Every summer, the Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz makes a special effort to smooth the transition from high school to college for a select group of first-year students. The Engineering Summer Bridge (ESB) program, now in its tenth year, has been highly successful in preparing engineering students from underrepresented backgrounds to thrive academically in engineering disciplines.

ESB director Lydia Zendejas said past participants in ESB are now pursuing graduate degrees at top schools, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and working in the technology industry at companies such as Microsoft and Google. This year, 24 students took part in the week-long program, living in campus dorms, brushing up on their math skills, and working on team projects.

"We have a talented group of entering students who want to pursue engineering. ESB helps them to focus their talents and make the most of their experience," Zendejas said.

ESB is a free program designed for students who have the academic foundation to succeed and come from underrepresented populations in engineering, including women. Since 2003, the program has served more than 200 students.

The goal of the six-day residential program is to provide a general introduction to the people and resources that will help new students flourish in the engineering school.  Participants engage in technology workshops, team-building and community-building activities, intensive math diagnostics and review, and are introduced to the academic programs, research facilities, faculty, and learning support services of the Baskin School of Engineering.

Spencer Butterfield, one of this year's participants, said the program has helped him become "mentally and academically prepared, so it's not such a culture shock when I move back in September." Another participant, Adan Rodriguez, said, "It's great getting used to the academic environment and making friends."

Current engineering students who serve as mentors are an important part of the program. "Students who participated in ESB are often the first to apply to be mentors and feel a strong desire to give back to the program. The best reward of all is seeing them graduate in a few years," Zendejas said.

The program is supported by the Baskin School of Engineering's Multicultural Engineering Program and Undergraduate Student Affairs Office.

For more information about the Engineering Summer Bridge program, contact Adrienne Harrell, director of Undergraduate Student Affairs, at adrienne@soe.ucsc.edu or (831) 459-5621; or Lydia Zendejas at lydia@soe.ucsc.edu.