The tables were mostly empty and the recruiters from the more than 100 universities attending Santa Monica College’s Recruitment Fair, one of the largest in the nation, had packed up and left.
But Ellen Perlmutter, an undergraduate admissions officer from Cornell University, was still fielding questions from students eager to enter one of the nation’s elite Ivy League schools.
“This is the only (college fair) I’m coming to,” says Perlmutter, who ran out of brochures long before the event ended.
Recruiters from other top universities from across the nation (Columbia, the University of Miami, Oregon State), as well as top schools closer to home (UCLA and USC) and even abroad (Middlesex University in England) flocked the grounds around the campus clock tower this past October to lure students from the state’s top transfer school.
What they found was a wildly diverse student body that reflected an increasing global world (two-thirds of SMC’s students are from minority ethnic groups) and well-prepared motivated students eager to take the next leap in their academic careers.
“This is a fascinating student body with remarkable diversity,” Perlmutter says. “They have a very solid academic background here, and they’re people who are very interesting and enrich the campus to which they’re transferring.”
“The diversity is just amazing,” says Jaime Perry, a recruiter for the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara. SMC, he says, “is fulfilling the full spectrum of what the world really looks like.
“There’s a lot of inclusion, and that creates an atmosphere that is just welcoming. In many ways, it’s a lesson plan for the political atmosphere in the country.”
While recruiters comb the country’s top high schools looking for college prospects, four-year universities often prefer to tap transfer students from two-year colleges who have fulfilled many undergraduate course requirements and have narrowed their choice of majors.
“Transfer students do well because they have a foundation and tend to be focused,” says Christine Parra, assistant director of admissions for Loyola Marymount. “They tend to know what they want.”
In fact, some schools are now focusing their efforts on tested students who have made the grade at community colleges, especially those with at least one full year under their belts and no less than a 3.0 GPA.
“We go after more transfer students now,” says Frank Colon, an outreach officer for Cal State Dominguez Hills. “They get out a lot quicker. All we have to do is make sure they complete their major requirements.
“The mindset of a transfer student is completely different,” Colon says. “They have their mind set on what they want.”
SMC Sophomores Cristhian Palacios Antonio and Nikola-Max Loder know exactly what they’re after, and they have a good idea where to get it. Both are interested in pursuing degrees in history, and they’ve eyed St. John’s College, a small private institution in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
But on this warm, sunny Southern California day, Palacios and Loder are suddenly confronted with 115 other options, some of them much closer to home. UC Santa Barbara, which has a table at the fair, seems an attractive choice.
“I would rather stay in California,” Palacios says. “There’s nothing like California.”
For Loder, who always “loved history, it’s like a story,” the ideal four-year school would offer “a genuine intellectual atmosphere, knowledge for knowledge’s sake.”
“I didn’t feel I was ready to leave home,” says Loder, adding that he has already been accepted to several UC schools. “The community college stigma is unfounded. The classes are smaller. You get to know the professors. They are preparing me. I’m leaving getting the fundamentals down.”
Gal Bushy is strolling the fair with a friend when he spots the table for the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara and launches into a discussion with recruiter Jaime Perry on the merits and drawbacks of digital photography.
Bushy, who has a passion for images, says he is clear about his long-term goal – he wants to be a plastic surgeon. But it’s his short-term plans, what to do with the next few years, he’s not so sure about. And Bushy, who came seeking some guidance from the fair, thinks he may have found it at the Brooks Institute booth.
“I don’t know what to choose,” he tells the recruiter, as he scans a list of academic areas he might be interested in pursuing. “All these are absolutely amazing.”
“Mark all the ones you’re interested in,” Perry tells him. “That’s the beginning of creating a passion.”
“I want to know more about light and how to manipulate light in the lens,” Bushy says. Bushy is still weighing his options, as he walks away with a handful of information. “In the short term, I’m still kind of confused,” he says. “I guess I’m all over the place.”
For Perry, Bushy, whose passion for classic 35 mm cameras has resulted in a spirited debate, is the kind of student that the Brooks Institute – which focuses on photography, filmmaking or graphic design – is eyeing.
“We’re looking for students who are very passionate about all areas of the visual arts,” Perry says. “We’re looking for students who know from high school that they cannot live without pictures.”
