Meeting national needs in the public health sector and particularly in research areas within the biomedical and behavioral science will depend on the growth and diversification of the workforce entering this sector. Community colleges educate large numbers of students, especially underrepresented minorities (racial, ethnic, first-generation college, and economically disadvantaged). With specific attention to their unique needs, a greater percentage of this population has the potential to complete four-year degrees and graduate programs and become researchers in the health sciences. The Virginia Bridges Program aims to increase the number of underrepresented (UR) Virginia residents pursuing degrees and research career paths in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. A bridge between New River (NR) and Northern Virginia (NOVA) Community Colleges and Virginia Tech (VT) will generate interest and skills in the biomedical/behavioral sciences among UR students, beginning their first year at NR and NOVA through engaging research experiences. Additional research opportunities combined with academic support programs and mentoring will promote persistence, achievement, and timely progress through their degrees. Through reflective and networked practices that span all four undergraduate years, Bridges students will define their own academic path and connect with peer scientists across institutions.
The Virginia Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program will support underrepresented (UR) minority students who transfer from community colleges (New River and Northern Virginia) to a four-year institution (Virginia Tech) in pursuit of degrees in th biomedical and behavioral sciences. Students will engage in meaningful research activities and receive academic support and mentoring throughout their studies with the goal of increasing the number of UR minorities who go on to earn a Ph.D. and pursue a research career in the biomedical and behavioral sciences.