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UC Summer Bridge Program Celebrates 25 Years of Building Bridges to Student Success

An Aug. 2 luncheon honored students who completed the program this summer and featured alumni who credit the program with fueling their personal and professional success.

Date: 8/2/2013 2:00:00 PM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover

UC ingot   A luncheon celebration for 20 freshmen in the University of Cincinnati’s Emerging Ethnic Engineers (E3) Summer Bridge Scholars Program celebrated a silver anniversary for the program’s tradition of building academic excellence for underrepresented students. The Aug. 2 event took place in the Great Hall of Tangeman University Center (TUC).

UC freshman and program participant Marcus Moore, center, is the son and grandson of UC engineering graduates. His Grandfather, Benjamin A. Moore, was one of the first 10 African-Americans to ever graduate from the college in 1958.
UC freshman and program participant Marcus Moore, center, is the son and grandson of UC engineering graduates. His grandfather, Benjamin A. Moore, was one of the first African-Americans to graduate with an engineering degree from the college in 1958.

For 25 years, the E3 Summer Bridge Scholars Program has been dedicated to increasing the number of underrepresented students who enroll and graduate from the College of Engineering and Applied Science.  Over the past four years, the program has expanded to include underrepresented students exploring science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines in the College of Allied Health Sciences and the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences (A&S).

Program Director Ken Simonson says the bridge program students represent African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and first-generation college students who are considered underrepresented in certain STEM fields.

The residential summer program is intensive. Incoming freshmen invited into the program must sign a contract of commitment. For seven weeks, they go from 9 a.m.-4:50 p.m., attending classes and study sessions covering biology, physics, pre-calculus, calculus, chemistry and English. After dinner, they attend mandatory study sessions from 6-8 p.m.

Students are expected to be in their residence hall by 9:30 p.m. and in their room by 11 p.m. through the week. They also must adhere to a code of conduct.

The program also includes tours at Cincinnati companies that are partners with UC’s cooperative education program. Simonson adds that often the hosts of those companies are graduates of the summer bridge program and can serve as an inspiration to bridge students. Bridge students have the advantage of meeting potential contacts for future co-op opportunities and/or job leads early in their academic career. The bridge students have visited Duke Energy, Ethicon Endo-Surgery, GE Aviation, Procter & Gamble and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America.

Students who complete all program requirements earn three credit-hours in English, which helps reduce their course load during their first semester and eases their transition to college life.

“The bridge program is an academic excellence program – it is not a remedial program,” says program director Ken Simonson. “The student has already demonstrated the qualifications for being admitted into their program. Our goal is to identify the student’s strengths, find areas where they can improve their performance and provide them with some lifelong skills to build on their success in the workplace.”

“It’s a seven-week period for students to enhance and develop their potential. They were already bright. Our job is to make sure that they graduate,” says Simonson. “Over the last four years, more than 50 percent of the program’s graduates earned dean’s list honors after completing their first fall courses at UC. The 2012 freshman fall semester GPA for students in the program was 3.35. The overall graduation rate for these students is 23 percent higher than the national average of their peers.”

Simonson says more than 500 students have participated in the program since it started in 1988.

UC Board of Trustees member Robert E. Richardson Jr. is a graduate of the 1997 program. Richardson graduated from UC with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 2002 and graduated with honors from the UC College of Law in 2005.

“I can state with absolute certainty that if it hadn’t been for the E3 Summer Bridge Scholars Program, I would not have graduated with a degree in engineering,” Richardson says. “The program made sure that I was successful at the University of Cincinnati.”

“The program emphasizes two key points: one, that this field is hard, and two, that students can achieve their potential if they make the right choices,” says Richardson. “Students also get a leg up by meeting professors before classes begin, so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.”

Michael Roberts, an adjunct instructor for CEAS, has taught chemistry for the E3 Summer Bridge Scholars Program through its 25 years of existence.
Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

“It makes my summer very intense on a personal level, but the rewards in working with this program are amazing. The benefits are mostly seen several years down the road, as we hear about students who have gone on to do well, and we see the success in our graduation and retention rates. We had a very special group this year and I will miss them all.”

The bridge program also served as a model for launching a new bridge program this summer for the UC College of Nursing as well as a summer program coordinated by UC Athletics. The nursing program to support underrepresented students was recently awarded more than $1 million in federal funding. The UC Athletics program served student athletes in football and the men’s and women’s basketball programs.

Simonson says the E3 Summer Bridge Scholars Program and other E3 programmatic activities are supported by a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

As part of the UC 2019 goals of optimizing enrollment targets to enhance quality, diversity and access, the program has ambitions of doubling enrollment as the college works to increase the number of graduates from underrepresented backgrounds, as well as increase the number of underrepresented students entering graduate programs in engineering.

UC Foundation is currently raising funds for one-year scholarships to support future freshmen who complete the summer program, in addition to raising funding for programming and instructional support. A $100-per-person banquet closer to Homecoming is geared toward that effort, as well as to celebrate a reunion of graduates of the program. The E3 Summer Bridge 25th Anniversary Banquet gets underway with a reception at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 17, in the Great Hall of TUC. Anyone interested in registering for the banquet can contact Mary Fox, CEAS Development, at 513-556-6279, e-mail

Registration Information for the Oct. 17 E3 Summer Bridge 25th Anniversary Banquet

Support the Summer Bridge Scholars Program