adviser with student

The people in your corner when transferring to Pacific Oaks College

Transfer students have a team of advisers and advocates at Pacific Oaks to help them through the transfer process, their college education, and into their chosen career.

When Sandee Vasquez-Ayala was thinking of leaving the Los Angeles College system to pursue her bachelor’s degree, she wasn’t necessarily looking for the traditional four-year, in-dorm experience. She was hoping to find a university that would provide the flexibility and assistance to allow her to continue her career while she completed her coursework.

“A friend of mine received her B.A. from Pacific Oaks and told me that it was a school that really supported working adults,” she says.

Mary Berberian-Nalbandian says that meaningful, personal support for every student is an intentional feature of Pacific Oaks, where she works as a senior academic adviser. “The difference between Pacific Oaks and community colleges or larger universities is that we provide a lot of one-on-one support for students,” she says.

When students begin the sometimes daunting transfer process, Berberian-Nalbandian says that they should know that they have multiple people in their corner, all working in concert to ensure that students can achieve their goals at Pacific Oaks.

The enrollment counselor

The first person a transfer student will work with is their enrollment counselor, who will serve as their personal guide and advocate during the transfer process. Enrollment counselors will help students not only with transferring credits and the admission process but also with any applicable financial aid applications.

“I worked with Martha in the admissions office and she was fantastic,” says Vasquez-Ayala. “If it were not for her support and guidance, I would not have become a Pacific Oaks student. I really appreciate how patient she was with me and how she explained all the different steps that would be a part of the admissions process. I was able to receive a grant at the start of the process, and she guided me on how I need to write the essay.”

Vasquez-Ayala found that almost all of her previous coursework transferred to Pacific Oaks through the TAG agreement, a program that many community college students in the Los Angeles area may qualify for.

Berberian-Nalbandian notes that while enrollment counselors may not have much contact with students once they begin their classes at Pacific Oaks, enrollment counselors communicate extensively with academic advisers to ensure that any student concerns are addressed.

“We call it a soft transfer,” says Berberian-Nalbandian. “Once the applicant has been on-boarded as a future student, the enrollment counselor will debrief the academic counselor on the student and what the student is looking for, what the student is in need of, so that we can be a support system from the very get-go for that student and enroll them according to what their needs are. We do a lot of collaborative work so that we can ensure student satisfaction.”

The academic adviser

That hand-off is crucial, because the next person in a transfer student’s corner is perhaps the single most important—the academic adviser, who will serve as their companion throughout their education.

“The academic advisers are really a resource for the students to make sure that everything’s in place and to be a support system throughout,” say Berberian-Nalbandian. “The longest relationship the students have with anyone once embarking at Pacific Oaks is with their academic adviser, because from the first day of class to the very end of their journey, that person that will constantly be doing outreach to students.”

At Pacific Oaks, academic advisers register students for their courses rather than the students doing it themselves, as they often do at traditional universities. Berberian-Nalbandian says this unique process allows academic advisers to ensure that students aren’t wasting their time and resources on courses they don’t need or that don’t fulfill their career requirements. Academic advisers also focus on specific departments to allow them to really develop an expertise as well as connections with the faculty.

“For example, we have two academic advisers to serve the school of education, and we have an academic adviser for the school of human development and so on. That allows each academic adviser to be an expert in their particular college,” says Berberian-Nalbandian.

Berberian-Nalbandian also notes that academic advisers serve as emotional support and a sounding board by nature of the deep relationships they build with students over time. Berberian-Nalbandian actually serves as Vasquez-Ayala’s academic adviser, and Vasquez-Ayala says that their relationship has been essential to her success as a student.

“I meet with Mary on a routine basis, and she has really helped me to see hope. I really needed to see things mapped out, and I wanted to know costs and time and had many questions. She has been wonderful. I do not understand a lot of the academic process, but Mary has held my hand all the way through,” says Vasquez-Ayala.

The faculty adviser

Every transfer student has an academic adviser, but they also have a faculty adviser, someone who serves as a professional mentor.

“Your faculty adviser will work with you throughout your career here, and that faculty adviser’s role is really an academic perspective. If the student is struggling with course material, as an academic adviser I’m not going to be able to assist them with that because I’m not an instructor. The faculty adviser assists students with the course material, as well as offer them career guidance,” explains Berberian-Nalbandian.

The academic adviser and faculty adviser work together to help each student with any challenges they encounter at Pacific Oaks. The faculty adviser, however, has expertise in the student’s future field and current academic coursework that allows them to be uniquely useful.

“They can give a good perspective on the coursework that’s required for the students and what’s expected from the academic perspective, from instructors and deans and the faculty from those departments,” says Berberian-Nalbandian. “And then because we academic advisers have such a good relationship with the team and the faculty, we can really work together to focus on that with the student. It’s quite unique in the way that Pacific Oaks has structured it.”

Pacific Oaks faculty

While not formally assigned to a student in the same way that enrollment counselors, academic advisers, and faculty advisers are, Pacific Oaks’ educators and academic leaders are devoted to helping their students succeed. This extends beyond coursework and into the student’s future career path.

“The professor that comes to mind is Brian Biery,” says Vasquez-Ayala, when asked what faculty members she found helpful and inspiring. “He is so passionate about social activism and is a wonderful professor. He really cared about our learning experience with him and inspired me to work harder for myself and my community. Kathleen Hunter is another great professor who really cares about her students and their learning experience. She works with students to help us improve in a very supportive manner.”

Overall, Berberian-Nalbandian says that the team at Pacific Oaks feels a deep sense of responsibility to help each student achieve their goals. This responsibility extends from the formal structures of the college and to the individual attitudes of each professor and adviser.

“You know, we feel really responsible for each student, and each student’s success story is also our success story. I often tell students that we’ll be here with you along the journey, and we don’t ever push you through the finish line. We walk alongside you so you get to the finish line, and then we celebrate on the other end,” says Berberian-Nalbandian.


Learn more about applying to Pacific Oaks College as a transfer student here or fill out the form below for more information.

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