Freshmen Bridge Program Is Great Way To Get Acclimated to College

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Despite the blistering heat, the students of Bridge Week still gathered outside of Carroll Stadium to show their school spirit. The students danced to songs such as the “Cha-Cha Slide” and the “Wobble” and listened to a welcoming speech from Chancellor Paydar.

Bridge Week is a freshmen program at IUPUI that has been around since it’s introduction in 2001 with 19 students. This year, 1,100 students participated in 49 different sections offered by the program. The number of students involved in the program has generally increased by 200-300 students each year since its creation. Bridge allows freshmen to adjust to campus life before school actually begins.

“I usually describe it as like a jumpstart,” Heather Bowman, Director of First Year Programs said.. “So this is a way that you can come to campus and all of the things you're nervous about and all the things you're confused about, we kind of hold your hand through those things. It's a mix of classroom activities and social things and field trips and activities to help you get to know the campus of a city and each other.” 

However, Bridge is not just about adjusting to college life. This year, a new program called the Jag challenge has been implemented into the Bridge routine. The Jag challenge is intended to have students address prominent problems in society and work together to create solutions for them. 

“Only about 10 of the different groups are doing it this year,” Bowman said. “But it's an innovation challenge. So we're giving groups like big picture problems like sustainability or inclusion and diversity or global engagement. And then we're asking you to go through a design thinking process where in small groups, they come up with solutions to the problem and they come up with a pitch for their solution.”

Bowman discussed how impactful Bridge is to students, and how integral Bridge can be to setting students up for success in their college careers. For this reason, IUPUI has plans to expand Bridge Week to be a program that includes all freshmen. 

“Students who do Bridge can have really good outcomes, which means retention and GPA are higher for students who do bridge across the board,” Bowman said. “So the administration has been behind the program.  We've had resources to continue to grow incrementally. We had a plan for this year originally to go to full scale, which means all freshmen would do Bridge, then the pandemic derailed us.”

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