Engineering summer bridge program provides academic support, sense of community


By Tessa Pick

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Between navigating classes and finding a sense of belonging, starting college can be a difficult transition for students entering their first year. Programs like Engineering Summer Bridge, housed within the Penn State Center for Engineering Outreach and Inclusion, aim to assist students in the transition and prepare them for college. The program is now accepting applications for 2022.

Part of the National Science Foundation-sponsored Engineering Ahead initiative to support underrepresented students in engineering across the University, Engineering Summer Bridge is a six-week summer program that helps incoming first-year University Park students prepare for engineering or science-based majors. The program provides students with academic support that introduces them to the college’s curriculum, as well as social and cultural events to encourage community building with their peers. 

“As a signature onboarding program, the Engineering Summer Bridge program prepares students for academic success and social integration at the onset of their college experience,” said Lauren Griggs, director of the Multicultural Engineering Program, the Clark Scholars Program and Engineering Summer Bridge. “Bridge programs such as these acclimate students to the college environment and build a rich, family-like community, which are essential for student success.”

Students in the program preview academic courses like pre-calculus and calculus to refresh skills learned in high school, as well as participate in skill development sessions on meta-cognition, studying techniques, networking and more. 

“Programs like Engineering Summer Bridge exist to help prepare students academically,” said Alexis Collins, a second-year aerospace engineering student and Engineering Summer Bridge program assistant. “However, the largest impact of these types of programs is more so the sense of community they create.”

Collins, a 2020 Engineering Summer Bridge participant and Clark Scholar, said her experience with the program helped her feel like she was a part of the engineering community and inspired her to continue to contribute by becoming a program assistant. 

“Completing a program like this really gives students that extra boost going into their first year so that they can handle all of the changes and emotions that occur when transitioning to college,” Collins said. “Initially, becoming a program assistant was solely to impact others, but throughout the program I realized how much this experience allowed me to grow and improve on my own leadership and communication skills.”

The program prioritizes inclusivity, Griggs said, creating a welcoming atmosphere for incoming student participants.

“Programs like Summer Bridge allow for students to meet those who share similar interests and open their minds to those who do not,” said Deon Harper, 2021 participant and first-year engineering student. “With the program being so inclusive, it's no wonder why these types of programs end up creating such a rich, warm community.”

Harper said he would recommend the program to others to help ease the anxieties of starting college.

“As a first-year student that participated in the program, I see a ton of my peers struggling to organize their schedules and keep up with work, which are areas that Engineering Summer Bridge assisted me with prior to college,” Harper said. “All in all, the program is a gateway to how college life should be: diverse, rewarding and fun.”

Numerous corporate sponsors and Penn State endowments help support Engineering Summer Bridge. Visit the Engineering Summer Bridge webpage or contact Lauren Griggs at for more information about the program.


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