In September, College sophomore Thomas Kaupas was elected as the Undergraduate Assembly's first New Transfer Student Representative. Since assuming office, Kaupas has remained focused on projects affecting the social and academic experience at Penn for his fellow transfer students.
Kaupas completed a project in the fall ensuring that pre-orientation programs will be marketed to new transfer students as well as incoming first-years. He said his focus for the spring semester will be working with the administration to create a transfer student floor in the high rise residence halls.
Prior to Kaupas's election, new transfer students had to compete with first-years for one of nine New Student Representative UA seats. College junior and Transfer Student Organization Executive Vice President Dan O'Sullivan said no transfer students had ever defeated a first-year for the position. In Sept. 2019, the Nominations and Elections Committee announced that one of the nine New Student Representative seats would be reserved for a transfer student for the first time. Kaupas was elected as the UA's first New Transfer Student Representative later that month.
In the fall, Kaupas said he worked with the Office of Student Affairs to ensure all pre-orientation programs are open and advertised to the next class of transfer students. Kaupas said previously, only PennQuest was open to transfer students, and he and most of his fellow transfers did not know about the program because of insufficient marketing.
Kaupas, who also sits on the UA’s Academic Initiatives Committee, said he is working to develop a program called Study-Match that would connect students in large lecture classes interested in forming a study group. While the program would be available for all undergraduate students, Kaupas said he believes it would help transfer students in particular.
“In my first semester, being in a large lecture class, it was really hard to meet people and form those close study groups,” Kaupas added, “and this gives an avenue to do that.”
College junior and President of the Transfer Student Organization Suchait Kahlon said although Residential Services does not want to create a transfer floor community in Rodin College House, Kahlon and Kaupas hope to keep pushing for the program to be created.
Kahlon said Residential Services does not want to change the existing room allotment and program community layout.
Currently, a formal transfer community exists only in Gregory College House. Kahlon added that while many transfer students may live in the same college house, they do not necessarily live on the same floor or near other transfer students.
Kaupas said he hopes a transfer floor will give students more housing options and create a stronger sense of community among transfer students living on the same floor.
“Many transfers come from experiences in which they struggled socially at their previous university, and they decided to transfer to Penn in hopes of having a better social experience,” Kahlon said.
Kaupas said transfer students have expressed frustration about the timeliness of transferring credits from their former schools to Penn. Penn uses XCAT, the External Course Approval Tool, a system that determines whether courses taken at a previous university are eligible for credit at Penn. According Kaupus, students have complained that they do not receive a decision on credit transfers until late September, but Penn does not offer an alternative to XCAT.
"The transfers are not a huge population of Penn, but it's a significant population,” College junior and transfer student Melissa Ogle said. “We have unique concerns as transfers and we have unique needs, so it's important for us to have that representation.”