Barbara Elgutaa is a rarity on university campuses.
The University of Arizona is housing the Pima Community College counselor on its campus specifically to aid transfer students.
It’s a first for both campuses, officials said.
The hope is that Elgutaa, who remains a PCC employee with no UA joint appointment, will help boost the number and success of transfer students.
“We had enough students telling us at Pima College and here at UA that they felt a little lost in the transition, even though pre-advising is offered in both cases,” said UA Vice Provost Jerrold Hogle.
“They need to feel more a part of the university community, which is such a big place.”
The job, which Elgutaa began Jan. 4, will require stamina. She will be responsible for helping hundreds of transfer students each semester get acclimated.
This semester alone, UA welcomed 590 transfer students, and more than half came from PCC.
Each year, UA welcomes hundreds of transfer students, with the vast majority from Arizona colleges.
“The first semester is pretty daunting for many students,” said PCC Chancellor Roy Flores. “Working collaboratively with the university will help students from community colleges, particularly PCC students, succeed.”
It’s an important connection, given mounting concerns about retention efforts and growing demand for higher education in the state and elsewhere.
“Collaboration between the college and the university is the best way for us to go,” Flores said.
Elgutaa is still making connections with officials in 15 UA colleges and setting up in Old Main.
“I don’t like blank walls,” she said one recent Monday, nodding to the spots where she will add posters.
Keepsakes and paintings specific to blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and others are situated all over.
The walls were painted a warm, dark mustard-colored hue, and light music played on her stereo as she spoke.
“The job is really about connecting the students, especially if they come to campus feeling overwhelmed,” said Elgutaa, whose pilot position is for two years.
“It will be tailored, one-on-one attention. We have to make sure they feel welcome here,” said Elgutaa, who once worked for UA’s Native American Student Affairs office.
About this time next year, officials will study the program’s effectiveness and determine whether it should be permanent.
Nathan Dixon said the benefits are obvious.
“UA seemed like a place where you could get lost, like maybe it’s a dream to go there,” said Dixon, 25, a PCC student studying science.
“But I’ve talked to Barbara and taken the tours, and I realize it’s not as big and scary,” he said. “The major advantage is having a liaison who prepares you.”
Sena Kimbrell, 33, also a PCC student, said she can see “huge” benefits from having a permanent point person at UA.
“It’s like having a friend or having a foot in the door already,” said Kimbrell, who wants to pursue a medical degree and plans to transfer next year.
Kimbrell’s perceptions of UA have been that the campus is enormous and unfriendly to nontraditional students.
“I’m not coming from the background of, ‘Hi, I’m 19, just graduated from high school and my parents are paying for college,’ ” said Kimbrell, a single mother.
“But having Barbara gives me a place. She knows why I’m going to school, and I feel like she’ll make the transition easier,” she said. “It’s like having a stepping stone.”
Other stepping stones are in place, and PCC’s “STU 210″ course is among them.
Students in the class are coached through the transfer process and learn about what can be expected from them as university students.
Elgutaa’s job is an extension of the course. “Less than 50 percent of PCC students who come to us take that course,” Hogle said. “Those who don’t have the help from STU 210 can use the help Barbara provides.”
Students can take science, humanities, math and other courses toward the completion of the Arizona General Education Curriculum certificate, which transfers to the state’s universities. To learn more about Pima Community College courses and programs, call 206-4500.