The Pamplin Engage Undergraduate TA Program is supported by the Pamplin TA Training Program, which includes 16 hours of hands-on training to practice developing skills in communication, pedagogy, technical education platforms, and diversity and inclusion. Photo by Alexa Briehl for Virginia Tech.

Public accounting firm BDO has routinely participated in the annual Business Horizons Career Fair, which has served students for over 40 years as the largest career fair within the Pamplin College of Business and one of the largest career fairs at Virginia Tech. Organized and hosted by Pamplin Career Services, with the support of the Business Horizons Student Team, it is recognized as one of the best career fairs in the country by evaluations from recruiters who attend. Business Horizons offers both Pamplin and all Virginia Tech students the opportunity to connect with over 150 top recruiting organizations in both the Fall and Spring semesters. 

In concert with the Business Horizons Career Fair, BDO was searching for supplementary ways to engage with Pamplin College of Business students. When the chance to help sponsor the Pamplin Engage Undergraduate TA Program presented itself, BDO jumped at the opportunity.

Developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pamplin Engage Undergraduate TA Program initially provided undergraduate teaching support for faculty and students in the new blended learning environment of the fall 2020 semester. The program now supports online, in-person, and hybrid courses by engaging high-performing students as undergraduate teaching assistants (UTAs) who assist faculty in the development and implementation of courses, fostering a culture of mentorship in learning. These UTAs work alongside faculty to facilitate and help develop engaging materials, along with providing traditional support such as grading and office hours.

“The students who are chosen to be undergraduate teaching assistants are some of the best students in Pamplin, so the opportunity to get involved with the program was an obvious choice for BDO,” explained BDO Campus Recruiter Reagan Hicks.

Hicks, a 2017 Pamplin graduate, added that teaching assistants were instrumental in her success.

“Without the help from the teaching assistants in some of my courses, I don’t know if I would have been able to pass.”

All participating UTAs receive training on effective learning strategies, practice in the use of online platform tools, and best practice approaches to student engagement and collaboration. The training and experience the UTAs gain are highly marketable skill sets in demand in the workplace.

“We are always looking for well-rounded students, and those who are involved in Pamplin Engage demonstrate a wide variety of skills and characteristics we are looking for in our new hires,” Hicks added.

As part of their support for the program, BDO representatives were able to meet with Pamplin Engage students and share information regarding the public accounting industry as well as present a workshop on interviewing tips and techniques.

“Recruitment does not always mean interviewing and hiring immediately, but also educating students on the different opportunities available to them and how to best prepare for them,” said Hicks.

Michelle Seref, Pamplin Engage Undergraduate TA Program coordinator, leads a class of undergraduate teaching assistants at the Pamplin TA Training Program. Photo by Alexa Briehl for Virginia Tech.

In spring 2023, the Pamplin Engage Undergraduate TA Program supported 95 instructors across the college with more than 200 UTA positions. The program is unique to Virginia Tech due to its TA Training Program and centralized management of UTAs among all Pamplin departments.

The Pamplin TA Training Program includes 16 hours of workshops developing skills in communication, pedagogy, technical education platforms, and diversity and inclusion. The UTAs receive hands-on training to practice these pedagogical skills, from mentoring students to setting up virtual office hours to making classrooms more accessible to a diverse student body.

“I have learned and strengthened many of my skills due to my participation in the program,” said Business Information Technology senior Fadi Ghanem, who served as a lead UTA since fall of 2022. “Pamplin Engage has taught me a lot about leadership and responsibility. Helping oversee such a large and important program, I feel a duty to do my best for all the UTAs. I feel as though I will be using my experience from the Pamplin Engage Undergraduate TA Program in my upcoming internship and future career.”

According to Ghanem, Pamplin Engage benefits more than just the UTAs.

“I think the program is extremely beneficial to both Pamplin faculty and students,” he explained. “For faculty, the UTAs are a huge help. I have seen how much work the UTAs have done to help their faculty and make their jobs easier. I have heard from many faculty members how much they depend on their UTAs.”

He continued, “Likewise, the program also is highly beneficial to Virginia Tech students. Many students feel more comfortable asking their UTAs for help as opposed to speaking to faculty or attending office hours.”

For program partner BDO, the impact of the Pamplin Engage Undergraduate TA Program goes beyond Pamplin Hall and the Virginia Tech campus.

“Meeting and working with students through Pamplin Engage is much more impactful than the short time we can meet students at a career fair,” explained Hicks. “We are in a more intimate environment with the time to present more in-depth who we are as a company and what we can offer students. All in all, it is a mutual relationship where we become better connected with the students.”

Thanks to the support of sponsors like BDO, the Pamplin Engage Undergraduate TA Program will continue in fall 2023 with approximately 185 UTAs covering 215 course sections for about 90 faculty members. Openings for spring 2024 undergraduate teaching assistant positions will be announced by the Pamplin Engage Undergraduate TA Program in October.