If you ask him, Eric Luu would agree that the last thing he expected after turning down a communications internship was that his decision would end up turning into a professional video job featuring the new Pathways General Education program at Virginia Tech.

However, when the Office of General Education, one of the departments under Undergraduate Academic Affairs, needed help making some videos to represent possible paths for students under Pathways, that is exactly what happened.

An unexpected partnership

Luu, currently a senior majoring in multimedia journalism with a focus in marketing, had previously interviewed with the Office of General Education for an internship position as a student program assistant for communications. He ultimately ended up taking a different job with more of a focus in video editing, his intended career path after college. Not one to leave a job unfinished, Luu recommended his friend Alexa Keeler, a dual public relations and international relations major who was a perfect fit for the writing intensive position.

Weeks later, Luu was tasked with creating videos showcasing the different paths students could take to complete the Pathways program in meaningful ways. These paths were based on scripts created by Keeler and Rachel Kinzer Corell, a program support specialist in Undergraduate Academic Affairs.

“I loved that I was able to have the professional opportunity to assist with scripting and work on developing the videos from start to finish,” Luu said of his experience working with Keeler and Corell. “It was also both exhilarating and challenging having to use my network to find student actors, complete the task on a professional deadline, and shape the videos in a way that both satisfied Undergraduate Academic Affairs as well as myself.”

Hobby turned career path

Luu is quick to point out that his passion for videography became a hobby and a work skill at almost the same time.

“I got into videography when I was younger because I would make videos of me breakdancing," he said. "When I got to college, I gained the technical video editing skills necessary to finally create videos of all the wild ideas in my head.”

Some of Luu’s “wild ideas” came by way of his experiences at the university, as he found himself — and his camera skills — in demand.

“I came to Virginia Tech with very little experience, but the more classes and organizations I joined, I often found myself getting behind the camera to help the organizations I was a part of,” he said.

During his time at Virginia Tech, Luu continued to develop his video expertise working for student organizations, including The Flowmigos, the university’s breakdance club that Luu founded during his first year. In addition, he serves as this year’s creative director for the university’s hip hop club, Digging in the Crates, and he has also worked as a multimedia editor for the Collegiate Times.

Professional collaboration

To create the videos, Luu and Keeler collaborated with Undergraduate Academic Affairs staff, as well as University Studies Director Zack Underwood and College of Architecture and Urban Studies Director of Academic Advising Rob Jacks. In the end, creative control was up to the two students. As Underwood said, “I am proud to say that these videos were created by students, for students, as well as for their family members.”

Luu and Keeler used the videos to highlight the shared and customizable learning experience that Pathways General Education provides.

“Even though courses and major curriculum vary from discipline to discipline, these videos provide a consistent viewpoint. Specifically, the videos provide an initial look at the Pathways to General Education curriculum not only to University Studies students, but to any student considering what his or her academic path could look like,” said Underwood.

Both Underwood and Jacks saw that these undergraduate students had a knack for marketing Pathways in a way that makes sense to their peers.  

“Working with current students to create these videos was very rewarding," Jacks said. "Eric and Alexa were incredibly professional and used their experiences as Virginia Tech students to make something that would be relatable and interesting to incoming students and families.”

Jacks also added that a key benefit of having the scenarios videos is that the conversation about different general education pathways for students can begin before new student orientation.

“These videos allow us to engage our incoming students and their families in a way in which we haven't been able to in the past. Each of our incoming first-year students will watch the architecture scenario video before registering for orientation and come to us with some insight into the path they are about to choose, so we can incorporate that into their academic plan from the very beginning,” he said.

A learning experience

The resulting videos do more than reveal Luu and Keeler’s creativity with content development and their ability to relate to their peers via video creation. Perhaps more importantly, the videos show what the Hokie spirit of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) looks like when students learn through a “real life” professional experience in service of other students at the university.

Reflecting back on her experience, Keeler said, “We learned a lot more about check sheets than we thought was possible.”

As a primary writer during the script process, Keeler worked with both major and minor check sheets to develop the student scenarios for the videos. “We had to make sure we were creating scenarios that could really work for students and hopefully give them potential ideas for their own academic career paths,” Keeler said.

Once a general sketch of the scenario existed, Luu helped develop the scenes in more detail and prepared to direct the videos. “My favorite part was definitely highlighting student leaders to play roles in the videos because like many of us, they did not have a straightforward path in choosing their majors,” he said.

A finished product

The three scenarios eventually scripted by Keeler and filmed by Luu followed the recommendation of Stephen Biscotte, director of General Education, to include three very different majors: university studies, architecture, and business. First, “Nick” takes viewers through his experience at Virginia Tech starting in university studies and ending with a major in human development. “Abram” then tells how his interests in entrepreneurship result in him pursuing the organizational leadership minor in addition to his major in architecture. After that, “Jenna” speaks about her experience as a business major who is also seeking the PPE minor in philosophy, politics, and economics.

As the first academic year of Pathways General Education draws to a close, the Office of General Education is considering other scenarios like these to highlight the many paths students might take through the curriculum.

“Go figure, but undergraduate students can do a better job of capturing the undergraduate student experience than we can," Biscotte said. "With Eric graduating, we need to find another student videographer ASAP.”

To watch the finished videos created by Eric Luu featuring Pathways General Education Scenarios, please visit the Pathways scenarios page.

Written by Rachel Kinzer Corell