When fall 2011 semester gets underway at Virginia Tech, a small group of freshmen will begin their studies already familiar with the campus, its academic resources, and some of their fellow students, thanks to a new annual program in the Pamplin College of Business aimed at helping students transition from high school to college.

The 12-day summer program called LEAP (Leadership, Excellence, and Academics in Pamplin) offers pointers on how to acquire effective study habits for the college environment, manage change, develop time management techniques, create a positive social network, and locate tutoring, counseling, health services, and other resources.

Also offered were campus and town tours, mock classroom experiences, career guidance, and meetings with faculty members, advisors, current students, and alumni.

“LEAP seeks to give students the skills and knowledge that will serve as a basis for their academic success at Virginia Tech and Pamplin,” said Candice Clemenz, Pamplin associate dean of undergraduate programs. “We expect it will have a positive impact on both student recruitment and retention.”

Student feedback, Clemenz said, has been “very positive.” Gabi Gutierrez, a freshman from Centreville, Va., noted: “Before coming here, I was really nervous about going to [Virginia] Tech and not knowing anyone.” LEAP, she wrote, allowed her to make new friends and connections with the faculty. “This was a great transition for me; I now feel prepared to take my first business core class, manage my time, and look for help at multiple centers.”

“LEAP gave us a sneak preview of Virginia Tech, Pamplin, and Blacksburg, which took much of the mystery out of our upcoming freshman year,” wrote Taylor Chandler, a freshman majoring in management from Virginia Beach, Va. It “opened doors” to faculty, peers, and services he would have never discovered or used on his own, noted Ben Tutko, a freshman from Ashburn, Va. The program has encouraged him to “participate in every facet of collegiate life,” noted Robert Mosley, a freshman majoring in business information technology from Newport News, Va.

LEAP was launched by Pamplin’s undergraduate programs office with the assistance of the college’s management and professional development office and the Pamplin Advisory Council’s student recruitment and placement committee. “The program was fully funded through the generous contributions of our advisory council members and/or their companies,” Clemenz said.

Two advisory council members in particular, she said, played an integral role in the development and implementation of LEAP’s agenda: Harrison Jones, a retired IBM executive, and Mark Spencer, an executive of GE Power and a 1992 finance alumnus who also met LEAP students during a recent visit to campus. Representatives from Altria, Ernst & Young, and General Electric were among those who led sessions.

“We provided an excellent experience for the students as a result of the involvement of many people within the college and throughout the university who generously contributed their time and expertise,” Clemenz said.

In addition to presentations from Pamplin faculty and advisors, the program included talks by members of other university departments, whose courses Pamplin freshmen may take as part of their liberal education curriculum. “We’re very grateful to the history, math, and physics professors who accepted our invitation to meet with the LEAP students.” Football coach Frank Beamer, she said, also gave a talk and a tour of the Merryman Center.

LEAP is free and open to all incoming Pamplin freshmen, who must apply and submit a short essay to be considered for the limited spaces. Of the 54 applications received, 32 students were offered admission, and 29 attended and completed the program. The students, Clemenz said, represented a diverse cohort in terms of race, gender, and backgrounds, including first-generation college student status.

“During the program, I saw hesitant, recent high school graduates develop into confident and enthusiastic business students,” said LEAP manager Melissa Baker.

“I would highly recommend LEAP to any incoming freshman. All of the staff are highly personable, and you can tell that they truly care about your success,” wrote Mindy Tang, a freshman in finance from Sterling, Va. Said Chandler: “It is one of the best decisions that an incoming Pamplin student could make.”



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