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Summer Bridge: Giving Students a Head Start on College Life

Posted 07/24/2014
Posted by David Isgur

About 150 incoming freshmen are getting a head start on their transition to college this summer through the University’s growing Summer Bridge program. These students are getting a taste of college-level coursework, learning study skills, getting to know the campus, and building relationships with students and faculty members.

Incoming Barney School of Business students raise their hands in response to a question from one of their instructors during their week-long Summer Bridge program.

“By the time they arrive on campus for the start of the fall semester, they will already have a sense of what to expect. The campus will already feel like home,” said Hillyer College Dean David Goldenberg, director of the Summer Bridge program.

This year, Summer Bridge features eight different week-long programs running over a four-week period in July and August. Each program can accommodate up to 20 students.

Summer Bridge began the week of July 13, with programs for incoming biology majors and incoming business students. This week, there are programs for incoming psychology majors and for incoming students who have not yet decided what they want to study—the focus of their program will be on career exploration. For the full schedule of this year’s Summer Bridge programs, scroll to the end of this article.

All incoming freshmen who are eligible for a particular Summer Bridge program are offered a chance to participate, and the slots are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. This year, there are two new programs—one for incoming business students, and one for incoming engineering students. The program for incoming engineering students filled up in just 48 hours, Goldenberg said. And Summer Bridge’s week-long women’s leadership program, which is funded by a grant from the Women’s Education and Leadership Fund, has proven so popular that this year 80 students applied for the 20 spots.

Associate Professor of Biology Jacob Harney teaches a class to incoming freshmen who plan to major in biology during one of this year's Summer Bridge programs.

Program Continues to Grow

Summer Bridge began in 2009 as a pilot program for 20 incoming Hillyer College students who came to campus for one week during the summer to get a head start on college-level mathematics.

Today, there are eight Summer Bridge programs with participants from all seven of the University’s schools and colleges.

And the results have been impressive. Over the past five years, students who participated in Summer Bridge have made Dean’s List and President’s List at a higher rate than the student body at large, and they have had lower rates of academic probation, dropping classes, and disciplinary actions, Goldenberg said.

Students who participate in Summer Bridge come to campus for an intensive week that combines academic work; tips on study skills, note-taking, time management, and other college essentials; and fun activities, such as a scavenger hunt designed to help students become familiar with the campus.

Several new components have been added over the last few years, such as sessions on financial aid and college affordability, a self-defense course for women, and a workshop for male students on preventing sexual assault and violence against women. New to Summer Bridge this year is a program on using the University’s library resources. The sessions are tailored for students’ specific areas of study, so that business students learn about the library’s business resources, psychology students learn about the University’s psychology resources, etc.

While many institutions have summer programs for incoming freshmen, the University of Hartford’s Summer Bridge program is unique in that select upper class students serve as both classroom mentors, or preceptors, and resident assistants (RAs) for the Summer Bridge participants during the week that they are on campus, Goldenberg said. Having the same students serve as preceptors in the classroom and RAs in the residence halls provides continuity for the Summer Bridge participants, and allows them to get advice from their peers on how to succeed both in and outside the classroom.

Generous Donors

The Summer Bridge program is offered free of charge to participating students, thanks to a number of generous donors. This is the fourth year that the program is receiving funding from Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, with the goal of improving retention and academic success among first-year students.

Funding for Summer Bridge also is provided by Travelers, Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the Women’s Education and Leadership Fund, and friends and alumni of the University.

Summer Bridge Schedule

This year’s schedule of Summer Bridge programs is as follows:

July 13–18:

• Program for incoming biology majors in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S)

• Program for incoming students in the Barney School of Business

July 20–25:

• Program for incoming psychology majors in the College of Arts and Sciences

• Program for incoming A&S students who have not decided on a major

August 3–8:

• Program on women’s leadership development, supported by a grant from the Women’s Education and Leadership Fund—for incoming female students in all of the University’s schools and colleges

• Program for incoming Hillyer College students, focusing on writing skills

August 10–15:

• Program for incoming students in the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture

• Program for incoming Hillyer College students, focusing on mathematics skills