The Mellon Transfer Student Research Program successfully empowers transfer students through independent and group research, as well as peer mentoring while significantly improving grades, retention, and graduation rates.

Brooklyn College is pleased to announce the continuation of the successful Mellon Transfer Student Research Program (MTSRP) in its School of Humanities and Social Sciences, thanks to a five-year, $1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Starting with an initial grant from the foundation in Spring 2016, Brooklyn College addressed the challenges that transfer students face by creating this program, which empowers humanities and social sciences faculty to take an active role as mentors while promoting joint student-faculty and independent student research projects. Through their work in the program, students have presented at academic conferences, published or co-published their findings, and developed research interests that have propelled them to graduate school, prestigious internships, and new career paths.

Transfer student enrollments have risen dramatically at Brooklyn College since 2002. Most of the transfers come from community colleges in The City University of New York system. In addition to the unique challenges that diverse, urban-based students face, one-year retention rates are almost uniformly 3-8% lower for transfer students than for non-transfer students at Brooklyn College. The transfer student population at the college is also more diverse than the general student population. Over the past four years, the program has significantly improved the retention rates among the transfer population.

“Transfer student success is one of our highest priorities at Brooklyn College. The Mellon Transfer Student Research Program has revolutionized how we address the challenges that transfer students face by empowering them through research and support from faculty and peers,” said Brooklyn College President Michelle J. Anderson, who also chairs the CUNY-wide Transfer Steering Committee focused on transfer student success across the system. “I want to personally thank the Mellon Foundation for its incredible support and acknowledgement of this effort, which we believe also provides a replicable model that could potentially allow even more transfer students to benefit from it in the years to come.”

The program explores how the college can welcome transfer students—a majority from predominantly working-class communities of color—more fully into the senior college experience and create a structure that advances their academic success while allowing them to acquire a new sense of their own academic and personal potential. It allows students who deserve a rich intellectual experience—but have not necessarily had that opportunity until this point in their undergraduate careers—to experience one.

Professor of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies Alan Aja, Professor of English Joseph Entin, and Distinguished Professor of Political Science Jeanne Theoharis created the program with former School of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Richard Greenwald and have overseen it since its inception. As of fall 2020, 189 students have participated in the program with more than 50 different professors in the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences serving as faculty mentors. Several faculty members have repeated the program with new cohorts of students working on group projects or pursuing individual research interests. The MTSRP is currently soliciting applications for its 11th cohort in Spring 2021.

“The Mellon Transfer Student Research Program has been instrumental in providing intellectual opportunities for our students, but also in creating an unprecedented sense of community and mentorship throughout the various programs within our school,” said Kenneth A. Gould, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Brooklyn College. “The personal support that students receive from the faculty has been especially beneficial during the isolation brought on by the pandemic. I am grateful for the continued leadership of our outstanding faculty team—Professor Aja, Professor Entin, and Professor Theoharis—who developed the program and are responsible for its incredible success.”

Students in the program develop a rigorous independent or group research project with a faculty adviser that they embark on for a semester. Research projects can be team projects or individual research assistance based on a faculty member’s research agenda. The research project can also be driven by the student’s own interests, where the faculty mentor provides direction and guidance. Every MTSRP student registers for an independent study course with their faculty mentor equivalent to three hours of academic credit and meets regularly with their faculty mentor. The programs meet as a group every three weeks to discuss research challenges, support one another, and forge a sense of community. At the end of each semester students present their research in a day-long conference.

“The Mellon Foundation’s support to continue this program is a tremendous vote of confidence for our students and will allow us and our faculty peers to provide the intensive intellectual work, mentoring, and community they deserve,” said Distinguished Professor of Political Science Jeanne Theoharis, one of the three faculty members who founded the program. “Over and over, we hear from students how this experience has changed how they see themselves and their futures.”

Students have described the program as a “cornerstone” of their educational experience that enabled them, as one student explained, “to both find my voice as a researcher and learn to trust it.”

“This program was really the first space within Brooklyn College where I felt empowered to trust my own knowledge and capabilities as a student, and believe that I too had necessary contributions,” explained Emily Batista, an MTSRP participant in 2019.

The one-year retention rate of fall-entering, baccalaureate-seeking transfer cohorts from 2015 to 2019 who participated in the program was 96.6%. Program participants were 20.4% more likely to return for their second year than students not in the program. Combined, the four-year graduation rate of fall entering, baccalaureate-seeking transfer cohorts from 2012 to 2016 who participated in the program was 73.4%, which was 19% higher than students not in the program. In addition, program participants who complete their baccalaureate degree have, on average, a 0.433 higher GPA—almost half a grade point—than those who did not participate in the program.

Media Contact: Rich Pietras,, 718.951.5000 (ext. 6350).

About Brooklyn College: Brooklyn College is an innovative liberal arts institution with a history of more than 90 years of academic excellence. With more than 18,000 students enrolled in 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the humanities; social, behavioral, and natural sciences; education; business; and the arts, the college is renowned for its rigorous academics, diverse student body, award-winning faculty, and highly affordable tuition. Part of The City University of New York, Brooklyn College is located on a beautifully landscaped 35-acre campus and offers a rich student life within an urban environment.