Transitions and Academic Growth: An Undergraduate Studies Pillar
Academic student support is vital to ensure students are learning the skills and receiving the guidance they need to reach the next level of their education. Undergraduate Studies has a group of departments to support transitions for middle school, high school, and community college students; this pillar is called Transitions and Academic Growth and is the umbrella for the Office of Transfer Student Success (OTSS), Upward Bound (UB), and the College Reach-Out Program (CROP).
OTSS is instrumental in guiding students in their transition from community college to USF and ensuring their timely graduation. Advisors spend a day or two each week at a local community college, where they advise the students who may be considering transferring to USF in order to ensure that they are taking courses that will transfer and fit with the major they are aiming for. Jonathan Lee, assistant director explained, “The OTSS provides transfer advising and services designed to help students overcome or eliminate obstacles so they can more fully engage with their academic work and career goals. This includes proactively working with students before they arrive at USF, and throughout their application process, to ensure they have the resources and connections needed to thrive when they begin their first semester.”
OTSS also oversees a program called Fuse, which has pathways for a large proportion of USF degree programs that offer a seamless route to graduating with an associate degree from the community college and a bachelor’s degree from USF. Fuse students have certain requirements, such as maintaining a 2.0 GPA, graduating with an associate degree within 3 years, and meeting with a USF advisor on a regular basis; they can also take part in USF activities and student organizations; attend football, basketball, and other sports games; participate in Homecoming; and more.
Starting with the 2021–2022 academic school year, the State of Florida has added transfer performance funding as one of ten metrics for evaluating Florida’s universities; this metric reports the two-year graduation rate for students who transfer to USF with an associate degree from the Florida College System. The Transitions and Academic Growth pillar will be instrumental in guiding students to success and graduation from USF, and the Helios Foundation has given USF a grant toward building software to track the retention and graduation of transfer students.
The other two programs under the Transitions and Academic Growth pillar have a long history with USF. UB is a 55-year-old federally funded program geared toward students who come from low-income families in which neither parent has a degree or who may need academic assistance. The program provides tutoring and special programs for high school students from five area high schools.
A 2021 graduate of the program, who is now enrolled at New York University, said, “Upward Bound prepared me with SAT Prep, leadership development, a summer program which gave us a jump start each school year, and the internships which look good on our resumes.”
CROP at USF is newer than UB—only 40 years old—and receives funding from the State of Florida. This program is modeled after UB and welcomes low-income and first-generation college students from middle and high schools across Hillsborough County. Students engage in tutoring, leadership development, educational and cultural field trips, and personal and career counseling.
“I will never forget my mom telling me that she signed me up for an academic program that was held on Saturdays. I was not the happiest about that, but I still went. After the first Saturday meeting as an 8th grader, I never wanted to miss another one. 2014, My senior year of high school, I became the President of CROP. It made me feel proud and honored to be around people that loved and trusted me. Because of CROP, I graduated at the top of my class at Spelman College, became the president of over 12 organizations, studied abroad in 3 countries, and became a Doctor. Now, as Dr. Rosalind McDaniel, I often think about how much that Saturday played a role in where I am today. I am thankful for the opportunities presented to me because of Ms. Nixon. Never forget, to whom much is given, much is always required.”