Sponsors Help to Boost Enrollment for RU Summer Bridge

Research Assistant Meagan Hill

Research Assistant Meagan Hill shows students in the Summer Bridge Program how to fill the small wells within a culture medium to grow cultures for research.

Dale Lee has a thing for math and science.

Every chance she gets, Lee, vice president and corporate secretary for Roanoke Gas Co. in Roanoke, encourages students, particularly young girls, to explore education in science and mathematics.

"Both of these fields teach students not only about the specific area that they study but also develop analytical methods of thinking that will be critical to their professional development in the future," said Lee, who earned an MBA from Radford University in 1985 and a Master of Science in mathematics education in 2011.

Lee's passion for making math and science accessible to young girls has led her to be among the many contributors to Radford University's Summer Bridge Program. The weeklong residential camp, which ended Friday, is an opportunity for rising sophomore, junior and senior high school girls to study science, technology and mathematics in a university setting.

An essential element of Summer Bridge is demonstrating to high schools girls, especially those from families of modest means, that higher education is within reach and introducing them to careers in science and technology they might not have considered otherwise.

Many classes for the week were taught by female faculty members who served as mentors to the girls. Among those teaching was Donna Boyd, eminent professor of anthropological sciences, who in 2006 was honored as U.S. Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Elaine Koo and Gabby Vidaurre

Elaine Koo and Gabby Vidaurre look at the media in their petri dishes as they spread samples on agar during a tour of the Novozymes labs in Salem.

This year, 79 girls from all over Virginia attended Summer Bridge. That was an increase from 62 participants a year earlier and from 40 in 2010.

Increased enrollment was possible in part because of new scholarships offered, and those scholarships were a result of gifts from donors like Lee and a number of corporate sponsors.

"Summer Bridge Program would not happen without the generous support of our corporate and private donors," said Orion Rogers, dean of RU's College of Science and Technology, which hosts the program. "We are truly honored to be partners with supporters who include individuals and organizations dedicated to mentoring college-bound youth, community foundations, national companies and global corporations. We all share a common goal of enhancing science, technology and mathematics education."

This year, only 12 students paid tuition to attend Summer Bridge. The rest received scholarships. Dominion Resources's gift of $25,000 provided 31 scholarships.

"Dominion has been a sponsor of the Summer Bridge Program at Radford since 2008, bringing our total commitment to $100,000. We believe this is a sound investment in the future of students who attend," said Cynthia P. Balderson, philanthropy manager for Dominion and The Dominion Foundation. "Summer Bridge provides insight for the teens into the importance of an education, the academic challenges and rewards, and the opportunity to experience college life."

A gift from Novozymes funded the Novozymes Environmental Microbiology and Physiology Track, a tour of the Novozymes research laboratories and three scholarships.

"Novozymes feels it is important to contribute to the education of future professionals in our field," said Jennifer Havens, global communications manager for the company. "We hope our segment of the Summer Bridge Program helps spark passion for science in the young minds of these students. At Novozymes, we are very enthusiastic about what we do. By sharing that, we hope to inspire a new generation of scientists."

Other corporate sponsors this year were Project Discovery, Pentair Foundation-Aspen Motion Technologies, Greater Lynchburg Community Trust, Upward Bound Program of Martinsville and Altria Executives. Areva also hosted a field trip for Summer Bridge participants at its Lynchburg facility.

"Study in all of the sciences, whether physical sciences such as math and physics or life sciences such as biology and chemistry, provides a strong educational base which students can expand on," Lee said. "If they choose to go into the workforce after college, go to graduate school, go to medical school or even go to law school, they will have the background in critical thinking skills they need."

Jul 19, 2012
Chad Osborne
(540) 831-7761