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Office of First Year Experiences

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Pathways to Success


The Office of First Year Experiences, established in July 2009, is committed to improving the first-year experiences for Virginia Tech’s freshmen and transfer students. As part of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) component of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools- Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC) Reaffirmation of Accreditation process, Pathways to Success emerged as a new initiative. Pathways is designed to set first-year students on their own paths equipped with appropriate tools for exploration and discovery, and provide them with the curricular and co-curricular opportunities necessary to fully engage as learners and ultimately as citizens.


2014-2015 Pathways to Success First Year Experience Descriptions

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Building Connections in Biochemistry
Building Connections in Biochemistry incorporates the principles of Pathways to Success into an existing course in the major. The course is designed to build awareness of the questions and problems that can be addressed using biochemical approaches and to share how scientists acquire and interpret data to support or refute hypotheses.
Contact: Dr. Zac Mackey

CALS First Year Seminar
The CALS First Year Seminar is a collaborative project across several units within the college, including Human Nutrition, Foods & Exercise, Agriculture & Applied Economics, Agricultural, Leadership & Community Education, Life Sciences Undecided, Crop & Soil Environmental Science, Horticulture, and Food Science & Technology. The course is designed to promote a multidisciplinary perspective on agricultural and life sciences by exploring disciplinary topics and problems and participating in research and inquiry projects.
Contact: Ms. Renee Selberg-Eaton,

College of Architecture and Urban Studies


A High Impact Building Construction First Year Experience
Building Construction’s FYE incorporates the principles of Pathways to Success into an existing two-semester long course in the major. The program’s goal is to approach ‘whole student growth’ by having students identify their strengths, create a self-directed learning plan, relate their strengths toward personal, academic, and career success, and establish a culture of reflection that leads to lifelong learning.  These outcomes are enhanced by high impact practices that engage and motivate students.
Contact: Dr. Thomas Mills,


Design Thinking: Defying Preconceptions
Design Thinking enhances the existing Foundation Program in the School of Architecture + Design by embedding the principles of Pathways to Success into an ongoing learning experience. Beginning in the summer, the program aims to better transition incoming first year students to college life and specifically, the School of Architecture + Design’s unique way of teaching and learning. Participating students go on to assist their peers in college acculturation, collaboration, and inquiry in the year-long Foundation Design Lab course.
Contact:  Dr. Kathryn Albright,


College of Engineering


Engineering Your First Year Experience
Engineering Education’s first year experience is designed to help student understand engineering problem solving and design practices, explore the field of engineering, and consider the impact of engineering in the world.  Consistent with the mission of the college and embedded in the required first year engineering sequence, the program leverages current research in engineering education and first year experiences to meet students’ learning and development needs.
Contact: Dr. Tamara Knott,


College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences


CLAHS First Year Experiences
These nine individual programs allow first year students to acclimate themselves to the university and to their respective major departments, and to introduce them to university wide resources supporting student learning, research endeavors, and professional development.

College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences: Dr. Marc Lucht
Apparel, Housing, & Resource Management: Dr. LuAnn Gaskill
Communication: Dr. Marlene Preston
English: Ms. Kathryn Graham
History: Dr. Trudy Harrington Becker
Political Science & International Studies: Dr. Brandy Faulkner
Human Development: Ms. Mary Ellen Verdu
Religion & Culture, Foreign Languages & Literatures, and Philosophy: Dr. Aaron Ansell
Sociology: Ms. Donna Sedgwick
School of Performing Arts: Ms. Patsy Lavender & Dr. Lee Heuemann


College of Natural Resources and Environment


Invent the Sustainable Future
Invent the Sustainable Future provides students with the opportunity to explore a variety of career pathways from diverse programs while adjusting to and benefiting from campus life. With a focus on encouraging students to engage in the work of the disciplines in the College, it helps students develop their sense of identity and relate to the College as their home as well as encouraging their involvement in undergraduate research, internships, study-abroad, and other relevant programs.
Contact: Dr. Don Orth


Pamplin College of Business


Quick-Start to Business
Quick-Start to Business immerses first year business students in a learning environment that is designed to develop and support their decision-making skills, especially as they relate to using technology in business settings and refining and using information literacy skills.  The program assists entering first year students as they transition to Virginia Tech and Pamplin through major and career exploration, an introduction to disciplinary problem solving, and an emphasis on the scholarly expectation of Pamplin students.
Contact Dr. Kevin Carlson


College of Science


Thinking Like a Physicist - A First Year Experience
Utilizing an existing course, Thinking Like a Physicist provides first year and transfer physics majors with a foundation for success in their undergraduate degree and subsequent careers by focusing on their problem solving skills and their ability to access information, evaluate existing knowledge and integrate knowledge and experience across various disciplines.  The course exposes students to the many arenas in which physicists work and helps students develop career plans and goals. 
Contact:  Dr. John Simonetti,


