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The opportunity

Growing up next to the elevated railway in Brooklyn, N.Y., Aliandro Brathwaite, E14, developed an early fascination with engineering. "I'd always lived next to a subway line, and I was interested in how it was built, how the very heavy trains stay on this elevated track," he says.

Now the kid who grew up next to the El is pursuing his engineering dream at Tufts. He was among eight students in the Class of 2014 who enrolled prior to their first semester in a six-week summer bridge program, created to make engineering a viable option for talented students from diverse backgrounds who would benefit from extra academic preparation. They took two classes for credit, participated in academic and college life workshops, and gained an edge in their math studies.

Six of the eight students went on to make Dean’s List in their first year.

The program

What is called the BEST (Bridge to Engineering Success at Tufts) program was piloted by the School of Engineering and the Center for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Diversity, in conjunction with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. A second group of incoming freshmen participated in the six-week BEST program on campus this past summer.

The aim is to attract and retain members of populations underrepresented at the school, focusing on first-generation college-goers with high financial need, says Travis Brown, project manager for the Center for STEM Diversity. Support for the BEST program comes from the Dean’s Discretionary Fund at the School of Engineering—a beneficiary of the Beyond Boundaries campaign.

When Corey Mason, E14, from rural West Virginia learned he would receive an ROTC scholarship to study engineering anywhere he wanted, he wondered what may lie beyond the "cornfields, cows, and mountains" of Appalachia. “Tufts seemed like a good reach for me," he says.

Yet he wondered if finishing at the top of his high school AP calculus class would be enough. "I was sincerely worried about how well the math program at my high school had actually prepared me," he said.

The difference

Mason was in the inaugural BEST group. After what he called the hardest—and best—six weeks of his life, he walked onto campus in September with an ace in his pocket. "I went in feeling a step ahead,” he says. “I don't think anyone else came in quite as prepared as the BEST Scholars."

For more information about giving to BEST or other academic programs at the School of Engineering, please contact:

Cindy LuBien
Senior Director of Development for Engineering