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Forward Impact Report 2019-20  >  Building a bridge to student success

Building a bridge to student success

Bridge to Excellence Program students
Donor Robert Bero (center) met several students from the Bridge to Excellence Program's first cohort at the 2019 College of Engineering Scholarship Luncheon, including Rachita Puri (far right).

Recent grad Rachita Puri ’20 used her experiences as a Buckeye to guide several key life decisions. Had it not been for the Bridge to Excellence Program, some of those life-changing opportunities might never have happened.

As an aerospace engineering student, Puri was selected for the program’s very first cohort in 2018. A competitive initiative, the Bridge to Excellence Program targets high-achieving students from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in their third year of undergraduate studies, and focuses on enhancing their academic careers through scholarship and professional development.

“We have really structured programs for first-, second- and fourth-year students, but we felt there was a gap in the third-year experience,” explained Associate Professor Carlos Castro, who co-directs the program. “We saw this as a way to enhance the student experience by giving them opportunities outside the classroom when financial need might otherwise impact their ability to participate."

Involvement with research, student organizations, service or project teams can have a tremendous impact on students, and is often among the most memorable parts of their education, Castro added.

For Puri, Bridge to Excellence afforded her one of her favorite memories from her college experience—an internship abroad in Europe.

“It was an eye-opening experience living in a different country for three months and learning how aerospace engineering is practiced on a more global scale,” she said. “Having that global experience during my undergraduate journey was really valuable.”

The support Puri received through the program also enabled her to attend the weeklong International Astronautical Congress in Washington, DC, which changed her trajectory post-graduation. Although she initially planned to pursue a graduate degree after earning her bachelor’s, attending the conference opened her eyes to a whole universe of possibilities.

“I’m really interested in space and I was exposed to so many people in that industry and what sort of opportunities there are,” said Puri. “I felt it would be a good idea to get some experience in that sector before choosing something specific to study in grad school. That's something I still have in mind; I just shifted my timeline a little bit.”

The transformative program likely wouldn’t exist without the generous support of alumnus Robert Bero (BS ME '66, MS ISE '69). He believed so strongly in his alma mater and investing in the future of bright minds that he has given $70,000 to establish and grow the Robert Bero Bridge to Excellence Fund.

“The department gave me a very solid background to start my business career, and I can say with confidence it was a large element of my success,” said Bero. “I know there are ongoing financial needs of bright, young, motivated students and I thought maybe I could give them a boost and help position them for success.”

Although the fund carries his name, Bero encourages other donors to consider making an impact of their own. Additional support would allow the program to reach more students, increasing cohort size from six to 10 or 20, and provide a greater number of professional development experiences to each, said Castro.

“We picked the name Bridge to Excellence as a metaphor for ‘off you go to your future,’” said Bero. “I hope these students will take the advantages of this program and carry them into their future careers.”