Academic Bridge Program Puts Students on Path to Success at UT Dallas

  • Geosciences sophomore Carla Lara (left) gets assistance from Rosalinda Valenzuela BA'04, MA'08, PhD'12, Academic Bridge project supervisor, at the program's offices. In 2000, Valenzuela was a student in the inaugural Academic Bridge group.

This summer, Tamara Harrell has spent her mornings in classes, her afternoons in tutoring sessions and her evenings doing homework, lots of homework.

The neuroscience freshman said she has never worked so hard in school, and credits The University of Texas at Dallas’ Academic Bridge Program for helping her take her skills to a new level.

“I knew that college was going to be challenging. Now that I’m here, I’m learning different study habits that have helped me adjust from high school studying to college studying,” said Harrell, a DeSoto High School graduate who wants to be a neurosurgeon. “If I hadn’t had this in the summer, the fall semester would have been all over the place.”

Academic Bridge provides services including tutoring, mentoring, housing and financial assistance to students from underrepresented communities. Students start courses in the summer as part of the program, which is supported by funds from the Texas Legislature, the University and private donations.

After a month in the program, several of the 30 freshmen in this year’s group said they learned new time-management skills and study habits that helped them with the faster pace of college courses.

“When a class meets once a week, at first you’re thinking ‘OK, I have a week to do this assignment.’ But you can’t wait that long,” said Luis Soto, a mechanical engineering freshman who graduated from the School of Science and Engineering at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center in Dallas.

Soto and other classmates said college classes have been a “wake-up call.”

“The tutors have helped us by showing us that we need to be studying every day to get a good grade. It’s not just go to class and get the information, but you also have to look over it afterward,” Soto said. “There’s so much they go over in one class. It’s not something you can easily learn at once.”

I decided to go to tutoring every day, and I’m seeing the difference. It’s such a rewarding thing when you see the difference it makes when you put in the work.

Aolany Sanchez, neuroscience freshman

Neuroscience freshman Aolany Sanchez said she applied to Academic Bridge after seeing her brother, computer science junior Hepson Sanchez, flourish in the program.

“At first, I thought it was going to be easy, but no, it’s not easy,” said Sanchez, a graduate of Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School in Dallas. She said she initially was overwhelmed in her pre-calculus class.

“I decided to go to tutoring every day, and I’m seeing the difference. It’s such a rewarding thing when you see the difference it makes when you put in the work,” said Sanchez, who aspires to be a pediatrician.

Desta Seifu BS’01, assistant director and head of academics for Academic Bridge Program, said he urges students to work with a tutor until they can do the problems on their own.

“From day one, I preach that the successful ones are at the tutoring lab until they get it right, regardless of the time required,” said Seifu, who leads Academic Bridge’s group tutoring sessions.

Academic Bridge students are required to attend weekly meetings in which they pledge to attend tutoring sessions, be academically honest and remain alcohol- and drug-free. Halfway through the summer, Dr. George Fair, vice president for diversity and community engagement and dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, encouraged students as they entered the final stretch of summer classes.

“Our intent is for all of you to be successful,” said Fair, who developed the program in 2000. “We believe that all of you can be successful. Keep up the good work.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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