Q: How long have you worked for UNT?

A: I have been at UNT for two and a half years.

Q: What attracted you to the university?

A: Prior to becoming a full-time staff member, I spent a summer at UNT as the NODA intern in the Orientation and Transition Programs office during my master’s program. I had such a great experience at UNT and with OTP, I knew I wanted to return! Having been a transfer student, I have a special care for this student population and decided to keep an eye out for transfer-specific roles after learning about UNT’s Transfer Center from the previous coordinator during my internship. I was very fortunate of the timing that the coordinator for the Transfer Center position opened as I began my job, as this type of role is much less common than others.

Q: What are your responsibilities as coordinator for the Transfer Center?

A: My primary responsibilities include leading and overseeing all transition programs and initiatives that come from the Transfer Center, such as Transfer Communities, Transfer Meet Ups, Eagle for a Day, Transfer Appreciation Week and weekly Transfer Tuesday Emails. I also supervise a graduate assistant and a team of transfer ambassadors. As a team, we work with prospective, incoming, new and continuing transfer students to guide their transfer process and provide them with the connections and resources they need for a successful transition into UNT.

Q: What do you like best about your position?

A: I love helping prospective and new transfer students make UNT their home. Transfer students are unique and they come with different experiences from their previous institutions that they then need to translate into the language, processes and norms of UNT. Getting students who are hesitant or feeling lost, in regards to navigating the transfer process and UNT, to a point of comfort and excitement is the best feeling.

Q: What made you decide to pursue your Ph.D. at UNT?

A: As a graduate student in my master’s program, I knew I wanted to eventually earn a Ph.D. However, I didn’t imagine it being this early in my career. UNT has a great program with wonderful faculty and is home to the Bill J. Priest Center for Community College Education, which I found to be an attractive component of the program. The support and encouragement I received from my supervisor, colleagues, friends and family really helped me solidify my decision. I also am taking advantage of the UNT Faculty/Staff Educational Scholarship, which has been critical to financing my coursework.

Q: Which area of focus are you studying?

A: The UNT Ph.D. program requires a minor/cognate, for which I have chosen the community college track. I have a number of interests, which seem to continue to grow with each class I take, but my main area of interest at the moment is transfer students.

Q: How will obtaining your Ph.D. help your work at UNT?

A: Working towards my Ph.D. has provided me with knowledge and research that I connect to my current role and will continue to connect in future roles. I am constantly learning from the research I read, class assignments and class discussions where I get to hear different perspectives from classmates who are higher education professionals in different areas of the field or at other local institutions, such as our community college partners from which we receive transfer students. After taking a few courses towards my community college cognate, I have been able to apply what I learn in class to my role and the specific population that I work with, as a majority of UNT’s transfer students began their college careers at community colleges. I consider myself a lifelong learner and believe that furthering my education as much as possible will allow me to be a better professional and serve students and UNT as best as I possibly can.

Q: You’ve recently written an article for Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education about balancing a doctoral program and working full time. What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone who is looking to further his or her education while working full time?

A: While this post could not cover the breadth of “lessons learned” during my first year and a half of balancing work and school, I think it’s important to mention that I’m still learning new lessons about how to navigate this process all the time. The advice I would give someone is to go into a program knowing it will be hard and sacrifices will have to be made, including making coursework your new hobby, but finding a support system of people, wherever possible, who encourage you to keep going and celebrate your accomplishments can help alleviate some of that stress. How you spend your time is crucial, and knowing I have supportive people at work and in my personal life allows me comfort when I have to make hard decisions in order to work towards my goals.

Click here to read Kelsey Kunkle’s article, “Taking the Plunge Without the Pay Cut: Lessons Learned While Balancing a Ph.D. Program and Full Time Job.”

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Contact: Ray Willhoft, 940-565-2464, raymond.willhoft@unt.edu