Alexis Carney brought her dream of becoming a physical therapist to NDSU. But she brought some jitters, too.
She was worried that college would be too hard (she made the dean’s list), that she’d walk into a wrong classroom and be mortified (she did once, but it was no big deal), that she wouldn’t make friends (she had a group of buddies before classes even started).
This fall Carney, a sophomore from Moorhead, Minnesota, is sharing the lessons of her first year with a new group of freshmen. They are members of Bison Bridge, a program that helped Carney get off to a good start.
Bison Bridge is for first-year, first-generation, multicultural students. It addresses common concerns many students have when they start college and helps the students establish a home-away-from-home support system.
Bison Bridge brings students to campus a week before classes start. They are introduced to student services, such as the Center for Writers and ACE Tutoring, that can help them succeed in classes. They get familiar with campus before 14,000 other students show up. They develop relationships with other students in the program and Bison Bridge staff. And they learn the door is open.
Carney turned to a Bison Bridge staff member when she was worried about a challenging class. The staff member helped her identify what she could do to help herself.
“They are very welcoming,” she said of the staff. “They say, ‘we want you to come in. We’ll talk for 10 or 15 minutes.’”
The program is entering its second year with strong momentum. The new class has 18 participants. Gravley-Stack expects 12 of 13 participants from last year’s inaugural class to return this fall. “What’s really exciting is the academic progress our students are making, their awareness of student services, the connections they are making to leadership activities and the sense of community that has been forged,” she said.