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Office of First Year Experiences

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First Year Experiences at Virginia Tech


Recognizing the importance of a successful beginning in college, Virginia Tech made a commitment in 2009 to improve the first-year experiences for all students in their first year at Virginia Tech.  The initiative emerged from the response to the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) component of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC) Reaffirmation of Accreditation process.  Originally branded as Pathways to Success, now known broadly as First Year Experiences, the courses are designed to engage students in curricular and co-curricular learning opportunities and intellectual and practical skills that are foundational to development into lifelong learners.  To do so, Virginia Tech’s First Year Experience courses center on three learning outcomes that are customized to the discipline(s) represented in the course.  The learning outcomes are

  1. Problem Solving Skills – the ability to design, evaluate, and implement a strategy or strategies to answer open-ended questions or achieve desired goals;
  2. Inquiry Skills – the ability to explore issues or topics through the ethical and responsible collection, analysis and use of information as evidence that results in informed conclusions and judgments;
  3. Integration of Learning Skills – the ability and disposition to make connections between ideas and experiences, to apply them to new learning situations within and beyond campus.

First Year Experience courses are housed in and align with the mission of the academic unit and the content emphasis of the discipline(s).  Courses must integrate and emphasize one or more of the learning outcomes and support the programmatic goals of advising and mentoring, campus community, diversity and inclusion, ethical use of information and good teaching and learning practices.  Additionally they must partner with the University Libraries, utilize and/or partner with campus resources outside the academic unit and integrate the university’s common book.   

The concept has grown from five course with nearly 1000 first year students in 2010-11 to 36 unique courses with a projected 5,700 first year students enrolled in a First Year Experience course in the 2016-17 academic year.  Every college serving undergraduate students plus the University Academic Advising Center is involved.   The 2016-17 First Year Experience course descriptions follow.



2016-2017 First Year Experience Course Descriptions



Animal and Poultry Science

APSC 1504, Animal and Poultry Science First Year Experience, is a course for students new to the Animal and Poultry Science major providing opportunities for students to understand the APSC curriculum and how they can most effectively benefit from it.  Students also research, retrieve and evaluate information on topics relevant to the animal science fields.   One section of the course is designed to serve transfer students. Contact:  Nada Tamim,



BCHM 1014, Biochemistry First Year Experience, incorporates the goals of fostering a community of first year biochemistry majors by introducing them to the field of biochemistry through building awareness of the kinds of questions and problems that can be solved using biochemical approaches and enhanced critical thinking skills.  Contact:  David Lally,


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

ALS 1234, CALS First Year Seminar, is a collaborative course across several departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences including Agriculture and Applied Economics, Agricultural Leadership and Community Education, Crop and Soil Environmental Science, Dairy Science, Food Science and Technology, Horticulture, Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise and Life Sciences Undecided.  The course promotes a multidisciplinary perspective on agriculture and life sciences by having students explore disciplinary topics and problems and participate in research and inquiry projects.  Contact:   Renee Eaton,


Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise

HNFE 1114, Orientation to HNFE, provides opportunities for Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise students new to the major to develop their critical thinking skills by applying problem solving skills, using information ethically and effectively to accomplish a specific purpose and making connections across disciplines as they reflect upon and assess themselves as learners.  
Contact:  Renee Eaton,




Building Construction 

BC 1214 and BC 1224, Introduction to Building Construction I and II, incorporate the learning outcomes of problem solving, inquiry and integration of learning in this two semester course sequence.  The courses approach “whole student growth” by having the students identify and utilize their own strengths while engaging in the theory and terminology of the construction industry.  
Contact:  Thomas Mills,


School of Architecture + Design

ARCH 1024, Innovative Design Thinking, is offered in the second summer session to Summer Academy students.  It engages first year students in the learning environment of the design laboratory of interactive inquiry, experimentation, discovery and syntheses.  Students engage in a series of iterative drawing and modeling exercises.  It is linked with ARCH 1034, also a Summer Academy course.  
Contact:  Martha Sullivan,


School of Visual Arts First Year Experience

ART 2984, Gateway to Art and Design, provides an overview of the School of Visual Arts and includes a strong advising component while informing new students of the possible curricular paths for multiple visual arts professions.  Students explore a variety of resources such as galleries, museums and guest artist lectures with the goal of making art a part of their daily and future professional lives.  
Contact:  Jennifer Hand,




Engineering Education

ENGE 1215, Foundations of Engineering, is an initial course in the first year sequence in general engineering.  It introduces students to the profession through data collection and analysis, engineering problem-solving, mathematical modeling, contemporary software tools, professional practices and expectations and the diversity of fields and majors within engineering.  
Contact:  Mara Knott,