Sophomore Raquel Rodriguez knows her passion is music, and as she checks the rows of tables lined up on the grass, she’s drawn to the image of a recording studio on a brochure touting the music program at Columbia College in Chicago. “Chicago,” Rodriguez says, “is a big city. And I’m a big city girl.”
Like many undergrads, Rodriguez sees her next few years as a chance to explore other parts of the country, while completing her studies. “I love LA, but I want to leave for a couple of years and come back,” she says. “I’m still keeping my options open.”
Columbia College recruiter Amy Mitchell is impressed with the crop of SMC students flocking to the fair – “great kids, smart questions.”
“We look for students that are creative, motivated, passionate,” says Mitchell. “We look for kids who know what they want to do and are focused on that.”
One of SMC’s draws is the campus’ diverse student body, which lures universities seeking lucrative foreign students, as well as campuses looking to reflect an increasingly eclectic world.
“A large enrollment of international students brings more money, which allows you to open up more sessions,” says Patrice Mulholland, a recruiter for San Francisco State University, which has a large number of international students.
“It’s good for classes, especially political science and international studies,” Mulholland says. “We always like the adventurous student.”
One foreign student lured to the San Francisco State booth is Haruka Kanzaki, a Japanese native who has finished her first year at SMC, which boasts 2,700 international students.
“I didn’t expect so many Japanese people,” Kanzaki says of the student body. “I see Japanese everywhere.”
Kanzaki didn’t know what to expect when she accepted admission to SMC, the first U.S. college to respond to her application request. “They take great care of me,” she says. “I like it. I came to improve my English and meet new people.”
Although Kanzaki would like to “see more detail and reality” before committing to San Francisco State, she’s leaning towards the school up the coast, where she hopes to study business.
“I think San Francisco is good,” she says. “I’ve never been there, but I think people are really kind.”
Michelle Lawrence, a recruiter for Middlesex University in England, was combing SMC for students willing to explore another country where they can pursue their career paths.
“Twenty-five percent of our student body is international, and there’s a large international student presence here,” Lawrence says. “This is probably the best transfer fair. There’s a lot of interest from students wanting to go abroad, more than in most community colleges. It’s a good match.”
If some universities came to Santa Monica College to find students from other countries, many local schools came to recruit those who want to stay in the Los Angeles area. UCLA, which had a line of tables staffed by half a dozen recruiters and advisors, was mobbed.
“Every year we have to add another table,” says Lawanda Bains, who evaluates students for UCLA. “We don’t push for international students.”
Bains was busy fielding questions from prospective transfers. “What is the difference between cognitive science and psychology?” one student wants to know. “What is the ideal number of units to transfer?” asks another. “What if I take anthropology or music theory, does that count if I’m a history major?”
Bains encourages the students to set up an individual appointment through the SMC Transfer center with a UCLA recruiter who will be stationed on campus. The recruiter will tell students “what they need to do, what’s missing on their transcripts and help them with the personal statements they must submit.
“We want to know why we should pick these students,” Bains says.
Daniel Ryan, a sophomore at SMC, has been looking at the UCLA handouts and asking numerous questions. Ryan hopes to stay put and get into the school he’s always wanted to attend.
“It’s my dream, man,” says Ryan, who wants to study history and become a writer. “My dad went there, my roommates go there. I’m going to look at other schools, but I wouldn’t even think about it if I get into UCLA.”
SMC students have proven they’re committed to making sacrifices, says Natividad Vazquez, a counselor at the school. Many of the students come from southeast Los Angeles and are sometimes the first in their families to attend college.
“A kid that will spend two hours on a bus one way and two hours back is a little more committed,” Vazquez says. “The representatives who are coming here know they are talking to students who are on the right track.”
Frank Ramirez, a recruiter for UC Merced, noticed that SMC students were different when he attended his first fair on the campus this year. Unlike other college fairs, where teachers sometimes escort their classes, Santa Monica students were taking their own initiative.
“This has the most activity I’ve seen,” Ramirez says. “It seems like here people are coming on their own. It brings a different really positive atmosphere.”
Julie Samere, a recruiter with USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, was impressed with this year’s fair.
