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Lasting Impacts of a Summer Bridge and Outdoor Experience Program on Student Relationships: A Social Network Analysis

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Peer Mentoring

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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 E. Delaney Boise State University

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Ann Delaney is the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator and the SAGE Scholars Program Director in the College of Engineering at Boise State University. SAGE Scholars is an NSF-funded S-STEM scholarship program 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 courses for first-year engineering students. Ann graduated with her Masters in Materials Science and Engineering with an interdisciplinary emphasis in Public Policy and Administration from Boise State University in 2016.

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Catherine Rose Bates

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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, the NSF Bridge to the Doctorate, 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 Research paper, we present a social network analysis of an academic summer bridge and outdoors experience program designed to support the social and academic integration of incoming STEM majors at The University. Motivation and Background First-time, first-year students’ transitions to university can be challenging for many reasons stemming from increased independence and leaving behind existing networks of support while simultaneously engaging in the formation of new peer groups and support networks. From the literature, we know that these challenges can be particularly pronounced for women, members of traditionally underrepresented minority groups, first generation students, students with high levels of financial need (such as those who are eligible for Pell grants), and non-traditional students. Prior research has also shown that peer networks can provide crucial support to the aforementioned students, and play an important role in the success of incoming students.

To address the previously mentioned challenges, This University developed a summer bridge program that combines an on-campus component with a multi-day outdoors experience. The on-campus portion of the program focuses on relationship-building among STEM students, building skills and awareness of campus resources for academic success, structured interactions with faculty, and social events designed to promote connection, belonging, and academic success at the university. An intentional aspect of the program is the involvement of peer mentors who are STEM students already at The University, many of whom are former participants in the bridge program. Students stay together on campus in university housing and begin to build community through evening social events. These newly developed relationships are then strengthened through shared experiences camping, rafting, hiking, and exploring STEM activities in the outdoors. This combination of activities helps students transition to their first semester at the university with relationships with peers, mentors, faculty, and staff who can support their success and persistence in their STEM degree programs.

Methods To measure the lasting effects of these programs, we conducted a social network analysis of participants from the past five years of this program. Social network analysis provides a powerful research method for understanding relationships within a community, and how members of a community are connected to each other. Participants completed a survey exploring the number and strength of the relationships that they maintain with their peers who also participated in the program.

Results Preliminary results of this analysis suggest that the program supports the development of lasting relationships with peers, and participants continue to value and maintain these relationships well beyond the time spent together in the summer bridge program.

Salzman, N., & Delaney, A. E., & Bates, C. R., & Llewellyn, D. C. (2020, June), Lasting Impacts of a Summer Bridge and Outdoor Experience Program on Student Relationships: A Social Network Analysis Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35236

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