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Communications and Agricultural Education

Communications and Agricultural Education

Kansas State University
1612 Claflin Road
301 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3402

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Making the Transition

by Dena Bunnel

“You can get involved. You can be successful. You can be a leader." – Dana Minihan, assistant academic coordinator and instructor of agronomy and Ph.D. student

The South Dakota native was afraid she wouldn’t fit in when she began classes at K-State and witnessed the sea of purple-clad students filling campus every day. “I wasn’t expecting that,” says Ashley Vostad, a student in agricultural communications and journalism and animal sciences and industry. “Everyone had on purple.” Vostad is just one of many transfer students who enter the College of Agriculture every year. Originally from Volga, S.D., she transferred to K-State from South Dakota State University in fall 2007 for the agricultural communications and journalism major, and was surprised by the school spirit found in Manhattan. “Everyone loves the school,” she says. “You’re really proud of the fact that you go here.” Vostad was one of 184 transfer students who enrolled in the College of Agriculture that semester out of 488 total new students in the college, according to the K-State Registrar’s Office. Transfer students make up about 40 percent of the students in the College of Agriculture. As students make the transition to K-State from other institutions, they are exposed to a new atmosphere both in and out of the classroom.


One change that takes place is in academics. Brook Bradbury, a student in animal sciences and industry and a transfer student from Coffeyville Community College, says classes at K-State are much more difficult than they were at the community college. “Probably my hardest class there is only as hard as my easiest class here,” she says. Classes are strenuous and more time is required for studying, agrees Derick McGhee, a student in agricultural technology management. McGhee attended Allen County Community College for one year before transferring to K-State. The increase in study hours needed is the most difficult thing many transfer students face when coming to K-State, says Dana Minihan, assistant academic coordinator and instructor in the agronomy department and a Ph.D. student, focusing on transfer student issues. “A four-year institution is different,” Minihan says.

“The expectations are different, whether they are expectations from faculty, graduate students who are teaching labs or administrators.” Vostad and Bradbury both say their classes are also getting more difficult because they are advancing in their major, but the two come from different academic settings. Vostad says that her teachers seem more energetic, and classes are smaller, despite the fact that K-State is about twice the size of South Dakota State. However, Bradbury experienced smaller, more personal classes at her community college where there were only about 25 students majoring in agriculture. To aid students in making the transitions needed to be successful, College to Career, a six-week course written by Minihan and taught by Don Boggs, associate dean of the College of Agriculture, was created and has proved successful. A study that averaged data over four semesters showed 30 percent of students who earned a grade of B or less in the course were dismissed from K-State after their first semester. That percentage increased each semester, and by the fourth semester, 71 percent of students who earned a B or less had been dismissed from the university. Less than one percent of students who earned an A in the course were dismissed after their first semester, and only six percent were dismissed by the fourth semester, Minihan says.


Coming to a new university as an upperclassman can be difficult on the social scene as well. “Everybody has kind of made their group of friends and they’re doing their own thing,” McGhee says, “but that’s part of living off campus too; you’re not around other students all the time.” Not all transfer students choose to live off campus. Joining a living organization is another option. Vostad lives in Moore Hall and says that at first it was difficult to make friends because she did not know anyone, but living in the residence halls has given her the opportunity to develop friendships that she may not have otherwise. Most of the people on Vostad’s floor are not from agricultural backgrounds, so getting involved in clubs has allowed her to meet people who share her interests in agriculture.


As transfer students get involved in student organizations, they have to climb the leadership ladder as sophomores or juniors instead of freshmen. This can create some obstacles, but it has not stopped many from getting involved on campus. Minihan stresses the importance of transfer students getting involved right away, and focusing their activities on a limited number. “Many times, transfer students are used to being involved in a number of activities, and sometimes when they transfer they need to find one thing and do it right,” she says. Bradbury, who judged livestock at Coffeyville and was involved in several student organizations, has taken that approach.

When she came to K-State, she decided to focus on a few activities rather than trying to do everything because she found it was more difficult to advance in leadership roles than at a community college due to the increased number of students. McGhee says between the student organizations’ fair held each semester and talking to other students, it can be easy to get involved. Vostad has also found ways to be engaged in campus life. She says at first it was intimidating to go by herself to meetings where she did not know anyone, but it has gotten better as she meets people in her clubs. As these students have done, transfer students have to choose to be involved, Minihan says. “You can get involved,” she says. “You can be successful. You can be a leader.”

A course for success as a transfer student Students earning an A in the course: Fewer than 1% were dismissed after their 1st semester 6% were dismissed after their 4th semester Students earning a B or less in the course: 30% were dismissed from K-State after their 1st semester 71% were dismissed after their 4th semester Ashley Vostad, student in agricultural communications and journalism and animal sciences and industry, transferred to K-State from South Dakota State University.

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