Summer bridge program offers head start to students

The program aims to ease the transition into first-year college life for IT students.

by Kelly Gulbrandson

It’s the second time around for a program designed to help students ease the pressures of the first year of college.

The two-year-old Institute of Technology Academic Program for Excellence in Engineering and Science Summer Bridge Program offers incoming technology and computer science students the opportunity to get a head start on life at the University.

Dr. Sam Moore, director of APEXES in the Institute of Technology, said the 3M-sponsored program allows 13 students, along with a community adviser and a teaching assistant, a chance to further their knowledge and experience as University students before other first-year students start school.

The program started June 10 and lasts until Aug. 4. Participants have class for two hours per day, five days a week, in addition to seminars, research and cultural activities.

During the program, students receive free housing in Comstock Hall and a $1,500 stipend.

The students are from diverse backgrounds. The group includes nonwhites and women, not typical of the engineering field.

Despite the program’s small enrollment, selectivity is not high since the program lacks popularity due to its newness, said Susanne LeDoux, administrative specialist for APEXES.

“It isn’t selective now, but perhaps in the future it will be,” she said.

Moore said to be considered for the program, students need a strong background in math and readiness to take college calculus for the math-based field of engineering.

Students can apply online and must write essays detailing why they want to participate in the program.

APEXES and the Institute of Technology work with University admissions to draw prospective participants from the larger pool of incoming first-year students.

Chemical engineering sophomore Lorna Grauvilardell participated in the program last year. She said she enjoyed meeting other students from around the country.

“When you put all these freshmen together, you bond well and get a chance to see what University life is like,” she said.

Being able to experience college firsts, such as cafeteria dining, doing laundry and sitting in on college classes, is a positive aspect of the program, she said.

Grauvilardell said a brochure and letter about the program caught her eye.

“I initially applied because of the money, but it was an awesome experience and the most fun summer I have had in a while,” she said.

Moore said the program’s corporate sponsor is making an investment in its future employment pool.

“(3M hires) a lot of engineers from the University and noticed less students going into the program,” he said.

The University of Michigan, Purdue University and Michigan State University each have similar programs sponsored by 3M, aimed at bringing a more diverse set of students into engineering, Moore said.

First-year computer engineering student and program participant Sherief Elabbady said he likes the opportunity to meet people before school starts.

“It’s good to have a head start in college,” he said. “In September, you already have those friends and people who you can depend on.”

The program is also a way to understand what engineers do, since a lot of students go into engineering because they are good in math without knowing what an engineer actually does, Elabbady said.

In addition to learning about science and engineering, participants get to know faculty members and learn how to use professional journals, he said.

Last year, the incoming first years designed a wind turbine with graduate students.

Participants will have the benefit of their previous knowledge of the University with them.

“After the program, I knew my way around better,” Grauvilardell said.