Engineering summer bridge programs assist first-year engineering students in transitioning to college in an effort to promote student success. Annually, a large, public Western University hosted a two-week summer bridge program for students in the Redshirting in Engineering program designed to increase the knowledge of and interest in engineering, to develop engineering design skills, to improve academic awareness and preparation in mathematics, and to foster community among students in their cohort as well as within the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS). Redshirting in Engineering scholars initially were not directly admitted into the CEAS, but were considered highly motivated, identified as likely to succeed and were invited to participate in Redshirting in Engineering program as scholars. Thus, the Redshirting in Engineering summer bridge program is exclusively designed for the Redshirting in Engineering scholars, all of whom are admitted to the CEAS as open-option engineering majors. These scholars who agree to the program requirements were then enrolled as engineering students in the CEAS. The demographics of this cohort included 79% underrepresented minority (URM), 65% first-generation, 16% women, 74% Pell Eligible and 33% English language learners (ELL).
In the summer of 2017, several elements of the Redshirting summer bridge program were redesigned to transition students to college and to transform their levels of expertise through multiple engineering skill-development workshops, spatial visualization and engineering design project integration, and mathematics and physics curriculum collaboration. Developing early partnerships with skilled professionals and faculty fostered a collaborative approach to implementing an integrated summer bridge program.
In addition to classes, introducing these scholars to industry professionals and research opportunities during summer bridge supported an increase in their engineering expertise. Industry tours and research presentations were expanded to multiple companies and multiple faculty researchers, respectively. Smaller groups of scholars were matched more closely with their areas of interests during tours and presentations, at both companies and research labs.
Second year Redshirting in Engineering scholars served as peer mentors to the first year scholars (protégés). An increased number of mentors improved the peer mentoring experience by reducing the number of mentees assigned to each peer mentor. To more broadly train these peer mentors, another new component to summer bridge was a campus-wide training for summer bridge peer mentors. The training was designed to stress the mission of the campus diversity leadership team across all campus summer bridge programs. The Redshirting peer mentors participated in campus-wide training and the Redshirting in Engineering summer bridge peer mentoring training; moreover, they served as resident advisors (RA’s) and teaching assistants (TA’s) for the summer bridge classes.
The pre and post assessments and survey results of this summer bridge program are analyzed and outlined in this paper. Survey results from peer mentors are also provided. Sharing this summer bridge model will hopefully encourage other universities to take up diversifying summer bridge programs and increasing engineering expertise for incoming scholars.
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