Le Quanda Cole’s perception of diversity formed abroad, growing up on a U.S. air base in Ramstein, Germany. She traveled Europe, becoming familiar with a mosaic of cultures and races, and noticed that the diversity that most seemed to matter across borders was that of perspective.
This experience, she said, grounds her work as the director of the UNLV/CSN transfer office, where she has won recognition as one of five National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students (NISTS) Transfer Champions and is the winner of the Rising Star Award for 2022. The awards recognize exemplary advocates influencing policies, practices, and programs to benefit transfer students. Her concurrent session proposal, "Walk in Their Shoes, Hurt Your Feet: Understand What Prevents Students from Successfully Transferring to University," was accepted for the NISTS 2022 In-Person/St. Louis conference experience.
Growing up overseas, we were a little behind trends in the U.S., but we all heard about Jerry Tarkanian and the awesome run of UNLV basketball. I always had it in my mind that the Rebels were new on the scene and a force to be reckoned with. When my husband was transferred to Nellis (Air Force Base), coming to UNLV seemed like it was meant to be.
What was your previous job?
I was an adjunct instructor and program coordinator of the CSN community and personal enrichment program. I supported workforce development, helping people develop skills, like Microsoft Office or guiding them to the next level of professional skills they needed. We also had leisure courses that would blend training and personal enrichment. I often had to create curriculum for the numerous and varied courses.
Tell us about your job at UNLV.
As the director of the UNLV/CSN transfer office, I support students from the College of Southern Nevada to help them successfully transfer to UNLV. CSN is the largest transfer pipeline to UNLV, thus we ensure our initiatives are in alignment with Top Tier goals. We work with CSN High School, CSN students, military and veteran students to make sure they are on a good timeline with their credits, that they have their transcripts in order, and understand how to transition into the university environment.
Part of the job is also focusing on what the barriers might be on the front end. This is where diversity comes in. Our identity – as much as it might be about ethnicity or social background – is linked to personality. Are you an extrovert or an introvert? In a way, so much of our system of higher education rewards the extroverts, those who speak up, ask questions, those who “shine brightly.” But we have to level the playing field and make space for those who need to go about things differently.
Transfer students are nontraditional, they may feel less inclined to ask a lot of questions. So, we’ve set up noninvasive events, where they can get involved in more passive activities and get comfortable and get a secure sense or confirmation and acknowledgement of their presence. We have virtual events and “Keep Calm and Color” activities, where the conversations flow in a low-stress environment.
Essentially, I have applied the information I learned in the interaction and media sciences doctoral program. My advisor, Dr. Michael McCreery, and cohort have played a significant role in my success.
What inspired you to get into your field?
Dr. Lusharon Wiley was my undergrad mentor. She taught me the importance of having staff that reflects the students. She was a reflection of me. We had real conversations that I needed as an adolescent, as a woman, as a Black person. I was always taking classes that started after 10 a.m., and avoiding classes on Fridays. Dr. Wiley course-corrected me in a way I felt comfortable but felt the gravity of where she was coming from. She told me passion and purpose leads to success.
Tell us about being one of only five National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students (NISTS) Transfer Champions and receiving the Rising Star Award for 2022.
These awards are essentially the higher education community recognizing that transfer students need advocacy. They are a group often overlooked by institutions. Historically, community colleges have been an important path for minorities and underrepresented students to gain access to universities and a college degree.
As for me, I want to make sure we support positive conversations with transfer students, providing them a narrative from their perspective that tells them they belong, that this is the right path for them. This could mean first getting a little uncomfortable in a conversation in order to get comfortable, never forgetting that human piece. We can’t be transactional.
These awards are not mine alone. I share these honors with my incredible cohorts, Michael McCreery, Sam Leif, Danielle Head, and Joey Fiorentini. They built a computer for me so I could keep up with the rigor of course work. In 2020, we earned the Best Paper Award at the 17th International Conference Cognition and Exploratory Learning in the Digital Age for our paper, "Time to Acclimate: Examining the Influence of Cognitive Ability on Situating to a Video Game."
Finish this sentence: If I couldn’t work in my field, I would like to…
…help grow the Jenett D. Boldin Education and Benevolence Foundation created in honor of my mother so we can open a school that focuses on the power of the arts. Being creative and being original is what drives the history of this country.
Tell us about an object in your office that has significance for you.
I have a Michael Jordan memorabilia photo that’s significant because, for me, MJ stands for everything you can accomplish, even when you’re told no. He had a coach that told him no, showed him tough love, and taught him about setting standards. That’s what I think about when I look at that photo.
Pastimes or hobbies?
I love the stock market and reading about it. I also collect vinyl and eight-tracks. I write poetry and, of course, I love to spend time with my family.
Do you have any book recommendations for leisure reading?
I have so many. I’ll just mention a few: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, the Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian and anything Victoria Christopher Murray.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I wrote and presented an original poem to Rosa Parks on her 100-bus-stop tour.