Bridge Week has always been an important part of the IUPUI freshman experience, and now it is expanding to include all first-year students. With the expansion, the number of students participating has tripled, and almost every available space on campus will be utilized during Bridge Week. For details on the expansion itself, check out the first article of the 2022 Bridge Week series. Bridge Week staff, such as Heather Bowman, director of first year programs, and Lisa Angermeier, a kinesiology professor and coordinator of first-year experience, have been working tirelessly to create an inclusive and successful experience for students.
“First of all, it’s just exciting for our campus to be able to offer this to every student, so we increase the access and equity,” Angermeier said. “We have more people involved, so it’s really gathering the whole campus around this effort.”
Both Angermeier and Bowman have expressed that the expansion is an extremely large undertaking, and they have utilized any help they can get.
“Almost all of the academic schools and a lot of our campus partners in different offices and units have stepped forward and volunteered to help, teach, or host activities,” Bowman said. “It’s been really gratifying to see how committed all of these people are across campus to making this a good experience for students.”
Along with expanding the experience to all first-year students, they have also had to work to expand the faculty and staff involvement in Bridge Week. With this expansion, innovative solutions have been made as challenges have arisen.
“Because we added so many sections of Bridge, we really had to be creative in finding enough people who were willing and able to teach that week,” Bowman said. “We have always found instructors who come from all different categories, so we have full-time faculty, part-time faculty, and staff members who also teach. But sometimes it can be hard, especially for somebody who has a full-time job to get away for an entire week and spend all day teaching. To overcome that and make it possible for more people, we created a model where two people could partner up to teach a section.”
Another way that the Bridge Week team has had to adapt is by allowing instructors more freedom in their curriculum.
“One change that has had to happen is being less prescriptive about what happened during Bridge Week,” Angermeier said. “We used to have it that instructors would get a schedule with some preset things they had to go to throughout the week, and we’ve really gotten away from that because you can’t do that for 3,000 students; managing that is impossible.”
An addition to Bridge Week this year is Connections hour, which will allow students to connect with different aspects of IUPUI and will occur every day from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. On Monday, students will be able to connect to campus, which will include a campus tour and close with a social event. Tuesday will be a time for students to connect to academics, and they will be able to discover different schools and academic support resources available. On Wednesday, students will be able to connect with different resources for their mental, physical, and financial wellness. On Thursday, students will be able to connect to Jag life and meet with different student organizations across campus. Bridge Week will close with the culmination celebration on Friday.
“We have a lot of campus organizations, offices, and resources that want an opportunity to share what they offer with our students,” Bowman said.
Overall, both Angermeier and Bowman shared the excitement for what the expansion will mean for IUPUI and for first-year students.
“We hope that over time it just really becomes entrenched in our campus culture as a common experience that all freshmen will have and that this is seen as a positive experience and a reason that students might choose to come to IUPUI,” Bowman said.