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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2015 / 09 

Virginia Tech student survey captures attitudes on experiential learning and mentoring

September 10, 2015

Image of Virginia Tech student during internship
Virginia Tech students recognize the importance of experiential learning, according to survey results from Gallup. Samuel Elizondo, a junior majoring in biological systems engineering, interned in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with the International Water Management Institute, working with native farmers to provide clean water systems.

Virginia Tech students recognize the importance of mentoring support and experiential learning as part of a transformative educational experience, according to results from a research collaboration with Gallup Inc. More than 4,000 current undergraduate and graduate students completed the survey, which measured their hope for the future, engagement and enthusiasm for learning, and overall well-being.

In questions about mentoring and meaningful support from faculty and staff, 57 percent of those surveyed indicated they have had at least one professor at Virginia Tech who made them excited about learning.

The survey results also underscore the importance students place on the university’s deep commitment to experiential learning, which includes such opportunities as undergraduate research, living-learning communities, internships, the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, athletics and service learning. A Gallup survey of Virginia Tech alumni found that graduates who strongly agreed that they had internships or jobs where they were able to apply what they were learning in the classroom and that were actively involved in co-curricular activities or organizations had higher levels of engagement at work later in life. 

The Gallup reports support goals for the student experience laid out by Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands. “Every student will have access to a personal mentor, whether that mentor is a Hokie alumnus or alumna, a faculty member or a staff member,” said Sands in remarks at his installation last fall. “We have a tremendous opportunity here for our devoted alumni to engage with our current students.”

Sands is also committed to providing more opportunities for internships for students. “All undergraduates should have the opportunity to participate in either an internship in a field related to their studies, or in a meaningful undergraduate research experience, or both,” said Sands.  “We have ample data to show that these opportunities open doors and raise ceilings.  We owe it to our students to make these experiences available.”  

Erica Palladino of Glen Head, New York, a senior majoring in professional writing with a minor in medicine and society in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, is looking forward to a career in the healthcare communications field. She has interned as a copywriter for Sudler and Hennessey and the Grey Healthcare Group Advertising Agency, both based in New York. She was also an undergraduate researcher for the Virginia Tech Vaccine Research Group, where she conducted research and interviews on selective vaccination. As a member of the Virginia Tech Medical Brigades Club, Palladino traveled to Ghana, Africa, to promote health care and provide medication to underprivileged communities.

“Academic learning gave me the tools I need. The internships allowed me to apply what I learned in the classroom and made me aware of job opportunities in the medical field,” Palladino said. In her role as ambassador for the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Palladino urges incoming students to “start thinking about your career early. Everything you learn at Virginia Tech will help you later.” Nearly half of seniors in the Gallup survey said they had a job or internship while at Virginia Tech.

“This report will serve as a baseline for comparison as we continue to build opportunities for high impact educational learning,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Patty Perillo. “We care for and are committed to our students wanting to make the Hokie experience as personally enlightening as it is academically rewarding. We have extraordinary faculty and staff who thoughtfully provide the right balance of challenge and support so that students can thrive. Students need to know that someone cares, that each experience is valuable, and that there is profound potential for learning in everything they do.”

Other Gallup survey results revealed student attitudes about Virginia Tech:

  • 72 percent of undergraduates said they were proud to be a student at Virginia Tech and were likely to recommend it to a friend.
  • 63 percent of students said they plan to graduate in four years or less.
  • 64 percent of seniors indicated that they were excited about learning.
  • 31 percent of students strongly agreed with the statement that “the town or area where I live during the school year is the perfect place for me.”
  • 39 percent indicated friends and family gave them positive energy every day.
  • 40 percent said someone in their life encourages them to be healthy.

“When we talk about the student experience at Virginia Tech, we talk about holistic learning,” said Perillo.  “Bridging formal learning with everyday activities, there are significant moments that are transformative in a student’s life, mentors that matter, and meaningful interactions that can make all the difference.”

The student portion of the Gallup survey follows a report released in August which surveyed nearly 14,000 Virginia Tech alumni. Results indicate that Virginia Tech graduates outpace the national average when it comes to thriving at work, having great careers, and leading lives that matter. The complete alumni report is available online. 

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.

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