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​New summer bridge program to assist first-year students’ transition

Friar Foundations, a new summer bridge program aimed at easing students’ transition from high school to college, will be launched at Providence College this July.

The program, made possible through a $169,875 grant from The Angell Foundation of Los Angeles, Calif., is expected to involve approximately 30 students who could benefit from additional preparation before their full-time matriculation at the College. Friar Foundations targets two fundamental issues facing incoming freshmen — academic responsibility and social assimilation.

Students chosen for the program will live on campus for five weeks beginning shortly after the July 4 holiday. They will take courses totaling six credits, attend skills-building workshops, and participate in numerous on- and off-campus social and cultural experiences. They will have time to return home prior to the start of New Student Orientation in late August, followed by the opening of the academic year.

The summer bridge program, a longtime goal, is being offered for several reasons. Chief among these is that the program aligns closely with the College’s mission and, in fact, complements the Strategic Plan in three areas: Enhancing Academic Excellence, Embracing Diversity, and Preparing Our Students for Lives of Meaning and Purpose.

The new program also is an attempt to adapt to and support a more challenging Core Curriculum, underscored by the revised Development of Western Civilization Program, the foundational curriculum all students take in their first two years.

“The curriculum has changed and become more rigorous. We need students to step up, too,” said Dr. Brian J. Bartolini, associate vice president for academic affairs and chief institutional effectiveness officer. He chairs the Summer Bridge Working Group that is responsible for establishing the program

“Civ is harder than before, and the core is more challenging overall. We need to match that with programs that support our students,” added Bartolini.

An initiative like the summer bridge program also attempts to help the College maintain its high retention and graduation rates — a reality that may be increasingly difficult to attain because of the demands of the Core and major curricula, said Bartolini.

He said it is important for the College to ensure that students from all backgrounds and levels of preparedness have a chance to benefit and succeed.

Support on multiple fronts

There is strong support for Friar Foundations across the College. Seven offices, including Academic Affairs and Admission, Student Affairs, the School of Continuing Education, and the School of Professional Studies, directly contributed to the development of the program’s proposal.

In addition, 10 upper-class students will be trained and serve as mentors throughout the summer program and the new students’ first year at PC. Faculty and staff, including members of the Dominican Community, are expected to participate as well, in such ways as tutoring, mentoring, and leading social and cultural programming.

Kaitlyn O’Malley, assistant director for student-athlete services and life skills coordinator in the Office of Academic Services, will serve as program coordinator.

Student participants, who will be recommended by staff in the Office of Admission, will have several major responsibilities in the summer bridge program. Foremost will be taking credit-bearing courses, including one in intensive writing and another in college skills. Students also will be expected to take several non-credit workshops in such areas as library resources/informational literacy, academic and organizational skills, and financial and technology skills.

A third expectation will be participation in social, educational, cultural, and community-building events, many of which will take place in the evening and on weekends and which will often be off campus. Possibilities include tours of Providence and coastal areas such as Newport, theatre outings, and museum visits.

Lastly, students will meet regularly with a program mentor and/or an OAS staff member during the summer program and throughout their first year of college.

Bartolini emphasized that the summer bridge program is far from a remedial initiative.

“Participants will have been admitted to the College in the same manner as all of their peers,” he said. “This is not a program that’s restricted to any particular group of students beyond the fact that we believe these young women and men would benefit greatly from a vigorous head start.”

The Angell Foundation, whose support will allow students to participate in Friar Foundations at no charge, is named for Emmy Award-winning producer and writer David Angell ’69 and his wife, Lynn. The Angells were killed on September 11, 2001. The foundation, which has an extensive history of support to PC, funds programs in the areas of spirituality, art, youth, education, and social justice.

— Charles C. Joyce

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