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Pilot Department Information

The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning announces a Call for Proposals 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 Academy for Experiential Learning to incorporate bridge experiences as an embedded part of their departmental curricula.

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.  Selected applicants will participate in a 2-year process with the Academy.

How do I find out more information?
Information sessions will be held as the next deadline approaches.  Please email Vicki Pitstick at vickip@vt.edu for more information.

When are the proposals due?
Proposals are reviewed twice a year. The next round of proposals are due on Friday, October 15th by 5pm for programs beginning in spring 2022.  The form can be accessed here.

If you have questions, contact Vicki Pitstick, Director of the Academy for Experiential Learning at vickip@vt.edu.

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 place-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, transformational 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 and transformation.

The Academy for Experiential 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 Academy for Experiential Learning to develop a full proposal.

Planning. The first full semester (Spring 2022) and following summer will be spent identifying needs and gaps, planning programs to remedy those gaps, scaling bridge experiences for all students, and beginning to implement this plan. The time commitment will be greatest in this semester with frequent engagement and professional development with the Academy for Experiential Learning and other teams within the cohort. Teams will participate in 2 retreats with the rest of their cohort and will meet with the Academy at least 3 times throughout the semester. A formal plan, budget, and Memorandum of Understanding will be completed towards the end of this segment.

Implementation. The second semester (Fall 2022) will be spent implementing scalable planned programs. Teams will be expected to track outcome data on participation and learning quality. Support will be provided by the Academy for Experiential Learning to facilitate outcome tracking.

Assessment. The third semester (Spring 2023) will be spent checking progress. Student participation in bridge experiences should be evaluated, and any remaining gaps should be identified with a plan for continued improvement. The quality of bridge experiences will be assessed based on the student learning outcomes for the Bridge Experience Program and the academic program. Implementation should continue to be refined to fill remaining participation gaps.

Curriculum. In the fourth semester (Fall 2023), the academic program should begin the process of embedding a bridge experience requirement in the checksheet(s) for all students. Appropriate governance forms with revised checksheet(s) should be submitted by the end of the semester. Implementation and assessment efforts should continue as an ongoing process. 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.

At the beginning of each fall semester, all participating teams will attend a mandatory retreat to provide updates on progress and challenges from the previous semester. After that, all participants will be expected to attend a monthly experiential learning community of practice meeting to engage in informal discussions with colleagues from across campus. In addition, team leaders will participate in monthly planning meetings to provide progress updates.

The entire team is required to attend regular meetings during the first semester, provide updates at departmental faculty meetings at least once per semester and report back on those discussions, and complete reporting requirements each semester. Each individual team member will participate in at least 1 community of practice meeting each semester. The academic program will sign a Memorandum of Understanding and will manage funds according to the approved budget. At the conclusion, academic programs will implement bridge experience requirements into all undergraduate curricula.

At the end of the planning process, teams will submit implementation plans and budgets. Once approved by the Academy, a Memorandum of Understanding will be signed by the Department Head and fiscal manager, and teams will document expenses in their final report. Summer stipends will be paid out in the second year of the program. In order to receive stipends, teams as a whole and the individual faculty member must be compliant with program requirements. Acceptable funding uses may include

  • faculty summer stipend (max 75% of budget);
  • prototype bridge experience programs that demonstrate sustainability and scalability;
  • career fairs or similar resources;
  • communication to students about bridge experiences; and
  • any student-facing programs for bridge experiences.

Funding may not be used for faculty buyout for the development of courses or other costs associated with developing or revising courses. Proposals will be funded up to $20,000 for the 2-year period.

Each proposal will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Is the team diverse with 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?