Apparel, Housing and Resource Management

AHRM 1104, Introduction to AHRM, has as its focus the majors and faculty expertise within this diverse department.  Within that context special emphasis is place on introducing first-year students to the multiple perspectives and forms of academic and creative scholarship within the department as well as the importance of experiential learning opportunities including study abroad, internships, field studies and undergraduate research.  Contact:  LuAnn Gaskill,



COMM 1004, First Semester Experience in COMM, emphasizes in both the freshman and transfer sections a focus on the integration of existing knowledge about the discipline of human communication and the problem solving skills and strategies needed to explore that knowledge.   
Contacts:  Buddy Howell, and Susan Stinson,



ENGL 1004, Introduction to English Studies, prepares first-year English majors for study and inquiry at a research institution.  In addition to introducing students to the opportunities available in the English major, the course includes basis principles of research and the writing process and helps students make connections across disciplines as they apply them to academic work.  
Contact:  Rob Jacks,



HIST 1004, Introduction to History, introduces first-year students to the discipline of history via a variety of topics including the nature and types of history and history writing.   Emphasis is placed on engaging with a variety of primary materials and sources as an example of inquiry.  
Contact:  Trudy Becker,


Human Development

HD 2335, Principles of Human Services is an introduction to the basic concepts, techniques, and structures of the human services profession.  The course incorporates attention to information literacy, problem solving and the integration of learning within the context of human services.   
Contact:  Matthew Komelski,


International Studies and Political Science

IS/PSCI 1034, Introduction to International Studies and Political Science, introduces first-year students to the fields of International Studies and Political Science and their respective subfields.  It provides students with important information to help them succeed in their studies and prepares them for their future careers while focusing on the examination of concepts and issues pertaining to their fields of academic inquiry.  The course also introduces students to the basic principles of the research and writing process and focuses on the identification and search of bibliographic sources.  
Contacts:  Jennifer Hanratty,; Courtney Thomas, and Brandy Faulkner,


Religion and Culture, Foreign Languages and Literature and Philosophy

RLCL 1004, Investigation in Religion and Culture, is a first year experience course for students in the majors of religion and culture, the foreign languages and philosophy.  This course, also a general education course, engages students in critical investigations of appropriate issues through scholarly collaboration, with emphasis on reading, discussions and undergraduate research within the context of the theme of “Apocalypse:  The End of the World and the Beginning of College.”   
Contacts:  Aaron Ansell, and Matt Gabriele,


School of Performing Arts – Music, Theatre, Cinema

MUS/TA 1004, Performing Arts First Year Experience, provides experiences for first year students in which they gain knowledge of the philosophy and resources of the School of Performing Arts.  The intent is to support participation in the creative and scholarly life of the School’s programs, learn about the nature and scope of research in the creative arts, and begin to cultivate a common intellectual, analytical, and creative conversation with other students and faculty in the School while fostering a sense of community and understanding across disciplines.  
Contacts:  David McKee and Patricia Lavender,



SOC 1004, Introductory Sociology, provides first-year sociology and criminology majors in a section designated for them an introduction to sociological concepts and research as well as opportunities to begin framing social research questions.  Additionally, the course provides information about experiential opportunities and careers in sociology.   
Contact:  Donna Sedgwick,




NR 1234, First Year Experience in Natural Resources and Environment, for freshmen and NR 2984, CNRE Transfer Student Seminar, provide students with the opportunity to explore a variety of career pathways from the diverse programs in the college while adjusting to and benefiting from campus life.  With a focus on problem solving related to natural resources and environmental issues students engage in the work of the disciplines of the college.  The courses help students develop their sense of identity and relate to the college as their home as well as encouraging involvement in undergraduate research, internships, study-abroad, and other relevant programs. 
Contacts:  Serena Ciparis,  and Dean Stauffer,




Biological Sciences

BIOL 1004, Biology Orientation Seminar, aims to provide students with the tools 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:  Jack Evans,



CHEM 2984, Chemistry First year Experience, promotes the development of healthy relationships with the culture and content of the chemistry department and the disciplinary culture at large.  The course focuses on helping first-year students build relationships with faculty, upper class mentors and each other to prepare them to enter a more significantly diverse and interdisciplinary dependent scientific community.   
Contact:  Jeannine Eddleton,



