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Summer Math Program Prepares First Generation Freshmen for Success

Ilhan Nunow grew up in the Oak Park neighborhood of San Diego, where her parents had settled as refugees from Somalia. As a high school student, Nunow was drawn to learning about the smallest parts of nature—the cells and atoms of organisms and how they interact. Now a freshman at UC San Diego, she is majoring in chemistry and biochemistry with the goal of becoming a doctor. But first, she’ll have to conquer calculus.

To prepare her for success, Nunow joined more than 120 undergraduates for Summer Bridge’s new math track. UC San Diego’s Summer Bridge is an intensive residential program designed to help incoming freshmen from underserved areas transition to the academic, social and cultural life of the university. In 2016, the math track extended the traditional program from four weeks to five weeks and enabled students to take an additional course of either pre-calculus or calculus in a supportive environment.

“It was really different from high school,” said Nunow. The UC San Diego class covered material at a faster pace, she found, and the lectures were more conceptual. “But now, I’ve got a good grasp and feel prepared for the fall. Overall, Summer Bridge was an amazing experience.”

The Summer Bridge math track was made possible thanks to support from the Chancellor’s Fund for Excellence. Gifts to this fund enable the Chancellor to advance top research priorities and ensure students, like Nunow, have the means to thrive.