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Student Success Initiatives @ CSU: Closing Opportunity Gaps

Colorado State University promotes a definition of student success that embraces all dimensions of a student’s personal development as they progress through and complete their college experience. To achieve this holistic developmental approach, CSU has several student success initiatives within colleges and units across campus. In this four-part series entitled, “Student Success Initiatives @ CSU“, we will discuss several of these programs to help the CSU community further develop and expand them.

The student success programs discussed in this series were featured in the 2022 Student Success Symposium led by the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President. Participants in the event included Deans, Assistant and Associate Deans, Student Success Leadership Team Members, Student Success Initiative leads, and other key campus leaders, including personnel from the STEM Center.

In the first post of our Student Success Initiative at CSU we will focus on those programs that try and close opportunity gaps. These include the Access Center Bridge Scholars program, the Exploratory Studies Advising Strategies, the College of Business First Generation Business Summit, and the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Learning Community for first-generation, students of color, and low socioeconomic students.

Access Center Bridge Scholars Program

The CSU Bridge Scholars Program, which began over 40 years ago, provides residential college-life experiences to select Colorado State University, first-year applicants, over the summer prior to the start of their Fall semester. The program is designed to assist students, especially those from first-generation and underrepresented backgrounds, in making a successful transition to Colorado State University. Similar to other bridge programs it is an 8-week summer immersion program where participants live on-campus. Participants are free to leave campus on the weekends but are encouraged to remain and create connections with their Bridge Scholars cohort. The program earns participants 6-credits (equivalent to two courses) that are applicable to any major requirements.

Program Goals

  1. Enhance academic skills and college preparation through group study, tutoring, and supplemental instruction.
  2. Build campus networks and opportunities for participants in leadership activities.
  3. Create long-lasting connections within Bridge Scholars cohorts.

Key Features & Facts

  • Highly competitive. The program only accepts 100 participants each year.
  • Bridge Scholars receive financial aid assistance to cover tuition and fees for the summer session, room and board, and miscellaneous expenses such as activities.
  • Over 90% graduation rates of participants.
  • The largest numbers of degrees obtained by Bridge Scholars are Human Development and Family Studies, Sociology, Construction Management, and Social Work.

Exploratory Studies Advising Strategies

At CSU there are some majors that have additional admission requirements, such as a higher GPA or additional coursework. Known as competitive majors, any incoming student that applies to one is accessed on whether they meet these additional requirements. If a student is not admitted into the competitive major of their choice, they will be considered for admission to an alternate major they selected or to an Exploratory Studies program, which means the student does not yet have a major. In Exploratory Studies, students are advised by staff that will direct them to courses that meet core curriculum requirements, outline the CSU prerequisites they will need to complete in order to earn entrance to the competitive major, and help them explore interests and passions to discover other pathways to reach their goals. At CSU there are four competitive majors: Biomedical Sciences, Business Administration, Computer Science, Engineering, and Journalism and Media Communication.

Of these, engineering is one of the most challenging majors in which to gain admission but few engineering courses are available until students are admitted into the major. As a result, some students are unaware of the intense time commitment, dedication, and extensive math content of an engineering major. To allow students an idea of what majoring in engineering looks like, the Collaborative for Student Achievement and the Exploratory Studies Team worked with the College of Engineering to create a new program for students interested in engineering and includes a student seminar and participation in an engineering learning community.

Key Features & Facts

  • The program integrates advising and academic support, specifically for students in pre-calculus.
  • Over the three fall semesters this program has been implemented there have been higher rates of students declaring, retaining, and graduating in engineering.
  • There isn’t enough data yet on the program’s effect on first-generation and students of color.
  • More qualitative data will be collected to address students’ experiences.

College of Business First Generation Business Summit

The College of Business created the First Generation Business Summit to bring high school students and recent graduates from Colorado and beyond to experience what it’s like to be a College of Business student on campus. Many of the participants are from underserved or rural communities, and all of them will be the first person in their families to attend college.

During the Summit, students are assigned teams and tasked with coming up with case studies for businesses they believe would create a better world. They present their ideas to a panel of judges on the last day, and the winners receive CSU scholarships of up to $2,500 funded by the Green and Gold Foundation and First Bank.

The Summit also shows students possible future career opportunities after graduation through networking with local leaders on campus and touring local businesses such as the Northern Colorado Latino Chamber of Commerce, New Belgium, Morning Fresh Dairy, and Otterbox.

CVMBS Learning Community

To address equity gaps in enrollment and retention rates, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (CVMBS) will start a learning community at Colorado State University for students majoring in CVMBS degrees to build students identity as a scientist. The learning community will target first-generation, students of color, and low-economic students.

Learning communities bring cohorts of students together with structured integration of curricular (co-enrollment in classes) and co-curricular learning in order to provide a supportive, academically-focused environment that cultivates a sense of community and empowers students to become engaged citizens on campus and in the community.

The CVMBS learning community was postponed due to the pandemic, but the goal is to launch in the Fall of 2023.

Dr. Cheryl L. Bowker

Associate Director – STEM Center

Cheryl has worked at the STEM Center since 2013 and has evaluated and managed several STEM education projects. Cheryl enjoys impassioned discussions about research, education, and insects. Check out the Staff page for contact details.

Disclaimer: The thoughts, views, and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Colorado State University or the CSU STEM Center. The information contained in this post is provided as a public service with the understanding that Colorado State University makes no warranties, either expressed or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness, reliability, or suitability of the information. Nor does Colorado State University warrant that the use of this information is free of any claims of copyright infringement. No endorsement of information, products, or resources mentioned in this post is intended, nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned. Outside links are provided for educational purposes, consistent with the CSU STEM Center mission. No warranty is made on the accuracy, objectivity or research base of the information in the links provided.