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.
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.
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.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.