By Christina Hambrick
In the February 1, 2017 issue of the Point, an article written by a class contributor called “The trouble with transferring to PLNU” was published. This article has been criticized for being one sided and not including faculty input. Though the article was not published on the Opinion page, we believe that the purpose of this page is to provide balanced perspectives on important topics. The previous article said credits from other schools are often not counted for the same classes at PLNU, making it hard for some transfer students to graduate on time. The following piece is a response to the February 1 article by a member of faculty involved in the transfer process.
-The Point Editorial Staff
As the Undergraduate Articulation Coordinator, I was troubled when I saw the headline, “The Trouble with Transferring to PLNU” printed across a page of the Point Weekly. My concern grew as I found myself reading the entire article about transfer credit and saw it did not include an interview with PLNU staff or faculty. Many of us would have been willing participants if we had been asked for comment or clarification. What happened to both sides of the story? I have worked in the PLNU Records Office for more than 10 years and hope some of the students I have met along the way saw me as a guiding light instead of a shadow darkening the path ahead. Here’s a glimpse of our efforts from the other side.
Do we, as the article suggested, not aid students in a timely graduation? Are we locked inside our office, hatching an evil plan to make billions in tuition by holding students back and offering worthless classes with professors who don’t care about education? On the contrary, PLNU has several checkpoints in place to ensure student success. Incoming students are not familiar with our degree requirements yet, so the Records Office registers each transfer student in courses recommended by our faculty to finish a degree efficiently. We go the extra mile and email all the schedules to the department chair who then checks to make sure each student will not be left behind in the major. Some faculty even override the capacity on an already full course to help out a transfer senior. And to be honest, courses fill up quickly! As a small institution, PLNU hasn’t implemented a good wait list system yet.
Once the semester begins, the Records Office requires all juniors who are above 70 units to apply for a Progress Toward Degree Check. Students are emailed and tracked by a Records Specialist who meets with them in person to discuss the remaining requirements and answer any specific questions they may have about their transfer credit.
As the article also mentioned, many PLNU students complain about the overwhelming amount of General Education requirements. This statement is actually, mostly true; we do have a lot of GE classes. PLNU is a liberal arts institution and requires more GE than any typical CSU or UC. But the GE was not carelessly selected to torture transfer students. All incoming freshmen are subject to the same standards, most often more.
Additionally, transfers are granted exceptions in these class requirements. Students who transfer with 48 or more units (none of which are in religion), are automatically waived from one lower division bible course. The list of exceptions goes on—a list we provide to transfer students at NSO.
We created these exceptions because we understand the path is not always clear. Some students don’t know ahead of time that they will feel led to join PLNU. By that time, it is too late and the courses they have taken at a law school or for admission to a CSU may not be the type of courses needed for a degree here. Yet, if our classes were haphazardly waived based on “the school you transferred from”, we would not be offering a PLNU degree; it would be a generic, build-your-own degree, lacking in the distinction that one expects from a PLNU education.
At the article’s close, we hear testimony that Pepperdine has an elective appeal form, and asks if PLNU has a similar system in place. Maybe we were too busy counting the stacks of money to answer the phone when the writer called to ask us. But if the student had asked, they would have been told that PLNU does not require a form like Pepperdine because the Records Office staff automatically looks up and vets each course description before classes begin. In cases where the course description was too vague, a transfer student may submit a petition form to faculty by providing a course outline or syllabus. As each student is registered for classes, I send out an email with a link to our “Transfer Orientation” website. On this page, we not only discuss the petition process, but we address how to read your advising guide, catalog, schedule, and unofficial transcript. It is a lot of information to cover, but we try to be transparent.
I have noticed that some students do not read my emails, but I still love you and do my best to help you out. Some will hit reply to my email and ask questions that are addressed within the transfer orientation link I just sent. We’re all guilty of skimming emails every once in awhile and I am very patient and willing to address all questions. Though we cannot force every single student to use them, we in the Records Office do our best to provide the tools you need for success. We are here for our students every weekday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., so stop by and say hi! We’re not here because we see you as dollar signs, but because we want to see you succeed.