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Ole Miss Transfer Students More Likely to Graduate

Ambassador Yanik Etan gives a tour of the Ole Miss campus to prospective students and their families.

When community college transfers arrive at Ole Miss, there’s a 67 percent chance they will leave with a diploma within six years. That number is about seven percent higher than the graduation rate for students who begin their time at Ole Miss as freshmen, according to the most recent data available from the UM Office of Institutional Research, Effectiveness, and Planning.


The university is attracting some of the top community college transfers in the country. Yanik Etan is a  previous international president of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the world’s largest and most prestigious honor society at the community college level.
A native of the island of Saint Lucia in the Caribbean, Etan immigrated to the United States to pursue higher education in 2012. When it proved difficult to get into a four-year university, Etan decided to enroll in a community college, the College of Central Florida, and began his courses the summer of 2013.
There he became heavily involved in PTK, eventually becoming president of the campus’ chapter and ultimately the international president of the organization.
So, how did this former resident of Saint Lucia choose to finish his degree at Ole Miss and become a campus Ambassador? Etan said the decision didn’t happen overnight.
“I remember the recruiter saying that if in our heart we saw that Ole Miss was not the right fit for us, that we should go with our heart,” Etan said. “It really made me sit back and think that it’s not all about enrollment to these people. Like, this guy actually cares about students. When we came for the first campus visit, they really reached out to us as Phi Theta Kappans. They recruited to us like we were athletes and getting that red carpet treatment was really profound to me because I never got an ounce of that from anywhere else.”
The transition for Etan was not easy, however, but that didn’t surprise him.
“No one ever came and said that it was all sweets and sugar and spice and everything nice,” Etan said. “Everyone was like, ‘Hey, the transition will be bumpy, but it is what you make of it.’”
Etan said the first three weeks were really rough. The transition between schools, navigating the campus and balancing class schedules was stressful, but then he remembered the advice that the recruiters and admissions counselors gave him.
“They told me that if you wanted the true Ole Miss experience you have to be involved,” Etan said.
That push to get transfer students involved is no accident.  Jody Lowe, associate director for the Office of Admissions at the University of Mississippi, is a former transfer student himself and says that he is committed to ensuring that transfer students have a positive experience at the university.
Lowe helped create the Chancellor’s Leadership Class (CLC), a class designed to assist new transfer student leaders in finding a way to connect and engage on campus.
“It has been so enriching to watch so many transfer students embrace the program and to continue to use it as a platform to develop other ideas to implement for transfer student transition success,” Lowe said.
Kolbe Alsobrooks tranferred to Ole Miss from Holmes Community College in Ridgeland. He participated in the CLC last year and is now a student leader for the class.
“I knew coming into university that the classes would be harder; however, I feel that community college did prepare me for the transition,” said Alsobrooks, a junior engineering major. “When I first came to Ole Miss, I had to take a few freshman and sophomore classes, and I can honestly say that the difficulty level between the community college and the university freshman/sophomore classes is very small. I think just transitioning to junior level courses is what makes the process so hard.”
Alsobrooks says that there have been numerous times where he has struggled in classes at Ole Miss, but one of his most vivid experiences was during a statics course.

Kolbe Alsobrooks, transfer student and engineering major at Ole Miss works out statics homework problems in Brevard hall.

“Statics, is one of the “weed out” engineering courses,” Alsobrooks said. “One of the professors at Ole Miss fails about 40 percdent of their class per semester. So, you can understand my anxiety going into this class at the beginning of the semester.”
Then he got his first homework grade.
“I made a 47, not out of 50,” Alsobrooks said. “I was deflated, but I made it my mission to do better and try to figure out what I did wrong.”
To do this, he went to the auditorium in Brevard and spent every night that weekend working out problems on the giant chalkboards in the auditorium.
“I probably worked out 30 to 40 problems,” Alsobrooks said. “On our next homework I made a 100 percent and the first test I had, I made a B which isn’t too shabby, for statics.”
Alsobrooks said he thinks the difficulty along the way is just another step in the long process.
“I think any experience where you accomplish something you previously thought was beyond your reach is very rewarding,” Alsobrooks said. “Part of the reason I switched majors to engineering is for that reason; it keeps you pushing past your breaking points. It’s one of those majors that if you make it through, it feels as though you have attained some sort of self-mastery. In that same way, when I struggled in my statics class I felt as if this ceiling of what I thought I could learn or accomplish had been raised and that this whole new world of learning was opened up to me.”
Etan said his breakthrough moment came not in class, but in campus activities. During his first semester at Ole Miss, Etan became a student ambassador, was chosen as a delegate to the university housing association, was selected to serve on the ASB’s community service board and became an elected officer in the Gamma Beta chapter of the Ole Miss PTK Alumni chapter.
“The moment that I started getting involved in stuff, everything became like glitter and gold,” Etan said. “Everything was so awesome. I was experiencing everything that they said Ole Miss was and I became a huge advocate for the university as a result.”

Story by Alexandria Paton: ajpaton@go.olemiss.edu.

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