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Office of First Year Experiences

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Pathways to Success


The Office of First Year Experiences was established in July 2009. This newly established office 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.

Through a competitive grant process in spring 2013, the Office of First Year Experiences received proposals for funding. Fourteen proposals were offered funding for the fourth year of Pathways to Success. The Office of First Year Experience extends its gratitude to all faculty members who submitted proposals and would like to congratulate the following funded proposals.

2013-2014 Pathways to Success First Year Experience Projects

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.  Zachary 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, Agricultural & Extension Education, Animal & Poultry Science, Crop & Soil Environmental Science, 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 Your First Year Experience is designed to leverage current research in engineering education to better meet first year students’ learning and developmental needs.  This pilot program teaches students to identify and use engineering problem solving and design practices, integrate learning, and explore the field of engineering.  The program integrates advising with an exploration of the various engineering disciplines through discovery-based activities.
Contact: Dr. Tamara Knott,

College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences


Introduction to a Research University
Introduction to a Research University is a college-wide, interdisciplinary program for first year students and transfer students built around the high impact practice of undergraduate research, an ongoing commitment of the college.  The program exposes students to disciplinary specific and interdisciplinary undergraduate research early in their academic careers and promotes the value of research as a central component of the university’s mission.
Contact:  Dr. Rachel Holloway,


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. Candice Clemenz,


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 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,


Zip-Line to Success – A First Year Experience for Transfer Students in the College of Science
Zip-Line to Success is designed to meet the unique academic and developmental needs of transfer students to the College of Science – particularly those students transferring from community colleges – by helping students navigate academic planning and develop teamwork skills and a sense of community.
Contact:  Ms. Robin Lawson,  

University Academic Advising Center


Hokie Horizons: Pathways to Success
Hokie Horizons 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 Hokie Horizons are offered using one of three delivery modes: traditional classroom, online, and a hybrid of traditional classroom and online components. Academic advisors teach the Hokie Horizons 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,, Ms. Debbie Wilson,


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