The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Penn is piloting its first writing seminar only for sophomore transfer students this fall, taught by Fayyaz Vellani at Rodin College House. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Penn has launched a new writing seminar this fall exclusively for incoming sophomore transfer students.

The seminar, titled "Sophomore Transfer Critical Writing Seminar: Belonging," will be held twice a week from 5:15 to 6:44 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays by Fayyaz Vellani at Rodin College House. This critical writing seminar will be the first class to be composed of only sophomore transfer students.

Valerie Ross, Senior Director of the Marks Family Center for Excellence in Writing, said that a transfer-specific writing seminar is needed because sophomore transfer students don’t have the same first-year experience as most students in writing seminars.

“This writing seminar is a brilliant way to have a class that is designed for [transfer students], for what they’re encountering coming here from a different institution, for them to build peer networks, and to have some of those shared experiences themselves,” Ross told The Daily Pennsylvanian. “I hope that this gives them the community that [others] would get from the first-year writing seminars and enables them to ask the questions that they would otherwise be uncomfortable asking in regular writing seminars.”

When asked why it was important for the university to introduce a Transfer Critical Writing Seminar, Shannon Rogers, a senior in the School of Nursing and the current co-president of the Transfer Student Organization, spoke to the DP about the importance of providing a community for incoming transfer students.

“It can be a very overwhelming experience to transfer,” Rogers said. “[For incoming transfers] to have this opportunity to … take this class together means that they don’t just get to bond with other transfer students.”

College junior Mackenzie Sleeman, who formerly served as the New Transfer Representative of the Undergraduate Assembly and the Vice President of Student Life — Admissions & Academic Initiatives — for the Transfer Student Organization, spearheaded the initiative for the class.

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil College junior Mackenzie Sleeman poses with students in Penn's first writing seminar for sophomore transfers.

Unlike most first-years who currently populate the majority of transfer writing seminars, according to Sleeman, sophomore transfers can build on their previous, complex college writing experience and understanding. He believes that having a transfer-specific writing seminar enables students to receive a more tailored academic experience that acknowledges and builds on their previous learnings.

As a transfer student himself, Sleeman said he has been pioneering this initiative since fall 2022 when he realized that there were no transfer student-specific classes or writing seminars that spoke to this need.

Sleeman began by speaking to current transfer students and researching transfer writing seminars at different universities to form a proposal to administrators here at Penn. After working with The Marks Family Center for Excellence in Writing to develop the seminar, he worked with the Vice Provost for Education Karen Detlefsen to find optimal times for the seminar to be held and with Rodin College House to find a space for the seminar to be conducted in.

Sleeman said that this Transfer Critical Writing Seminar is a pilot program and that if it is successful, the program will be considered again for future semesters. He is currently focused on increasing transfer student engagement with the writing seminar and creating more awareness of its existence among incoming transfer students.

Sleeman said that he hopes to accomplish his goals through moderating information sessions for prospective students at other institutions who are looking to transfer to Penn, and using the transfer student Instagram account and communication channels to promote this course.

“Our aim is for this to be a safe space for transfer students to share their experiences in a place where the environment can shape how the curriculum is played out in a way that is relevant to them,” Sleeman said.