The second most popular major among the newest Hokies on campus is University Studies, a temporary academic home for students who are undecided about their majors, are exploring several majors, or are preparing to apply to a competitive program. 

For those students in the Class of 2017, Hokie Horizons will help set them up for success during their college career and beyond.

Hokie Horizons: Pathways to Success is funded through the Office of First Year Experiences. It is specialized for first-year University Studies students to learn academic success skills, explore majors and career options, practice successful group work, and familiarize themselves with campus resources. 

The course is framed within the three broader First Year Experiences’ learning outcomes: problem solving, inquiry, and integration of skills.

“This course was redesigned this year to better accommodate the needs of our students by providing more practical experience for what students are likely to face in their other classes,” said Herbert Bruce, associate director for advising and First Year Experiences in the University Studies/University Academic Advising Center. “Not only will students be involved in their own career exploration, they will also develop a resume based on their intended major, learn about conducting college-level research and utilizing techniques to help them achieve their short-term and long-term goals. The planning and problem solving skills they learn in Hokie Horizons will be useful throughout their lives.”

The course utilizes university resources such as Electronic Pathways Planner, the Common Book, and ePortfolios.

Students take the class with their academic advisor, allowing the ability for a close faculty and student relationship. In addition, there is a peer mentor student for each section of the course.

Tamia Spells of Washington, D.C., a senior majoring in political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, took the course as an undecided student her first year at Virginia Tech. As a first-generation college student, she was not sure what to expect in college.

“It was an overwhelming experience, challenging at first. When I came across barriers, I couldn’t call home and ask what to do because they don’t know. They’ve never been here. That is the reason why I took the Hokie Horizons class in the first place, so I could learn about all of the resources on campus,” Spells said.

Last year as a junior, Spells served as a peer mentor for the course. “I remind the students that I was just here, sitting in that spot two years ago trying to decide on a major and do these assignments,” Spells said. “Many things shaped my experience and made it different from the next student, especially where I come from, being a minority, and being a woman. I wanted to make sure my students did not have a problem finding their place.”

Students can choose to take the course in the classroom, entirely online, or a hybrid of some face-to-face instruction and some online.

The diversity of course delivery formats makes it easier for students to learn skills to help them succeed in the classroom, and later on – a career. “The Hokie Horizon course is about developing skills of our students so they can be successful college students and effective employees in the future. We help students sharpen on eight of the 10 'know-how' skills that Bill Coplin writes in his book '10 Things Employers Want You to Learn in College,'” said Bruce.

The hope is that many of the newest Hokies will end the First Year Experiences course with an understanding of what the university has to offer so they can find their individual academic and personal path.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.