CoAS BRIDGE Program Builds Community Among Students of Color
by Sarah Hojsak
June 6, 2023
Starting college can be daunting, both academically and socially. Data shows that students of color have higher rates of success when they have a community of peers. The College of Arts and Sciences’ BRIDGE program—which stands for Building Relationships in Diverse Group Experiences—seeks to foster a sense of community on campus and ease the transition into college life.
In its first two years, the BRIDGE program has grown to over 40 members. Throughout the academic year, the program holds workshops to help students with time management and study skills and hosts social events to help them build meaningful connections. Students have also conducted civic engagement projects and learned about graduate programs and potential career paths.
“I joined the BRIDGE program to connect with other first-years of color,” said biology major Sofia Colon. “I wanted to be part of a community with people like me and BRIDGE was just that.”
Laurie Zinberg, a senior academic advisor in the college, recently became BRIDGE’s new program manager. In her previous roles in higher education, Zinberg became passionate about working with international students, minority groups and other students who need additional support—as she puts it, “students who didn't necessarily grow up with the tools laid out for them in a neat little package.”
As the program continues to grow, Zinberg’s goal is for BRIDGE to serve as a source of support for students, helping them become familiar with Drexel’s resources, build relationships and form a strong sense of community. This includes teaching organization and study skills, holding a weekly study hall, hosting guest speakers and creating opportunities for mentorship.
Zinberg also teaches an introductory course that all first-year BRIDGE students take to help orient them to life at Drexel, helping establish connections to resources like the library, counseling, study abroad and housing. “It's all about them getting to know each other, and other people on campus as well,” she explained.
According to Zinberg, the students in the program are high achievers academically, with the vast majority boasting a GPA over 3.0. This year, the program has established a peer mentorship system, with second-year students taking a hands-on role in helping first-years.
As a first-year international student, Lourdes Akirtha Stephen Raj said that being a part of the BRIDGE program has been a transformative experience. “The program's dedicated peer mentors have been an unwavering source of guidance and support, keeping me accountable and motivated both academically and personally,” the physics and psychology major said.
“I have cherished the opportunity to form deep connections with a diverse group of students through our weekly study groups, where we not only tackle coursework but also share stories and insights that broaden our perspectives,” she added.
Colon says that being a part of the BRIDGE program has had a meaningful impact on her college experience so far. “My favorite part of the program has been our most recent outing to an escape room,” she said. “I feel that it facilitated a deeper growth in the group’s bond.”
“On an academic note, I’ve greatly appreciated my mentor,” Colon added. “Whenever I need some extra help with a certain subject, she is always there to offer support and guidance.”
In addition to social outings, BRIDGE students have also engaged in community service opportunities, including making cards for people in the hospital. “The students put in a lot of detail and time into them because they cared about the person that they were giving it to,” Zinberg said.
She plans to develop an even more robust calendar of events for next year, including a summit featuring discussions with successful professionals. “Each year we're going to have additional students in the program, and it's about engagement for all of them,” Zinberg explained. “I want students to be engaged not just in their first year, but throughout every year of their college experience.”
Learn how you can support the College of Arts and Sciences BRIDGE program.