UNCW Names Sheri Shaw Interim Bridge Coordinator for New Student Support Program

Thursday, July 08, 2021

College of Health and Human Services Assistant Dean for Student Success Sheri Shaw is a proven expert when it comes to building award-winning student supports, so it’s no surprise that she will lead efforts to create a new UNCW program that empowers underrepresented Seahawks.

Shaw, who was instrumental in developing successful bridge programs at Drexel University and University of Illinois, has devoted her career to helping students thrive in college and beyond.

“I’m honored and grateful that UNCW is entrusting me to help create the infrastructure for this program,” said Shaw. “We want our bridge program to be uniquely-UNCW – a successful, nimble and long-lasting program that will grow as the institution grows, empowering students to find their academic potential as well as their identities.”

Bridge programs provide transitional support to college students from underrepresented populations. Such programs attempt to address the high attrition rates of some student populations, particularly those who are identified as low-income or first-generation college students. Research supports that bridge programs have a positive impact on student retention rates and student success.

“It’s all about creating a sense of belonging – a sense of home and family,” Shaw explains. “We want our bridge program to create that place and space where students can learn to navigate the challenges of college by connecting them with wraparound support as they learn to problem-solve, network and grow into who they are meant to be.”

For one year, Shaw will oversee the research and development of the UNCW program, which will include both a summer experience and a year-round academic component. The taskforce, supported by the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of the Provost, and the Office of Student Affairs, has already completed some preliminary research, led by the Director of the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid Fred Holding and Diversity and Inclusion Fellow and Freshman Admissions Coordinator Taniesha Young. Next steps include piloting potential program initiatives during the 2021-22 academic year.

By summer 2022, Shaw anticipates the bridge program will be fully operational with a permanent program director and support staff in place to welcome its first cohort of students. The program plans to invite a cohort of 75-100 incoming fall 2022 admitted students identified through their applications as those who would most benefit from the program. 

-- Krissy Vick