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Summer Bridge Program Structured to Cover Most Demanding STEM Topics

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

First-Year Programs Division Technical Session 4A: Retention Programs and Strategies

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First-Year Programs

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Megan McSpedon Rice University

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Megan McSpedon is the Associate Director of the Rice Emerging Scholars Program. She has been with the program since it was founded in 2012. Megan received a B.A. in English from Rice University.

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Ann Saterbak Rice University

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Ann Saterbak is Professor in the Practice in the Bioengineering Department and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education in the School of Engineering at Rice University. Saterbak was responsible for developing the laboratory program in Bioengineering. Saterbak introduced problem-based learning in the School of Engineering and more recently launched a successful first-year engineering design course taught in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. Saterbak is the lead author of the textbook, Bioengineering Fundamentals. Saterbak’s outstanding teaching was recognized through university-wide and departmental teaching awards. In 2013, Saterbak received the ASEE Biomedical Engineering Division Theo C. Pilkington Outstanding Educator Award. For her contribution to education within biomedical engineering, she was elected Fellow in the Biomedical Engineering Society and the American Society of Engineering Education.

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Michael Wolf Rice University

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Michael Wolf is Professor of Mathematics at Rice University as well as Faculty Director of the Rice Emerging Scholars Program, an initiative he co-founded in 2012. The Rice Emerging Scholars program is a comprehensive 2-4 year program that begins the summer before matriculation for a group of matriculating Rice students whose preparation for STEM is weaker than those of their peers.

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This evidence-based practice describes a new summer bridge model for increasing STEM retention. Beginning June 2012, Rice University developed the Rice Emerging Scholars Program (RESP), a comprehensive summer bridge and advising program aimed at increasing STEM retention, graduation, and achievement in students who attended under-resourced high schools. RESP is not a remedial program. RESP Scholars are admitted to Rice and are then invited to attend the bridge program in the summer before their freshmen year. A staff member whose sole job is advising the Scholars and overseeing daily program operations supports scholars through graduation.

RESP is not a remedial program. Scholars are admitted to Rice through the same process as Rice students who do not participate in RESP. RESP participation is not a university admission requirement for Scholars. RESP staff partner with the Rice Admissions Office to find incoming students who are intellectually capable of work at a university level but who may not have been sufficiently challenged in K-12 settings. Because Scholars may not have been exposed to high-level STEM courses (e.g., AP Calculus or Physics) or other academic course work as rigorous as what they will encounter at Rice, they may be lacking the skills necessary to excel in a rigorous STEM environment. This is particularly true in comparison to many of their classmates who benefitted from a more demanding high school experience such as that of a rigorous private high school or a strong public high school offering many AP and/or IB courses. RESP aims to help Scholars develop the skills needed to thrive at Rice through essentially a practice round in the summer.

The objective of the summer bridge portion of the program is to prepare Scholars for the pace, rigor, and depth of the STEM curriculum at Rice. All Scholars take first-year Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus as courses, five days a week; homework, quizzes and exams are administered like in the academic year. As stated above, RESP is not a remedial program. Instead, the summer portion of RESP exposes students to the most challenging sections of Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus. Scholars simultaneously receive coaching from instructors, staff, and upperclassmen Fellows in study and learning techniques. This coursework is supplemented by individual Pre-Calculus remediation through ALEKS, an adaptive online learning system. Additionally, students complete modules in engineering design and problem-solving. RESP addresses acculturation through nightly sessions on topics pertinent to the transition from high school to college, promotes interactions with STEM faculty, and develops strong, multi-year cohorts of Scholars from similar backgrounds.

RESP aims to support students comprehensively and proactively through the totality of their collegiate experience including and beyond academic support. RESP utilizes an intrusive advising model to provide academic advising and guide students before minor issues create permanent consequences. This model of advising was launched with the 2013 (second) cohort. Currently, students meet with an advisor weekly or bi-weekly through their third semester. Advising frequency after the third semester depends on student needs. Some Scholars continue meeting once a week through graduation while others make appointments as needed. Advising covers academic planning and success strategies, transition issues, and any personal problems that may impact a Scholar’s retention in STEM or at Rice. All student performance is actively monitored, enabling advisors to intervene even if students are being seen less frequently. RESP’s longitudinal, intrusive advising model proved so successful it has been adapted for other Rice students through the development of the Office of Student Success Initiatives. RESP additionally provides ongoing term-time programming to address common transition issues, training in learning and study technique, and student professional development.

The effectiveness of RESP is tracked through comparison of Scholar performance to that of control group and the ambient background population. Data tracks retention at the University, retention in STEM fields, GPA, STEM GPA, and course selection and completion. Cumulative GPA results for Scholars and control are similar, around 3.0. For 2013 matriculants, 74% of Scholars are declared STEM majors, while only 54% of control group students were retained in STEM fields. Those matriculants completed more than twice as many core STEM credit hours as the control group within three semesters. RESP costs $10,000 per student over the duration of their time at Rice.

McSpedon, M., & Saterbak, A., & Wolf, M. (2016, June), Summer Bridge Program Structured to Cover Most Demanding STEM Topics Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25964

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