Sustainable Bridges from Campus to Campus: The Creation and Conduct of Online Synchronous Summer Bridge Programs in 2020

Catherine L. Cohan, Lauren A. Griggs, Ryan Scott Hassler, Mark William Johnson, Michael Kagan, Peter J. Butler, Tonya L. Peeples

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


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. In 2016, residential summer bridge programs for incoming Engineering students were started at the Abington, Altoona, and Berks campuses patterned after a successful long-standing bridge program at the Penn State University Park campus. Recruitment focuses on enrolling racially underrepresented domestic students (i.e., African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Pacific Islander), women, and first-generation students in Engineering 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. In 2020 (Year 5 of the project) because of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on in-person gathering, the Engineering Ahead residential bridge programs were converted to online synchronous summer bridge programs. This paper presents data on recruitment, enrollment, retention, and students' perceptions of belonging and mattering over time. 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. Since their inception, the Engineering Ahead summer bridge programs try to increase retention and graduation through three strategies: intensive math review (pre-calculus, calculus), community building, and professional development. Central topics and questions for this paper are how we conducted online bridges, what was offered, student enrollment and retention, what we learned from the process, can social integration among students be achieved virtually, and what were student perceptions of the online bridge experience? Method: Accepted incoming Engineering students (summer and fall 2020) at the Abington, Altoona, Berks, and University Park campuses were encouraged to apply via letter, email, and presentations at accepted student programs to an online summer bridge program to support success in math and science during the first year. Eighty-six incoming students enrolled in the four online bridge programs for incoming first-year Engineering students. Results: We reliably assessed students' sense of belonging and perceived college mattering using standardized measures. Repeated measures analyses showed that there was a significant increase over the 4-week bridge programs of students' sense of belonging and perceived mattering. Conclusions: An important component of summer bridge programs is fostering a sense of community and interpersonal bonds among the students. Results showed that students enrolled in online bridge programs reported significant increases in their sense of belonging and perceived college mattering over four weeks. It appears we captured some of the benefits of summer bridge programs even though they were not residential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Sustainable Bridges from Campus to Campus: The Creation and Conduct of Online Synchronous Summer Bridge Programs in 2020'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this