July 07, 2006

Engineering programs help new students adjust

by Pete Rosenbery

(Editors: Note local names listed below by hometowns. Some students did not submit hometown information.)

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The summer bridge program in Southern Illinois University Carbondale's College of Engineering is now in its 20th year of helping prepare new minority students for the rigors of college work.

This summer, 20 students are participating in the summer bridge program or two first-year programs, transfer bridge and summer math. The transfer bridge program serves students transferring to SIUC from community colleges.

The summer bridge and transfer bridge programs serve minority students. The summer math program gives incoming students a boost in preparing for college-level mathematics, and is not limited to enrolling ethnic minority or underrepresented students, said Ronald A. Caffey, director of the college's minority engineering program.

Media Advisory

For more information on Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Minority Engineering Program, contact director Ronald A. Caffey at 618/536-2463.

Funding for the transfer bridge program is through SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler's Reflective, Responsive University Initiative. Seymour Bryson, associate chancellor for diversity on campus, coordinates those grants.

The eight-week courses for all three programs runs June 12 through Aug. 4. There are 12 students in the summer bridge program, including four who are transfer students, and eight students in the summer math program.

Issues that often negatively affect incoming freshmen or transfer students are not academic, but reflect social adjustment concerns and lack of familiarity with available resources. The programs attempt to alleviate those concerns, Caffey said."Getting them here the summer prior to their first semester, whether they are a transfer student or incoming freshman, gives them the opportunity to meet people, get acclimated to the campus environment and know where the resources are so they can focus solely on academics and not have to worry about the other adjustment issues," he said.

The programs also help increase retention, said SIUC's Dean of the College of Engineering William P. Osborne. In addition to learning about coursework demands, another important element is developing a peer group. Team building is important in keeping students enrolled, he said.

"If you are sitting in a corner by yourself having trouble with math, you are much more likely to drop out than if you are studying hysics in a group," Osborne said.

The summer bridge and transfer bridge programs allow students to enroll in a University core curriculum course during the summer session – with personalized tutor attention – and two non-credit engineering workshops in math and engineering science.

Because students never get away from mathematics in engineering, the math workshops prepare them for what they will encounter when the fall semester begins, Caffey said. The engineering science workshop exposes students to each of SIUC's five engineering disciplines, giving them a chance to consider if the specific discipline they have selected is right for them.

The intensive math review is beneficial for students because it "lets them know what is expected and how much more they need to study; how much harder they need to work in order to be prepared for college-level mathematics," Caffey said. A College of Engineering instructor "very familiar with our program and the things we try to do" teaches the math workshops, "and is able to provide a lot of personalized attention to the students based on where they are," he said.

Caffey, director of the minority engineering program since December 2001, was one of 11 students in the first summer bridge class in 1987. Of that group of students, five received degrees in engineering or engineering technology, he said. Students participating in the summer bridge program tend to have a higher level of persistence in engineering than students who do not, he said.A two-degree graduate of SIUC, Caffey earned a bachelor's degree in industrial technology in 1993 and a master's degree in business administration in 1996. He is working on a doctorate in educational administration.

Providing high-quality undergraduate education, increasing retention rates and enhancing diversity are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.

Students attending this year's workshops are:


  • Patrick J. Lahr, son of David and Mary Jane Lahr (219 Brookwood Lane East); freshman in mechanical engineering.

Calumet City:

  • Carlos A. Jimenez, son of Magaly R. Jimenez (606 Freeland Ave.); freshman in mechanical engineering.


  • Opal M. Kelly, daughter of Shirley Kelly (205 N. Wall St.); freshman in computer engineering.
  • Tamika N. Monson, daughter of Robert J. Monson Jr. (303 Cedar Lane); freshman in computer engineering.


  • Kariola J. Etti, daughter of Karen J. Etti (335 W. 114th St.); freshman in civil engineering.
  • Terrel R. Millsap, 7724 S. Winchester Ave.; senior with degree, civil engineering.
  • Dwight H. Thomas, son of Marilyn Williams (10057 S. Parnell Ave.); freshman in civil engineering.


  • Geoffrey B. Daniel, son of George and Charlesetta Daniel (9709 Madison Ave., Rock Hill, Mo.); freshman in computer engineering.
  • Danny R. Little, son of James and Kathy Little (1909 Pinehurst); freshman in mechanical engineering.


  • Jairo E. Gonzalez, son of George and Rosa Dyck (521 S. Liberty Ave.); freshman in mechanical engineering.


  • Robert L. Wilson, son of Danny and Robin Wilson (804 W. Arquilla Drive); junior in electrical engineering.


  • G. Scott Bittle, son of Gregory and Janice Bittle (105 S. John St.); freshman in engineering technology.


  • Marcus E. Randall, son of Carol Jones (427 Hilton Ave.); freshman in electrical engineering.