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College Administrators Debate Advantages of Bridge Program

As a student organizes an initiative for incoming freshmen to ease the transition to Harvard academics, administrators are examining whether the College should also offer a pre-college academic bridge program.

A newly formed Bridge Committee, chaired by associate director of advising programs Sue Brown, will discuss how the program might work and has submitted its initial report to Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana. The program would focus on how to help freshmen better navigate their courses and assignments.

The committee’s report follows discussions led by Savannah N. Fritz ’17, who last semester received funding from the Undergraduate Council to form a similar academic transition program.

Harvard Project Winner
Harvard Project winner Savannah N. Fritz '17 speaks to the Undergraduate Council about her plans for the Freshman

Since administrators and students have similar goals, both groups said that they—along with the Advising Programs Office, First Generation Student Union, and other interested groups—may collaborate as the projects move forward.

“There is definitely institutional interest in the same ideas I had,” Fritz said.

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Brown said students and administrators may work together to determine how a bridge program would fit into the College experience.

“All I can really say is that student input will be very important to whatever conversations take place in the future,” Brown wrote in an email on Friday.

Brown declined to comment further on the specifics of the committee’s initial report, citing the confidentiality of discussions and the time needed to give Khurana “a chance to review the report and its recommendations and decide next steps,” she wrote in an email last Tuesday.

Prior to the Bridge Committee’s discussions, Fritz received a grant from the UC to get another bridge program—dubbed the Freshman Enrichment Program—up and running. Working with a budget of up to $3,000, Fritz plans to organize a student board to take charge of the project and subsequent focus groups to solicit data, she said.

“We invite any student...to tell us what were your experiences like in transitioning to college, what would have helped you to have a smoother transition here,” Fritz said.

Daniel V. Banks ’17, a co-chair on the UC’s Student Initiatives Committee who voted for Fritz’s project, said the FEP would fill a need on campus.

“The point of it is to—when we enter Harvard—put everyone on a similar playing field,” Banks said. “Whether you come from a small public school in rural Pennsylvania or a world-class private school, we want to make sure that students are academically prepared.”

As Fritz moves forward backed by the UC’s funding, Harvard administrators have not named a strict timetable for creating and implementing an on-campus academic bridge program, whatever form it may take.

“We want to do whatever we’re likely to do well,” Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67 said. “It’s more important to get it right than to meet some kind of deadline.”

—Staff writer Melissa C. Rodman can be reached at melissa.rodman@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @melissa_rodman.

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