Brenau changes lives for transfer students

Kayla Muirhead posesAt Brenau University, transfer students are given the chance to explore academics and student life in an environment that has plenty of opportunities to create a powerful future for its graduates.

In fall 2018, Brenau welcomed its highest number of new transfer students in five years to The Women’s College and Gainesville day program. And while the numbers aren’t set for fall 2019, Brenau is on track to surpass last year.

Nathan Goss, assistant vice president for recruitment, says that number is growing because students are willing to move to fit their needs.

“Students want to find programs that fit their needs for accessibility, professional preparation and value for their tuition dollars,” he says. “Transfer students are much more savvy in their research now and are willing to transfer out of another school to one that will better fit their schedules and personal and professional goals.”

A diverse learning environment

Transfer students have the same opportunities on campus as all other students, but Goss, who has been at Brenau for more than 14 years, says they are more focused on finishing school and aren’t always interested in campus life like first-year students. Brenau also has many nontraditional transfer students, including students who are not the typical college age and may have gone back to school after taking several years off.

Courtney Reidling and Bobby Reidling pose for photos with their son Aspen.

“It’s really a diverse family background,” he says about what transfer students bring to Brenau. “You have working adults, single moms or dads, student-athletes that are coming to live on campus to complete as part of our teams. I think they bring a very diverse student body and experience that leads to the overall flavor of Brenau University on all our campuses.”

Junior Kayla Muirhead from Sugar Hill, Georgia, transferred to Brenau in spring 2019. Muirhead has been dancing since she was 2 and came to Brenau to continue her practice as a dance major. Prior to Brenau, she was homeschooled and earned her associate degree while dancing 40 hours a week.

After four years of full-time dancing at a conservatory, Muirhead became exhausted by the rigor of her schedule. She took a nine-month break in 2018. During her time away, she realized she missed dancing and couldn’t live without it. She contacted John Streit, assistant professor of dance at Brenau, whom she has known since she was a child. Streit suggested she take classes to get back into shape and see how she felt about the university.

“I felt like Brenau was kind of a family,” Muirhead says. “Everybody kind of knows each other. So Brenau seemed like a safe place — a safe learning environment where you could kind of figure out who you were and what you wanted to do and what your purpose was.”

Bobby Reidling, BU ’19, also found a sense of family — as well as a literal one — at Brenau. Reidling spent one year at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, before transferring back home to go to Brenau after a death in his family. And the Jefferson, Georgia, native wanted to be closer to his now-wife, Courtney Reidling, BU ’19, who also transferred to Brenau from the University of North Georgia’s Oconee campus.

Reidling says going from St. Olaf’s “huge” music program to a smaller program at Brenau was a big change that took some time to get used to. But it ended up working out in his favor.

“There was definitely some adjustment because I was used to competing,” he says. “We’d have like 50 people after the same position or same opportunity at St. Olaf, and I’d have to compete a great deal. Then going from this huge department of music to Brenau’s much smaller music department, there were just so many opportunities for me to get involved, and I found myself trying to do everything.”

Although he enjoyed his time in Minnesota, he says it was tough being so far away.

“I felt my support system had been taken from me or disconnected,” he says. “And I knew those people loved me and I could call them anytime, but — especially being away from my fiancée, Courtney — it was tough for me.”

Kayla Muirhead dancingEngaging faculty

The Reidlings were faced with another life-changing event when their son, Aspen, was born during finals week of their junior year.

“We’re thankful for him,” Bobby says, “and we’re thankful we graduated. We had a lot of professor and faculty support. Without them I don’t think graduating would have been possible.”

Courtney says that some of her professors were helpful during her pregnancy and while she was trying to juggle finishing senior year with a newborn.

“They were very understanding,” she says. “They tried to help as much as they could with both of us. Even though my professors in education didn’t really have Bobby as much for classes, I think they were really understanding to him too, saying, ‘If you ever need anyone to talk to or if you ever need some extra support, you can always come to us.’ It was very helpful for me, and I think that was a big impact on why we completed school.”

Bobby is heading to the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta to earn his Master of Divinity and starting the process to become an ordained deacon, while Courtney is going to teach fifth grade at nearby Bethlehem Elementary School.

Muirhead agrees with the Reidlings that the faculty is a huge part of a positive Brenau experience.

“The professors really take the time to get to know everyone,” she says. “They take the time to sit down and discuss what you are looking for in the future as well as what they think you can achieve. They’re very reasonable and honest but also encouraging at the same time. So that’s kind of something you wouldn’t get in another school. I feel very comfortable going to my professors with any concerns.”

Courtney Reidling and Bobby Reidling pose for photos with their son Aspen.Faculty is important in the transfer process. Goss works with department heads to discuss how they can reach out to potential students and talk to them about what the curriculum is like at Brenau. It’s a way to show the students that the university is interested in them. Goss says transfer students credit the accessible faculty as one of the reasons they come to Brenau.

“We try to engage faculty as early on as possible in talking to prospective students and applicants,” he says. “As an admissions office, they know what we’re going to say. But when they hear what they’re going to learn and how they’re going to learn from a faculty member, that carries a lot of weight.”

Goss encourages prospective transfer students to visit any of the Brenau campuses to get a feel for the school. “They always say, ‘I never knew I could have that kind of feeling on campus where I felt like family,’” he says.

Visits give prospective students the opportunity to make sure Brenau is the right fit for them.

And for the Reidlings, it was.

“The music department was extremely kind, loving and supportive,” Bobby says. “I came in and they really enveloped me in love and support.”


Kayla Muirhead dancing

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