Sustainable bridges from campus to campus: Summer bridge program implementation across four campuses

Catherine L. Cohan, Lauren A. Griggs, Ryan Scott Hassler, Mark William Johnson, Michael Kagan, Amy L. Freeman, Tonya L. Peeples

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


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. The overarching goal of this project is to increase retention and graduation among underrepresented Engineering students, with a focus on students who start their Penn State education at a regional campus. In 2016, summer bridge programs for incoming Engineering students were started at three regional campuses in the Penn State system, including the Abington, Altoona, and Berks campuses. Recruitment focused on enrolling racially underrepresented domestic students (i.e., African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Pacific Islander), women, and first-generation students in Engineering. The new bridge programs were tailored to the needs and resources of each campus. The project also supported an established summer bridge program for racially underrepresented incoming Engineering students at the flagship University Park campus. The goal of the Engineering Ahead summer bridge programs is to increase retention and graduation through four strategies: intensive math review (pre-calculus, calculus), community building, college success skills, and professional development. In their review of the STEM summer bridge literature, Ashley and colleagues [1] recommended to “report more information about the details of implementing bridge programs” (p 14). They noted that implementation details often are not described when published articles report on the outcomes of summer bridge programs. However, “A team developing a bridge program would benefit from more information about program logistics” (p. 14).” The 6-year Engineering Ahead project concluded at the end of 2021. Our experience initiating new bridge programs and enrolling 6 cohorts of incoming engineering students in summer bridge programs at regional and flagship campuses with different delivery methods (residential, non-residential day program, synchronous online, hybrid) can inform the higher education STEM community. The purpose of this paper is to address the Ashley et al recommendation about sharing implementation details and provide information on the logistical “how to” of starting, conducting, and hopefully sustaining engineering summer bridge programs at small and large campuses. This paper will discuss the leadership team communication and learning community, engagement of administrative leaders, program costs and resources, participant recruitment and selection focusing on underrepresented students, program size, staffing, curriculum development, sustainability, follow-up interventions, delivery method (residential, non-residential, online, hybrid), expectations for participant conduct, and addressing problems with participant conduct. Please note that outcome data from this project will be reported elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Aug 23 2022
Event129th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Excellence Through Diversity, ASEE 2022 - Minneapolis, United States
Duration: Jun 26 2022Jun 29 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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