Master of Arts in Higher Education Theses

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Scott Gaier

Second Advisor

Tim Herrmann

Third Advisor

Todd Ream


Transfer students often struggle to become engaged and involved in higher education. Research is clear that academic and social engagement in transfer students is lower than non-transfer (native) students (Kuh, 2003; Townsend, 2008). Furthermore, literature emphasizes the importance students being engaged and involved (Astin, 1984; Kuh, 2001). The present study connected the theories of engagement and involvement to the framework of student departure (Tinto, 1988) to understand how engagement and involvement fit in academic and social integration. The study attempted to understand how transfer students engage academically and socially at a small, Midwest, residential institution. Practically, the research combined an analysis of three data sets from the National Survey for Student Engagement (NSSE) with eight qualitative interviews while following a case study design. Results from the quantitative study reported that the transfer population was as engaged with faculty as native students, although transfer students felt less supported by the campus environment. The qualitative component yielded that transfer students were academically engaged in their major courses and through their professor’s personal interest, care, and accommodation. Transfer students were socially engaged by their floor communities; involvement in clubs, leadership opportunities, and athletics; and through all-campus programming. Recommendations for practice include creating a transfer student mentoring program, increasing attention to mid-year transfer students, and housing transfer students together.