Transfer student Celia Lopez handed brochures

Transfer students: They come. They stay. They thrive.

April 17, 2019

They come for their own reasons. High job prospects. Diverse cultures. An elevated educational experience. But many conversations with CU Denver transfer students circle back to one thing: a sense of belonging.

“It just feels like a good environment,” said student Celia Lopez, who grew up in Thornton. “You feel welcome.”

After a short, post-high school hiatus, Natsuno Tokumi moved to Denver from Japan. Like Lopez, Tokumi kicked off her higher-education work at an area community college before becoming a Lynx.

“So I was a little older than my peers. But I was able to find a lot of students like myself who have a different story,” said Tokumi, a dual sociology and psychology major. “That’s what makes this school unique. I feel like I’m here, and I’m a part of it.”

Celia Lopez talks with the Lynx Center director in the Student Commons Building
Duy Tran, student engagement coordinator, left, and Celia Lopez, transfer student, share a smile at the Lynx Center desk in the Student Commons Building, one of many CU Denver resources for students.

Campus majority: Transfer students outnumber non-transfer peers

Lopez and Tokumi are far from alone: Transfer students make up about 51% of the student population.

The state’s Guaranteed Transfer program with its community colleges smooths the transfer process and brings a number of community college-goers to Colorado’s only urban public research university.

For Lopez, who chose CU Denver partly for its School of Education & Human Development‘s (SEHD) strong reputation, most of her community-college credits transferred. And, with a 4.0 grade-point average, she was offered a transfer scholarship from the university.

“That’s something that really helped me,” Lopez said.

Teaching students that ‘everyone’s not the same’

Growing up Latina and in a diverse suburb of Denver, Lopez said she knew diversity was critical in choosing both an alma mater and the school she opted to teach in post-graduation.

“I wanted to be in a place where I felt at home,” said Lopez, a student in SEHD’s Elementary Education program. “I knew CU Denver was the right choice for me.”

Lopez said she views diversity as synonymous with a good education. “I like being around people with different perspectives and cultures and learning how they see the world differently. As a teacher, I believe it’s important to teach students that everyone’s not the same.”

“I wanted to be in a place where I felt at home.”

celia lopez

Student Celia Lopez walks down the stairs
Celia Lopez takes classes toward her education degree in the evenings and teaches at a Denver elementary school in the mornings.

Jobs, resources and ‘you don’t feel judged’

Seeking the elevated education of a four-year university, Lopez said CU Denver also offers diverse resources and job-training opportunities. Lopez joined the NxtGEN Teacher Residency program, teaching third- and fourth-graders in a Denver Public School during the mornings and attending classes in the evenings.

“I like the kids, and it’s giving me a glimpse of what a teaching career is going to be like,” she said. “I also think it shows that the university really wants to prepare good teachers and create better education.”

Resources for transfer students through the Admissions office are helpful, such as academic counseling and Transfer Thursdays campus tours, Lopez said. And Tokumi found friends through the Peer Advocate Leaders program and the Transfer Student Organization (TSO). She now serves as the TSO marketing and communications director.

But it’s the diversity and feeling of belonging that makes the CU Denver experience so positive, both women agreed. “You can walk through the Tivoli and see so many unique people,” Lopez said. “And you don’t feel judged. I really like that.”

Transfer student listens during a meeting
Natsuno Tokumi listens during a Transfer Student Organization meeting in the Student Commons Building. The group formed to create a sense of belonging for the university’s high number of transfer students. The meeting ended with pizza and a card game.