Purpose: The purpose of the Sustainable Bridges from Campus to Campus project (NSF IUSE #1525367, known locally as Engineering Ahead) is to establish summer bridge programs that serve Engineering students at regional campuses of The Pennsylvania State University. Summer bridge programs for incoming Engineering students were started at the Abington, Altoona, and Berks regional campuses. Recruitment focuses on enrolling racially underrepresented domestic students in Engineering (i.e., African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Pacific Islander) into the bridge programs. The project also supports an established summer bridge program for racially underrepresented incoming Engineering students at the flagship University Park campus. As of this writing, we are completing Year 4 of the 5-year project. This paper presents aggregated data through their second year of college the entrance-to-major process for the first three cohorts of Engineering Ahead participants and a sample of matched comparison students who did not participate in the program. Goals: The overarching goal of this project is to increase retention and graduation among racially underrepresented Engineering students, with a focus on students who start their Penn State education at a regional campus. Institutional retention data indicate that retention in Engineering among students at a regional campus is nearly half that of Engineering students who start at the flagship campus. Part of that difference in retention is likely related to social integration and access to academic support. Thus, an intent of this project is to implement academic and social support strategies (pre-college summer bridge program & clustered enrollment in the same first-year seminar) to improve junior-year retention among racially underrepresented and underserved Engineering students. We aim to improve retention in Engineering in the junior year by 20 percentage points. The central research question is to examine whether academic outcomes and retention in Engineering differed as a function of participation in the support strategies. To examine variation in outcomes among participants in our program, we will examine contextual factors such as whether the bridge program was residential or non-residential, whether the bridge program was located at a student's assigned campus for the fall or at a different campus in the Penn State system, and whether the student completed the degree at one campus or transitioned from a regional campus to the flagship campus (native vs. 2+2 students). Method: Accepted incoming Engineering students at the Abington, Altoona, Berks, and University Park campuses in the Penn State system were encouraged to apply to a summer bridge program to support success in math and science during the first year via letter, email, and presentations at accepted student programs. The bridge programs for incoming first-year students consist of 5 summer bridge programs across 4 campuses in the Penn State system. The total sample size is 490, with 245 participants and 245 comparison students. To assess the effectiveness of these academic and social support strategies for incoming undergraduate Engineering majors, we will examine math course grades, grade point average, entrance-to-major status (i.e., did a student enroll in an Engineering major, another STEM major, or a non-STEM major), and enrollment status (i.e., whether or not still at Penn State). Students were matched on gender, race, campus assignment, and SAT Math score (within 1 standard deviation). Results: Compared to a matched comparison sample, the Engineering Ahead students earned statistically higher grades in their first college math course by half a letter grade, were less likely to drop their first math course, and earned a higher grade point average at the end of their first year of college. Conclusions: The significantly higher math course grades for the bridge students compared to the matched comparison students suggest that the bridge programming and cohort building benefitted the students. We will continue to track Cohorts 1 to 3 as well as Cohort 4 (2019). Plans are underway to enroll Cohort 5 in the summer of 2020. Future analyses will involve an examination of whether STEM-major status and retention status are related to transfer status within the University, that is whether students matriculate at one campus in the University system or transfer between campuses within the University system to complete their degree.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1302
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 22 2020
Event2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jun 22 2020Jun 26 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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