As the Virginia Tech Bridge Experience Program enters year 3, the English and Food Science and Technology departments have implemented a bridge experience requirement for all incoming undergraduate students. A bridge experience is one that a student designates as likely to help them move into specific post-graduation plans. Typical bridge experiences include undergraduate research, internships, and other place-based experiences.


The English Department is excited to make bridge experiences a reality for their students. Bridge experiences were an opportunity for the department to reassess the ways in which they prepare students for careers. In tandem with planning for bridge experiences, faculty revised their undergraduate curricula to intentionally prepare students for their next steps after graduation. These changes are creating greater interest from prospective students and their parents.

To plan for implementation, the department engaged with several publications to offer on-campus internships for students to manage the publication process. These experiences help train students for careers in publishing. Other local internships were curated including Network Infrastructure and Services, Montgomery County Public Schools, and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. English also invested in an internship coordinator to mentor students through the internship search process.

Student feedback has been instrumental in the planning process. The department created a student advisory board to hear frequent feedback from current students and engaged their recent alumni to understand career preparation and trajectory. Bridge experiences will ensure students have work-based experiences, develop transferable skills, and develop an awareness of the careers and industries that seek English students’ skillsets.

Food Science and Technology

When faculty surveyed their students, more than 90% of students already had experience that can be considered a bridge to their intended next step after graduation. According to Herbert Bruce, assistant professor of practice, “’From the perspective of our advisory board, it’s abundantly clear that the first thing organizations look for in a candidate is if they have relevant experience in the field. What most graduate programs are looking for is undergraduate research experience and nearly all pre-health professional schools require job shadowing. So, it makes sense to require the very thing that will get students to their next destination through this Bridge Program at Virginia Tech.’”

Food Science and Technology offers a variety of pathways to meet this new requirement. Many students intern with prominent food and beverage companies during the summer. Two study abroad programs are offered, with plans to enhance the career and international industry connections in those programs. The department offers robust research in the food sciences that students can tap into if they what to learn about academic research. Health Professions Advising assists students planning for medical, veterinary, dental, pharmacy and other health professional schools.

The department created space in their curricula for students to take two additional courses without increasing the number of required credits for the major. They now have classes for second semester and transfer students to help them understand the variety of occupations within food science and how best to prepare for those careers. Additionally, they have a senior-level class designed to help students reflect on their bridge experience and critically evaluate their undergraduate education.

Why Bridge Experiences

Katherine Hall, English internship coordinator and bridge experience program coordinator, says there are countless highlights to the program, but that the foremost is the official acknowledgment of the experience.

According to Hall, “One of the most notable parts of the experience is that students will now get that experience on their transcript as an 'official' experience--be it study abroad, research with a faculty or an internship. Before it was just a blurb that a student would write on the resume. It's also a recognition that the student is engaged in experiential learning. As a whole, the Bridge Program assures that students from all majors will have experiential learning opportunities related to their majors.”

Bruce has a simple answer to this, stating, “In one word – application. Students can apply what they learned in the classroom in a production, R&D or academic setting. By seeing how one uses the information and does that repeatedly, they are really set up well to move into the workforce or continue their education.”

Written by Julie Deacon