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First-Year Experiences for Transfers: Five Questions for Allison Silknetter

Allison Silknetter
Allison Silknetter

Transfer students have always been an important part of the FYE program but in recent years students who started their undergraduate education elsewhere have received a renewed emphasis. To learn more, we spoke with Allison Silknetter who this fall was named Assistant Director of Transfer Student Initiatives. 

How has Virginia Tech’s initiatives for transfers changed?

“It’s been a few years in the works. We did a survey of transfer students and generally speaking they often felt overlooked or lumped in with first-year students. They’re not first-year students, they already have one, two, or more years of college under their belt. 

So we realized transfers needed a unique FYE class that wasn’t ‘how to be a college student,’ because they knew how to do that already. They needed a course on how to be a college student at Virginia Tech. 

That’s where our Unleash Your Hokie Potential course got started. Initially it was open to any transfer student on campus (and it still is) but it really grew when it became a requirement for students living in the Transfer Experience Living-Learning Community. We’re now teaching six sections.”

You're teaching the course with colleagues from across Undergraduate Academic Affairs, including Kendria Mason, our new FYE coordinator. How do you all approach the course?

“Our main focus is showing students how to get the most out of the two or three years that they’re at the university. Sometimes transfers think because they’re not on campus as long as four-year students that they can’t participate in opportunities like undergraduate research or study abroad. So we help them take advantage of all the opportunities that are available to them, including research or study abroad and more.

We also spend a lot of time working on their resumes because they may be on a faster time line looking for internships or jobs. They learn about themselves and what brought them to Virginia Tech and then how are they going to use that understanding to further their education on campus.”

National Transfer Student Week was October 18 to 22. What kind of programming was offered? 

“The week is meant to celebrate these students and for them to feel recognized. Monday was the kick off event in Hahn garden with dinner, the VT therapy dogs, and the HokieBird. Throughout the week different colleges and departments had coffee hours or fun lunches. We also had free swag from across campus in the lobby of the Squires Student Center, which is always really popular.”

Do you have any advice for faculty or advisors working with transfer students?

“I think it’s important to keep in mind that they're a unique population while recognizing they’re an asset to Virginia Tech and what they bring to our campus. Transfers are still new to Virginia Tech so they still need assistance.  Not as much as a first-year student but more than a typical junior or senior. It’s just keeping in mind they have those unique needs.”

Why do you enjoy working with transfer students?

“Transfer students are so excited to be here and so excited to be Hokies. They’re enthusiastic about going to events and they have more life experience than your average first-year student. They’re such an awesome population to work with.”

In addition to her expanded role within Academic Advising Initiatives, Silknetter has served as the program director for the Transfer Experience Living-Learning Community since 2019. She can be reached at