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Summer Bridge Program
Interview with
Nicole Battaglia
Director of First-Year Inititives/Mentor
Seton Hall University

 SHU's Gen 1 Bridge Program:

* is for FG incoming freshmen

* lasts 7 days

* is held the week prior to fall classes

* gives students a preview of college

* fosters a sense of belonging

* includes a service project

* takes students on a day trip to NYC

* will serve 50 students in Fall 2019

1.When and why was the program created? What are its main objectives?

The Gen 1 summer program was created in 2015 to increase first-generation student retention. At the time the program was developed, the retention of first-generation students was 79% compared to the 85% retention of continuing-generation students. The main objectives were to provide first-generation students with early access to university resources and create a peer network before classes even began. Additionally, students attended Math and English workshops every day to help students understand the expectations of college and to feel more prepared as they enter their first semester. Students were also introduced to various departments on campus, so they knew where to go for help in various situations if needed.

3. Can you give examples of the types of things students would do during the 7-day program? 

Students have various guest speakers from a multitude of departments across campus. Some examples include, The Career Center, The Academic Resource Center (Tutoring Center), Dean of Freshman Studies, Dean of Arts and Sciences, Associate Dean of Education, External Scholarship and Fellowship Opportunities, Counseling and Psychological Services, Associate Professor of Psychology (Memory: Study Strategies Presentation), and an Alumni Presentation. There are also Math and English workshops taught daily by faculty members in the Math and English Department. There are also Peer Advisers who assist us with the program and identify as first-generation as well. Peer Advisers are highly trained student leaders on campus who provide guidance and assistance to first-year students. The Peer Advisers provide a peer perspective and assist in team building activities.

4. Is there a fee for students to participate? If so, how much does it cost?

The program is free to all students.

2. Who is eligible to participate in the program? How do students apply and how are they selected?  

Any student that identifies as first-generation is eligible for the program. Seton Hall University defines first-generation as, “neither parent graduated from a 4-year institution”. We send out letters, emails, and postcards letting students know about the Gen 1 program. We also do information sessions at our institution’s Accepted Students Day (Pirate Preview) and Open House. The students must email Nicole Battaglia or the department’s email address to confirm their seat in the program. Students are confirmed on a first come first served basis.

5. Do students stay overnight?

This program does not provide housing to students and the letters, postcards, and emails are only sent to students within a certain mileage radius of the university.

6. Obviously, the trip to Manhattan is appealing. Why is this a key feature of the program?

We are still deciding on a Broadway play or a museum this year. However, the trip to NYC is very much one of our learning objectives as we want students to become familiar with the nearby town of South Orange and how to use the public transit system. Additionally, we wanted students to have an educational experience beyond the classroom. For many of the students it was the first time attending a Broadway play.

7. Can you give an example of a community service project and talk about why it's an important part of the program?

The community service project is a very important introduction to the university’s mission of creating Servant Student leaders. It is also a great opportunity for students to bond while also giving back.

Last year's project was called “Kindness Rocks”. We have students paint inspirational quotes or words of encouragement on rocks. We then have the students put the rocks all over campus during midterms and finals.

8. Is there a reward for students who successfully complete the program? If so, what is it?

Students who have a 100% attendance to the program will be eligible for a bookstore voucher that can be used to purchase textbooks for the upcoming year. Additionally, any student who earns a 3.0 GPA in the fall semester will become eligible for a $2,000 per semester scholarship.  

9. Are there events for first-gen students during the rest of their freshman year? If so, what are some examples? 

We continue to have Gen 1 events throughout the first year. We have a Gen 1 Meet & Greet where we invite all first-year and sophomore students who identify as first-generation. We also have Lunch and Learns where we provide students with lunch and pick a topic relevant to struggles they may be encountering. For example, we have discussed time management and stress management in the past.

10. Are there any resources for first-gen students during their sophomore year? If so, what are they?

We continue to have Gen 1 events and invite all students from the program to our Meet & Greets and Lunch and Learns. We also have many students that become Peer Advisers so they attend many of the events hosted by the Freshman Studies Department.

11. What have students who previously participated in the program had to say about it?

The following quotes were taken from Gen 1 Summer program surveys from the past two years. Each year we do a program evaluation survey and students complete it directly after the program ends.

 * “Honestly this was by far the best program I have been put into. There is not a day that went by where I wasn't excited to start the day.”

* “Overall the Gen 1 program was a wonderful experience and I am so happy I was a part of it. I received a lot of information and tips for a good school year.”

* “Thank you to all the Gen 1 2018 staff for preparing me to succeed in the next 4 years of college.”

* “I liked every single aspect of this program and I woke up every single morning wanting to come here because I loved all the people involved in this program.”

12. What else would you like students to know about the Gen 1 Bridge Program?

This is a great opportunity to not only be introduced to various departments across campus, but to gain friends before school even begins. Often our students have already visited their classrooms and can direct their fellow Pirates to the classroom locations on the first day of classes. This eases some of the anxiety about entering college for the first time. It is also a wonderful way to interact with faculty members and previous students have been able to meet our University President, Vice President, and Provost. The opportunities are boundless and all designed to help students succeed academically, socially, and spiritually.