A Mixed Method Approach for Assessing the Adjustment of Incoming First-Year Engineering Students in a Summer Bridge Program
Waller, Tremayne O'Brian
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For nearly half a century, institutions of higher education have implemented bridge programs in order to increase the retention and graduation rates of at-risk students (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). In fact, summer bridge programs (SBPs), which typically occur prior to a studentâ s freshman fall term, are among the oldest strategies used to improve college retention rates (Garcia, 1991). Surprisingly, even though SBPs are widely acknowledged by both students and program administrators to be beneficial, there is very little empirical evidence assessing their effectiveness (Garcia, 1991; Kluepfel,1994; Pascarella & Terenzini; Rita and Bacote,1997; Ackerman 1990; Gandara & Maxwell-Jolly, 1999). This study, therefore, used a mixed methods approach to investigate the various adjustment issues of participants versus non-participants in a summer bridge program for engineering students at a predominantly White institution (PWI) in the mid-southeastern region of the United States. Specifically, the Academic, Social, Personal-Emotional, and Goal Commitment/Institutional Attachment subscales of the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire (SACQ) were utilized (Baker & Siryk, 1999) for this purpose. One important finding that the SACQ revealed was that the personal-emotional scale was significant for gender since scores for men were higher than for females. The Summer Bridge Inventory (SBI) that was employed in this research also revealed that summer bridge participants and the director of support programs shared similar opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of the program and its related activities. In conclusion, college administrators and directors of summer support programs should carefully assess programmatic outcomes to ensure that their institutionsâ SBPs provided the needed supports that will enhance the retention and graduation rates of at-risk students in engineering.
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