GEOS 2024 and 2004, Geoscience First Year Experience, is an introduction to geoscientific reasoning methods, written and oral communication, professional expectations, and career options for students pursuing a degree in geosciences.  Scientific methodology, empirical reasoning, and the specific application of these methods to conducting investigations and communicating the results to a geoscientific audience.  This course series is designed to engage students through learning opportunities and intellectual and practical skills that are foundational to students’ development into lifelong learners.  
Contacts:  Madeline Schreiber,; Mark Caddick,, and Sterling Nesbitt,



Math 2984, Discovering Mathematics, I and II, is a fall-spring two course sequence that introduces 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 the question “what is mathematics?”  
Contact Jessica Hurdus,



PHYS 2325, fall semester, and PHYS 2326, spring semester, Seminar for Physics Majors, provide 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 courses expose students to the many arenas in which physicists work and help students develop career plans and goals.  
Contacts:  John Simonetti, and Alma Robinson,



PSYC 1024, Pathways to the Psychology Major, and PSYC 2984, Transfer Student Course in Psychology, are two innovative on-line courses for first year and transfer students.  Both provide a structured and student-centered introduction to the psychology major.  Incorporating some face to face interactions with on-line pedagogy the course requires students to interact with information about their major, Virginia Tech, and the career paths associated with psychology.   
Contacts:  Cindy Koziol, and Kurt Hoffman,


School of Neuroscience

NEUR 1004, Neuroscience Orientation Seminar, is an introduction to the field of neuroscience and includes academic and career planning for Neuroscience majors.  It includes exposure to areas of practice and research, and opportunities for education, training and employment in the field.  
Contact:  TBA



STAT 1004, Experience Learning from Data, gives first-year statistics students the opportunity to explore the world of statistics and personally and professionally transition into their first year of college. The course introduces students to theoretical and applied statistics preparing them for a professional career or graduate education by exploring large data sets and analyzing misconceptions and misunderstandings of statistical concepts.   Students also learn about the roles of statisticians in a multitude of careers.   
Contact:  Jane Robertson Evia,




MGT 1104, Foundations of Business, exposes first-year students to how business works in a free market economy by developing a foundational knowledge of various business functions and of current events occurring in today’s business world.  The course incorporates a micro-business project that maps to problem solving, inquiry and integration skills in addition to being a hands-on learning experience about the key functions of a business.    
Contact:  Steve Skripak,




UNIV 1824, Pathway to Exploring Your Future, helps first semester University Studies majors better navigate the university, engage in education, and succeed in their college experience.  It is designed to establish fundamental knowledge and skills that facilitate success during college and to serve students for the rest of their lives.  Various activities incorporate problem solving, inquiry and integration of knowledge.  
Contact:  Herbert Bruce,    




COS 1015 and 1016, Successful Starts in Science, are first year experience courses for students living in the Curie or DaVinci Living Learning Communities.   1015 is a fall course and 1016 is offered in the spring.  The courses provide resources and fundamental skills to enhance learning experiences and support academic development activities both in the classroom and within a science-themed residence hall.  Using a “learn by doing” approach students blend technical know-how with leadership, ethical, interpersonal and professional skills fundamental to the practice of science.  
Contact: Lori Blanc, lblanc@vt.ed



REAL 1004, Discovering Real Estate, is the first year experience course for the program in Real Estate.  It includes academic planning, career exploration, and resources for academic success.  There is an emphasis on leadership, team building, communication, the role of ethics and problem soling in the profession.  Both peer and professional mentors are incorporated in the course.
Contact:  TBA    

What is required to become and/or continue as a course that carries the First Year Experience (FYE) attribute?

Academic units (departments, schools, colleges) desiring to either initially propose a course as a First Year Experience (FYE) course or continue carrying the FYE attribute on an existing FYE course must submit a proposal on an annual basis to the Office of First Year Experiences.  Courses identified as FYE courses are included in the university metric – Entering Students Attending First Year Experience Classes – and are eligible for pedagogical and financial support.    

Additional information can be found in:

What is required to become and/or continue as a course that carries the First Year Experience (FYE) attribute? (PDF | 193KB)

First Year Experience Research Protocol Information

The Office of First Year Experiences encourages exploration of the scholarship of teaching, learning and assessment within the first year experiences courses.  For general questions and/or collaboration on conducting research in your first year experiences course contact Jennifer Culhane (  Please find the First Year Experiences IRB Protocol and Student Informed Consent template forms here and on the Virginia Tech IRB website.  The FYE IRB templates are to be used as a framework, editing is necessary before submission to  provide course specific details.  

First Year Experience IRB Protocol Template 2015-16 (DOC | 184KB)

First Year Experience IRB Consent Form Template 2015-16 (DOC | 228KB)

Dr. Mary Ann Lewis, Assistant Provost

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