Many universities across the country have transitioned to remote instruction, which can present a new set of challenges to students who might not have access to the right equipment to complete their coursework.
Some students at UC Merced received additional help from HP, which donated 100 computers to the university in late spring. Sixty-nine of the laptops were used by incoming Bobcats participating in the Summer Bridge program.
Summer Bridge, an eight-week program for incoming students that takes place from June through August, is designed to engage scholars and prepare them for the rigors of academic life at UC Merced. The program’s goal is to provide scholarly experiences for incoming students and to help them develop skills for success inside and outside the classroom. Invitations are sent to incoming freshmen who are Pell Grant eligible and need to fulfill specific coursework before their first semester. And this year, for the first time, the program was delivered online.
“A majority of our Summer Bridge scholars use on campus resources, including computer labs, to complete coursework as the program is traditionally held in person and on campus,” said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Charles Nies. “This year, we quickly had to determine how we could still deliver this important program under new constraints. The donation from HP was instrumental in helping us accommodate our Summer Bridge scholars under these unusual circumstances.”
That is where the generous in-kind donation from HP came in. At the behest of HP’s Chief Diversity Officer and UC Merced Foundation Trustee Lesley Slaton Brown, HP was able to quickly furnish new personal computers, valued at $100,000 total.
“In this unprecedented time, students are facing tremendous challenges and we know that one in three students do not have access to a laptop,” Slaton Brown said. “HP is proud to help reduce technology barriers and support the success of incoming UC Merced scholars. We are also donating millions of dollars’ worth of technology globally to aid education, but together, we can do even more. And that is why we created the HP Refresh program, helping service-minded folks to organize their community to gather unused computers, safely wipe the data using HP software, and donate them to students in need.”
The laptops UC Merced received were quickly distributed across California to participants before the program kicked off in late June.
“The laptop helped tremendously because I was able to do my remote coursework with ease instead of trying to do everything on a smartphone,” said Israel, an incoming freshman and one of the 2020 Summer Bridge participants.
Sixty-nine incoming first year students participated in this year’s program, which culminated in late August with a final two-day workshop and a closing session with alumnus Ish Verduzco ('14). Throughout the eight weeks, Summer Bridge scholars completed three courses, met weekly with student mentors from the Calvin E. Bright Success Center, participated in team-building exercises in small groups, and attended weekly workshops presented by different campus groups such as the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center (UROC), the Office of Student Life and the Margo F. Souza Student Leadership Center. Building community through the online format was important, as was ensuring that each participating scholar experienced multiple levels of contact throughout the program.
“We want our participants to understand expectations, how to access resources, develop good study habits and think about what it means to be a scholar at UC Merced,” said Leilani Kupo, associate dean of students and director of the Calvin E. Bright Success Center. “Throughout the intensive program, students are equipped with tools to ensure a successful start to their time at UC Merced.”