Academic Bridge Celebrates 10-Year Success Story
Feb. 18, 2010
The statistics show fewer than six in 10 Americans who enroll in college complete a bachelor’s degree.
The numbers don’t faze George Fair, dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, whose Academic Bridge Program (ABP) is celebrating a decade of helping high-potential, first-generation college students complete a college education.
Ten years after its founding, the ABP boasts a graduation rate higher than 70 percent — well above state and national averages and competitive with the rates of the best universities in Texas.
Fair gives some of the credit to State Rep. Helen Giddings, who was an original proponent of the funding that provides support for promising students from Dallas urban school districts.
“Representative Giddings has been a champion of the Academic Bridge Program since day one,” said Fair. “Her tireless efforts to make a college education a reality for all have reaped benefits for many, many young Texans.”
As an added benefit, more than 45 percent of ABP students major in engineering, computer sciences, natural sciences and business management, areas in which success is particularly critical for American global economic competitiveness.
Claudia Berumen, a computer engineering major, had known she wanted a career in computers by the time she was a sophomore in high school. Even so, she wasn’t sure how to go about it.
“I found out about the Academic Bridge Program through my high school counselor,” she said. “My junior year, I attended an ABP-sponsored engineering camp, where I fell in love with programming. After that, I participated in ABP for high school seniors and ABP for UT Dallas freshmen, the summer before I officially started my freshman year in the fall of 2007.
“I’m in my third year of studies here at the University, majoring in computer engineering,” said Berumen. “If I have learned anything from my experience with the Academic Bridge Program it is this: The time is now, the tools are there, and the opportunities are unlimited. Thanks to this program, I was offered an amazing internship opportunity at Alcatel-Lucent.”
In screening applicants, Dean Fair looks for a special spark, drive or influence in the student’s life that indicates passion and commitment to succeed.
Murtaza Joher, a senior and ABP student, had that spark. The electrical engineering major plans to enter a graduate engineering program in fall 2010. Joher has been an Alcatel-Lucent intern and a summer mathematics tutor in the Academic Bridge Program.
“The program helps you to gradually make the transition from high school to college life,” said Joher. “This can be quite helpful when you are the first generation in your family attending college. It provides a variety of scholarship opportunities as well as free tutoring services, the diversity of which encompasses practically every major offered at UT Dallas. The program is like a family that helps guide you to success.”
AT&T Foundation Gift
The event will be highlighted by the AT&T Foundation’s presentation of a $220,000 gift to the UT Dallas Academic Bridge Program and College Readiness Initiative. The foundation’s generosity represents the largest gift in the programs’ histories.
The AT&T Foundation’s gift increases the number of students served by the Academic Bridge Program by 20, bringing the program to current capacity. The foundation’s support of the new College Readiness Initiative (CRI) provides 40 Dallas ISD high school students with a structured and supportive environment so that they complete their high school years with the goal of pursuing a college education.
State Rep. Helen Giddings, whose support has been instrumental in the Academic Bridge success story, chats with a program participant at a recent event.