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Best Practices for Underrepresented Minority Students in an Engineering Summer Bridge Program

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Out-of-school-time Engineering: Implications for Underrepresented Students

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Angela Clinkscales Verdell Mississippi State University

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Director of Diversity Programs and Student Development
Bagley College of Engineering
PhD candidate Public Policy and Administration with a research focus on retention of underrepresented minorities in STEM disciplines in institutions of higher learning.

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Jason M. Keith Mississippi State University

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Jason Keith is the Dean and Earnest W. and Mary Ann Deavenport, Jr. Chair in the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University. Keith received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from The University of Akron and his PhD from the University of Notre Dame. He was a faculty member at Michigan Technological University from 2000-2011 and was Director of the Dave C. Swalm School of Chemical Engineering and holder of the Earnest W. Deavenport Chair from 2011-2014. Keith received the Raymond W. Fahien Award from the Chemical Engineering Division of ASEE in 2008.

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James Warnock Mississippi State University

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James Warnock is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University. His background is in biomedical engineering and he has been a big proponent of self-directed learning and active learning in his classes and was the first person to introduce problem-based learning in the department of agricultural and biological engineering at MSU. James is also the Adjunct Director for training and instruction in the professional development department at ABET. In this role, Warnock oversees the development, planning, production and implementation of the ABET Program Assessment Workshops, IDEAL and the assessment webinar series. He also directs activities related to the workshop facilitator training and professional development.

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Vemitra White Alexander Mississippi State University

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Vemitra White, a native of Crawford, Mississippi, is currently a doctoral candidate at Mississippi State University where she will receive her PhD in Instructional Systems and Workforce Development. She received her undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Mississippi State University with concentrations in Finance, Insurance, and Management. Vemitra also received her Master's of Science degree in Instructional Technology from Mississippi State University. Vemitra has been involved with recruiting under-represented minorities (URMs) students in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) areas at Mississippi State University since the summer of 2010. Vemitra currently serve as the Director of Educational Outreach and Student Programs in the Bagley Development.
Vemitra serves as a city council member in her hometown. She is the youngest member on the board that is responsible for making policies and procedures, as well as ordinances for the town. Her active participation on the city council exhibits her commitment to helping others and building her town both financially and economically. Vemitra is an active member of Columbus Lowndes County Alumni Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the recent award recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Woman Award from the President's Commission on the Status of Women, a member of Phi Theta Kappa, Women's Basketball Collegiate Association, and Mississippi Educators Association. Her active participation in these organizations reveals her passion in helping others succeed. Vemitra is also a former collegiate basketball player where she played 2 years of women’s basketball at Bevill State Community College in Fayette AL and her last 2 years at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton GA. She was a 4 year Academic All American.

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ABSTRACT The Summer Bridge Program is committed to creating an educational environment of inclusiveness and high academic excellence. This environment is fostered to enable students to persist in the engineering curriculum, graduate with an engineering degree, and allow for exposure to research and graduate school opportunities. By providing a culturally diverse environment, the College of Engineering seeks to increase the participation of minorities and women in the field of engineering. In 2010 the Summer Bridge Program received corporate sponsorship to assist in efforts to increase the recruitment, retention, and graduation rate of underrepresented minority (URM) students in engineering. In order to meet these objectives, the College of Engineering facilitates student programming to address common causes for difficulty in URM student success in engineering. Among some of the most prevalent hindrances are the lack of early K-12 exposure to STEM education, academic preparedness, institutional cultural acclimation, and financial difficulties. To address these issues the Office of Diversity Programs and Student Development in the College of Engineering has established initiatives to support URMs in engineering including (1) K-12 outreach program for middle school girls; (2) first and second year retention programs; (3) scholarship and stipend awards; (4) a five-week Summer Bridge Program. This paper focuses on the Summer Bridge Program initiative.

Designed to address the needs of academic preparedness and institutional cultural acclimation, the Summer Bridge Program at a predominately white institution in the southeastern portion of the country, has been in existence over twenty years. Despite the program’s longevity and anecdotal observations, quantifiable findings to support the program’s effectiveness has yet to be determined. With support from the Dow Corporation, the programs’ corporate sponsor, the Summer Bridge Program is centered on seven strategic goals to impact URM student outcomes in the College of Engineering with an aim to: 1. Increase the recruitment, retention, and graduation rate of minority students in Engineering. 2. Develop a greater sense of community among all URM participants. 3. Establish strong academic performance in foundation courses (math, chemistry, etc.). 4. Interact with Dow Mentors (speakers, presenters, etc.), engineering department heads, faculty, university human resources, alumni, and engineering professionals. 5. Cultivate professional and personal skills needed in the engineering curriculum and profession. 6. Recognize and reward successful program participation through stipends and Dow Academic Distinction Scholarship awards. 7. Provide overall effective programming.

This study will quantitatively exam the best practices for a Summer Bridge Program to facilitate URM student success in engineering at a predominately white institution (PWI). The analysis will provide insight into first year retention rates and graduation of students in the Summer Bridge 2010-2013 cohorts. The study will compare first year retention rates, and graduation rates of (i) URM Summer Bridge students (ii) College of Engineering URM students who did not participate in the Summer Bridge Program and (iii) the total College of Engineering cohort for 2010-2013. Between the years of 2010-2013 there were a total of 163 Summer Bridge participants. As of Fall 2015 a total of 40.5% of students remain enrolled in engineering.

Verdell, A. C., & Keith, J. M., & Warnock, J., & Alexander, V. W. (2016, June), Best Practices for Underrepresented Minority Students in an Engineering Summer Bridge Program Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26198

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2016 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015