Virginia Tech adopted the Aspirations for Student Learning to provide the very best learning for our students—from orientation through graduation, both in and out of the classroom. We want students to do more, be more, and aspire to become their best self. The Division of Student Affairs advances the Aspirations for Student Learning in numerous and intentional ways. There are five specific initiatives that are division wide. They are:
The Keystone Experience provides a way for students to explore, practice, and live the Aspirations for Student Learning and helps students make the most of their time at Virginia Tech. What they are learning—both inside and outside the classroom—interacts with who they are becoming as a person. The Aspirations for Student Learning represent the division’s aspirations for and expectations of Virginia Tech students, and the Keystone Experience helps them recognize and commit to thriving and meaningful life-long well-being.
At Virginia Tech, students are encouraged to focus on their gifts and talents, honing them into true strengths. This is a departure from the status quo, which insists upon focusing on weaknesses and attempting to elevate them; research shows that people are much more engaged when they work within their strengths. The Division of Student Affairs is offering an assessment tool that will provide students with the knowledge and vocabulary to describe their talents and the areas in which they excel.
As part of the implementation of strengths-based education, individuals and organizations from throughout the Virginia Tech community are using the StrengthsFinder assessment tool to better understand themselves, their colleagues, and how they work together as a team. A range of areas — from fraternities to resident advisors to teaching assistants to the Virginia Tech Foundation, Inc. — are finding it valuable in a variety of settings.
InclusiveVT is a framework that creates active, intentional engagement of Virginia Tech communities. InclusiveVT is anything that advances inclusion at Virginia Tech.
As part of the new InclusiveVT approach, the university’s deans, vice presidents, and other senior leaders were asked to identify at least three initiatives designed to advance inclusion and diversity within their scope of responsibility. The initiatives were strongly influenced by the suggestions offered at the information forum held in September 2014. Leaders submitted the ideas to the President’s Inclusion and Diversity Executive Council in late fall 2014.
Building on extensive research, Gallup, Inc. defines well-being as having five distinct elements: purpose, social, financial, community, and physical well-being. At Virginia Tech, we give added emphasis to emotional well-being by adding it as a sixth specific well-being focus, unique to our community.
Gallup says that well-being is “not only about being happy or wealthy, nor is it only synonymous with physical health. Rather, it is about the interaction and interdependency between many aspects of life, such as finding fulfillment in daily work and interactions, having strong social relationships and access to the resources people need, feeling financially secure, being physically healthy and taking part in a true community.”
The Division of Student Affairs is committed to creating opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to increase their sense of well-being in all its aspects. Virginia Tech was recently named the fittest college in America by The Active Times. The rankings were based on fitness and wellness factors, including athletic facilities, team sports participation, campus dining, and overall quality of student life.
“Our environment promotes activeness, be it physical activity, sustainable initiatives, or group dynamics,” said Chris Wise, assistant vice president for student affairs. “Through that culture our students are aware of the importance of their overall health and wellness. As I more actively work with other health and wellness areas, I hope to increase our impact on students’ well-being.”
High Impact Practices
High-impact educational practices take many different forms, depending on learner characteristics and on institutional priorities and contexts. These practices include first-year seminars and experiences, common intellectual experiences, learning communities, writing-intensive courses, collaborative assignments and projects, undergraduate research, diversity/global learning, service learning, community-based learning, internships, and capstone courses and projects.
“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.”
In partnership with President Sands and Provost Rikakis, the Division of Student Affairs is committed to creating and supporting intentional opportunities for students to actively engage in high-impact practices.
Examples of existing Virginia Tech experiential learning opportunities include undergraduate research, living-learning communities, internships, the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, athletics, and service learning.