It takes intellect, talent, and great time management skills to be a UConn engineering student. Over the summer, four current and former students displayed another characteristic – generosity and a willingness to invest in their fellow students. The four established two new scholarships for students participating in the preparatory summer BRIDGE program.
“These exceptional students are an example for all of us – alumni, faculty, and students – about the ripple each of us can set in motion when we invest in each other,” says Marty Wood, assistant dean for undergraduate education and outreach.
Recent graduate Atinuke (Tina) Oyeniya (B.S. Civil Engineering ’09) established the Oyeniya Scholarship, which was presented this year to Yanique Shand, a freshman from New Haven.
Shand is grateful for the support. “The impact this scholarship has on me personally is the motivation to not give up, no matter how hard the work load gets,” she says, “because someone cared enough to present me this award as a minority woman who is trying hard to obtain an engineering degree.”
In addition, current students Stephany Santos, Danica Chin, and Huiam Mubarak established the $2,000 Believe Beyond Boundaries (Triple B) scholarship to assist a student who shows “incredible passion for education and perseverance, despite any and all obstacles that come their way. The BBB Scholarship is intended to support these endeavors so that nothing is impossible, but rather I’Mpossible.”
BRIDGE graduate Asa Powell was named the scholarship’s first recipient.
Santos, Chin, and Mubarak have also undertaken to mentor each scholarship recipient throughout his or her higher education career.
Investment in a Fellow Student
The idea for the Triple B Scholarship began when the three friends learned that 2010 BRIDGE participant Asa Powell, “an extraordinary student who exhibited passion, a thirst for knowledge, and sincerity,” was experiencing financial difficulties. Recognizing that Powell’s academic career hinged on finances, Santos, Chin, and Mubarak wanted to help.
“We created the Belief Beyond Boundaries scholarship with [Asa] in mind, but with the thought that it could easily apply to so many other students; students who don’t care about the obstacles in their way because their motivation and perseverance allow them to see past even the tallest challenge,” says Santos.
Reflecting on his summer BRIDGE experience, Powell – the student who inspired his peers – says, “I worked harder than I ever had before, but I didn’t do it alone. My BRIDGE-mates and, more surprisingly, my tutor, suffered the nights of homework and studying alongside me … My family is in a financial low currently, and after an entire summer of hard work, stress, studying, networking, learning, making friends, creating bonds, experiencing cultural diversity for the first time, and realizing what I wanted to do with my life, I was nearly unable to attend UConn.”
He says the expense of UConn has taken a toll on his cash-strapped family, but “it would not have been possible at all if these three wonderful people had not decided to invest in my future. They saw my hard work in BRIDGE and decided they were not going to let me fall through the cracks. I am indescribably grateful to my mentors, Danica, Steph, and Huiam, who are continually active in my life, school-related and otherwise. As I continue my climb toward my degree, I plan to return the favor by investing in the next generation of BRIDGE students myself.”
A BRIDGE alumna committed to a career in prosthetics design, Santos served as a BRIDGE tutor (chemistry and calculus) during her sophomore year and a MATLAB instructor for the BRIDGE 2010 class. She lauded the BRIDGE program as critical to her success. “I gained initial confidence as an incoming freshman because I knew the campus, and knew a handful of people on campus. I was able to concentrate on finding my niche and discovering my academic passions, instead of stressing about the transition to college and the classes I was taking, all because of BRIDGE.”
Chin, a chemical engineering junior who also participated in the BRIDGE program, says the BRIDGE program taught her to persevere. “I took AP classes and challenged myself in high school, but the BRIDGE program really helped me adapt to the heavy work load of college. During BRIDGE, I also met the people who have remained my closest friends and support network at UConn.” Chin plans to join the Air Force after completing her degree, and later become a high school chemistry teacher.
Adds Santos, “BRIDGE students are encouraged to work together in groups … Engineering is a field that is impossible to conquer alone. Projects in the real world are never completed or sent to market after being seen by a single pair of eyes. So by getting used to and being comfortable with the thought of collaboration, mentorship, and diversified ideals, the BRIDGE program truly exemplifies what life as a student and an engineer, is really about.”
The BRIDGE program was begun in 1988 as a means to improve the diversity of the engineering student population. The five-week, residential summer program targets admitted freshmen who are members of groups traditionally underrepresented among the nation’s engineers, including women, African Americans, Latinos/as, and Native Americans.
BRIDGE training includes approximately 50 hours of classroom instruction in chemistry, computer programming, calculus, and physics, along with study sessions and tutoring aimed at preparing incoming engineering students for the freshman year experience. Thanks to corporate donations, BRIDGE participants are able to engage in the varied educational and campus activities at no cost. Social, recreational, and cultural activities are integrated into the program as well.
Pratt & Whitney offers $50,000 in scholarship money each year to students, from the freshman through the senior years, who successfully completed the BRIDGE program; pursue a degree in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, or materials science and engineering; and maintain a 3.0 or higher GPA.
Kevin McLaughlin, director of the Engineering Diversity Program, manages the BRIDGE program with oversight from assistant dean Marty Wood and support provided by administrative personnel Kimberly Duby and Sonya Renfro.
The BRIDGE program depends heavily upon contributions from donors. To show support for this program and help increase the number of talented women and underrepresented minorities in engineering, contact Marty Wood, assistant dean, School of Engineering, 860-486-2167 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Christopher Joliat, director of engineering development, 860-486-4997, email@example.com