Summer Bridge Students Get Hands-on Diversity Training

Summer Bridge Students Get Hands-on Diversity Training
A few incoming freshmen participate in the Summer Bridge diversity training.

The Office of Student Life & Cultural Centers (OSLCC) recently offered a revamped diversity workshop to 76 Summer Bridge students.

OSLCC staff members retooled the training to engage the incoming freshmen and give them an idea of what they can expect from the highly diverse campus. The workshop is available to other student groups on request.

“I was so happy with the training. I've seen it in one form or another for 18 years,” said Vicki Calderon, coordinator of the Summer Bridge Program. “I especially liked that it was more open this year. It allowed the students enough time to process the material.”

The Summer Bridge Program is designed to help low-income California residents  who demonstrate the motivation and potential to succeed in college. The five-week residential program assists Educational Opportunity Program students in making the transition from high school to college.

The program helps students build college-level skills and provides them with an opportunity to develop friendships and experience campus life.

During their fourth week, the 76 students participated in the two-hour, interactive diversity workshop. The incoming freshmen explored issues surrounding race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion and class.   

“Our goal was to get them to really understand what diversity means,” said Marla Franco, coordinator of Leadership & Student Activities. “Many young adults think diversity is defined by ethnicity, culture and race. We wanted to get them to think beyond that.”

Staff from the Office of Student Life & Cultural Centers served as workshop facilitators. They led the groups of students through three exercises. The first helped students explore the impact of stereotyping by participating in a round robin. Students were asked to categorize their partner by making assumptions about the others' cultural background, ethnicity and hometown.

This activity made students realize some of the consequences of placing judgment on others, Franco said.  

During the second activity, students were asked to write down messages they have learned or heard from their culture on large poster paper pertaining to the following categories: religion, race, roles of men, roles of women, people with disabilities, money, family, sexual orientation, education and immigration.

“Since the students were writing about what they have learned, and not necessarily their own beliefs, it gave them some distance and allowed them to be a little bit more open and honest,” Calderon said.

Incoming Freshman Dan Cannon said the poster exercise gave him a better sense of the other students' beliefs.

“It really did open my eyes,” Cannon said. “People voiced their opinions, but they kept it respectful.”

The third exercise was called Cultural Pursuit. Students were divided into three teams and asked questions that helped them explore diversity on campus and the local community. For example, students were asked to name a local Native American tribe and identify the cause that Cesar E. Chavez fought for.

“The students really got into this exercise,” Franco said. “They were racing to the front of the room to give their answers. It got very competitive, but it was great to see the students so excited to be engaged in issues of diversity.”

The diversity training is one of many services the Office of Student Life & Cultural Centers offers students at Cal Poly Pomona. For more information visit