Empowering and Motivating Students in the Face of COVID-19

by Jewel Bourne / Sep 29, 2020

Empowerment, motivation, and information all embody the mission of the Center for Community College Partnerships at UCLA. CCCP is an academic development program with foundations in critical race theory and transfer receptive culture, which help community college students prepare and become academically eligible for the University of California system. 

To meet the challenges COVID-19 has presented for the center and students alike, and in order to continue serving students in culturally relevant and affirming ways, CCCP developed its Power to the Transfer Student Experience, a series of webinars that were open to community college students, counselors, families, and community members. Along with amplifying and honoring lived experiences, each session “advances the notion that there is power when communities come together” (Jain, Bernal and Herrera, 2020). 

As a part of 12 community-specific webinars, the Sept. 19 session, “Power to the STEM Transfer Experience,” was the only one in the series tailored to a major or career interest and was a celebration of diverse experiences. The webinar took place in three sessions that included keynote addresses, panels, and major-specific breakrooms. It chronicled the successes, trials, and tribulations of individuals who have navigated the community college transfer pathway toward degrees and careers in STEM, prioritizing meaningful inclusivity and representation. At its core, the webinar was about ensuring that students saw community college and transfer as possible.

This was a first-rate webinar, from the pre-webinar slide show to the music to the introductions of staff and statements on COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter. There were even notes about online etiquette and thoughtful considerations that centered on the perspective of students.

A few other things that stood out were the Zoom backgrounds and a “This is What a Scientist Looks Like” social media campaign that allowed students to engage in and demonstrate transfer pride. Overall, it was a space that allowed students to navigate the unknowns of what can be a challenging pathway education, particularly during this time. Attendees gained access to what they wanted and needed to know, as well as what they might not yet know.

The sessions in this webinar series were not focused on admissions. Rather, they were about demystifying the specific social, racial, and gendered barriers that often prevent students from envisioning transfer in general, and even more so transfer to “elite institutions.” The measure of success for CCCP “is not only that they transfer, or preparing them for how to get in, but also how to excel, how to thrive, how to graduate and move on” (Herrera, 2019). 

The webinar provided examples of possibility through the selected keynote speakers, including a practicing spine surgeon and a recent UCLA transfer student who graduated and whose journey was not linear. A how-to manual of wisdom on navigating academia and a panel featuring accomplished women scientists, parents, deans, and professors, all of whom acknowledged their roots, were enlightening. 

The session concluded with an opportunity for students to engage in breakout rooms with individuals who had experience in their specific disciplines. Here they discussed and asked questions about experiences at community colleges and universities regarding navigating the STEM transfer process as an undocumented student, a parenting student, and a full-time student, highlighting the many intersectional identities community college students often simultaneously hold. There was also an opportunity to win “college-going” swag through a raffle.

Culturally relevant word cloud wordsTo paraphrase Dr. Ersno Eromo, one of the webinar’s keynote speakers, this session was about the creation and sustainability of authentic relationships to support and encourage community college students to accomplish their transfer goals. It encouraged them to pursue STEM because it is their passion and to know that, while the path is not always easy, it is in fact possible.

CCCP’s webinar series provided a virtual transfer-empowerment experience that was born out of uncertainty but, in my opinion, is a necessity that allows students to see themselves and to be valued, affirmed, and inspired—all musts when it comes to successful transfer.



Cultivating Excelencia. The Center for Community College Partnerships [Advertisement].  (September 9, 2020).

Jain, D., Melendez Bernal, S.N., & Herrera, A.R. (2020) Power to the transfer: Critical race theory and a transfer receptive culture. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press.


Top image by Bessie Rodriguez Sanchez of the Center for Community College Partnerships at UCLA.