Crossing the bridge from high school to university, Saint Martin’s-style

July, 22 2011

LACEY, WASHINGTON — A few decades ago, students graduated from high school before jumping into college life the next fall with minimal preparation. Some found their footing; others floundered in the crush of new experiences, higher expectations and social adjustments. Today’s students find a different experience at Saint Martin’s University, whose innovative Summer Bridge program supports incoming first-year students as they prepare for their university experience. The Summer Bridge program, which this year runs July 22-31, 2011, on the University’s Lacey campus, welcomes select students and helps facilitate their transition into campus life.

Associate Professor Jeff Birkenstein, Ph.D., who chairs the Department of English and co-directs Summer Bridge, says the program gives participants a boost in the adjustment process. By building a foundation of academic and study techniques, familiarity with campus resources and a network of campus relationships, participants begin their freshman year with more skills and self-confidence. A program for parents, who also are in transition, is part of the agenda.

“Summer Bridge is akin to a semester in 10 days, from serious writing work in the classroom to living in the residence halls and getting to know the campus,” says Birkenstein. “Students who participate in the Summer Bridge before their first semester in the fall truly get a jump start on their Saint Martin's experience.”

He says the program embodies many facets of Saint Martin’s Catholic Benedictine philosophy, particularly intellectual inquiry and hospitality. Integral to Summer Bridge at Saint Martin’s are the peer mentors who lead small groups of students. Most have either been through the program themselves or served as peer mentors in previous sessions, and their savvy and understanding help guide the students.

In addition to Birkenstein, the Summer Bridge program is led by fellow Saint Martin’s English Department faculty members Professor Olivia Archibald, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor Nathalie Kuroiwa-Lewis, Ph.D.

Saint Martin’s Summer Bridge begins today. The University’s orientation program, Incipio, designed for all first-year students, runs August 26–29, 2011.  

Saint Martin’s University is an independent four-year, Catholic, coeducational university located on a 380-acre wooded campus in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 14 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 21 majors and six graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes 1,250 students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its main campus, and 650 more to its extension campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Everett College, Centralia College and Tacoma Community College. Visit the Saint Martin’s University website at

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Jeff Birkenstein, Ph.D.
Associate professor; chairman, department of English
Saint Martin’s University

Jennifer Fellinger
Vice president of marketing and communications
Saint Martin's University