Pathways Through and Beyond the Psychology Major
Pathways Through and Beyond the Psychology Major is an on-line course that provides a structured and student-centered introduction to the psychology major. Students interact with information about their major, Virginia Tech, and the career paths associated with psychology.  
Contact:  Dr. Kurt Hoffman,


First Year Experience in Learning From Data
Learning From Data gives first year statistics and economics students the opportunity to explore the world of statistics and personally and professionally transition into their first year of college. The program introduces students to theoretical and applied statistics, preparing them for a professional career or graduate education by exploring large data sets, analyzing misconceptions and misunderstandings of statistical concepts, and interacting with guest statisticians. 
Contact: Dr. Jane Robertson,


Biology Orientation Seminar
This course aims to provide students with the tools necessary for success in college, strengthen their career plan through academic advising, and engage students through hands-on problem solving strategies. Additionally, the course introduces students to the many resources and opportunities available at Virginia Tech that encourage student success.
Contact: Dr. Jack Evans


Chemistry First Year Experience
This FYE promotes the development of healthy relationships with the culture and content of the chemistry department and the disciplinary culture at large, and focuses on opportunities for faculty- student contact and collaboration in the first year.  The program prepares undergraduates to enter a more significantly diverse scientific community and build relationships with faculty, upper class mentors, and each other.
Contact: Dr. Jeannine Eddleton


Geoscience First Year Experience
This program is designed to provide first year students and transfer students with opportunities to study problems geoscientists think about, get excited about, and do professionally.  Students in this FYE will use geoscientific inquiry in the lab, in the field, and in the literature, while exploring a wide range of career paths and developing a community of peers and a professional network.Contact: Dr. Barbara Bekken


Discovering Mathematics
This program will introduce first year math majors to the scope and applicability of mathematics as well as to its many sub-disciplines and to other aspects of mathematics likely to be new to students.  Through various activities and assignments, both individual and collaborative, students will investigate and answer, “what is mathematics?”
Contact: Jessica Hurdus


University Academic Advising Center


Pathways to Success: Exploring Your Future
This program is designed to help students enrolled in University Studies (US) better navigate the university, engage in education, and succeed in their college experience. Sections of the course are offered using one of three delivery modes: traditional classroom, online, and a hybrid of traditional classroom and online components. Academic advisors teach the sections and also serve as the academic advisor for the group of students in the section as long as the students remain in University Studies.
Contact: Dr. Herbert Bruce


Division of Undergraduate Education

Successful Starts in Science: Da Vinci and Curie Living-Learning Communities
The Da Vinci and Curie Living-Learning Communities bring together first year life sciences majors from three colleges (COS, CALS, CNRE) and are part of the larger inVenTs community. Problem solving, inquiry, and integration are embedded within a seminar that emphasizes the research process, career planning, service-learning, self-reflection, teamwork, and community.  In addition, Da Vinci and Curie support the Division of Student Affairs’ Aspirations for Student Learning, which include curiosity, self-understanding and integrity, practicing civility, courageous leadership, and embracing Ut Prosim as a way of life.
Contact: Dr. Lori Blanc

Special thanks to the faculty members and students who sat on the Grant Panel and reviewed proposals. Over the course of five years, Pathways to Success, intends to reach all incoming freshmen and transfer students at Virginia Tech. 

For more information, including the evolution of this initiative, click on the Quality Enhancement Plan tab to download and view Virginia Tech’s Quality Enhancement Plan, Pathways to Success.

Pathways to Success Research Protocol Information

The Office of First Year Experiences encourages exploration of the Pathways to Success programs by those involved, as well as by scholars at Virginia Tech interested in the scholarship of teaching, learning, and assessment for first year experiences.  For more information on conducting research of Pathways to Success programs, as well as using past, present, or future Pathways data, please see the Pathways to Success Research Protocol found here:


Pathways to Success Research Protocol Explanation (PDF | 94KB)

Application for Access to Pathways to Success Data (DOCX | 62KB)

Pathways to Success Professional Development Grant

Professional Development grants are designed to support those who are involved in a Pathways to Success first year experience project by providing supplemental funds to attend and make presentations at state, regional, or national conferences. Such opportunities serve the dual purposes of visibility and dissemination. Additional information about the grant and the application can be found at:

FYE listservs

The National Resource Center for The First Year Experience and Students in Transition (NRC) offers a variety of listservs to help facilitate a national conversation among faculty and staff working with first year students, transfer students, and other points of student transition. Join the conversation by subscribing to a listserv at

Dr. Mary Ann Lewis, Director

103 Hillcrest Hall (0914)
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Phone:  (540) 231-3341
Fax:  (540) 231-4891