Underrepresented students sample a taste of the Calhoun Discovery Program

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More than 40 high school students from across the commonwealth recently joined the Virginia Tech Honors College for a sneak peek of its newest initiative, the Calhoun Discovery Program.   “We welcomed high school students from diverse backgrounds to Hillcrest Hall for a first look at the Calhoun Discovery Program,” said Michelle Kovac, program manager of the Calhoun Discovery Program.  “It was our goal to show students a collaborative learning environment, help them understand the participating degree programs, and give them an opportunity to network with faculty and industry partners.”

The Calhoun Discovery Program partnered with College Access Collaborative (CAC), a Virginia Tech initiative that works with communities that typically graduate a lower number of college-bound high school students.   Through CAC, high school guidance counselors nominated students to attend Preview Weekend.   “We are thrilled that first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students have a chance to see what the Calhoun Discovery Program, the Honors College, and Virginia Tech have to offer,” said Karen Eley Sanders, associate vice provost for college access.   ” The full-tuition scholarships for all students accepted into the program will certainly make the Hokie experience accessible to more students.”

In Hillcrest Hall’s future Discovery Studios, faculty and partners with the Calhoun Discovery Program organized mock studios that taught concepts from the field of engineering, science, communications, business, and industrial design in interactive ways.

A team of employees and undergraduate innovation fellows from Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies (TLOS) introduced the students to a variety of emerging technologies for teaching and learning, including 3D printing and virtual reality.

“We love showcasing some of the advanced technology that is available at Virginia Tech,” said Quinn Warnick, senior director of innovation and outreach for TLOS.  “It feels natural for TLOS to support a program that aims to leverage technology to make a difference in the world.”

TLOS demonstrations challenged the students to consider the strengths and limitations of the traditional classroom and to imagine how classroom technologies might evolve over the next decade.  TLOS provided some of the students their first opportunity to wear a virtual reality headset and interact with objects in a virtual space.   At the end of the demonstrations, each student went home with a 3D-printed Virginia Tech keychain.

“By the end of the weekend, students were expressing excitement about the program and Virginia Tech as a whole,” said Kovac.  “I think it helped all of us to get a glimpse of the innovative and collaborative curriculum that the Calhoun Discovery Program is creating.”

“The Calhoun Discovery Program Preview Weekend offered a diverse cohort of students the opportunity to feel more comfortable about education as a search process – discovering the world, others and, in the process, themselves- rather than education as a means to a defined end,” said Thanassis Rikakis, founding chair of the Calhoun Discovery Program.  “Seeing faculty, staff, donors and industry partners embrace this approach to education inspired the students to share their own ‘search and discover’ aspirations and dreams and realize that VT can be a home for those dreams.   Through this, students were able to appreciate that diversity is a crucial component towards multifaceted discovery.”

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