Survey finds Virginia Tech students thrive during their time on campus
Students at Virginia Tech are more likely than their peers to thrive during their experience on campus, outpacing the national average in terms of well-being, engagement, participation in co-curricular activities, and looking out for one another.
That’s according to a Gallup survey of Virginia Tech’s sophomore, junior, and senior students that was conducted last fall. A total of 2,041 students completed the survey, representing a participation rate of 10 percent of Virginia Tech’s sophomore, junior, and senior students. The survey builds on a Gallup survey of graduates three years ago.
The study found that Virginia Tech students tend to rank higher in five categories — student well-being, student engagement, student experiences, campus climate, and perceptions about educational value and quality — than college students nationwide, as well as students at large higher-education institutions.
“The survey indicates that Virginia Tech’s foundational values remain strong in our current undergraduate population, and our efforts to advance experiential education, diversity, and inclusion are aligned with needs of our students, our community, and the commonwealth,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands.
The results affirm what Hokies around the world already know intuitively: Virginia Tech’s blend of geography, hands-on educational experiences, service ethic, and tenacious attitude attract and result in students who hold tightly to their university, now as in the past.
“Virginia Tech undergraduates display the same engagement, spirit, and community ethos that has supported the success and well-being of Hokie graduates for generations,” Sands said.
Here are key findings from the Gallup survey:
- Virginia Tech students are more likely than students nationally to be thriving in each of five well-being elements. Key support and experiential learning experiences, such as believing professors support them and participating in co-curricular activities, drive student well-being at Virginia Tech.
- Virginia Tech students are more likely than students nationally to be engaged, surpassing the national average by 15 percentage points and large institutions by 18 points.
- Virginia Tech excels in providing experiential learning opportunities, and its students are extremely involved in co-curricular activities, ranking 13 percentage points higher than college students nationally and double that of students at other large institutions.
- Virginia Tech students believe fellow students look out for one another, with the percentage who strongly agree with that statement more than double the national average and at large institutions.
- Virginia Tech students hold more positive views than college students nationally about the quality of their education — 16 percentage points higher than college students nationally and 14 points ahead of students at other large institutions.
- A majority of students say Virginia Tech is a good place for racial/ethnic minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.
- The survey also reflected a disparity among underrepresented and traditionally marginalized student groups at Virginia Tech.
Those last two points validate Tech’s emphasis on diversity and inclusion initiatives, while also showing that it needs to improve in that area.
“Virginia Tech's motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) creates a unique obligation for the university to prepare all students to be leaders who are able to be of service to anyone, anywhere, and anytime,” said Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Vice Provost for Inclusion and Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke. “Students cannot be effective leaders without a strong cultural competency, understanding, and appreciation of differences in society.”
President Sands has set a goal that, by 2022, 40 percent of the incoming students will consist of underrepresented, first-generation, or lower-income students, and the Office for Inclusion and Diversity and other departments have instituted a series of initiatives to make it happen.
The Faculty Women of Color in the Academy National Conference now takes place at Virginia Tech, and the university hired 30 new underrepresented minority faculty members to begin this fall. More than 500 students of color participated this summer in pre-college summer programs for rising high school juniors and seniors, including the Black College Institute, the Hispanic College Institute, Native American Outreach, and the College Access Collaborative.
Additionally, the university is removing barriers of entry for underserved and underrepresented students in its application process, including shifting its calendar to provide students an earlier notification of an acceptance decision, allowing self-reporting of transcripts to lower costs, and building more support for scholarship students beyond their first year. It’s also moving to an application model developed by the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success that will give applicants more opportunity to communicate aspects that don’t necessarily show up in grades, extracurricular activities, or test scores.
“The most important aspect of all of this is that it’s about removing barriers, not lowering standards,” said Luisa Havens Gerardo, Virginia Tech’s vice provost for enrollment management, when the new application model was announced in June. “One of the most difficult challenges I’ve encountered as an enrollment manager who’s a true believer in access is actually translating to people that access and excellence are not mutually exclusive. It is about finding that high-potential, brilliant student and provide not only access but also the opportunity to realize that potential.”
This fall’s incoming class of 6,400 first-year students includes 34 percent from underrepresented minority groups or underserved populations, including first-generation students, veterans, and low-income students. That’s a 15-percent increase from the previous year.
Incoming students will also take an online course that reinforces Virginia Tech’s values and Principles of Community.
“The online mandatory pre-enrollment course on diversity helps all students understand the importance and relevance of our Principles of Community and ensure that we have a welcoming, affirming, and inclusive living, learning, and working community for everyone,” said Pratt-Clarke. “Creating such a community is consistent with goals of InclusiveVT.”
InclusiveVT is Virginia Tech’s institutional and individual commitment to Ut Prosim in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence.
In addition to the university’s emphasis on diversity and inclusion initiatives, the study found that Virginia Tech students go beyond participating in clubs and organizations — which they do at a rate of more than 30 percentage points higher than college students nationwide and more than 33 percentage points among students at other large institutions.
Rather, nearly half of Virginia Tech’s students — 46 percent — hold a leadership position in a club or organization, outpacing the national metric of 29 percent and a 25-percent level among students at large institutions. Participation includes intramural sports as well as the more than 800 clubs and organizations at the university.
“When we talk about the student experience at Virginia Tech, it’s really about holistic learning,” said Patty Perillo, vice president for Student Affairs. “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.”