Campus creates honors society for transfer students

The first honor society for transfer students in the California State University system was established on Saturday with the induction of more than 60 CSUN students.

Although 600 CSUN students were eligible for membership in the Tau Sigma National Honor Society, only 65 students responded to the invitation and paid the $45 lifetime membership fee.

Tau Sigma, which was started at Auburn University in Alabama, is open to any undergraduate transfer student with a grade point average of 3.5 or greater or who’s in the top 20 percent of their class during their first semester at CSUN.

The honor society is “designed specifically to recognize and promote the academic excellence and involvement of transfer students,” the Tau Sigma National Honor Society website shows.

Mayanthi Imbuldeniya, Tau Sigma National Honor Society’s CSUN chapter president, said the society aims to improve the transfer student experience through outreach and advisement, establishing CSUN as a good university to transfer to.

Compared to other students, transfer students lack an extensive selection of orientation dates and better counseling services, Imbuldeniya said.

First-time freshmen at CSUN have a week of orientation dates specific to their college that they’re required to attend.

Transfer students’ orientation is “strongly encouraged,” the News Student Orientation website indicates. But they only have three orientation dates and aren’t organized by college.

Some departments also appear to be less welcoming to transfer students than they are to first-time freshmen, informing transfer students they shouldn’t enroll in core classes for their major during their first semester or they’ll fail, members of the society said.

Such departments also tell transfer students that they should only take one core class per semester or risk failing, members of the society said.

Members of the society may act as mentors and ambassadors for incoming transfer students, allowing them to deal with students who have had similar experiences on a more one-on-one basis, said Jaycynda Trifone, Tau Sigma National Honor Society’s chapter vice president.

Leroy Geter, the associate director of transfer services and coordinator of transfer initiatives in the Division of Student Affairs, said he first encountered the honor society at a conference more than four years ago and was impressed by the members of the society from the University of Central Florida. Geter said he also met Tau Sigma National Honor Society members from the University of North Texas and the University of Oklahoma during the second year of the conference.

“They were really meeting the needs (of their university’s transfer students) far and above that of the administrative process,” said Geter, the CSUN chapter advisor for Tau Sigma National Honor Society.

Geter has worked with transfer students for more than 23 years and has been the coordinator for transfer initiatives in the Division of Student Affairs for more than two years, working with the Vice President of Student Affairs, Terry Piper.

“Transfer is my passion,” said Geter, adding that he hopes to establish the campus as having a “culture, climate (and) community” welcoming to transfer students.

Geter is a transfer student who attended San Diego City College before transferring to CSUN in 1973.

“Being the chartering advisor for (?) CSUN’s chapter (of Tau Sigma National Honor Society) is really the capstone” and is something of which he is very proud, Geter said.

As coordinator of transfer initiatives, Geter is also helping organize a transfer student association so that more transfer students have their voice heard by the CSUN student government.

Tau Sigma National Honor Society will “give a voice to transfer students through this groundbreaking honor organization,” Geter said at the induction ceremony. It’ll also provide a forum for transfer students to share their experiences with others, whether they are transfer students, potential transfer students, or other students.

More than 3,400 transfer students enrolled at CSUN during the Fall 2006 semester, and more than 40 percent of the student population is represented by transfer students from other colleges and universities, Imbuldeniya said

“I think we’re a forgotten group of people sometimes,” Imbuldeniya said.

Transferring to CSUN was a “scary experience,” Imbuldeniya said.

Imbuldeniya said she attended a community college for an extended period of time.

It was intimidating to attend a campus with a completely different environment than she was used to, a feeling other transfer students are familiar with, Imbuldeniya said.

“It was a very emotional experience for me,” Imbuldeniya said, especially after advisors told her she wouldn’t be able to graduate within two years. “I wanted to succeed.”

Imbuldeniya said she became president of the CSUN chapter of Tau Sigma Honor Society because “we want to provide a network for (transfer) students and give them a goal,” like Imbuldeniya’s own goal of graduating within two years.

While not all transfer students have had Imbuldeniya’s experiences, many of them aren’t given the same attention as first-time freshmen and as a result don’t get as involved in campus events or affairs.

Trifone hopes that the society will help give CSUN transfer students “a home, a reason for (?) being here.”

The Nov. 3 ceremony marked the inaugural induction for the CSUN Tau Sigma National Honor Society chapter.

Future induction ceremonies are planned for every spring semester, so as to appeal to the largest group of transfer students from both semesters within the academic year.

“You are all history-makers at this university,” Geter told the new members during the ceremony.

Geter told the students that they are helping to “build a community for transfer students at CSUN” by being the first members of a brand new society at CSUN meant specifically for transfer students.

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