George Mason University

News at Mason

Mason tells transfer students: ‘We hear you’

April 4, 2017   /   by Damian Cristodero

Grace Billingsley

Grace Billingsley is a junior majoring in conflict analysis and resolution and a transfer student from Northern Virginia Community College. She spoke April 4 at the announcement of ADVANCE: A NOVA Mason Partnership. Billingsley said the program will have a positive effect on students who participate. Photo by Evan Cantwell.

By all accounts, Grace Billingsley has had a successful transition from Northern Virginia Community College to George Mason University.

All her credits transferred. She is involved with Student Government. And she is finishing up her junior year on the Fairfax Campus.

Billingsley is an example of a student who made the transition on her own. However, the junior, who is majoring in conflict analysis and resolution, is aware that not all transfer students have as smooth an experience.

“The identity of transfer students sometimes gets lost,” Billingsley said. “That’s why I love this idea.”

This idea she is talking about is ADVANCE: A NOVA Mason Partnership.

The partnership provides a single institutional experience from admission to NOVA through graduation from Mason. It will give students a single point of contact for admission and financial aid, a dedicated advisor, a realignment of curricula to ensure students do not lose credits when they transfer, and financial incentives for the neediest students to advance to graduation.

It will strengthen a working relationship that has helped nearly 3,000 students annually transfer from NOVA to Mason. At the same time, it seeks to help students save money. Estimates show students who earn a four-year Mason degree two years after transferring from NOVA can save a full year of tuition.

The partnership also is designed to help create career-ready professionals for the Northern Virginia workforce.

“We want to say, ‘We hear you,’” Michelle Marks, Mason’s vice president for academic innovation and new ventures, said of students frustrated by the transfer process. “So we’re designing a new kind of degree program they can come into with a level of support and services that will take them through both NOVA and Mason.”

The partnership will also allow NOVA students access to campus organizations, clubs and Mason facilities, such as the library. Billingsley said those opportunities can shorten a transfer student’s acclimation time.

“It’s how you navigate,” she said. “It’s a lot of time that could be spent on going after what you want instead of having to relearn everything.”

But it is how the partnership eases the academic transition that is most helpful, she said.

“Because you know the transition is going to be seamless you can focus on ‘What am I going to do when I get to Mason?’ and ‘What am I going to do after college?’ ” Billingsley said. “That saves on time and money, and that’s really nice for students.”

The partnership is expected to welcome its first NOVA students in fall 2018. Marks said she is confident it will succeed, as it will build on the foundation of a pilot program already up and running in mechanical engineering.

The plan is to add five academic programs to the partnership every year, starting with those in the Volgenau School of Engineering, the School of Business, the College of Science and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

“I’m confident because we have a track record of being a strong transfer institution,” Marks said. “We are motivated as a faculty and staff.”