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This Complete Evidence-based Practice paper will describe how three different public urban research universities designed, executed, and iterated Summer Bridge programming for a subset of incoming first-year engineering students over the course of three consecutive years. There were commonalities between each institution’s Summer Bridge, as well as unique aspects catering to the specific needs and structures of each institution. Both these commonalities and unique aspects will be discussed, in addition to the processes of iteration and improvement, target student populations, and reported student outcomes. Finally, recommendations for other institutions seeking to launch or refine similar programming will be shared.
Summer Bridge programming at each of the three institutions shared certain communalities. Mostly notably, each of the three institutions developed its Summer Bridge as an additional way to provide support for students receiving an NSF S-STEM scholarship. The purpose of each Summer Bridge was to build community among these students, prepare them for the academic rigor of first-year engineering curriculum, and edify their STEM identity and sense of belonging. Each Summer Bridge was a 3-5 day experience held in the week immediately prior to the start of the Fall semester.
In addition to these communalities, each Summer Bridge also had its own unique features. At the first institution, Summer Bridge is focused on increasing college readiness through the transition from summer break into impending coursework. This institution’s Summer Bridge includes STEM special-interest presentations (such as biomedical or electrical engineering) and other development activities (such as communication and growth mindset workshops). Additionally, this institution’s Summer Bridge continues into the fall semester via a 1-credit hour First Year Seminar class, which builds and reinforces student networking and community beyond the summer experience.
At the second institution, all students receiving the NSF S-STEM scholarship (not only those who are first-year students) participate in Summer Bridge. This means that S-STEM scholars at this institution participate in Summer Bridge multiple years in a row. Relatedly, after the first year, Summer Bridge transitioned to a student-led and student-delivered program, affording sophomore and junior students leadership opportunities, which not only serve as marketable experience after graduation, but also further builds their sense of STEM identity and belonging.
At the third institution, a special focus was given to building community. This was achieved through several means. First, each day of Summer Bridge included a unique team-oriented design challenge where students got to work together and know each other within an engineering context, also reinforcing their STEM identities. Second, students at this institution’s Summer Bridge met their future instructors in an informal, conversational, lunch setting; many students reported this was one of their favorite aspects of Summer Bridge. Finally, Summer Bridge facilitated a first connect between incoming first-year students and their peer mentors (sophomore and junior students also receiving the NSF S-STEM scholarship), with whom they would meet regularly throughout the following fall and spring semesters.
Each of the three institutions employed processes of iteration and improvement for their Summer Bridge programming over the course of two or three consecutive years. Through each version and iteration of Summer Bridge, positive student outcomes are demonstrated, including direct student feedback indicating built community among students and the perception that their time spent during Summer Bridge was valuable. Based on the experiences of these three institutions, as well as research on other institutions’ Summer Bridge programming, recommendations for those seeking to launch or refine similar Summer Bridge programming will also be shared.
Howland Cummings, M., & Darbeheshti, M., & Ivey, S., & Stewart, C., & Russomanno, D., & King, D., & Goodman, K., & Campbell, J., & Altman, T., & Jacobson, M., & Simon, G. (2022, August), Summer Bridge Programming for Incoming First-Year Students at Three Public Urban Research Universities Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/41415
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