In the Spotlight: REFUGES Bridge Program

Since its establishment, the overall goal of REFUGES has been to provide a comprehensive support system for under-served students that includes foundational academic and social support, as well as assistance to successfully transition to college.

The Bridge Program, one of the components of REFUGES, is designed for incoming University of Utah freshmen who are from underrepresented backgrounds and are interested in majoring in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) field. Participants are provided with a supportive peer group and a unique summer opportunity to get a head start on their college coursework.

Since its launch in 2013, the REFUGES Bridge program has proven to be an important mechanism to recruit underserved students to the U and support their success in STEM disciplines.  The retention rate of former Bridge students has been remarkable; of the 31 students served by the program thus far, 29 students are still at the U (the remaining 2 have transferred to other institutions), and 24 are still majoring in a STEM field. Participants have included students who identify as Black/African American (26%), Hispanic/Latino (32%), Asian/Pacific Islander (23%), White (16%), and Native American/American Indian (3%).

Building upon its early successes, REFUGES is making important programmatic changes to the Bridge Program to further propel students towards academic success.  In 2017, REFUGES launched a new partnership with the LEAP program. Bridge students will now enroll in two for-credit courses the summer before freshman year that count towards some of their General Education requirements – Math 1050 (College Algebra) and LEAP 1100 (Pre-STEM). The courses will be taught in a cohort model by hand-picked instructors. Students will also be supported by a paid peer mentor trained by the LEAP program, and their summer experience will feed into an academic-year LEAP cohort experience that will extend through the spring of their first year at the U.

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