Transfer students are a vital part of the diverse fabric at the University of Colorado Denver. They make up more than half of each incoming class at our university, and roughly 60 percent of that group arrives from community colleges.

CCD transfers to CU Denver
Pascal Nzitonda Bitana, left, and Derly Santos Maldonado both transferred to CU Denver from the Community College of Denver.

Abby Muro works in a new role at CU Denver – Assistant Director for Transfer Recruitment – and it’s a perfect position for her. She previously served as an advisor at community colleges in Washington state, where her main goal was to retain students.

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“Now I’m on the other side of things, working on recruitment, so it’s been an awesome job,” said Muro, who joined CU Denver five months ago. Her duties include supervising the relatively new Transfer Admission Center, a helpful one-stop information resource for transfer students, in the Student Commons Building.

Muro said transfer students bring a wealth of life experience to the university. She notes that they encompass an amazing breadth of diversity, both demographically and socioeconomically. “Transfer students are generally a little older, and with that comes more life experiences, personally and professionally, that they are able to bring to the university and the classroom,” she said.

Muro said the main questions they ask are: Will my credits transfer? What will my transfer process look like?

“We want to make sure that they have a place that they can go to get information,” she said. “We’re working to better streamline the credit transfer process so it’s clear before they come to our office how their credits will transfer.”

Abby Muro of CU Denver
Abby Muro is Assistant Director for Transfer Recruitment at CU Denver.

Muro has launched weekly sessions called “Transfer Thursdays” which provide opportunities for students to learn about CU Denver from an admissions counselor, tour the campus, receive information about general transfer admission requirements, explore academic program/major admissions requirements, meet with an advisor of their prospective school or college, and learn more about funding and scholarship opportunities at CU Denver.

When, for instance, a prospective student is a military veteran, the Transfer Admission Center links him or her to the resources available through CU Denver’s Veteran & Military Student Services Office.

“Overall, we’re trying to assemble all the resources we can and be equipped in our office to provide prospective students the most accurate information possible,” Muro said. “Ideally, we’d like to have very robust services where we can sit down with a prospective student and be able to completely understand their needs. Sometimes that means helping students articulate what their needs are.”

Here are stories of a couple former community college students who chose CU Denver to complete their degrees.

Derly Santos Maldonado

Derly Santos Maldonado was living in New Orleans eight years ago when she took a road trip with friends to check out a few colleges. About a thousand miles into the trip, her best friend got homesick and returned to Louisiana.

Not Maldonado. Once she got a taste of Colorado’s mountains and sunshine – not to mention Denver’s unique tri-institutional urban university campus – she knew where she belonged. “I was like, ‘I’m staying here – I’m not going back,’” she said. “I quit my job back in New Orleans and came here.”

Abby Muro at CU Denver
Derly Santos Maldonado enjoys working at the Transfer Admission Center in the Student Commons Building.

Maldonado, a native of Costa Rica, wanted to continue working on her English, so she first enrolled at the Community College of Denver. She went on to earn an associate’s degree, but knew she wanted to pursue a career in public health. She aspires to promote public health and disease prevention, especially in developing countries.

So, Maldonado looked into the University of Colorado Denver, and another love affair developed.

‘People here care for you’

“I feel like the people here really care for you – that’s just one of the things I love about it,” Maldonado said. In 2013 she became a full-time student at CU Denver, majoring in public health and science. Just as she is passionate about the variety of Colorado’s 14ers – she’s climbed 34 of the state’s highest peaks so far – Maldonado loves the many options afforded by the public health field. “You can go so many different routes,” she said. “You could go from there into medicine or nursing, or some other health care career.”

Maldonado, who will graduate in December, plans to pursue a master’s degree in public health at the Colorado School of Public Health at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

While at CU Denver, she has enjoyed working as both a student ambassador and a student worker in the Transfer Admission Center. “I love it,” she said. “I can relate to transfer students.”

