Q&A with Transfer Student Advocate, Alumna Jackie Duerr
Duerr has led UC San Diego's
Transfer Student Success
Program since 2019.
By Nicole Troy
Every third week of October, colleges across the nation celebrate National Transfer Student Week (NTSW) to foster transfer pride and community, challenge assumptions and educate the community about the transfer experience.
In celebration of NTSW, we got to know alumna Jackie Duerr (Psychology, ’09; Master of Education, ’11), program manager for UC San Diego’s Transfer Student Success Program.
Duerr gave us advice for current students and insight into how her experience as a transfer student inspired her to become a leader for the next generation of transfers.
Where did your college career begin and how did you find yourself at Cal Poly?
I started my college journey at Santa Barbara City College and I just knew that I wanted to help students somehow. I found my voice in psychology, and as I was trying to decide where to attend, I loved that Cal Poly’s Psychology and Child Development Department had an internship requirement embedded in its curriculum. My practical mind said, “This would be a great bonus — I’d get a degree and experience!”
Why did you navigate into a career of working with transfer students?
The reality is that my transfer experience wasn’t so great. I was working part time, so I didn’t attend orientation and my connection to academic advisors was minimal. I didn’t make connections until I looked around my classrooms and discovered that the other transfers were sitting in the back with me. Somehow, we found each other by being the outcasts.
So, I really wanted to change the experience for transfers following in my footsteps. Because of that, I earned my M.A. in Counseling and Guidance for Higher Education and then I earned my Ed.D.
What has your career trajectory looked like since graduating?
After graduation, I went from being the graduate assistant of the Multicultural Engineering Program (MEP) within the College of Engineering to being an MEP advisor to becoming the MEP coordinator.
I loved working with first-gen, low-income engineering students and ensuring they knew the potential and skills they already had! I was able to incorporate transfers into the program as well.
Finally, I got to a point where I was ready to spread my wings and I went to CSU San Marcos to work in their Office of Undergraduate Studies. Later, I discovered that they were hiring someone to build a transfer center at UCSD and I couldn’t help but apply. And here I am now!
What has been your greatest career achievement?
Something I am proud of is our Transfer Storytellers Contest and Gallery, where transfer students submit diverse artwork focused on resilience and identity. We work with the campus to provide creative coaches and judges for the artwork, and it’s always so inspirational and moving to see transfer stories come to life. See the gallery.
What is your workplace superpower and how did being a transfer student impact that?
Oh geez – this is tough. I’d say I’m decent at thinking outside of the higher education “norm” when it comes to hosting events and sharing content. This is because I was both a transfer student and a commuter. I often ask my team, “Does this content need to be an event, or can we get the information out within an infographic as well? Can we find a way to do this in a hybrid format? Can we turn this content into an interactive video?”
I try to innovate wherever I can to meet the diverse needs of transfer students and to be more accessible.
What advice do you have for transfer students?
Remember that you were selected to this university because you are a capable and amazingly talented human. It can be hard to remember that sometimes, especially when everything is so new and the unknown can be so scary. But when in doubt, remember you’re here for a reason, and you have the tenacity, drive and ability to accomplish your goals.
If you could go back, what advice would you give yourself in college?
Study abroad and slow down! As transfers, many believe we must finish in two years, and because of that we disallow ourselves from doing things, like undergraduate research or studying abroad.
For me, personally, I moved fast through my education – I didn’t study abroad and didn’t take any classes simply for pleasure. I regret that. And for any student that is unsure if they can make study abroad work, there are scholarships available and advisors ready to help create plans. In all my years working with students, I’ve never heard a student say, “I regret studying abroad.” Everyone should do it. It’s good for the mind and it’s good for the soul.
Any final thoughts?
As much as my education at Cal Poly was in CLA and COSAM, I truly found my home within the College of Engineering — specifically in Engineering Student Services. The office family we had and my supervisor Kim Marsalek’s ability to lead with kindness, let me try things and trust in me to create made me the professional I am today.
Join the NTSW celebration and check out the Cal Poly Transfer Center’s event schedule.