The new school year is still weeks away, but about 100 first-year students are getting a head start on college life through the University of Hartford’s newly expanded Summer Bridge program.
Summer Bridge began as a pilot program in 2009 and 2010 for incoming Hillyer College students. In each of those years, about 20 incoming Hillyer College students came to campus during the summer for an intensive week that combined academic work with fun activities. The idea was to ease the transition to college life by giving students a head start on college-level academics and on developing good study habits, becoming familiar with the campus, and getting to know other students and faculty members.
By all accounts the 2009 and 2010 Summer Bridge programs were big successes. All of the students who participated in the programs successfully completed their first year of college, and many excelled academically, said Hillyer College Dean David Goldenberg.
Based on that success, the University applied for funding to expand the Summer Bridge program to all of the University’s schools and colleges, with the goal of improving retention and academic success among first-year students.
This spring, the University received a three-year grant for more than $300,000 from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. The grant is enabling the University to offer the Summer Bridge program to incoming students in all of the University’s schools and colleges – as many as 120 students this summer, 160 students in 2012, and 200 students in 2013. Under the terms of the grant, first priority is given to incoming students from Greater Hartford, and remaining spots are then offered to students from outside the Hartford area.
The University also received funding for the expanded Summer Bridge program from Travelers Insurance, Bank of America, and the Women’s Education and Leadership Fund (WELFund), which provided a $10,000 grant to offer a one-week women’s leadership program to incoming first-year students as part of Summer Bridge.
Six groups of about 20 students each are taking part in this year’s expanded Summer Bridge program over a four-week period. During each week-long session, students focus on either math skills or writing skills, and they also learn valuable study skills and strategies for academic success, said Goldenberg, who is project coordinator for the expanded program. But the program isn’t all work – there also are a lot of fun activities on the agenda, such as scavenger hunts, a “ghost tour” at the Mark Twain House, and a performance at the Goodspeed Opera House.
The expanded Summer Bridge program began the week of July 17 with a combined group of incoming Barney School of Business and College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture (CETA) students. The following week, students entering the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions (ENHP) took part in the Summer Bridge program. This week, a group of incoming Hillyer College students is focusing on math skills, and a group of first-year students representing multiple schools and colleges is taking part in the women’s leadership program supported by WELFund. During the week of Aug. 7, a second group of incoming Hillyer College students will focus on writing skills.
The Summer Bridge classes are taught by University faculty members, and University students serve as RAs and mentors for the Summer Bridge participants. In addition to academic work and off-campus attractions, the incoming students also get tours of campus facilities, such as Mortensen Library and the Sports Center, and they learn about resources like the Student Success Center.
“I have been so impressed by the commitment of faculty of the University and these entering freshmen to commence their college experience on such a high note,” Goldenberg said. “I look forward to their successes, not only in their first semester but throughout their four years.”