The History of Summer Bridge

THE SUMMER BRIDGE PROGRAM was launched in 1973 as an academic orientation program for an inaugural cohort of 51 new freshmen. The students completed two eight-week summer courses designed to familiarize them with the rigor of University coursework, and they bolstered their understanding of campus support services and systems ahead of their freshman peers.

Over the next decade, faculty and administrators reaffirmed the critical role of the academic orientation provided by Bridge. Undergraduate Admissions, Residential Programs, Intercollegiate Athletics, the Disabled Students' Program, and the Financial Aid & Scholarships Office all became new partners with Bridge, which advanced the scope and quality of support mechanisms being provided.

Student demand also grew substantially, and from 1983 to 1997, the Bridge cohorts ranged between 175-250 students each summer. Course offerings were expanded and diversified, advising structures were further formalized, and a weekly seminar focusing on navigating campus resources was added. Concurrently, Bridge was restructured from an eight-week program to a six-week program, in keeping with similar institutions across the nation.

In the 1990's and early 2000's, student access to the University was impacted by dramatic shifts in state funding, admissions policies, and the quality of K-12 education. Bridge became especially critical during this time by ensuring that students who were admitted to Cal were provided a solid foundation for their academic, social and personal success. By the time Bridge celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2008, over 5,200 students had successfully completed the program.

Since 2011, Bridge has expanded on multiple fronts. New partnerships with over a dozen campus departments have enriched the web of support services provided during the six-week program. Renewed faculty involvement has inspired students to embrace their scholarly identity and actively engage in the intellectual and research communities at Cal. Course offerings have expanded further to include new classes in Chemistry, Computer Science, Data Science, Education, English, Enviromental Science Policy & Management, Ethnic Studies, Geography, Psychology, Public Health, and Sociology.

We currently enroll 400 students each summer from all five academic colleges and over 60 majors; from over 35 California counties, numerous U.S. states, and a dozen international countries, who represent more than 30 linguistic frames and over 70 ethnic backgrounds; and from prestigious scholarship programs, such as Berkeley Science Network, Gates Millennium, Incentive Awards, Intercollegiate Athletics, MasterCard Foundation, and Regents & Chancellor's Scholars.

We are actively planning to ensure that the Bridge 2023 cohort - our 50th - can leverage every opportunity available to realize their educational and professional dreams.