Maldonado thrives on surmounting challenges, and she appreciates the way CU Denver professors lay out a clear path on which students can succeed – all the while counting on students to do their part. “They have high expectations of performance from their students – it’s all equitable and professional,” she said.

Takes part in extra-curriculars

While she’s only been a student at CU Denver for a little over two years – she arrived with 60 credits – Maldonado quickly bonded with classmates and enjoyed extra-curricular programs. She’s part of Trio Student Support Services as well as the Educational Opportunity Programs. If she had it to do over, Maldonado says she probably would have transferred a little sooner in order to more fully experience everything that CU Denver, Colorado’s public urban research university, has to offer.

Still, she’s got more friends than she can count. “I don’t have my family here – they’re mostly all still back in New Orleans – so my friends here kind of fill that gap,” Maldonado said with a smile.

Pascal Nzitonda Bitana

Pascal Nzitonda Bitana enjoys the insights that his CU Denver classes give him into the wider world. He’s always been interested in international affairs, having experienced a turbulent childhood halfway across the globe. Violence and political strife in the Democratic Republic of Congo forced his family from their home when Bitana was 3, landing them in refugee camps in Rwanda for many years. In 2012, when Bitana was in his late teens, he and a few of his brothers received refugee asylum in the United States.

He was too old, 19, when he arrived in Colorado to enroll in a traditional high school, so Bitana earned his GED. Then he enrolled at the Community College of Denver (CCD), hoping to improve his English.

International flair at CU Denver
Pascal Nzitonda Bitana and Derly Santos Maldonado, both transfer students, are part of the rich international diversity at CU Denver. Bitana is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, while Maldonado is a native of Costa Rica.

“I had an idea, even before I CCD, to come to here to CU Denver, but I never had anybody to motivate me,” Bitana said. He also assumed he needed an associate’s degree before he could transfer.

Bonded with fellow international students

But at a transfer fair at CCD he learned that wasn’t the case; a CU Denver representative told him that he could transfer at any time. Bitana thought, “Cool, I’ll go ahead and apply.” He did, choosing International Studies as a major and French as a minor. He began speaking French as a young boy, but his native language is Kinyarwanda, the national language of Rwanda.

Bitana enrolled in fall 2015 and took an immediate liking to Colorado’s public urban research university. “At CU Denver, I met people who are majoring in International Studies like me. I thought, ‘Oh, this is a good place to be because there are many students doing the same major as me,” he said. “I got great advice from them and information about good professors to take for classes. So, it turned out to be a really good thing for me to transfer.”

He noticed that at the community college level, instructors tend to “hold your hand a little more. Here (at CU Denver), you’re expected to be a more mature student and be a little more responsible, which I think is good.”

Bitana is getting to know even more of his fellow CU Denver students thanks to a new job, which came about through his helpful nature. He was showing a student how to register for classes online in the Student Commons Building when he was spotted by Abby Muro, Assistant Director of Transfer Recruitment. Muro, impressed by Bitana’s friendliness and maturity, informed him that the Transfer Admission Center had openings for student workers. “I filled out an application right away and gave it to her and the next day she called me,” he said. “I’m learning a lot, and it’s very good. I know some of what transfer students go through because I went through it myself. So I can relate to the people I serve.”

Enjoys helping other refugees

Meanwhile, Bitana’s academic career is likewise on an upward trajectory. He recently learned that he will be inducted into the Honors Society for International Students on March 30.

Bitana expects to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in spring 2018. He has his sights set on becoming a diplomat, so he plans to pursue a graduate degree in International Studies or a related field. “That’s my dream career, and I know it’s a very competitive position to get,” he said. “I’d also love to work for an international firm or a non-governmental organization to get experience.”

He would ultimately like to help people in other countries, especially those who are forced from their homelands by war and political strife. “I’ve been a refugee for quite a long time and I know what they go through,” Bitana said. “I’ll be happy to help other refugees.”

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