First Year Experiences: Pamplin first-year students get a quick start to business
The most memorable course of his first year, says Nicholas Galdos of Alexandria, Va., a sophomore majoring in business, was Quick-Start to Business.
“This class really gets you thinking about the direction of your future,” he says, “not only at Virginia Tech — by connecting you with all the different organizations and people — but also outside of [Virginia] Tech, in terms of summer internships and post-grad job opportunities.”
The course makes first-year students aware of business concepts, practices, and applications, he says — so students can see the relevance of what they’re studying as well as “determine whether or not pursuing a business major is right for them.”
The course is “a great introduction to the Pamplin College of Business," says classmate Katy Verboncoeur of Potomac, Md., a sophomore majoring in business. “I really enjoyed it.”
It also provided a good foundation for college life, teaching her how to study and manage her daily schedule, among other things, she recalls. “It gave me confidence that I could tackle the course work moving forward.”
Samuel Robertson of Glade Spring, Va., a junior majoring in finance, says the course offered “a very accurate picture of what our college experience would contain.”
Quick-Start to Business — BUS 2984 — was first offered in fall 2011 as a First Year Experiences or Pathways to Success program, says Candice Clemenz, associate dean for Pamplin undergraduate programs.
The course immerses students in a learning environment that is designed to develop and support their decision-making skills, particularly in using technology in business settings and honing information literacy skills, she says.
The two-credit hour class, taught once a year during the fall semester, introduces students to business problem solving, explores majors and careers, and emphasizes Pamplin’s scholastic expectations of its students.
“We solicit student feedback throughout the course for the purpose of continually refining the content, structure, and delivery,” Clemenz says. “Quick-Start not only gets students excited about their futures in business, it helps them to successfully transition from high school to college.”
Through class assignments, Robertson says he and other students not only learned basic business terms and concepts and “followed” important companies in business but also met instructors in each Pamplin department, improved time management and other necessary academic skills, and became acquainted with such campus resources as the Student Success Center and the Writing Center as well as the Honor Code and Honor Court.
The program has been a success, due in part to Steve Skripak, associate dean for graduate programs in Pamplin, who taught the course in 2012 and was praised by students for his interactive teaching style.
“Professor Skripak was one of the most engaging professors,” recalls Verboncoeur. “He incorporated technology in creating an environment of fast paced exchange between the students and his lecture. He also incorporated current events with what material we were learning at that time.”
“My teaching approach,” says Skripak, “was to try to use a combination of in-class exercises, videos, and even skits by students in the theatre department, to keep things upbeat, lively, and interesting — in a class of 400-plus students, it is easy for distractions to take over.”
Particularly popular offerings were discussion panels — senior students and recent graduates who spoke about the various majors and their career possibilities. “The course feedback confirmed the value of this approach,” Skripak says, “although it was already obvious, judging from the number of students who hung around after class to meet and ask questions of the panelists.”
“Hearing from guest speakers and being able to approach them after class was invaluable,” says Galdos, who adds that the scavenger hunt assignment helped him get to know where everything was on campus.
Galdos also appreciated Skripak’s suggestions to him to check out organizations for students interested in investing, such as SEED, BASIS, and the Society of Individual Investors as well as finance faculty member Mike Kender, a former analyst at Citigroup.
The course has its challenges, however, for the instructor, including the wide variation in business knowledge among the students.
Willie Jester, who will be teaching the course this year, plans to use an approach similar to Skripak’s in its focus on interactive communication and practical examples. In addition to inquiry and problem solving, the course will emphasize integrity, leadership, communication, and teamwork — all critical to success in business studies and a business career, Jester says.
“We will cover the aspects of business that touch each discipline within Pamplin, providing students an opportunity to further prepare themselves for their transition into school and the real world of business.”