Incoming Freshmen Complete Innovative Summer Program

Monday, August 5, 2013

Approximately 40 incoming University of West Georgia freshmen celebrated the completion of the 2013 UWise Summer Bridge Program with a closing reception at the end of July. These students participated in a four-week program, earning six college credits in two courses.

The Summer Bridge Program is part of UWise, which stands for University of West Georgia Institutional STEM Excellence, and is an initiative funded by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents since 2011. The program serves as a springboard for incoming freshman and provides the opportunity to ease into college life, experiencing what it is like to attend college classes and live on campus before the fall semester.

The program covers two courses: a math course that focuses on college algebra and is the gateway course for success in other mathematics and science courses, and an English course that helps the students to become more critically engaged while developing proficient college-level reading and writing skills. During the program, the students also visited Callaway Gardens and the Georgia Aquarium, excursions that tied academically to their English class.

“We are grateful to the University System of Georgia for providing funding for the UWise initiative,” said Dr. Swamy Mruthinti, associate dean for UWG’s College of Science and Mathematics and the Co-PI of UWise. “This initiative allowed us to explore innovative ways to engage students and help them succeed.”

The students in the program are interested in majoring in STEM disciplines, which include science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The introduction of an English class through the bridge program not only supports sound critical thinking and communication in these disciplines but also helps the students to adjust to expectations in their core classes.

“The UWise program really helped me because it gave me a head start, and it helped me to become a better student, including learning how to write college-level papers,” said Brianna Barnes, a UWise student majoring in chemistry. “I also got used to time management, and I was able to prioritize. I know that if I can succeed in the UWise program, in this intense four-week program, then I know I can do well in the fall when the schedule is a bit more relaxed.” Barnes’ ambition is to be either a chemical engineer or possibly a dentist.

Dr. Rebecca Harrison, assistant professor of English at UWG, said that by adding a strong arts and humanities element to the program, UWG is a leader in STEM education in Georgia. “Cutting edge trends in STEM education recognize the multifaceted ways in which the arts and humanities can meaningfully texture STEM initiatives,” she said. “Such innovative programs are certainly designed to improve functional literacy, but, more significantly, they seek to bridge the gap between the arts and the sciences in ways that create more varied and textured learning environments that breed meaningful and sustained engagement with the curriculum. Our program does just that.”

Theresa Fuller, a biology major planning to be a veterinarian, particular enjoyed her math class because of the advantage it will provide in the fall. “The UWise program really helped me to gain a better basis of math,” she said. “I feel better prepared for pre-calculus, which I will be taking soon.”

Joe Vinson, also a student in the program and biology major, added that the program made him feel prepared to start school in the fall. “The program allowed me to meet students and teachers, and to know my way around campus,” he said. “It was a great bridge. It prepared me for school, and now I feel ready for college.” Vinson aspires to obtain a dual degree in biology and marine sciences.

Dr. Kamau Bobb, USG Board of Regents STEM coordinator, was in attendance to personally congratulate the students and to offer some words of advice. He stressed the importance of making the most of being able to attend college because not all students have this incredible opportunity.

“Because you are here, you can’t take advantage of the fact that you’re here,” Bobb said. “You have to make sure that with everything that is offered to you, you seize full advantage of it and make sure that you are successful, because there are other kids watching you. And if you don’t come up fulfilled in those opportunities essentially you are wasting what they don’t have.

UWG President Dr. Kyle Marrero also congratulated the students on a job well done and spoke to the point that this is just the beginning of an exciting journey at UWG. “What you have already accomplished by making the choice to be here at the University of West Georgia, to participate in the UWise Bridge program and the six hours you have completed will propel you into your first year of university study,” Marrero said. “It is truly a transformation that begins here and will continue to progress. Our promise to you is that we will be there to help you every step of the way.”

For additional information about UWise, please visit www.westga.edu/uwise.

Photo 1: Dr. Rebecca Harrison, assistant professor of English at UWG, speaks to UWise students at the reception.