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Hawk's Eye View: Stefanie Norris ’22 Ed.D.

Stefanie Norris ’22Ed.D. Director of transfer partnerships

September 20, 2023 | Sarah Fetters

Creating pathways has been a specialty of Stefanie Norris ’22Ed.D. since she joined UNC Wilmington in the summer of 2010. In addition to lighting the way for numerous students, she even created a new path for herself through the Watson College of Education’s Educational Leadership doctoral program.

A winding path through UNCW led Norris to her current position as the director of transfer partnerships. Her Seahawk engagement has taken many forms, but students connecting with campus has always been the focus.

As UNCW’s first director of transfer partnerships, Norris is continually finding paths for students who transfer into the university and maximizing their experience. She began her tenure on campus as a program board adviser for the Association for Campus Entertainment.

“I got to live at the beach, work with a bunch of students who were awesome and plan fun events on campus,” Norris said. “It really was the 24-year-old me’s dream.”

The desire to take on additional responsibilities grew and moved Norris through various campus leadership positions, serving as director of student involvement and leadership within Campus Life before transitioning to interim executive director of campus life and then interim director of transition programs.

“I think our students are exceptional,” Norris added. “UNCW wants to do right by its students. People generally care about each other and the work that they're doing.”

Today, she aligns her work with her passion for access and completion of higher education.

“We tend to think of transferring from a community college as earning an associate degree and then coming to get a four-year degree, but not all associate degrees transfer the same,” Norris said. “We’re working with the community colleges to make the courses and program sequences include more of our prerequisites and university studies so it can be easier to transfer and help address some of the region and states employment gaps. By working between our academic programs and community colleges we are creating more meaningful pathways to clearly show our commitment to programs and access points.”

For instance, Norris is helping lead the Cape Fear Community College (CFCC)/UNCW Pathway Partnership Group, a joint committee of nine representatives from both institutions, charging it to create a strong infrastructure for better pathways, policies and practices that reduce barriers for students moving from CFCC to UNCW.

Stefanie Norris receiving her doctorate.

Norris herself found a new pathway through UNCW by obtaining an educational leadership doctoral degree. She aspired to be an educational leader and describes herself as a lifer to higher education. She had obtained a master’s degree with an emphasis on counseling, leaving her desiring more.

“I feel like I had gaps of things I wanted to understand more and learn more,” Norris said of her UNCW enrollment decision. “It was accessible financially with UNCW’s tuition help and I was physically here. I liked the idea of being on campus when I did it. Honestly, I initially had a coffee with [Associate Professor of Higher Education] Dr. Kevin McClure in 2017, who encouraged me to apply and ended up being my dissertation chair. It all fell together for me at the right time.”

While going through the program, Norris used a UNCW Staff Senate Scholarship to offset some tuition costs.

The Staff Senate Scholarship was created to foster a spirit of unity, pride and cooperation among staff members by recognizing the leadership role staff play in the daily work of the university. The merit-based scholarships can support university staff members and their dependents seeking a degree at the university.


“The investment the Staff Senate has made in our staff and their dependents through our scholarship fund has made a wonderful impact,” Staff Senate Chair and UNC System Staff Assembly Vice Chair Susan Smith said. “This commitment of staff supporting colleagues and their families is what the Staff Senate at UNCW does exceptionally well.”

“It's still one of the hardest things I've ever done,” Norris said of obtaining her doctorate. “But also, one of the best, most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I learned so much. I made some really good connections through the program, including with the faculty I still work with. It was just a really good opportunity for me.”

Stefanie Norris '22 Group.

Norris, who had her first child while pursuing her doctorate, knows the Staff Senate Scholarship greatly benefitted her family.

“I had a young kid and was really committed to staying on time and on target,” Norris said. “The scholarship really enabled me to meet my educational and personal goals at the pace I wanted.”

This year, seven Staff Senate Scholarships were awarded, each totaling $706.

With her doctorate in hand, Norris will continue lighting the way for this year's transfer students. She will help them carve their own unique paths through the university, just like she did.