The North Dakota State University Bison Bridge program, which previously ran from 2013 to 2018 and was resumed at the start of the fall 2023 school year, plays a vital role in easing the path to higher education for local multicultural students who are first-generation or Pell-eligible.
The program, fully funded and at no cost to participants, extends a warm invitation to eligible students that will be embarking on their first year at NDSU. During the intensive three-day program, participants will have the opportunity to meet with prominent individuals present on the NDSU campus through interacting with faculty, staff, and academic advisors who can guide them in navigating their academic journey at NDSU. Recognizing the importance of leadership and self-advocacy, the program also offers workshops and sessions aimed at helping students develop these essential skills.
As NDSU prides itself on its diverse student body, Bison Bridge ensures that participants can engage with their fellow students and embrace this rich cultural tapestry. Additionally, the Bison Bridge program creates an environment where participants can form lasting friendships that provide invaluable support throughout their academic careers. Alongside equipping students with the knowledge of available resources on and off-campus, ensuring they have the support they need to thrive.
Beyond the initial three days, participants will have access to ongoing mentoring and support, as mentoring is a cornerstone of the program. This approach makes it easier for students to connect, seek guidance, and embrace the college experience. One of the program’s alumni, Kayla Jones, now a graduate student in educational leadership, shared her personal experience with Bison Bridge.
As a freshman, Jones found the program instrumental in helping her transition to college life at NDSU. She emphasized how it connected her with fellow students and provided invaluable support during her academic journey. When asked about the program’s impact, Jones underscored the significance of finding one’s community in a higher education setting, acknowledging that Bison Bridge provides a much-needed support system for its participants.
The program places a strong emphasis on community building and diversity. Participants delve into their shared reasons for choosing NDSU, recognizing that their diverse backgrounds might otherwise hinder their connections with peers. Bison Bridge fosters an environment where students with similar experiences can connect, share, and grow together. Through this enviroment students are encouraged to delve deeper into the “why” of their journey at NDSU. As all of the mentors are students of color who have gone through this daunting experience all of the participants are encountering, there is a sense of underlying understanding between the mentors and participants, which allows the “gap” that may cause a hindrance in the participant’s feelings of comfortability to be bridged.
Reflecting on the program’s evolution, Jones noted that while the original iteration was tightly packed with activities, this year, due to logistical constraints, participants couldn’t move in early. Nevertheless, they still received comprehensive tours of campus facilities and familiarized themselves with available resources. Departments from across the university come together to cultivate a sense of community among students, in turn allowing the logistical constraints to not hinder the dire impact Bison Bridge holds.
For future Bison Bridge participants, Jones offers the advice to “Go all in and put yourself into this experience. Be open to everything that is coming your way. Take it in and use it. It means just as much to us as it does to you.”
With Bison Bridge’s revival, NDSU continues its commitment to supporting diverse and underrepresented students, ensuring a smoother transition to college life, and setting them on a path to academic success.