‘ADVANCE’ Mason partnership helps NOVA transfers

A Successful Partnership Leads a Long Way

By Kathya Mendez, Staff Writer

Mason is one of the largest public institutions in the Commonwealth of Virginia, with 35,189 students. However, for many years, transfer students have struggled to transition smoothly from Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) to Mason. This fall, the launch of ADVANCE: a partnership between these two institutions took place.

The partnership aims to create a smooth transition for NOVA students to a public university with admissions, financial aid and advising. Dr. Michelle Marks, vice president for Academic Innovation and New Ventures at Mason, is one of the many faculty and staff members who worked on various aspects of this partnership for almost a year.

Miscommunication is a factor when community colleges do not have a strong commitment to helping students throughout this process. But this partnership removes barriers that prevent students from graduating on time or not getting the right amount of credits.

“We have 21 majors at Mason that we can now offer to ADVANCE students who do their first 60 credits at NOVA, and we can make a promise that for those majors, all 60 of the credits they take at NOVA will count productively towards their degree. No wasted credits, which leads to a faster and less expensive degree” said Marks.

Many undergraduate students here at Mason decide to go to NOVA community college their first two years and then transfer to Mason.

Edler Bonilla, a junior accounting major, transferred schools during the fall semester. “Mason is a bit more challenging than NOVA I would say, because it is harder, I felt like you have to be a little more dedicated. They expect more from you and there are a bunch of group projects, so you definitely have to be more involved.” Bonilla added, “when I transferred to Mason I noticed

that it is more as a commuter school just like NOVA and I guess that is the biggest similarity between the two.”

Aba Morrison, a senior communication major who transferred in the fall of 2016, is one of many students who shared her experiences and challenges here at Mason before ADVANCE existed. “I talked to advisors here at Mason when I transferred but not all my credits were able to count because both schools have different requirements” she added, “The work is much harder, and more challenging compared to my last school.”

Estefany Sanchez, a senior who transferred this fall said, “I had to switch up my major. I was going to do Business Administration but Mason doesn’t have that major. Instead it splits up into management, finance, marketing and accounting. That’s something I didn’t want to do, to choose only one thing.”

However, she recognized how helpful meeting up with an advisor was during orientation, “they told me what I needed to know and helped me with choosing classes. Although since I did change my major I did lose some credit. I am just glad all my math classes transferred, now it’s basically only core classes.”

Dr. Marks confirmed NOVA and Mason are hiring five ADVANCE success coaches who will proactively advise NOVA transfer students. They will provide help with career advice and guidance for students navigating their own path from NOVA to Mason.