Berkeley Physics Spearheads Award-Winning New Course for Transfer Students

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

In Fall 2017 the Physics Department welcomed 46 new transfer students into our undergraduate program. We know from experience that transfer students transition onto campus with varying levels of success. Research into the challenges specific to physics transfer students finds that most struggle adjusting to the pace and level of work required in their upper division courses. However, beyond academic concerns, many transfer students experience feelings of isolation as they move away from their support system in community college and into the unknown.  The emotional stress experienced during the transfer process can magnify any academic challenges students may be experiencing.   

In an attempt to address both the social and academic impediments to a successful transition, the Physics Student Services team spent Spring 2017 evaluating the needs of Physics undergraduate transfer students.  After sitting down with continuing transfer students it became clear that a course designed specifically for incoming physics transfer students would be a good first step. The course (Phys 198: Transfer Course for Physics Majors) launched in Fall 2017. Thirty five of the 46 incoming physics transfer students enrolled in the course. Five continuing transfer students supported the course as “transfer peer mentors," providing their invaluable perspective and feedback for the new transfer students.  The course was embraced and sponsored by Prof Jonathan Wurtele.   

At the close of the course, feedback from both the transfer students and the peer mentors was glowing and demonstrated that the course was an unequivocal success.  This success has prompted additional investment in supporting incoming transfer students with a summer outreach program launched in Summer 2018.  We're delighted to announce the Phys 198 course will be offered again in Fall 2018 for our incoming transfer students and supported by five peer mentors, all of whom participated in the Fall 2017 course, either as mentors or students.

This critical effort was recognized with an award from the College of Letters and Sciences. We are extremely proud of the work that has been done over the last year and a half. We also recognize that the transfer experience is still one of uncertainty and challenge.  We continue to work with our physics community (undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty) to create the right resources to support our transfer students through their transition onto campus and into the department.

This course is also in part made possible by the kind financial support of donor Dr. Mel Pomerantz, whose commitment to supporting our Physics Majors is invaluable. We are grateful for his support.

The Physics 198 Transfer Course is listed in the Fall 2018 Course Catalog here.