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Hewlett Foundation Lends Support for Mission to Strengthen Transfer Connection

February 6, 2006


MERCED, CA— For Fall 2005, UC Merced had set
the goal of enrolling 300 transfer students. The official
third-week census, however, revealed the campus had fallen short of
that objective with just 132 transfer students registered for the
opening semester.

While disappointing, this statistic is not surprising when put
in the context of a recent report by the Public Policy Institute of
California stating that only 5.3 percent of fulltime sophomores at
the state’s community colleges transfer to continue their education
at a University of California campus. Among Central Valley
community college students, that number drops to 2.9 percent.

Recently awarded a two-year, $200,000 grant from the William and
Flora Hewlett Foundation, Professor Jeff Yoshimi is helping take
the campus to the next level in its ongoing mission to develop
connections with regional community colleges and strengthen the
transfer pipeline.

The award reflects the Hewlett Foundation’s longstanding
commitment to support initiatives addressing important social and
environmental issues, including improving the quality of education
and access to educational opportunities.

“I transferred from Pasadena City College to UC Berkeley and my
parents met at Los Angeles City College, so transfer is meaningful
to me based on my personal background. I believe in it,” Yoshimi
said, explaining his own dedication to the transfer cause. “I love
California - all of it - and knew I wanted to do something to
specifically serve this region. This focus on community college
transfer is how I’ve chosen to allocate my service time and energy.”

In his proposal, “Creating a Community College Culture at UC
Merced,” Yoshimi has laid out a multifaceted strategy to bolster
campus efforts to recruit, retain and graduate a larger number of
transfer students. His plan for action builds on the relationships
he has nurtured and incorporates the information he has gathered
ever since joining the founding faculty in 2004.

He has employed Merced College students to work on his own
research projects, established links with community college faculty
members who share his scholarly interests, and co-written - with
Merced College faculty member Lee Anne Hobbs - a report about UC
Merced’s first transfer students using insight gleaned from focus
groups and surveys examining Merced College students and UC Merced
transfer students. On campus, Yoshimi has started a listserv for
transfer students to discuss issues of concern.

With the Hewlett-funded project, Yoshimi identifies his primary
goals as increasing awareness of the transfer option for Central
Valley students, encouraging transfer student success via a variety
of resources and promoting UC Merced as a transfer destination. His
hope is to create a model program characterized by a network of
conduits from California community colleges - particularly local,
historically underserved colleges - to a university that actively
supports transfer students and has transfer graduation rates equal
to other UC campuses.

“The overarching problem is the Central Valley’s relative lack
of a college-going culture,” he said, citing a lack of guidance,
inconsistent information, minimal knowledge about resources such as
transfer guarantee programs and poor articulation standards as
complaints voiced by students surveyed.

Funding from the Hewlett grant will allow Yoshimi to offer
part-time employment to at least 10 of UC Merced’s inaugural
transfer students so they can help develop transfer student
services and improve future transfer rates to the campus as they
gain valuable leadership skills.

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost David B. Ashley intends to
create a campus-wide transfer committee that would work in close
collaboration with the students, who also will partner with the
admissions and student outreach staff, UC Merced’s Student Transfer
Outreach and Mentor Program and student liaisons to be appointed at
four community colleges. A half-time research assistant will help
Yoshimi coordinate the project as well.

These students will help achieve deliverables including the
founding of a transfer student association, development of a
student ambassador program to support community college outreach,
creation of a UC Merced transfer Web site, and publication of a
research article detailing best practices at community colleges and
suggestions to improve UC Merced’s transfer programs.

Built into his proposal are standards by which Yoshimi will
evaluate the initial success of these activities. The target for
student ambassadors, as one example, is a 10 percent increase in
transfers from the community colleges they serve. In the longer
term, he hopes this project will result in a 10 percent increase in
the overall number of transfer applicants from Central California
community colleges and a 10 percent increase in applications from
Hispanic, African-American, Southeast Asian and Native American students.

Since 1966, the Hewlett Foundation has been making grants to
address the most serious problems facing society, supporting
activities in education, the environment, global development, the
performing arts and population. The foundation places a high value
on sustaining and improving institutions that make positive
contributions to society. In 2001, UC Merced was the beneficiary of
a $2 million Hewlett Foundation grant, which allowed the university
to acquire and preserve 5,750 acres of vernal pool habitat on and
adjacent to the campus.