Summer Bridge Scholars Program Builds Bonds, Promises Greater Retention Rates for First-Year Students

Northeastern’s Summer Bridge program, which started in the College of Engineering and is now university-wide, is a week-long program designed to help historically underrepresented accepted students prepare for their first year of college with mentoring, teambuilding, academic previews, and more.

This article originally appeared on Northeastern Global News. It was published by Alena Kuzub. Main photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Choosing a college was a big decision for Jonathan Bush, a soon-to-be first-generation college student.

Thinking about higher education, Bush, 18, expected that he would stay put in his familiar environment in Houston and pick a local school.

However, his horizons expanded and he learned about Northeastern University when he was admitted into EMERGE—a free program at the Houston Independent School District that helps first-generation and low-income students attend and graduate from the nation’s top colleges and universities.

After touring a few other schools, Bush, who will be attending D’Amore-McKim School of Business in the fall, put Northeastern at the top of his list and declared an early decision.

“I ultimately picked Northeastern University for its extensive co-op program,” he says.

He was also impressed with Northeastern’s social media efforts.

“They really take inclusivity and diversity as really important, and I can see that through the things that they post, through the events that they have,” he says. “I spoke to multiple students that I’d found online, and they truly do love it here.”

Students attend Summer Bridge Scholars Program.Students attend Summer Bridge Scholars Program.
Someone speaks at a podium. Students attend Summer Bridge Scholars Program.

Photos by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Bush was among 275 first-year students who spent a week in Boston, participating in the 2023 Summer Bridge Scholars Program, designed to help them begin their Northeastern journey. It offered a preview of the academic experience, insight into the valuable resources and opportunities to meet new friends and mentors before the school year starts.

“The Summer Bridge Program really broke down my shell,” Bush says. “I love how open everybody is. And I love how the event is coordinated for us to be able to connect with everybody and to learn more about the institution that we probably wouldn’t be able to do on a larger scale [otherwise].”

It can be uncomfortable for an African-American male to be in a new, predominantly white space, Bush says. Meeting peers through the program, however, eased him into it.

“We are able to learn about each other’s cultures and diversity and able to learn that we are different, but same at the same time,” he says. “And then we’re able to talk about each other’s struggles.”

The Summer Bridge Scholars Program was conceived by Richard Harris, associate dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and director of Northeastern University Programs in Multicultural Engineering. It started in 2002 with just 11 first-year students set to attend the College of Engineering that fall. The college institutionalized it and made it a budget item in 2015 and in 2016 the program was expanded to the College of Science.

Read full story at Northeastern Global News

Related Faculty: Richard Harris