Students walking Across Drillfield

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.

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 Jill Sible (  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)