Engineering Careers of Graduates from a Unique Summer Bridge Program (STRIDE Project G5)

Woman teacher with female college engineering students (image source:

This STRIDE education/workforce development project led by Dr. Robert Whalin analyzes 12 years of data (2009 through 2020) from a unique summer bridge program at Jackson State University. The project is designed to increase the graduation rates of engineering and computer science students who are not calculus ready and with less than ideal ACT math scores.

“If this program proves successful, it is unequivocally the solution to the engineering and/or STEM pipeline challenge regardless of major,” Dr. Whalin said. “There have been numerous summer bridge programs for over two decades but none with the unique combination of characteristics that this program has offered.”

Students who participate in JSU’s 10-week Summer Bridge Program (SBP) live on campus and take eight semester hours of college credit, which include 3 hours of algebra and 3 hours of trigonometry. The courses are taught by tenured mathematics professors, and students are assigned to advisers. They are provided with a stipend, room and board, and are treated to field trips throughout the summer.

To date, the SBP currently has data analyzed up to the summer of 2015, and the data collected during the program’s first 7 years were analyzed and reported in six publications. However, to test the program’s effectiveness, and to arrive at a sample size that is sufficient enough to obtain statistically significant data regarding graduation (and time to graduate assessment results), Dr. Whalin and his colleagues at JSU will utilize additional data from the past six summers – from 2015 through 2020.

Dr. Whalin believes now is the perfect time to gather and assess 12 years of not only graduation data, but to evaluate the bridge program from the graduates perspective.

“The opportunity to analyze 12 years of summer cohort data from a truly unique and consistent summer bridge program is not available elsewhere to the best of our knowledge,” he said.

Dr. Whalin expects this final assessment to reveal that there are indeed two confirmed student populations within the ACT math score range of 17-25 that have radically different graduation rate results (17-19 and 20-25). Those two groups will benefit substantially from the SBP. He also expects participating students to provide testimony on how the program has motivated them to excel academically and find employment in the engineering field.  The diversity of the nation’s engineering profession will be enhanced by this program if adopted by others since a larger portion of African American and Hispanic students have ACT math scores from 17-25 than from 26-36 like most engineering or STEM graduates.

“This project clearly presents a documented model SBP for students with math ACT scores from 17-25 that others can implement,” Dr. Whalin said. “The program has the potential to more than double the graduation rate for this student population, and it can be used to guarantee a solution to the engineering and/or STEM pipeline challenge since there is essentially an inexhaustible supply of first-time freshman students with ACT Math scores in this range.”