Vassar Helps Community College Students Explore Transfer Opportunities

Photos Courtesy of Senator Robert Jackson
A New York state senator who won a decade-long fight for more equitable education funding in public schools had some straightforward advice for this summer’s graduates of Vassar’s Exploring Transfer Program: Never give up, and pursue learning throughout your life.

“You should be proud of what you’ve accomplished so far,” Senator Robert Jackson, a Democrat from Manhattan, told the 16 community college students and others who assembled for the virtual ceremony. “Never stop learning, and you will be proud of what you accomplish in the future.”

Exploring Transfer Graduation Speaker N.Y. State Sen. Robert Jackson
Exploring Transfer Graduation Speaker N.Y. State Sen. Robert Jackson

In his remarks, Senator Jackson recounted his struggle to obtain more state funding for the New York City school system when he was a member of the city school board and city council. The city won its case before the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, after Jackson and others walked more than 75 miles from Manhattan to Albany, the state capital, to publicize their fight.

Jackson’s address capped the 35th Exploring Transfer program. After a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the five-week program resumed this summer in a virtual format.

Exploring Transfer Director and Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Kariane Calta opened the ceremony by congratulating the students on their completion of the program. “You’re brilliant, you’re brave, and you deserve all the good things coming your way,” Calta said.

Students enrolled in this year’s program took college-level mini-courses taught by two members of the Vassar faculty—Assistant Professor of Biology Leroy Cooper and Associate Professor and Chair of Greek and Roman Studies Barbara Olsen—and by Westchester Community College Professor of English Heather Ostman and Dutchess Community College English Instructor Jordan Bell.

Exploring Transfer logo: purple oval with white lettering

The faculty members lauded the students for excelling in a program designed to help them take the next step in their educational journey. “Look at what you have accomplished so far,” Cooper told the graduates. “This summer you have enhanced your skills in critical thinking and quantitative analysis.”

Olsen said she enjoyed taking “a deep dive into The Iliad” with her students. “I watched you connect with the characters in a story of shared humanity in which broken people could be restored by love,” she said.

Ostman led the students in studying poetry and then writing some of their own, noting that many in the class had never written a poem before. “All of you rose to the challenge,” she told the graduates, “and now we have piles of poems to share.”

Two Vassar students, Taara Ram Mohan ’23 and Ella Xiao ’21, served as peer mentors for the program, assisting the participants with their academic assignments and providing insights into what upper-level college life is like. “Exploring Transfer is an important program for Vassar because its classrooms are made up of students from such diverse backgrounds,” Mohan said.

Xiao said her experience as a mentor had been a fitting cap to her own Vassar education. “I really enjoyed getting to know this summer’s students, working with the dedicated and caring faculty and staff,” she said. “I was blown away by the genuine interest and passion the students had for these intensive courses. As a recent grad, I hope this program can not only continue to be offered but expanded, with a strong commitment to serving community college students of all ages, experiences, and academic aspirations.”

September 2, 2021