Small but mighty cohort of transfer students joins Stanford community

Stanford recently welcomed more than two dozen new transfer students who have begun their studies on the Farm as sophomores and juniors, including 13 U.S. military veterans and 13 individuals who are the first members of their families to attend a four-year college.  

A year ago, Julie Cross was living in central Illinois with her husband and three children, studying Latin with her daughters in a homeschool program and celebrating the release of her young adult mystery book.

Sage Crosby, left, Kevin Russell, Brandon Williams and Tate Burwell

During their study group meeting, undergraduates Sage Crosby, left, transfer student Kevin Russell, Brandon Williams and Tate Burwell discuss biomes for their Earth Systems class. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

Today, she’s still studying Latin – in a beginning Latin class at Stanford.

But almost everything else has changed.

The family – including daughters age 12 and 14, and son age 17 – moved from the prairie to the Farm after Stanford accepted Cross as a transfer student. They have settled into their new home – an apartment in Escondido Village on the east side of campus – and into the rhythm of a new life in California.

Cross is one of 27 new transfer students who entered Stanford as sophomores and juniors – or somewhere in between – at the beginning of the 2017-18 academic year.

Cross, who has published 10 young adult novels, came to Stanford for its Creative Writing Program, which offers her the freedom to explore new ways of writing, without the responsibility of writing for a particular market: young adult romance and science fiction.  During her first quarter at Stanford, she is taking a fiction writing class focused on short fiction – 300 words or less – taught by poets Brittany Perham and Keith Ekiss.

“I don’t have to ‘sell’ what I write to anyone,” Cross said. “I don’t even have to create a product. In this class, it’s about going through the process, doing the writing exercises, analyzing the writing of other authors and thinking about the choices they made – and then making our own choices. Maybe we produce something that’s worth showing to someone outside of class and maybe we don’t – and that’s OK with Brittany and Keith.”

Life experiences enrich community

The newest cohort of transfer students includes a carpenter, a linguist, a farmer, a pilot, a school bus driver and an athlete who arrived on campus early to join the Cardinal women’s soccer team – and promptly scored her first goal in a Stanford uniform.

One of the new transfer students grew up in Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia, and moved to Maryland with her family when she was in high school. Another was educated largely in Cuba. One transfer student co-founded a tech start-up.

Within the group, 13 are the first members of their families to attend a four-year college and 13 are U.S. military veterans. One of the veterans is a former Marine Corps signals intelligence analyst who performed volunteer work in the Philippines, where she helped build an orphanage and a school after a typhoon.

“The transfer students we bring to Stanford have incredible breadth of experience and perspective,” said Richard H. Shaw, dean of admission and financial aid.

“Many of them have already lived life once or several times over by re-creating themselves and their future with a common theme. They intend to make a difference by combining life experience with intellectual intensity. They bring a mature perspective that contributes to the energy of learning – in the classroom and in research environments.”

Many roads led to the Farm

After finishing a four-year stint in the Marines, Kevin Russell decided to go to college. Stanford seemed out of reach – “a school for geniuses” – so he enrolled in another university.

“When I finished my first semester, I was blown away by how much easier it was than I thought it would be,” said Russell, who grew up in a rural farming community in Iowa and hadn’t sat in a classroom since high school. “I immediately found myself wanting more of a challenge. I reached out to the Stanford Office for Military-Affiliated Communities and they told me one of the best ways to transfer was from a community college in California, so that’s where I enrolled. I was fortunate enough to get admitted to Stanford and continue the adventure.”

This quarter, Russell is especially excited about his programming methodology class.

“I’m interested to see how learning to solve programming problems will make me a more well-rounded thinker,” he said.

This class has challenged me to step out of this tech bubble and reflect on how to solve real problems that truly make a positive impact on the world.

Tammy Whe-Ah Cho

Before arriving at Stanford, Tammy Whe-Ah Cho served as chief product officer of a marketing and public relations analytics company that she co-founded.

Cho said she is particularly excited about The Rhetoric of Global Development and Social Change, a course she’s taking to fulfill Stanford’s first year writing requirement.

“I took several gap years to co-found a tech startup before enrolling in Stanford, and during that time, I often found both my peers and myself thinking about rather inconsequential problems to solve,” she said. “This class has challenged me to step out of this tech bubble and reflect on how to solve real problems that truly make a positive impact on the world.”

Daniel P. Hurley, who served in the Marines for 12 years, began his journey to Stanford through the Stanford 2 to 4 Veteran Accelerator Program, a summer program that helps veterans develop the academic skills they will need to thrive at a four-year university.

“My educational history prior to my returning to school after my time in the military was well below standard, and as a result I never entertained the idea that I might be qualified enough to attend a revered university like Stanford,” he said.

After a summer on the Farm, his perspective had changed.

“I was willing to take a chance on applying to some higher-level colleges that didn’t seem a possibility to me just a few months earlier,” Hurley said. “By the time the transfer application season had ended, although I had applied – and been accepted – to some other highly sought-after schools, I only needed to hear ‘yes’ from one of them.”

Hurley, who was a business major at his previous school, has changed direction at Stanford, where he is focusing on the interdisciplinary major, Science, Technology, and Society.

“Part of the reason I am straying from my own beaten path is so that I can be exposed to areas of study that I may have never chosen had I not attended Stanford,” he said.

For Hurley, one of those new areas of study is computer science.

“Computer science is completely foreign to me and I am about as nervous about it as I am excited,” he said. “Computers are the present and the future. I think I have waited long enough to get to know them.”