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Building a bridge to postsecondary student success: Lawrence Technological University’s Summer Camps

George Covino

Lawrence Technological University (LTU), located about 15 miles from Detroit, got its start 80 years ago with the help of Henry and Edsel Ford. Today, as a top school for engineering, architecture, science and applied technology, it remains true to those roots.

But no school is successful without successful students. A key catalyst of postsecondary success is preparing high school students to make good decisions in higher education. For the past 10 years, LTU has offered a summer bridge program to help them do so. It’s a way for students to gain hands-on experience and a deeper understanding of university life, from living on campus to program selection, before they enroll. I had the chance to talk with someone who helps direct that initiative, Scott Kujawa.

Scott, who has an undergraduate degree from LTU and is working on his MBA, works as a financial aid counselor for LTU, so he has a well-rounded perspective on the student-administration dynamic. He’s also spent time as a first-year mentor and in various admissions jobs. Currently, he also serves as an assistant coach for the school’s bowling team.

Scott pointed out the university is in a growth mode, with new opportunities created by its location near Detroit. “With Detroit revitalizing, our engineering students are helping rebuild, and architectural students get to help plan and design as well,” he said. “It’s great to see our students helping out in the community.”

LTU is growing in other areas, too. After several decades without sports, “We now have about 24 varsity athletic programs,” Scott says. “We’re adding a nursing program, and it’s great to be a part of something that continues to build, especially in Michigan.”

As for its students, LTU is mainly a commuter school. However, more than 1,200 students live on campus, spread among four dorms.

Whatever their individual plans for college are, prospective students benefit by visiting a university, and the summer bridge program is a value-packed, weeklong visit. “Data show that students who get a first-hand experience of the culture at a university are more likely to be successful there,” Scott says.

But even students who don’t end up attending LTU benefit from the bridge program. “Kids make connections, so even if they don’t come here, they are building professional and academic networks,” Scott notes. However, he tells me about half of students who attend the summer bridge program end up attending LTU, making it a great recruiting tool for the school.

LTU offers slots in the program from the end of June through the end of July. Between 400 and 500 students participate, and they aren’t just from surrounding areas; international students are regular participants in the bridge program experience.

That experience entails taking classes with university professors in engineering, technology,

design and science. Just as is the case with “real life” college, students can live on campus or commute. Residential participants experience student housing, eat in the cafeteria and take part in planned activities every evening. Although there is a cost starting at $650 per course, LTU offers scholarships based on need and high school academic performance.

LTU staff work with students to help them tailor their camp experience so it helps them gain a clearer understanding of what they want to do in the future. “We want them to be able to decide if this is really what they want to do – not just at Lawrence but with their career,” says Scott. “High school guidance counselors can only help so much. We can help show them what’s going on in the real world.”

For example, Scott told me that students sometimes change their planned major because of their experience in the bridge program. Professors take a supportive, “tell me what you want to do” approach. Things may not be aligned between student aspirations and actual class experiences. But if students notice another class that does resonate with them, they can make the switch.

I think it’s best that students make these discoveries sooner rather than later. It can save them a lot of future money and frustration. I congratulate LTU for encouraging students to proactively connect their postsecondary program with their career aspirations. By doing so, LTU is giving itself and its students a head start in retention, completion and a satisfying return on the investment in higher education.

You can read more about the program here.

George CovinoGeorge Covino is Student Connections’ vice president of student success.