University of Tampa

04/12/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 04/12/2024 10:10

Transfer Students Find Community at UT

Published: April 12, 2024

While UT is often thought of as a traditional four-year institution, many transfer students have found their home on Spartan soil. Students Abby Grinnell '25, Hannah Kowanes '24 and Chad Mendez '24 shared how they found community and are thriving through transfer-student supportive programs on campus.

Creating a Community for Transfers

Creating a home a thousand miles away from New York involved more than a trip to Target for Abby Grinnell '25 and Hannah Kowanes '24.

Abby Grinnell '25, left, and Hannah Kowanes '24, right, enjoyed taking the Transfer Spartans Club up to the top of the minaret. Photo courtesy of Hannah Kowanes

Grinnell, an advertising and public relations major, and Kowanes, an allied health major, created the UT Transfer Spartans Club for students like them, whether they're from farmlands or city lights, to find their flow at UT.

"The freshmen come in with a UT identity; they are UT students," Grinnell said. For transfers, especially from community colleges, you don't ever get that introductory time or 'vibe,'" Kowanes said.

For some, academics can look like an ant pile next to the summit of social changes that come with transferring into a new school.

"I was a good student, I just didn't know how to outreach," Kowanes said. "I didn't know what clubs to join if I'm a brand-new student. I just didn't know where to start. But I knew how all the classes worked."

Kowanes and Grinnell met while working under academic advisor Melanie Link-Perez in the transfer sector of Academic Advising. Through their internship, Kowanes and Grinnell learned how to start a new club for transfer students.

Soon, the mission of the UT Transfer Spartans Club was drafted, with phrases like "welcoming community," "a sense of belonging that empowers," and "together, we navigate" that pop out.

They fulfill that mission through the club's activities. They've partnered with UT's Rock Music Club for a live concert, played beach volleyball and painted in Plant Park. Their next big goal is to take club members to a Lightning game.

Kowanes and Grinnell want transfer students have the club as a home base.

Transfer students can join any semester, as soon as they are admitted to UT. "You don't have to find your best friend, but just to recognize people when you're walking around campus - just a familiar face. I feel like the school is really growing, so just to find some people to associate yourself with (helps)," Kowanes said.

"(I) took a while to call UT home. But now I do. It's about the people that make it feel like home," she added.

For more information about the Transfer Spartans Club, or to join, visit the club's Instagram @ transferspartansclub.

In the Name: Thriving Within Success Scholars

Chad Mendez '24 is an international business and finance double-major who transferred to UT from Hillsborough Community College.

As a transfer, he was worried about finding his place with the Spartans.

Chad Mendez '24 with Jayla Norton, Wynette Norton and Shaylynn Norton at the Martin Luther King Day Parade, from right to left. Photo courtesy of Chad Mendez

"UT checked a lot of boxes for me. Small campus, beautiful, new lecture halls. In a lot of ways, I was like, 'UT's a great school for me,'" Mendez said. "But, at the end of the day, it's still a new environment. I just knew it was going to be something different, and that it usually takes time for me to adjust."

For Mendez, support came in a different package than finding a friend group. The staff in the Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion helped him feel welcome.

Chief Diversity Officer Thomas L. Witherspoon alerted Mendez to a program called Success Scholars which offers alternative spring break trips to cities like Memphis and Atlanta, funds for textbooks and summer classes, contact with the ODEI staff and "lunch and learns," which allow scholars to dine and network with a faculty or staff member. Students are provided help one-on-one with peer mentors, who send out weekly emails with resources.

Mendez took full advantage of social activities, workshops, academic support and service opportunities through Success Scholars. He is one of 300 first-generation and under-represented students who find support in the program.

In addition, mentoring and coffee with Witherspoon led Mendez to an internship with the Hillsborough County Urban League, where he supports community-oriented initiatives and economic equality for racial minorities.

"At UT, (I'm) happy finding resources on campus, especially being a part of DEI. I think that's the biggest thing for me," Mendez said.

"I had a lot of that at HCC, just huge, diverse groups of kids. … That was so impactful for me, (so) to then come to UT, (and find) that again and being able to do what makes me happy - so super grateful," he said.

For more information about Success Scholars, visit their Instagram page @utampascholars or their web page,

Story by Lena Malpeli '25