Samuel Bjordahl: Helping Fellow Transfer Students Succeed
ALMA — Following his first year at a small college in Pennsylvania in 2019, Samuel Bjordahl came to an unfortunate, but not uncommon realization: The school he had picked was not a great choice for him. Bjordahl decided at that moment he would transfer to Alma College and he hasn’t looked back since.
Alma’s psychology and neuroscience programs are a great match for his career ambitions. He has found a home on campus through numerous student organizations, including the Transition Assistance Program (TAP). And he didn’t lose a single credit he had previously earned when he made the move.
“I realize that in many ways I’m fortunate for how smoothly my transfer process went, but I really think Alma has a lot of qualities that help transfer students in unique ways,” said Bjordahl, a senior student from Show Low, Arizona. “The academic programs I’m in are very flexible and the transfer advisor I had worked with me through every step of the process. There are a lot of student organizations here, so it’s easy to find friends and make yourself feel at home.”
Academically, at his previous institution, Bjordahl said he felt “locked in” to a pre-med course of study. At Alma, he said, he has learned about myriad subjects in the field of psychology, such as human development, social psychology and abnormal psychology. He’s also had opportunities to specialize, delving into topics like cognitive psychology in a big way.
He’s worked closely with psychology faculty members Kelly Cuccolo and Natashia Swalve on their research projects and had opportunities to create his own. He’s looking forward to presenting at Honors Day, which is a day of celebrating students’ high-level scholarship and creative work.
“I’ve been involved in four different research projects and gone to Chicago with (Cuccolo) to help present her work,” Bjordahl said. “Last week, I had an interview with an adviser at one of my potential grad schools and they told me, ‘The reason you stick out to me is because of your research experience. Especially in psychology, it’s hard to get that experience as an undergrad.
“The academics here will kick your butt. Faculty members work you hard, but that’s only because they want to see you succeed.”
Finding a home can be difficult as a transfer student, Bjordahl said, especially at a residential college. Students have a tendency to make friends quickly in their first year and stick with them throughout their time at school.
However, Bjordahl has found many avenues to make friends, including TAP, the Sigma Chi fraternity (he’s currently serving as rush chair) and the Psychology Club (of which he is the vice president). He is proud of his work with TAP, where he serves as a mentor, helping first-year transfer students find their footing at Alma.
“We hold events every week — some of them are a big deal, and some of them are low-key, like coffee hours. We study together and hold each other accountable for our grades and activities. The goal is to not only make our students feel included, but to give them support when they can’t find the resources they need,” Bjordahl said.
Even after transferring, Bjordahl said, he’s on track to graduate from Alma after only four years of school. He’s looking forward to going to graduate school and pursuing his goal of being a neuropsychologist who specializes in concussion care.
“I think that with transfer students, there’s a tendency to want to leave after every year. ‘I’ve already transferred once, why not do it again?’ But I’ve never thought about leaving Alma after I got here. This feels like home to me,” Bjordahl said.