a bigger school, maybe like NC State? Because like, there's a lot of schools that kind of like only have like, 20,000, maybe 10,000 students? And from what I remember correctly, we have like over 40,000 students. So I mean, that's kind of a big jump between that and you know, coming here, Would you say that's a good? We're good.

Michael Coombes 26:47
So I think with undergrad and grad, we're looking at like mid 30s. Right. So I don't think the number of people, though, makes necessarily makes that decision. I think it's what the students looking for? What types of opportunities, what types of community are they looking for? When they're getting to their next institution? If their transcript from community college, some students, yeah, like maybe maybe 30, you know, 5000, or whatever it is, maybe that isn't the type of community they're looking for, maybe an institution that has 1000, or 2000 students is a better fit for them. But my guess is that's probably based more on the programs that are available, what they're trying to do those types of things, I think we have students that are coming to us from community colleges that are incredibly successful, right, we have students that are coming to us from in state institutions in the UNC system, or private institutions in North Carolina, that are incredibly successful. So I think, I don't want to generalize too much. But I think we have students that are able to navigate that change really successfully. And then we have some that that need more help, and that that may struggle and maybe get here and find out NC State's not the right fit for them. And so I think it's it's not like a one size fits all answer. I do think, as we're looking at transfer students, I think it is important to remember, we do have, you know, say roughly 15 to 1600 transfer students that are starting with this each year. So you're looking at what maybe one in four, one in five students at NC State starts as a transfer student. That's a large population. And I think, I think recognizing the success they've had is really important. And I think the university over the last few years has done a good job of highlighting that in different ways. But I think we have, we have students that have the opportunity to be successful here, whether they're coming from a community college, or whether they're coming, you know, from a town that is smaller than NC State, right? There's a lot of different adjustments that people make. And I think as we looked at the college experience, the reality is, we focus a lot on students in transition as they come into the university as they leave the university. But there's a lot of transition within those 234 years, just in general, that students are adjusting to.

Jonathan Eigenmann 29:12
Alright, so before we end this interview, I would like you to tell our listeners about how to contact your own organization or specifically if they have any questions about you, or what the new student organization does, does here at NC State, How would they, you know, be able to learn more?

Michael Coombes 29:31
Yeah, appreciate that. Um, so one of the easiest things to do love a good Google, right is Google ncsu new student programs or ncsu new students. We can be reached just two quick things. One, our phone numbers really easy. 5151234 so we get a lot of calls, some of which are for us and some of which not. But you can also reach us at our email which is new-students@ncsu.edu once again, you can find our website as well. And I did talk about it a little bit earlier, but at NC State NSP on Instagram and Twitter is a real great way to connect to not only our office and what we're doing but also just the general student experience during their first year on campus. Like I said, our team does a really good job of highlighting that. And so it's a really easy way to connect.

Jonathan Eigenmann 30:24
Well, thank you JT Dooley and director Coombes for coming on the show today. This is Jonathan Eigenmann reporting for Eye on the Triangle, signing off.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai