July 11, 2003

UCSD Summer Bridge Program Honored For Excellence, Innovation in Student Retention

The Summer Bridge Program at the University of California, San Diego has been recognized by Noel-Levitz, a leading higher education consulting firm in the United States and Canada, for excellence and innovation in enhancing student retention through services that encourage undergraduates to succeed at high levels and assume campus leadership roles through graduation.

UCSD’s Summer Bridge initiative will be one of nine campus retention programs from educational institutions across the country to receive the Noel-Levitz Retention Excellence Award at the consulting firm’s National Conference on Student Retention, to be held July 13-16 at the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina.

Patrick Velasquez, Ph.D., director of the Office of Academic Support and Instructional Services (OASIS) at UCSD which administers Summer Bridge’s myriad services through Student Affairs, will join Augustin Orozco, Summer Bridge coordinator, and Libertine Trajano, Summer Bridge assistant coordinator, in accepting the award. During the conference, to be attended by more than 1,000 educators from throughout North America, Velasquez and awardees from other institutions will conduct special workshop presentations on their respective programs.

Patrick Velasquez

“Summer Bridge, like the other awarded programs, demonstrate that schools can truly impact the success of their students,” says Lana Low, senior executive at Noel-Levitz, a leading consulting firm specializing in higher education student recruitment, financial aid, student research and market research. “From freshman seminars to mentoring programs, the awarded institutions have found innovative ways to support student success,” Low says.

Established more than 25 years ago at UCSD, Summer Bridge is a four-week academic and residential experience designed to prepare incoming freshmen, especially those from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, to successfully transition to UCSD.

Approximately 150 UCSD freshmen participate in the program each summer during which they learn and hone important academic, cognitive, social, and leadership skills that will serve them well during their critical first year in college, and beyond.

“We’ve found that the first year of college is an important adjustment period for most freshmen, regardless of their background, but is particularly critical for educationally disadvantaged students — those from high schools with high poverty rates, low college-going rates, and those who are usually the first in their families to go to college,” says Velasquez, who has researched and written extensively on the UCSD Summer Bridge experience.

“Summer Bridge students enter the program with the talent and motivation to succeed, and in its 25-year history, Summer Bridge has never operated as a ‘remedial’ program,” Velasquez continues. “The program maintains a high level of expectation for its students, both academically and socio-culturally, and this is accompanied by equally high levels of challenge and support from Summer Bridge staff members.” Throughout their stay at UCSD, the students are also encouraged to participate in leadership roles in campus groups and organizations, and avail themselves to the wide range of academic support services provided by OASIS. When combined with the Summer Bridge experience, this has had a noted effect on students’ academic and sociocultural adjustment to UCSD, as well as their retention and graduation rates, he says.

For instance, Summer Bridge data show:

Summer Bridge participants persist and achieve at rates as high or higher than their campus counterparts (educationally disadvantaged and non-educationally disadvantaged students who did not participate in the program). A study of the 2001 freshman cohort revealed a freshman-to-sophomore-year retention rate of 96 percent, four percentage points higher than the 92 percent rate of non-Summer Bridge participants.

In addition, the same study found that Summer Bridge participants’ average grade point average (GPA) during the freshman year was 2.91, compared with 2.88 for non-participating freshmen. The study also found that during their freshman year, fewer Summer Bridge students were in academic difficulty — defined as having a GPA below 2.0 — than non-participants.

* Higher graduation rates have also been documented. For freshmen who participated in the program in 1995, 81 percent graduated within five years compared to 78 percent of freshmen in a non-participating cohort.

* Student evaluations, too, have shown the strength of the program. On a recent evaluation, an impressive 100 percent of participants agreed or strongly agreed that the program aided their transition to the university.

This summer, 140 incoming UCSD freshmen will participate in Summer Bridge from August 2-29 on the university’s campus where they will complete training in math, science, college writing, contemporary issues, leadership, critical thinking, and campus orientation. These students join more than 2,500 freshmen who have gone through the program in its 25-year history. Many past Summer Bridge graduates are now serving in such professions as law, education, medicine, engineering, computer science and arts and humanities.

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