OMED’s Challenge Program Welcomes One of Its Largest Cohorts to Georgia Tech This Summer

Black Student Experience Task Force Recommends Expanding Challenge to 175 Incoming Freshmen Enrollees Per Program Over the Next Three Years

According to the Institute of Education Sciences, students who participate in summer “bridge” programs to ease the transition from high school to college are significantly more likely to graduate — and graduate with superior academic performance — than non-program participants.1

For nearly four decades, OMED: Educational Services has offered Challenge, a summer academic preparation program, to help prepare incoming freshmen for a successful college career — academically, professionally, and socially.

This summer, the Challenge program welcomed one of its largest cohorts representing 23 different majors to Georgia Tech. Fifty-four percent were women — the highest percentage since the program’s inception — and 68 percent were black.

“The Institute’s Black Student Experience Task Force recently recommended expanding Challenge to 175 underrepresented minority and women students per program over the next three years,” said Archie Ervin, vice president for Institute Diversity. “The growth of this year’s cohort is a strategic response to those recommendations.” Among the 137 black students who were considered eligible for Challenge, 41 percent participated in the program. 

“To successfully and sustainably grow Challenge, OMED enhanced the program’s academic focus and structure to attract more high-performing students, and increased corporate and institutional funding and alumni sponsorship to provide fee waivers,” explained Sybrina Atwaters, assistant director of outreach initiatives for OMED and director of the program. “It was remarkable to see the caliber of this year’s cohort who voluntarily chose to participate in this intensive program before fall semester.”

Over five weeks, participants were immersed in the Georgia Tech environment, living in a first-year dorm, taking classes, and participating in activities like whitewater rafting and mental health and well-being workshops. Individually, each student logged 4,500 in-class minutes of computer science, calculus, and chemistry; 1,560 in-class minutes of interpersonal development training; and 1,560 minutes of corporate engagement and professional development training.

“I’m significantly more prepared for fall semester,” undergraduate Alexander Bustos told the audience at the Challenge closing banquet on July 27. “It all comes down to happiness, and I’m a happier person from this experience.”

Last year, the average fall first semester GPA of Challenge participants was 3.26 compared to the 3.17 GPA of non-Challenge participants.

“I am so proud of my students, and it recharged me to see their enthusiasm this summer,” reflected Ta Nycia Wooden, one of the Challenge Counselors and an undergraduate student in the Ernest Scheller Jr. College of Business. Twenty Challenge Counselors served as role models and peer mentors to incoming freshmen during the program.

The Challenge program is supported by the following corporate partners and sponsors: 3M, Bechtel, BP, Eaton, ExxonMobil, GE Aviation, John Deere, Procter & Gamble, and Southwire.

To learn more about Challenge, visit www.omed.gatech.edu.

1 “Summer Bridge Programs,” WWC Intervention Report by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (July 2016).

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For More Information Contact

Annette Filliat

Communications Manager

Institute Diversity

annette.filliat@gatech.edu