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Graduate Summer Bridge Program Recognized as a ‘Program to Watch’

December 22, 2022
Summer Bridge 2022 cohort
Competitive Edge Summer Bridge 2022 participants, mentors and staff. Photo: Veronica Adrover

Graduate Division’s Competitive Edge Summer Bridge program for incoming Ph.D. students was identified as a Program to Watch by Excelencia in Education, a national effort to identify evidence-based programs that improve Latino student success in higher education.

“We are thrilled to receive this recognition from Excelencia in Education,” Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies Hrant Hratchian said. “Since the Competitive Edge Summer Bridge program began in 2016, it has supported 110 incoming graduate students in making smooth transitions to their doctoral programs and helped cultivate a diverse community that will enhance the diversity of the professoriate in the years ahead.”

This year, Excelencia in Education received 93 submissions for its 2022 Examples of Excelencia from 17 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. In recognition of the great work happening to serve Latino students, Excelencia decided to recognize an additional group of programs as Programs to Watch. UC Merced’s is one of only 10 programs being recognized as an innovative and/or up-and-coming Program to Watch in 2022 that are also making a positive impact on the success of their Latino students.

Environmental Systems Ph.D. student Lillie Pennington participated in the Competitive Edge Summer Program in 2017.
Environmental Systems Ph.D. student Lillie Pennington participated in the Competitive Edge Summer Program in 2017 and was awarded a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship.

“We acknowledge the dedication of your program and intentional efforts to advance Latino student success on your campuses and in your communities. The work your program is doing to improve Latino student success plays a key role in the Excelencia community of common cause,” the congratulatory letter stated.

The Competitive Edge Summer Bridge six-week program gives incoming students a head start in acclimating to graduate studies at UC Merced. The students, who are first-generation collegegoers or from backgrounds underrepresented in higher education, are each nominated by a faculty member or graduate group chair to participate in the program.

The program is living up to its name by providing new graduate students an edge when it comes to writing fellowships. Numerous Competitive Edge Summer Bridge past participants have been awarded prestigious fellowships from institutions including the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and more.

Most recently, Environmental Systems Ph.D. student Lillie Pennington was awarded a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship by the National Academies of Sciences, and she credits her participation in the summer program with providing her valuable fellowship writing experience.

“We spent a good portion of the summer writing proposals for the Ford and NSF pre-doctoral fellowships, so when I was applying for the Ford dissertation year fellowship it felt like familiar territory,” she said. “Everything gets a little easier with practice, and my practice started way back in Summer Bridge.”

Since the Competitive Edge Summer Bridge program began in 2016, it has supported 110 incoming graduate students in making smooth transitions to their doctoral programs and helped cultivate a diverse community that will enhance the diversity of the professoriate in the years ahead.

Hrant Hratchian, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies Hrant Hratchian

Brenda Ortiz

Senior Public Information Representative

Office: (209) 228-4203

Mobile: (209) 628-8263

bortiz@ucmerced.edu