Back to Top
Utility Nav Top Nav Content News Nav Site Search
Close Main Menu

NISTS honors innovators and game-changers at annual conference

Janet Marling, executive director of the National Institute of the Study of Transfer Students, speaks during the organization's annual conference Feb. 13-15 in Atlanta. NISTS is the only national organization solely focused on transfer student success and is based on the University of North Georgia's Dahlonega Campus.

"If there is one thing we can all agree upon, it’s that the process of transferring is too difficult," Dr. Janet Marling said in her "Welcome" statement in the National Institute of the Study of Transfer Students (NISTS) conference program.

Higher education faculty and staff dedicated to improving the complex issues facing transfer students met at the 17th annual NISTS conference Feb. 13-15 in Atlanta. More than 600 higher education professionals attended the conference to share ideas and explore promising practices through workshops, discussions and presentations.

NISTS was founded in 2002 by University of North Georgia (UNG) President Bonita Jacobs in response to a lack of professional development opportunities and research literature focused specifically on transfer students. During this year’s conference, NISTS recognized more than a dozen individuals for their efforts regarding the success of transfer students.


More than 600 higher education professionals attended the 17th annual National Institute of the Study of Transfer Students.

The most prestigious award, the Bonita C. Jacobs Transfer Champion Award, was given to Debra Bragg. It is awarded to a person who has played a significant role in advancing the national transfer conversation.

"Transfer Champions have demonstrated exceptional advocacy and leadership on behalf of transfer students at the state or national level," said Marling, executive director of NISTS which is based on UNG's Dahlonega Campus. "Throughout their careers, they have significantly improved transfer student access, persistence and success in areas such as policy, research or advocacy."

Bragg is the director of Community College Research Initiatives at the University of Washington in Seattle and founding director of the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was also named an endowed university professor. She currently leads a study of high-performing transfer partnerships with higher-than-predicted baccalaureate attainment rates for students of color and low-income students.

Bragg is one of 13 higher education faculty and staff honored with an award. Four received the Catalyst Award, three were named Rising Stars, four were tapped as Transfer Student Ambassadors, and one earned the Dissertation of the Year award.

The Catalyst Award recognizes mid-career professionals who are game-changers in the transfer field and have worked over time to make a significant impact at the institutional, regional and/or state level. The winners were:

  • Eboni M. Zamani-Gallaher, associate dean of the Graduate School at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she also serves as a professor in education policy, organization, and leadership and the director of OCCRL.
  • John Fink, senior research associate for the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College in Columbia University.
  • Paulina Palomino, dean of Student Services at East Los Angeles College, where she is an essential part of increasing partnerships between two- and four-year institutions in Southern California.
  • Russell Baker, vice president for Academic Affairs at Ivy Tech Community College.

The Rising Star Award recognizes individuals who make significant contributions in the early stages of their careers, creating or improving programming that is responsive to the specific transfer student population and shows evidence of success. The awardees were:

  • Crystal Flowers, transfer coordinator and admissions specialist at Florida A&M University, where she is an award-winning student life skills (SLS) instructor.
  • Jason Dodge, University of Central Florida’s director of Transfer and Transition Services (TTS).
  • Robert Charlebois, a transfer coordinator for Academic Advising and Transfer Services at the University of South Alabama, where he launched an academic advising and transition support program for prospective transfer students called Pathway USA.

Transfer Student Ambassadors were selected through a national competition intended to recognize outstanding students who represent the heart of transfer work. All four demonstrated excellence in leadership, public speaking, and their potential for sharing meaningful information with higher education transfer professionals. They were:

  • Jevaughney "Jay" Francis of Appalachian State University
  • Jennifer Hernandez of University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Bianca Hill of Baylor University
  • Taylor Smith of Spelman College

Winning the 2019 Barbara K. Townsend Dissertation of the Year Award was Laura W. Yavitz, Ph.D., for her "Vertical Transfer and Baccalaureate Completion for Adult Community College Students: Milestones and Momentum Points that Matter." The study examined the impact of the academic momentum theoretical framework on adult community college students.

For more information, visit the NISTS website.

UNG follows Section 508 Standards and WCAG 2.0 for web accessibility. If you require the content on this web page in another format, please contact the ADA Coordinator.

Back to Top