Transfers’ isolation issues addressed

Vanessa Pralle

This is a follow-up to the article “Transfer often feel isolated at Harcum” in the April 8 issue.

The housing predicament faced by transfer students accepted to the University relates to a basic shortage of student housing on campus, according to Marie Schauder, assistant director for residence life. When new students are accepted for freshmen year, their admission is tied to the number of available rooms on campus.

Transfer students are offered housing after all freshman are placed in on-campus housing assignments. In other words, freshmen have priority.

“There is simply not enough room,” Schauder said.

However, almost all students are given on-campus assignments within one semester. Spring semester promises much better placements for everyone, as more students study abroad and open up rooms for transfers.

Schauder argues that many students are happy living in Harcum and that their biggest complaints are related to IT and Internet difficulties.

Space at Harcum is rented through Villanova, and that college has its own separate computer maintenance system and Internet service.

When questioned on the availability of housing closer to Villanova, such as Rosemont, Schauder explained that transfer students placed at Rosemont found the facilities lacking and the rooms in poorer condition.

At Harcum, students receive bigger rooms, better facilities and easier parking, all at a lower cost than at Rosemont.

Schauder noted that the University is looking into possibly building more dorms and Bob Morro, executive director of facilities management, said that while buildings to accommodate 400 beds have been proposed, it may be a while before construction begins.

Another major complaint expressed by transfer students concerns the lack of support given to them upon their arrival at the University.

Many say the whole orientation process feels embarrassing and confused.

However, Kelly Donio, director of new student orientation, notes that Villanova does in fact offer a many resources to transfer student.

The problem seems to lie in awareness of these resources, since many transfers remain unaware of programs and other assistance designed for them.

Donio, a 1999 Villanova graduate, has been at her post for the past five years. She has dedicated a large proportion of her energies toward helping to provide transfer students with a positive integration into campus life.

Orientation groups that include transfer students are required to have a minimum of five transfers to ensure their comfort.

In the 1980s, it was customary to place transfer students together in orientation without freshmen, but retrospective group discussions revealed that transfer students felt they had missed out on the orientation experience when they were separated from incoming freshmen.

So why do so many transfer students complain about being the sole transfer in their orientation group? “There are usually three kinds of transfer students: those who just refuse to go, those who are slightly resistant but try it, and those who go ahead with it,” Donio said. “Many students just never show up.”

Students accepted to the University as transfers receive a custom mailing in which they receive information about a special dinner and breakfast for new transfer students where they have an opportunity to meet with fellow new students and to speak with professors affiliated with arts and sciences as well as upperclassmen who can address their questions or concerns.

In addition, each transfer student has the opportunity to join the Villanova Transfer Experience program offered in the fall.

The program allows transfers to be a part of a learning community by taking a core humanities class with other transfers while attending a weekly meeting.

The weekly meeting is facilitated by Donio and includes things like trips to Philadelphia. An advisor is present for course consultations.

Donio says this process helps ease the transition process. The weekly meeting usually runs for the duration of half a semester.

Isolation appears to be at the root of the problem. Many transfer students complained of feeling isolated and alone, yet there are clearly opportunities to feel more engaged in the community.

Donio says she is open to suggestions and wants to facilitate discussions from previous transfers on what can be done to get the word out.