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Summer Bridge Experience Offers More than Academic Preparedness

Published: 07/09/2019

By: Carla Nelson

More than 50 incoming freshman recently spent four weeks on Auburn’s campus preparing themselves for the rigorous curriculum of studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as participants of the STEM Summer Bridge Program.

From June 2-29, the students participated in college courses, research, lab experiments, and team building activities. They attended panel sessions on topics that included professional development, self-care and leadership, and also gained more knowledge about Auburn University and the resources available to students. The participants also ventured outside the classroom on field trips to the Montgomery Legacy Museum, The Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Alabama Power and more.

The STEM Summer Bridge Program is a joint effort between the Auburn University College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM) and the Auburn University Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. COSAM founded the program in 1997 and incorporated the College of Engineering in 2016. The program was established to assist students that are underrepresented in STEM fields, including ethnic minority groups, students from rural areas, first generation students, and women, with academic and social support. Incoming freshman must submit an application and once they complete the program are offered scholarships throughout their time at Auburn.

Dr. Kimberly X. Mulligan-Guy, the COSAM assistant dean for Inclusion, Equity and Diversity, welcomed the students to the program on June 2 by expressing her passion for seeing minorities be a part of the STEM curriculum.

“We don’t always get to see ourselves in STEM,” she explained. “When we talk about women, and we talk about underrepresented minorities, the numbers are low. We want to make sure that whatever it is that you’re passionate about and whatever it is that you want to do, you have a way to do that.”

Dr. Mulligan-Guy spoke about her own experiences in the importance of having a support system in college.

“Even though I know I was smart enough to do it, I know that I would have not made it through without my support system,” she said. “Because it’s not just about being smart. I think about it at every level that I’ve been at … the people that didn’t make it through wasn’t because they weren’t smart enough, it’s because they didn’t have support. That’s what we’re here to do - provide support.”

First-time Summer Bridge Program Coordinator Julian Oliver said the four-week program was difficult at times for the students, and very busy, but he saw the rewards through the student and their families.

“I really enjoyed seeing the impact it had on their families,” he said. “When the students shared their experiences at our closing ceremony, seeing their parents’ faces made me realize that we are impacting students through this program, but we are also changing families’ generational history. This could be the first person going to college or this could be the first person in their family getting a STEM education. It’s just a touching and impactful program from my perspective.”    

Sheri Stanley from Huntsville, Ala., encouraged her son, Alex, to attend the program.

“Since it was a minority program, we felt like it was a good way to kind of introduce him to Auburn in this way because it is a majority institution,” she said, adding that her son was nervous about going off to college. “I am really excited about this program. Now it seems like he’s opening up a little more and more excited to leave home and come to college.”

Alex agreed.

“I feel more prepared and equipped than the average incoming freshman,” he said. “I feel like I made great relationships with not only the students here, but also the faculty. It gave me some great networking opportunities to help me in the future.” 

During the Summer Bridge Closing Ceremony held June 29, several more students shared their experience during the prior four weeks.

Brandon Dye, a first-generation college student, said he feels the Summer Bridge Program prepared him for college and has given him the tools and a family to help him succeed.

“As minorities, we have been damaged, disadvantaged and disenfranchised and I believe this is our time to show the world that your color does not define you and at the end of the day, we’re all just humans and we can do everything that everyone else can,” he shared. “I really feel like this program embodies that. Even though I’m very, very tired … I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.”

Participant Trinitee Hughley said she will cherish the relationships she made during the Summer Bridge Program.

“To all the parents here that are wondering what your kids truly gained out of this program, we each gained a network of people who we can count on when we need help,” she said. “We each gained 100 new memories with 100 new perspectives. We each came out of this program with the upper hand. Some of us gained undergraduate experience, some of us gained scholarships, some of us gained a new group of friends, but what we all gained was a supportive community that will ensure that we make the most of our education here at Auburn.”

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