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Westphal BRIDGE Scholars Program Welcomes Inaugural Cohort

November 17, 2020

The Westphal College of Media Arts & Design is committed to ensuring and sustaining an environment where all people feel welcome and safe to be themselves – as individuals and in the work they create.  To further that commitment, Westphal has launched BRIDGE – Build Relationships in Diverse Group Experiences – to ensure that the College’s student population better reflects the diverse society they will serve as artists, designers, performers, and scholars.

Westphal BRIDGE Scholars is a welcoming, inclusive learning community designed to enhance the success of underrepresented minority and first-generation college students, including their recruitment and supporting their ability to graduate with a Drexel degree. The Westphal BRIDGE Scholars program is modeled after Lebow College's BRIDGE Program, created in 2012 to foster a sense of belonging, engagement, and empowerment for Drexel students.

The Westphal Dean's Office invited incoming first-year students to apply for the BRIDGE Program over the summer. Seventeen students representing ten majors throughout Westphal joined the first class of BRIDGE scholars.

We are thrilled to introduce the first cohort of BRIDGE Scholars:

  • Anabel Villanueva, Fashion Design
  • Ayisha Nahar, Architecture
  • Benjamin Mash, Film and Television
  • Brianna Hardy, Game Design and Production
  • Fabiola Larson, Undeclared-Media
  • Gabby Lewis. Art History
  • Ita Teta, Architecture 
  • Jacqueline Lara, Architecture
  • Jaliyah Hall, Architecture
  • Jasmine Wesley, Film & Television
  • Jazmine Morrow, Fashion Design 
  • Jordyn Morris, Game Design and Production
  • Martin Queenan, Product Design
  • Nikita Batra, Music Industry: Recording Arts & Music Production
  • Paula Yellis, Interior Design
  • Sanai Simmons, Fashion Design 
  • Sijia (Sage) Zheng, Design & Merchandising

Quickly establishing a community of creative scholars in a remote environment was an immediate priority. “As Philadelphia and the country reckoned with calls for racial justice and equality, it was vital for the BRIDGE Program to start the year focused on building our community and connecting students with Westphal stakeholders who will make a difference in their campus experience,” says Denise Marie Snow, BRIDGE Program Director.

Already, scholars have participated in virtual Meet-Up sessions to discuss personal and academic challenges and breakthroughs. Providing Meet-Ups allows BRIDGE scholars the chance to visibly connect, discuss course concepts, and share experiences in a space where they can be authentic. BRIDGE scholars were introduced to students within the same major to facilitate friendships and to foster interdisciplinary collaboration with others taking the same classes.

On October 23rd, the BRIDGE scholars participated in a “Seniors Speak” panel discussion with graduating seniors in the Architecture, Entertainment & Arts Management, Game Design & Production, Fashion Design, and Music Industry programs, hearing important advice about resilience, time management, self-care, imposter syndrome, networking, and being an underrepresented minority or first-generation student within Westphal.

The BRIDGE Program also hosted a Welcome Reception on October 29, 2020 with Westphal College Dean Jason Schupbach, Associate Academic Dean Deb Ruben, department heads, program directors, faculty, and professional staff members. This interactive reception allowed BRIDGE scholars to establish relationships with Westphal community members who care about the student experience.

The focus on community building has proved fruitful. "So far the BRIDGE program has been wonderful. It has allowed me to get a foot in the door at Drexel University and ground myself in the experience. Everyone is so kind and wonderful, and they truly want for all of us to succeed,” said Jordyn Morris (Game Design & Production Class of 2025).

"I've collected so many invaluable pieces of wisdom from upperclassmen and faculty throughout the events that I've attended,” said Sage Zheng (Design & Merchandising Class of 2024). “As a freshman attending remote classes, this program allowed me to get to know and feel closer to the Westphal community."

The Westphal BRIDGE Program will expand to include a focus on building career capital by providing access to industry professionals, prominent alumni, and mentoring opportunities to prepare students for co-op and career success. With additional support from AEI Design Program, Jazmine Morrow (Fashion Design Class of 2024) will work with a mentor from Target’s Corporate Design team. Other plans for next year include programming centered on mental health, overcoming adversity, and developing grit.

The unpredictability of the global pandemic has altered the academic and career landscape for creative majors, but the long-term vision for the Westphal BRIDGE Program remains the same. The BRIDGE Program will provide corporate site visits, cultural excursions, peer mentoring, and service-learning opportunities when travel and regular business resumes. “My hope for the BRIDGE Program is that we will create diverse opportunities that validate the student experiences, open their eyes to the art of the possible, and enhance their career prospects after graduation,” said Denise Marie Snow. “I want students to see themselves occupying spaces in design fields because they belong. They are deserving of these opportunities, and I am proud Westphal is leading the way in providing intentional access to our students.”

In order for this program to succeed, Westphal College has undertaken an initiative for secure additional funding for the future. Donations support the pillars, which are critical to giving more students access and help accelerate their success. If you would like to support these students and make an immediate impact, you can make a gift here.