Barnard’s Student Government Association is launching a new pilot program designed to help incoming transfer students adjust to life at Barnard in the wake of this summer’s housing crunch, which many transfer students said made for a difficult entry into Barnard.
This fall, when 69 students transferred to Barnard, many of them wound up living in off-campus housing or in Plimpton corner rooms that were converted from singles to doubles.
“What I keep hearing from transfers this semester, especially at the beginning, is if they had known the difficulties they were going to go through, they might not have transferred,” Winn Periyasamy, BC ’13 and representative for community development, said. “That is something that breaks my heart.”
In September, Periyasamy, who transferred to Barnard as a junior, and Julia Kennedy, BC ’13 and SGA vice president, began conceptualizing the Transfer Ambassadors Program, which they will launch in January during transfer orientation.
TAP will pair transfer students with current Barnard students, who will serve as mentors to help familiarize the transfer students with Barnard procedures and traditions.
“Everyone agrees that transfers fell through the cracks this year,” Periyasamy said.
Jennelle Fong, BC ’14, who transferred to Barnard this semester, said that while she and other transfer students have befriended each other, they have had difficulty breaking into the already established Barnard community.
“When I had questions, I would find myself turning inward to my transfer friend group,” Fong said. “But we all didn’t know anything. There’s no one person who has all the answers—it would have been nice to have a source.”
Tali Stolzenberg-Myers, BC ’15, who also transferred to Barnard this semester, agreed, and added that she would have liked someone to explain basic procedures that most students already know, such as program filing.
On Monday, SGA released the transfer ambassador applications, and those selected will receive training in December. Each ambassador will be paired with one to two transfer students based on a personality questionnaire. The 15-20 incoming transfer students will meet their individual ambassadors at TAP’s kickoff event on Jan. 20, during transfer orientation.
Throughout the semester, ambassadors will organize events to help integrate transfer students into Barnard’s community and provide them with informational materials, such as a guide to the various Barnard offices and an overview of the various University clubs.
Periyasamy also suggested that ambassadors take transfer students to Midnight Breakfast or class dinners in order to familiarize them with campus traditions.
Lexie Sokolow, BC ’14, who transferred to Barnard this fall, said that “it was difficult to transition because I’m off campus,” as a result of this summer’s housing crunch. Sokolow added that aside from receiving Barnard emails, she often feels unaware of procedural deadlines and due dates because she lives off campus.
“The school kind of expects everyone besides first-year students to understand the way things work,” Sokolow said.
TAP will also partner with the Office of Student Life, the dean for transfer student services, Ani Bournoutian, and Residential Life’s transfer program, Transfer Time.
Though several other colleges, including NYU, have a transfer ambassadors program, Barnard’s is unique in that it is independent of the administration and is instead student-led. It may be the first college program to match transfer students with non-transfer student ambassadors, Periyasamy said.
“This will be an example of what SGA is all about this year—looking at needs, not just reactive responses to what people need,” Kennedy said. “If there’s one thing that will improve campus culture in some way, it’s this program. It will really rest on the students who are selected to make that change.”