LaGuardia Community College Professor Receives the Coveted Bonita C. Jacobs Transfer Champion Award

February 11, 2014 | LaGuardia Community College

Long Island City, NY—February 11, 2014—Dr. Karlyn Koh, an English professor at LaGuardia Community College who established an innovative transfer initiative that has greatly improved student transfer success, has received the prestigious Bonita C. Jacobs Transfer Champion Award.

The award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated exceptional advocacy and leadership in the development and implementation of transfer-focused activities that have made a significant contribution to the improvement of transfer student access, persistence and success.  The award will be presented at the annual convention of the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students to be held in Atlanta in February.

Dr. Koh’s Transfer Initiative is a non-traditional model that takes an unusual approach to transfer.  The effort is led, not by faculty and administrators, but by a dynamic group of students dedicated to educating students about the infinite transfer possibilities and to raising the transfer consciousness of the institution.

“Rather than a top-down administrative model, the philosophy was to be a bottom-up, grassroots approach, creating a student-focused transfer community that would empower students to be agents in their own transfer journey,” said Dr. Koh.  “This community orientation would serve to harness the power of peer support of motivation, inspiration and moral support.”

To provide a central core for the Transfer Initiative, she established the Honors Student Advisory Committee, known as HSAC, which is headed by an enthusiastic group of dedicated student volunteers.  Together the students created a wide range of transfer activities.  They developed a Transfer Peer Support Network, featuring peer and alumni-led transfer workshops; organized campus visits to colleges in Boston and the New York City area; created a user-friendly website that provides transfer and scholarship information; and the publication of a comprehensive Peer Transfer Handbook every year that helps students through the transfer process.

“Through her creation of the student-led HSAC, Dr. Koh forged a transfer bridge that any student can successfully cross,” said Rafael Tejada, a 2012 graduate who is attending Sarah Lawrence College.  “The power in her system exists in how students learn and become extremely well versed in the process.

With the valuable information gathered from HSAC’s activities, coupled with Dr. Koh’s support and guidance, students have transferred to a wide array of prestigious colleges such as Cornell, Columbia, Georgetown, NYU, Smith, Amherst, Morehouse, The University of Chicago and Syracuse.  They also have been awarded Jack Kent Cooke and Kaplan Education Foundation Leadership Program scholarships.

“Karlyn embodies fully every quality of the right term ‘champion,’” said Dr. Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia.  “She has constructed a groundbreaking Transfer Initiative that has improved student transfer success in extraordinary ways.  And in accomplishing this feat, she has consistently demonstrated a creative vision, dedicated commitment and devotion to students that is unparalleled.”

Dr. Koh’s Transfer Initiative grew out of the College’s Honors Program, which she took over in 2006.  As she was building the program, which is now a vital part of the institution with more than 350 students taking its 20 Honors courses each semester, she learned that these highly motivated students had a very limited understanding of their transfer opportunities.

“Nearly all of these students, including the most academically talented, were oblivious to the many transfer possibilities that existed,” she said.

Freda Raitelu, a 2013 graduate was one of those students.  When she enrolled at LaGuardia she planned on earning her associate’s in Childhood Education and transferring to a senior college to pursue a bachelor’s in Elementary Education.

That plan changed when she met Dr. Koh.  “After I told her my goals, she said, ‘that’s great, then afterward you could even apply to Columbia’s Teachers College,’” said Freda.  With those words, the entire perception of my future shifted as Columbia University was a school I had only read about.”

Today, Freda is working toward a bachelor’s in History from Smith College and is looking at broad field of options—a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English abroad, the Peace Corps, Teach for America.  “There is much to be experienced before submitting an application to Columbia’s Teacher College and Dr. Koh is the person who made me realize this.”

Johnny Lee, a 2012graduate who is attending Columbia, echoed those sentiments. “Dr. Koh’s support and unwavering belief in me motivated me to pursue and achieve goals beyond even my own expectations.  And I believe that this holds true for so many alumni who have benefited from the resources that Dr. Koh brought to the students of LaGuardia and the supportive network that she helped create.”

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LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit www.laguardia.edu to learn more.

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