Brought To You By NSU; Written by Leah Jackson
Chris James, 20, is not your typical transfer student. This spring the junior communications major is only in his second semester at Northwestern State University, but he is already well-known around campus and has set high goals for himself.
Chris was born in Dallas, but his mother served in the military, and he graduated from Airline High School in Bossier City. He then enrolled at Bossier Parish Community College where he got m involved with the Student Government Association, the debate team, theatre and volunteering with the campus food pantry. Last May, he earned an associate degree in general studies. His next step was to transfer to NSU in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.
As a transfer student, Chris isn’t alone. NSU has partnerships with schools, universities, community, junior and technical colleges, hospitals and clinics, Fort Johnson and other institutions throughout Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and internationally that allow credit transfers so that students can seamlessly transition into NSU. About 35 percent of NSU students are transfer students. NSU also offers resources and support to Chris and other first-generation students who are the first in their families to attend college. At NSU, that is about 34 percent of students.
Positive and outgoing, Chris lives and works on campus. NSU sat down to visit with him about his experiences as a transfer and first-generation student, his career goals and why he loves NSU. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Why did you select NSU?
Chris James: After being at BPCC for a while and feeling the environment and how welcoming it was, I did a tour here at NSU. They are kind of similar. I see NSU as a bigger version of what BPCC is. It’s like going from one family to another and I feel like a name instead of a number. This was actually the only school I toured.
What have you’re involved with at NSU?
Chris James: I started with UPC [University Programming Council] and now I’m part of SGA. During the summer I will be doing Freshman Connection. I work for [Director of Student Affairs] Dr. Yonna Pasch and I chose her because at BPCC I did a lot of student life things and she is the person to go to for those that. I like working with her, so I can look up to her embody the same things as her, so one day maybe I can be in higher education as well.
Student Affairs is a possible career path for you?
Chris James: I feel like this is something I can really succeed in and I just love it so much. Why not do something that you are passionate about?
Can you talk about things that motivate and inspire you?
Chris James: Mainly the fact that I’m a first-generation college student, so a lot of my family rely me for inspiration to go to the next level. It’s really hard, but I love to be that person that sets the path for my cousins and brothers so they know since I’m doing it, they can do it, too, and I’ll be there to help them along the way. My personality is high-spirited, fun, communicative. I’m always going to talk to anyone and everyone. I have a good amount of structure. One thing I try to take from Yonna is to make sure I’m fun but structured at the same time. That way, we can have a good event and have it flow at the same time.
What do you love about NSU?
Chris James: The first thing is that you are a name and not a number. Even though it’s a big campus you can still get that one-on-one time with a professor or advisor and there are people here that want to see you succeed and help contribute to you succeeding. You can go to other colleges and sometimes they are helpful and sometimes they are not, they may know your name, they may not. Here for sure they are going to know your name and they are going to help reach out for the opportunities that you need and they are going to push for you to have success.
What are some tips you would give other transfer students to encourage them to get involved with campus life?
Chris James: Being a transfer student is hard on its own. Don’t make it harder on yourself by staying in your dorm, closing yourself off. You’ve been in college, you’ve had the experience if you are a transfer student, so now is your time to put yourself out there on the scene and join clubs or anything that you think can connect with you. You’ve got to find your group, find those people, find that organization that betters you, brightens your day, gives you something that’s going to add on. We’re here to have fun, but also to get to our endgame, which is being successful. You want to find things that better you, makes you happy and give you motivation and encouragement to do something new every day.
What are some things you looking forward to?
Chris James: I saw the current Mr. NSU. I would love to be in that spot. I would love to go through all these different clubs and organizations and work my way up be Mr. NSU. I want to be that person people look up to and think, ‘He’s only been here for a year, but he’s right there. If he can do it in a short amount of time, I can definitely do it in a four-year period.’ I want to be Mr. NSU and help inspire, motivate and educate people throughout the rest of my college journey.
I really think that I’m going to stay and get my master’s here. Dr. Yonna is very helpful and having her along my side will help me get to that common goal that I have with some of my friends and be a great leader on campus one day.
I just love it here. I really do. I don’t have a huge family that knows a lot about school or that are very involved in my life. My family is my school. That’s why I spend so much time here.