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Easing Students’ Transitions to University Via a Summer Bridge and Outdoor Experience Program

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

The Best of First Year Programs: Best Paper Session

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Noah Salzman Boise State University

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Noah Salzman is an Assistant Professor at Boise State University, where he is a member of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and IDoTeach, a pre-service STEM teacher preparation program. His work focuses on the transition from pre-college to university engineering programs, how exposure to engineering prior to matriculation affects the experiences of engineering students, and engineering in the K-12 classroom. He has worked as a high school science, mathematics, and engineering and technology teacher, as well as several years of electrical and mechanical engineering design experience as a practicing engineer. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from Swarthmore College, his Master's of Education degree from the University of Massachusetts, and a Master's of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Doctorate in Engineering Education from Purdue University.

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Ann Delaney Boise State University

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Ann Delaney is the Program Director of the SAGE Scholars scholarship program at Boise State University, which is part of the Redshirting in Engineering Consortium. As part of this program, she collaborates with the Institute for STEM and Diversity Initiatives at Boise State to organize the RAISE summer program (Recreation and Academics In a Summer Experience) for incoming first-year STEM students. She also teaches a service-learning Introduction to Engineering course at Boise State. Ann graduated with her Masters in Materials Science & Engineering with an interdisciplinary emphasis in Public Policy and Administration from Boise State University. In the Spring of 2016, Ann was recognized as part of the first cohort of University Innovation Fellows at Boise State. As a Fellow, she has worked on issues around diversity and makerspace culture, and has facilitated Design Thinking workshops for the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, Boise State, and the University Innovation Fellows organization (now part of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, a.k.a. the

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Catherine Rose Bates Institute for STEM & Diversity Initiatives

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Catherine Bates received a bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies and Creative Writing from Florida State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with an emphasis in fiction from Arizona State University. She serves as the Program Director for the NIH Southwest Bridges to Baccalaureate program and the Program Coordinator for the NSF Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program. In her current role at the Institute for STEM & Diversity Initiatives, Catherine is dedicated to expanding research and experiential learning opportunities for students traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields.

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Donna C. Llewellyn Boise State University

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Donna Crystal Llewellyn received her BA (major in Mathematics and minor in Economics) with High Honors from Swarthmore College in 1980. She went on to earn an MS in Operations Research from Stanford University in 1981 and a Ph.D. in Operations Research from Cornell University in 1984. After 30 years at Georgia Tech in a variety of roles, Donna became the Executive Director of the new Institute for STEM and Diversity Initiatives at Boise State University in January 2015. Donna's current interests center around education issues in general, and in particular on increasing access and success of those traditionally under-represented and/or under-served in STEM higher education.

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In this Complete Evidence-based Practice paper, we describe the development and evolution of a combined academic summer bridge program and outdoors experience program designed to support the academic success of incoming STEM majors at The University. Students’ transitions to university can be challenging for a wide variety of reasons, including increased independence, leaving behind parents and friends while simultaneously struggling to form new peer groups, and adapting to more rigorous coursework with less externally imposed structure than prior learning experiences. These challenges, especially those related to students’ sense of belonging and connection to other students, can be particularly pronounced for women, non-traditional students, first generation students, and members of underrepresented minority groups.

To address these challenges, This University developed a multi day summer outdoors experience designed to strengthening relationships, building community, and increase participants’ sense of belonging in STEM disciplines through camping, rafting, hiking, and exploring STEM activities in the outdoors. As the program evolved, we added an on-campus academic summer bridge program immediately preceding the outdoor experience focused on team building, skills for academic success, structured interactions with faculty, and social events designed to promote connection and academic success at the university. We also added a new focus on support of underrepresented racial and ethnic minority, low socioeconomic status, rural, and/or female students through strategic recruiting and cohort building. Inspired by other universities’ efforts to attract and retain promising students with reduced mathematics preparation, we have integrated support for these students in the program as well. Through these activities, students transition to their first semester at the university with relationships with peers, faculty, and staff that can support the students’ successful transition from high school to college and persistence in their STEM degree program. The programs described in this paper have existed in different forms since 2011, beginning with a pilot program involving four participants and at one time including as many as 33. To measure the lasting effects of these programs, we surveyed the participants and tracked their academic progress over several years. Preliminary results of these assessment efforts suggest that the program supported students’ success at the university through the development of lasting relationships with peers, faculty, and staff at the university, and overall was a positive experience with lasting effects on the participants. In addition to the evolution and outcomes of this program, we also describe how the funding model for this program has changed over the years, beginning with an NSF-funded scholarship program and transitioning to being institutionalized and supported through the university budget and private foundation support.

Salzman, N., & Delaney, A., & Bates, C. R., & Llewellyn, D. C. (2019, June), Easing Students’ Transitions to University Via a Summer Bridge and Outdoor Experience Program Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32685

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