“It’s always a great turnout,” Samere says as she clears the table. “The transfer department does a great job. It makes it easier for us. This is definitely the largest fair, the highest volume of student traffic, the most interest in USC,” she says.
The recruitment fair is just another service the college provides its students, says SMC Trustee Louise Jaffe.
“It’s a great opportunity for the students to look at their options,” Jaffe says, as she strolls along the row of tables lined with students. “There are schools you’ve heard of, and schools you’ve never heard of. It’s one-stop shopping.”
From 47 States the Shared Opinion of SMC’s Out-of-State Students:
“We start at SMC so that we can graduate from the best universities in the U.S.…”
… or to break into acting or study photography, or to play women’s volleyball or men’s football, or to study music or animation or computer science, or… (you can fill in another 1,800 reasons, one for each of the out-of-state students attending SMC this semester). And of course, there’s also the weather!
SMC out-of-state student Min Kim
from Chicago, Illinois
“I fell in love with Southern California — the first time I came down from Washington seven years ago, I knew I was going to come here for college,” enthuses Alex Rust, from Snohomish, a small town on the eastern side of Puget Sound. “I plan to continue on after SMC at UC Santa Barbara, hopefully, but right now I’m in my first semester and I’m having a great time.”
For Min Kim, from Chicago, coming to California to study has also long been an ambition. “I was accepted into the University of Illinois at Chicago, but being in California is important to me and my family, and I know being at SMC, I have a higher chance of transferring than starting at other colleges.”
SMC out-of-state student Amy Clarke
from Phoenix, Arizona
For Ryan Nakagawa, from the island of Maui in Hawaii, coming to the mainland to study was for anything but the weather. “I love it in Hawaii, it’s beautiful, and everything is gorgeous, but it’s time for a break and to see what it’s like to be off ‘the rock,’” he explains, proving his point by adding that skateboarding, illegal in Hawaii, is much better in California.
Magaly Perez, from Miami, Florida, after duly noting that “the weather is amazing here, I have never seen anything like this! It always rains in Miami,” provides her real reason for coming to Southern California. “Every since I was a little girl, I wanted to try and break into acting, whether dirt poor or filthy rich, this was how I want to live the rest of my life. And so here I am in California.” Magaly adds, “And the theater department is great, they’re so willing to help me in my educational aspirations.”
SMC out-of-state student Alex Rust
from Snohomish, Washington
Matthew Robinson concurs. “I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio, and I’m an aspiring filmmaker. I came to SMC because I knew it was an inexpensive college where I would get quality classes. I’ve been accepted to Pepperdine for the Spring semester, but I’m working to increase my GPA to help me qualify for their academic scholarship program.”
For Amy Clark, from Phoenix, Arizona, the reputation of SMC’s photography department drew her here. SMC is one of only two schools in California with a matriculation agreement to Brooks Institute, one of the world’s leading centers of study for professional photography. “SMC offers the best photography program and there is always help available,” she notes.
SMC out-of-state student Ryan Nakagawa
from Lahaina, Hawai’i
Makinzie Provost, from Anacortes, Washington, chose SMC after touring the campus in her junior year at high school. “I knew it was the right place for me, and this way I can transfer to a four-year California university after I become a resident.” Makinzie also reports on taking a jazz class at SMC: “I love it, it is a really great way to relieve stress and it wakes you up in the morning!”
Taylor Morgan has hopes of becoming the Dallas Cowboy’s next medical athletic trainer. “I am studying sports medicine, exercise physiology, and biokinesiology.” On coming to California from Sedro-Woolley, Washington, she says, “I moved from a small town at the last minute, not knowing what I was going to do. Once I got here I wanted to play volleyball, and ended up talking to the SMC women’s volleyball coach, who talked me into coming out for her team. I’m red-shirted for this year, but hope to be ready and more prepared for next year.”
SMC out-of-state student Rashan Ortiz
from Kissimmee, Florida
Rashan Ortiz, from Kissimmee, Florida (on the northwest shore of Lake Tohopekaliga, near Orlando, if you were to ask), was recruited to SMC by members of the men’s football coaching staff. His family is very close knit, and all ten of them helped bring him to California and get settled. In SMC’s first home game, Rashan ran a 95-yard punt return for the Corsairs.
