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U professor leading a research project that aims to better understand transfer students’ experiences, with a specific focus on their transitions to writing in this new setting.

By Chanapa Tantibanchachai

Starting college is a daunting task for any student — academic expectations often increase dramatically, there are new social spheres to navigate and the logistics of navigating a new campus and its institutional structures and resources can be challenging.

Transfer students, who make up roughly 40 percent of the student body at the U, face not only these common demands, but also face a unique set of challenges that are associated with entering their university education “mid-stream.” These challenges include learning how to make personal and professional connections, finding an appropriate work-life balance and budgeting around the higher university costs.

Assistant professor Christie Toth in the U’s Department of Writing & Rhetoric Studies has been leading a research project that aims to better understand transfer students’ experiences at the U, with a specific focus on their transitions to writing in this new setting. Through this research, Toth hopes to develop courses that support transfer students’ writing transitions and connect them with the campus community and its resources. The project began in fall 2015 and will continue through the spring 2016 semester.

“Currently, very little research exists on transfer students as writers and how upper-division university courses can better meet their needs,” said Toth.

The department recently received a Transformative Research in the Humanities Grant to, among other things, support this study of transfer students. Toth’s research is also funded by a Dee Grant for the Improvement of Teaching in the Humanities.

To gain an even more in-depth understanding of transfer students’ experiences, Toth recruited transfer students to help perform this research, three of whom were funded through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Grant. From designing and distributing surveys, to conducting focus groups and interviews and analyzing the data, to developing course curricula, the student researchers have offered vital insight throughout the study.

Although preliminary, the data suggests that a transfer student’s experiences transitioning to writing at the university vary depending on the major he/she chooses. One proposed resource to support transfer students are writing courses in which students use concepts and research methods from the field of writing studies to investigate writing practices and expectations in their own major discipline. Toth and her research team plan to offer these courses both at the U and on the Salt Lake Community College campuses, so that aspiring transfer students can get a running start at earning upper division credit while exploring writing in their discipline and learning about writing resources at the U.

Incoming and current U transfer students can access a list of on-campus resources for transfer students here.


Chanapa Tantibanchachai is an associate science writer at University Marketing and Communications. If you have an interesting story idea, email her at