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Why Do I Need A Bridge?

This post is inspired by a tweet I saw from That_Astro_Chic, Ashley Lindalia.

Although I do agree that some folks are not trained or invested in learning the best or proper way to advise and mentor Black and Brown students, we need bridge programs anyway. In fact, I think that many folks are not trained on how to advise or mentor ANY students.

For example, the PhD program teaches you how to do narrowed focused research on some area of interest. Some students would even debate whether it teaches you how to do that. Rather it drags you through the process until your committee deems you have been tortured enough and now it is time to graduate. I recently saw a tweet that I can no longer find, unfortunately that said, "you finish your PhD program when you have no clue what you are talking about but have been able to convince your advisor and committee that you do."

Therefore, it is only those who are invested in STEM education, such as myself, who will go through the extra effort to learn how to be an impactful mentor and educator to all students. I have been taking teaching workshops since 1999 and have done at least ten in my lifetime. I will continue to do this until I retire because my craft is important to me. This means that I engage in life long learning and professional development. This is exactly what I would expect my students to do, so I lead by example.

So shocker but there are many PhD holders who go to academia, solely to do research. Interestingly they could also do this at a government or research lab, but some perceive academia as a cushy job. They have ZERO interest in teaching, being a mentor or role model. Unfortunately, these are the ones that damage undergraduate and graduate students the most. Since my goal is to #DiversifySTEM, we have to find a way to better the experience for students who could go on to be great mentors, educators and role models to #ChangeTheFaceOfSTEM. The bridge program is a great way to do this.

So let's make a list of why you should do a bridge program and the things we would expect to see in a good, effective bridge program. My assumption is that the program directors will be invested and trained in how to mentor and advise all students. They have some familiarity with how to advise historically marginalized, minoritized and excluded populations in STEM. In addition, the bridge is for anyone from under resourced high schools, underprepared for college, first generation, or undecided. It is not a REMEDIATION program and it is not SOLEY for Black and Brown students.

Since I primarily teach undergraduate students, when I discuss bridge I am thinking about one between high school and college. I welcome additions to the list in the comments, in particular how it differs for a bridge to the masters or doctorate program.

  • College can be an overwhelming experience. Bridge programs help you build community and a cohort of collaborators, friends, study partners before the chaotic school year begins

  • Bridge programs help you get acclimated to the rigor and speed of college courses without risking a hit to your GPA

  • During the bridge program, you can find resources on campus to help you be successful during the school year. In other words, you know where everything is before you need it. For example, location of dining hall, library, student services, tutoring center, and counseling center.

  • Bridges help to review some of those topics from high school that were a little fuzzy. For example, for STEM, the more calculus, physics, science and programming you get under your belt, the better

  • Many bridges will include plant tours or presentations from industry professionals. This is important because many students are undecided or select a major without knowing much about it

  • Students will develop a relationship with upper classmen that can be mentors, advisors and guides through the college process

  • A great bridge will continue the relationship beyond the summer. Students would transfer into a living and learning program as a cohort to support each other. The mentors and students will continue to engage and check in to ensure success all the way to graduation. A Good bridge program would have continuity from high school into the first years of college.

In conclusion, before I left for sabbatical, I proposed a bridge program for my university. This year, they will welcome the first students into the summer bridge program. I am just sad that I will not be there to see my idea come to fruition. Here was the graphic I created for my proposal.


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