Connect with HETS

Nancy Velázquez-Torres, PhD

Article 4: Setting Students Up for Life Long Success through Innovative Summer Bridge Programs and First Year Seminars


Associate Professor
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
of the City University of New York (CUNY)

Nancy Velázquez-Torres is an Associate Professor at John Jay College. She holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum, Instruction and Learning Technologies from New Mexico State University, a Masters in TESOL K-12 and Multicultural Education from Queens College, CUNY and a Bachelors in Secondary Education in TESOL from Inter American University of Puerto Rico.  She also has an extensive background in developmental education, multicultural education, curriculum design, bilingualism, learning technologies and assessment. Dr. Velázquez-Torres has occupied faculty and administrative positions at several institutions in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. During her over thirty years of experience, she has developed and taught approximately 50 courses.

In her last administrative position as the Director of the Percy Ellis Sutton Program and Chair of the SEEK Department at John Jay for almost seven years, the pass rates and retention rates of SEEK students increased significantly. The use of data from the assessment tools incorporated under her leadership facilitated the restructuring of services and interventions provided to students. Dr. Velázquez-Torres’ academic and research interests are in teaching millennial and underprivileged students, culturally responsive pedagogy and the use of the emerging technologies to enhance learning.  She has also written and managed numerous grants and has used her grant writing experience and background in curriculum design and learning technologies to develop projects that benefit underserved and disadvantaged groups and meet the needs and demands of 21st century learners.  Moreover, she has received several awards and recognition for innovative teaching. She is also actively involved in several community projects in New York and Puerto Rico and in her church.

Contact info:

Article: Setting Students Up for Life Long Success through Innovative Summer Bridge Programs and First Year Seminars


Nancy Velázquez-Torres, PhD

John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York (CUNY)



The transition from high school to college can be a frightening and challenging experience for many students. This process can be even worse for first-generation, immigrants, English language learners and other disadvantaged groups. To ease the transition and reduce attrition, higher education institutions have developed a variety of summer bridge programs and first-year seminar models.  Although both interventions have been widely promoted, not many studies have focused on the impact of a combined summer bridge program and a first-year seminar on the same group of students. This paper will describe John Jay College’s Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK) innovative summer bridge program and first year seminar course and how they have increased first year student retention and success.


According to research, some of the major barriers to college success for at risk populations are lack of self-confidence, inappropriate expectations or knowledge about college environment, lack of connection to the college community or external community, lack of early validation within the college environment, family members who do not understand the goals of college and not involving faculty in summer bridge and the transition process (Kezar, 2000).

For decades summer bridge programs and first year seminar courses have been designed by many higher education institutions to assist incoming college students’ transition to college, mitigate the sense of fear of the unknown, increase persistence and address some of the other barriers to college success (Sabian, 2014). Recognizing that college completion remains a challenge, it is, therefore, imperative for these programs to be evaluated to determine their effectiveness in contributing to the success of at-risk student subgroups (Swanson, Vaughan, & Wilkinson, 2017; Douglas and Attewell, 2014).