Kansas State University offers southwest Kansas community college students path to bachelor's degree with new Bridges to Future grant from NIH
Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016
Members of the 2015 Bridges to the Future cohort at Kansas State University. | Download this photo.
MANHATTAN — A new five-year, $1.3 million Bridges to the Future grant from the National Institutes of Health will help students at community colleges in southwest Kansas continue to earn bachelor's degrees at Kansas State University.
The purpose of the Bridges to the Future grant is to increase the number of underrepresented students with baccalaureate degrees in the biomedical and behavioral sciences and to set into motion pathways designed to increase the number of graduate and medical degrees in those fields, said John Buckwalter, dean of the university's College of Human Ecology, which is overseeing the grant.
"The grant makes possible critical resources that can provide a successful path for Bridges students to begin their postsecondary pursuits at Dodge City Community College, Garden City Community College and Seward County Community College in Liberal for two years, followed by matriculation to Kansas State University," Buckwalter said.
Community college partners in the Bridges to the Future project are Elizabeth Wallace, professor of chemistry at Dodge City Community College; Stephen Wuerz, instructor of science at Garden City Community College; and Myron Perry, instructor of microbiology at Seward County Community College. Kansas State University's Buckwalter; Charlotte Shoup Olsen, professor and extension specialist in the School of Family Studies and Human Services; and Anita Cortez, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry, collaborated with the community colleges to continue this highly successful program.
"This project identifies promising students at the community college level and provides them with opportunities to be successful in the behavioral and biomedical fields, while also serving as an excellent outreach opportunity for connecting with underrepresented populations within the state of Kansas," Olsen said.
The Bridges program supports students by building relationships with them and their families while at the community colleges. The students and families are then invited to visit Kansas State University, where they can become familiar with the larger campus, support staff and students who have matriculated through the program.
"Participants in Bridges to the Future can join an established, highly successful, undergraduate research program, Developing Scholars," Cortez said. "The Developing Scholars Program supports students academically and personally through providing seminars, workshops, lab experiences and research internships to help students explore their options in biomedical and behavioral sciences. Through the Bridges program, students are prepared to succeed in graduate school and establish thriving professional careers."
While this is a new grant, Kansas State University has sponsored 104 students through past NIH Bridge grants. Three-quarters of those students have already graduated with others still on the path. Of those students who have earned bachelor degrees, nearly 40 percent have pursued professional or graduate programs. Some of these students have gone to medical school, optometry school, chiropractic school, dental school and veterinary college. Others have taken their academics to the national arena and earned a highly competitive National Science Foundation Fellowship, a Goldwater Scholarship, a Phi Kappa Phi Graduate Fellowship and an internship in a Harvard lab.
"Bridges to the Future has an 11-year history here at K-State and provides a well-established pathway for students transferring from southwestern Kansas to K-State's Developing Scholars Program," Cortez said. "We have established long-standing relationships with families in the Liberal, Garden City and Dodge City areas, so when they attend the annual Developing Scholars Research Symposium in the spring, it is a celebratory reunion. We know that families, students and staff, both at the community colleges and at K-State, have all worked hard to make Bridges to the Future the success that it is."