Bridge Departments and Programs
The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning announces a Request for Applications to be in the next cohort for the Bridge Experience Program.
What does it mean to participate in the Bridge Experience Program?
Academic programs will receive funding and work with the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to incorporate bridge experiences as an embedded part of their departmental undergraduate curricula. Programs will begin with an onboarding retreat in the summer and will participate for 2 years.
What is a bridge experience?
Bridge experiences are customized to students’ needs and ambitions. Common examples include undergraduate research, internships, or other site-based experiences matching student post-graduation goals and approved by departmental faculty. The student will take initiative to identify the right experience, will be mentored throughout, and will reflect on individual growth.
How can the funds be utilized?
The grants are unique in that they are customized to provide funding for the planning elements most likely to yield learning improvements and on a timeline that provides funding when it is most needed.
When are the proposals due?
Proposals are reviewed once a year. The next round of proposals will be due on March 15, 2024 for programs beginning in fall 2024. Apply here.
How do I find out more information?
Information sessions will include faculty currently participating in the program. Virtual information sessions will be held
- November 9, 2023 from 1:30 to 2:30;
- February 20, 2024 from 12:00 to 1:00; and
- February 28, 2024 from 12:00 to 1:00.
Experiential learning extends students’ traditional classroom learning to tackle authentic problems and work in context. As part of Virginia Tech’s strategic plan and QEP, 50% of undergraduate academic degrees should have an experiential learning requirement, termed bridge experience, by 2026. Bridge experiences could include undergraduate research, internships, study abroad, service learning, apprenticeships, clinical experiences, co-ops, field work experiences, competitions, and other site-based experiences as deemed appropriate by departmental faculty. The intent is for bridge experiences to support students through the transition from graduation to future endeavors by aligning their preparation with post-graduation goals in a meaningful way. As a result of bridge experiences, students will be able to
- apply and connect their learning across academic and professional settings;
- demonstrate professional self-awareness by articulating their personal and professional development; and
- demonstrate a dedication to using their knowledge, skills, and talents in service to others, communities, and/or their field.
Required characteristics of bridge experiences include:
- a clear purpose and intentional learning outcomes for the student;
- an immersive experience that will serve as a bridge between the student’s academic experience and future employment in the professional world;
- student agency as opposed to an experience that is mainly orchestrated by a faculty or staff member through a course or other program;
- a supervisor and/or faculty member that the student is accountable to and who can serve as a resource and mentor for the student during the experience;
- a prolonged experience spanning a semester or more that includes preparation and an orientation for the students, support throughout the experience, reflection components, and a concluding session; and
- an opportunity for students to publicly present about their learning.
The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning provides financial and professional development support to academic programs throughout the process of embedding bridge experiences in degree programs. At the end of the process, all students are expected to have access to these critical learning experiences at scale. Teams of 3 to 5 people who are ready to engage in a 2-year process culminating in a degree-embedded bridge experience requirement are strongly encouraged to apply. Applications will be competitive, and selected teams will be invited to begin working with the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to develop a full proposal.
Gap analysis. The purpose of the first summer and fall semester (Fall 2024) will be to understand student experience and participation in experiential learning to build a solid foundation for where the program is starting and to inform further action. Teams will identify participation gaps, needs around types of opportunities available, and other stakeholders who need to be involved in the process. Teams will participate in an onboarding retreat to start the summer (May 20 to 22, 2024).
Planning. The purpose of the second semester (Spring 2025) will be to develop a holistic plan for implementing bridge experiences in the curriculum by building on what was learned in the gap analysis. In addition to curricular change, teams will develop plans to assess student learning. Teams may also begin working on additional areas of advising, student communication, and increasing capacity for opportunities.
Pilot implementation. The purpose of the third and fourth semesters (Fall 2025 and Spring 2026) will be to begin implementing plans from the previous semester. Teams will work to finalize curricular revisions and pilot learning outcomes assessment. Advising and communication will be addressed to ensure students are aware of requirements, opportunities, and career preparation. Teams will work to increase capacity for opportunities as needed.
Full implementation. The curricular revisions will be submitted to the college (Fall 2026) and university (Spring 2027) for approval. Students would enter with revised checksheets in Summer/Fall 2027. At this point, all plans need to be implemented to support students through advising, communication, learning outcomes assessment, and opportunities. Bridge experiences represent an ongoing commitment to provide all undergraduates access to authentic learning experiences that will support their transition to life beyond the university.
Degree-granting academic programs are eligible to apply. At the beginning of summer, all teams will attend a retreat to become acquainted with the program and begin planning. Retreat dates are May 20 to 22, 2024. The program has monthly community of practice meetings to engage in informal discussions with colleagues from across campus. After 2 years, academic programs will implement a bridge experience requirement into all undergraduate curricula.
As teams begin planning, they will identify areas where financial support is needed. Teams will be able to request targeted funding to support planning and implementation throughout the 2 years. Funding requests must have a clear purpose, and acceptable funding uses may include
- faculty summer stipend (max 75% of budget);
- developing partnerships to increase student opportunities;
- career fairs or similar resources; and
- communication to students about bridge experiences.
Funding may not be used for faculty buyout for the development of courses or other costs associated with developing or revising courses. Teams can submit funding proposals for approval of up to $20,000 during the 2-year period. If teams identify additional needs, those can be discussed for potential funding.
Each application will be evaluated based on the following criteria:
- Does the team have demonstrated capacity to implement new programs?
- Is the academic program prepared to implement bridge experiences with broad administrative support?
- Is there evidence of initial engagement around the implementation and challenges related to bridge experiences?
- Does the team demonstrate a student-centered perspective of curricular change?