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The Ross School of Business Bridge program will graduate its first student, Rackham student Abram Ayala, this year in June. The Business Bridge program began last summer and is one of various bridge programs available to undergraduate and graduate students possessing different academic interests. These bridge programs are transitional programs to doctoral study with an emphasis on attracting a diverse student body into the field of work.
In 2010, the Rackham Graduate School was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation titled “Building Bridges, Creating Community, and Wise Mentoring: Building Institutional Capacity to Enhance Diversity in STEM Disciplines” which allowed them to create and fund four STEM bridge programs. Before the Business School program, there were programs for applied mathematics, applied physics, ecology and evolutionary biology, and molecular, cellular, and developmental biology.
Rackham then approached the Business School to develop a business-oriented bridge program in 2016 after continual and successful bridge programs had been formed for other departments.
All of the bridge programs aim to support a diverse student body in doctoral education, and Graduate Coordinator Ashley Stauffer discussed how they are aiming for the same goals in the Business School program.
“The main mission of the program is to expand the pool of Ross PhD applicants who bring diverse experiences and ways of thinking about research, and who come from diverse educational, cultural, geographic, and familial backgrounds,” Stauffer said in an email to The Daily. “Another goal of the program is to provide additional paths to the PhD program at Ross for students who have strong potential for the degree, but would benefit from additional academic and professional preparation.”
As the program grows, Brian Jones, director of Ph.D. and research administration at the University, said in an email to The Daily they plan to keep the student pool small with only three students in order to sustain an individualized plan for each participant.
“This is an important new program for us, but the intent is to keep the program small, admitting up to three students each year, so that we can focus our time and resources to make sure all students succeed,” Jones said. “Working to provide research experience and appropriate quantitative skills to fully prepare bridge participants for PhD studies, we hope that graduates of the program will then choose to pursue a PhD, and even apply and matriculate into the Ross PhD program.”
Ayala champions the bridge program’s mission and said he feels very supported by the program and the experience he’s gotten so far.
“The doctoral students and candidates in the department have been very gracious and share valuable insights from their recent experiences in the program … Exposure to the academic research process and the doctoral experience will be highly beneficial for Bridge participants who choose to pursue careers in academia,” Ayala wrote in an email to The Daily.
Many of the bridge programs have had immense success, with a high percentage of participants enrolling in doctoral programs, according to Rackham. Jones added he has high hopes for the program, and stresses the advantage of sustaining it.
“Our desire is to grow the number and diversity of backgrounds of prospective students for our, and perhaps other top business schools’ PhD programs, by providing an additional pathway for students to prepare themselves for the rigors of a PhD program,” Jones wrote. “We hope that students who complete the program will join and excel in the Ross PhD program, and add to our success in placing graduates in tenure track faculty positions at top tier business schools.”