Learning community helps transfer students feel at home

Katherine Pytel, Cheyanne Ahrendsen, Josie Faga and Renee Gehrke sitting next to each other on a couch
From left, Katherine Pytel, sophomore in food science; Cheyanne Ahrendsen, junior in animal science; Josie Faga, sophomore in industrial technology; and Renee Gehrke, junior in agricultural business, are all members of the CALS Transfer learning community. They live together in an apartment in Frederiksen Court, one of four apartments set aside for members of this learning community.

By Amber Friedrichsen

A new learning community specifically for transfer students is helping make the transition to Iowa State University a smooth one.

Stephanie Zumbach, student services specialist in agronomy, and Amy Brandau, academic advisor in economics, are the advisors for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Transfer learning community. They created the learning community after seeing transfer students struggle to find roommates and a place to live in Ames.

“The idea was to help students build community and help them transition from a community college to Iowa State, specifically for students in CALS,” Brandau said.

CALS Transfer was established in 2021. Students in this learning community are housed in Frederiksen Court on the north side of campus. It currently comprises two female apartments and two male apartments. Students in the learning community who need to take English 302 are also enrolled in the same section of the course.

“This has made a huge difference for students because they get to see each other on a more consistent basis and are able to make connections faster by being in class together,” Zumbach said.

CALS Transfer hosts social events throughout the year for members to get to know one another, and the group meets with faculty and staff from offices like CALS Career Services, CALS Study Abroad and CALS Student Services. Last year, the learning community also invited Jennifer Bundy, assistant professor in animal science, to talk about her research on students transitioning from one school to another.

“There is an official name for what students experience when they transfer to universities like Iowa State, called transfer shock,” Zumbach said. “In her presentation, Dr. Bundy explained transfer shock and what it can feel like, and she made students realize it’s OK.”

Gabby Hackley, senior in agronomy, joined CALS Transfer last year after graduating from Iowa Central Community College. She said it can be challenging for transfer students to step outside of their comfort zones, but being a part of CALS Transfer allowed her to get off on the right foot.

“The learning community gave me a starting place to meet people,” Hackley said. “It made me feel better about coming to Iowa State knowing my roommates were in the same position, and if I ever needed a friend, they were there.”

Hackley is now the peer mentor for CALS Transfer. In this role, she organizes social events and keeps members up to date about opportunities to get involved on campus. Overall, she serves as a reliable resource for current CALS Transfer members, having once walked in their shoes.

“I wanted to be the peer mentor to help students who are having a difficult transition because I have witnessed and experienced similar situations,” Hackley said.

Transfer students in any major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are eligible to join CALS Transfer. They can apply by registering for housing in Frederiksen Court and selecting the learning community during registration.