For opportunity, cost, and the weather, students from out-of-state are increasingly choosing SMC. First time freshmen should consider applying online in January and February, to plan for any financial aid in March, and complete admissions and enroll in May and June, advises Dr. Esther Hugo, SMC’s Outreach Program Coordinator.
SMC out-of-state student Makinzie Provost
from Anacortes, Washington
“We want students from around the country to know that we have specialized services and programs for out-of-state students. As Santa Monica College is close to the entertainment capital of the world, we know how to roll out the red carpet for students and their families,” says Dr. Hugo.
“Our out-of-state students can expect to have specialized counseling services, including assessment interpretation, and assistance in selecting that all-important first semester of classes. We have cyber-counseling appointments with students so they can take advantage of all of our wonderful courses. With our dynamic faculty, flexible program, and amazing location in sunny Southern California, we offer our out-of-staters an exceptional opportunity for their first college experience.”
For more information, visit the SMC website at www.smc.edu/welcomecenter/outstudent, or contact Dr. Esther Hugo at (310) 434-4955.
Outreach Program Faculty Leader Esther Hugo talks to a group at VIP Day;
out-of-state students, including a tour group from Hawai’i
Where We Live: Student Perspectives
Ten Santa Monica College advanced photography students collaborated recently with the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Museum Photographs Council, and three other area community colleges on a unique project, pairing renowned photographers with the students, who created photographs inspired by the Getty Museum’s exhibition Where We Live: Photographs of America from the Berman Collection.
|Nelson Castro, “Egretta or Ardea,” 2006|
In November 2006, four photographers featured in the Getty exhibition worked with the students and, after studying the exhibition, the students met the photographers at the Getty Museum, discussed photography with them, and set off into their own Los Angeles neighborhoods to take pictures. The SMC students worked with professor Alex Harris, founder of the Center for Documentary Photography at Duke University. Students visited a neighborhood every week over the course of eight weeks and brought back new pictures to their class for critique.
|Kyösti Kauppinen, “Speed Chess Vendor and Cardio Exercise,” 2006|
Working with SMC professors Bob Ware and Blue Fier, the students chose their three best photographs to submit to the Getty for a juried exhibition. The final exhibition, titled Where We Live: Student Perspectives, opened at LA Valley College in February 2007 and was on display at SMC this past Fall.
|Erika Alghafari, “Abbott Kinney,” 2006|
The special project also led to the publication of “Somewhere in L.A.,” featuring the SMC student images, by A&I Photographic and Digital Services of Santa Monica.
|Patricia Alpizar Ruiz, “Las Chicas y los Baños Publicos,” 2006|
The SMC students are Erika Alghafari, Patricia Alpizar Ruiz, Fabiola Arias, Eleanor Atkins, Nelson Castro, Jessica Domino, Shannon Donnelly, Kyösti Kauppinen, Sarah St. Clair Renard, and Moira Stinocher.
Read more online: Students’ photographs: www.getty.edu/education/for_college/student_perspectives
SMC photo professor Bob Ware interview: http://www2.smc.edu/schedules/2008/spring/bob_ware_081.htm
For an Easy, Affordable Move into American Culture…
Santa Monica College is #1 in transfers to UCLA and the University of California. Many international students choose Santa Monica College to begin their college careers because of SMC’s transfer success, high quality teaching, and low cost.
Intensive ESL at Santa Monica College will help you make real progress in college. This program offers a strong plan to help students improve their skills in speaking, reading, listening, and writing English. For admission requirements and more information, you can contact SMC’s International Education Center on the main campus, or call (310) 434-4217. For information on the web, go to www.smc.edu/international.
SPEAK / READ / LISTEN / WRITE
20 hours a week of English instruction in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Classes are provided at the beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels. This is the best program to help you improve your TOEFL scores in a short time! Students can begin the academic program at Santa Monica College from any level. Classes begin February 11, 2008. Tuition is $1,500.
“Coming to a new country, it’s better to start small… SMC really helped! Intensive ESL is like a little community—you spend a lot of time with other students and the teachers are right there taking care of you!”
— Galina Inzhakova, transfer student to UCLA