J. Kate Bridgeman
J. Kate Bridgeman was raised in Wisconsin until age seven. Her family moved to Christiansburg in 1991 when her dad enrolled at Virginia Tech to pursue his PhD. They ended up staying in the area when he joined the faculty in the College of Natural Resources. Both Kate and her younger brother, Logan, were homeschooled, and she went on to graduate from Radford University at the age of 20 with a B.S. in Criminal Justice.
Kate worked for almost eight years as the V.P. of Finance for a large development/ construction firm in Roanoke, VA and then another three years as a staff accountant for a property management firm where she handled the books and reports for five, large HUD apartment complexes across Virginia and North Carolina. Kate shared with us that “all those numbers got the better of me, and I was burnt out after those jobs. Thankfully, I was able to take a break from the workforce and then change my career.”
So, Kate joined the department in the fall of 2017, working for the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design as an administrative assistant to Dr. Laszlo Horvath. Her basic areas of responsibility include: faculty support for the Center, editing and writing services for faculty and students, creation of marketing tools, maintaining calendars and scheduling meetings, helping with event facilitation, website creation, database entry and management, social media management for the Center’s accounts, and helping out via office management, accounting analysis, and overall organizational skills. Earlier this year, 2020, she was asked to also help with some Department level tasks. Kate has now managed the SBIO department’s social media accounts for about nine months and helps with various other creative-type projects.
Kate told us that “I enjoy the people I work with first and foremost. I’ve known many of them since childhood, so this place really feels like home to me. And, I couldn’t ask for a better boss than Dr. Horvath – he doesn’t micro-manage and he’s always clear with his expectations. That’s not always the case with bosses. As far as my daily tasks, I’d say that editing is my favorite task – followed closely by writing articles for our newsletters (I still can’t believe I get paid to write, talk about a dream job!), and then the website work would be my next favorite task. But, there is actually very little that I’ve been asked to do that I don’t thoroughly enjoy.”
Kate has always had a passion for learning and for helping people (although she prefers to stay behind the scenes as she’ll quickly tell you), so this job has been a great fit for her as “every day [she] learns something new and gets to be a part of something that is quite literally changing the world – almost every little thing that people interact with is touched by the distribution packaging field!” She admits she didn’t know anything about the field when she started working at the Center, but everything she’s learned over the years here has been fascinating. “I never would have thought that so much goes into a pallet or a cardboard box. But, the more theses I read and the more testing I watch, the more interesting it all has become.”
Her favorite thing about working at Virginia Tech though is still “the feeling of community. Being a part of something important in the area. And, of course, that it helps pay our bills. 😊”
Outside of the office, Kate enjoys “anything with animals or writing would be top of my list. Though, if I were to start all over again, I think I’d go into counseling - particularly relationship counseling. I’ve written a few different “Dear Abby” type blogs over the years and always end up with hundreds of regular readers wanting my advice, which is very satisfying. Plus, over 12 years after meeting my husband, Jason, he is still my best friend, so I feel I could walk what I talk for that area of counseling. Jason and I just celebrated our seven-year marriage anniversary. We live outside of Christiansburg in a large, old farmhouse with our best friend Ana. Our home has a total of three dogs, four cats, semi-tame groundhogs, as well as opossums, racoons, foxes, rabbits, deer and other wildlife.”
When asked to share something interesting about herself, Kate replied, “My husband and friends call me the “real-life Dr. Doolittle.” I’ve managed to tame generations of groundhogs, over the span of years, on our farm – they wake up from winter hibernation remembering me! I’m the person everyone calls when an opossum is in the house, or to move a snake out of the way. My love of critters goes back to childhood when I would drive my folks’ crazy keeping crickets or slugs or other creepy crawlies in aquariums in my bedroom in order to study them. I’ve had pet fish, parakeets, ducks, gerbils, cats, dogs, and one giant brown rat named Templeton who was better trained and did more tricks then most dogs. Chester, the groundhog, comes when I call him, and a full-on zoo exists in our back yard – most nights I can open the door and talk to everyone who is visiting (for the apple slices I scatter about the back yard), and the wildlife aren’t scared of me at all.”
Quote from a Colleague:
Kate is one of the hidden treasures of the department. Although you rarely see her at Brooks, she is the driving force behind all of the marketing, social media, and financial structure of the Center for Packaging Systems and Design. She also keeps me from slacking off. - Laszlo Horvath, Associate Professor, Sustainable Biomaterials