Out-of-Classroom Student Engagement at Virginia Tech: The Effects of Race, Gender, and Class Year on Engagement Levels and Their Use as Predictors of Students’ Grades


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Virginia Tech


Engagement is one of the better predictors of learning and personal development among college students. College and university studies have identified differences in student engagement based upon demographic variables associated with students (Harper, Carini, Bridges, & Hayek, 2004; Kezar, 2006; Laird, et al., 2007).

The Division of Student Affairs at Virginia Tech was interested in out-of-classroom engagement levels of students based on race, gender, and class standing, and wanted to determine if student engagement could serve as a significant predictor of students’ grades. The findings revealed that:

  • Virginia Tech students are highly engaged in exercise activities, practicum or internship experiences, and community service and volunteer work
  • Majority students participated in physical fitness activities significantly more frequently than underrepresented students; however, underrepresented students participated in artistic activities more frequently than majority students
  • Women were significantly more likely than men to report planned or actual participation in artistic activities, internships, community service work, and study abroad programs, whereas men were more likely to participate in physical fitness activities
  • First-year students were significantly more likely to report planned or actual participation in artistic events, internships, community service work, learning communities, and study abroad programs
  • Physical fitness activities as well as planned or actual participation in internships and study abroad programs had a positive influence on students’ grades.

Based on these findings, an increased awareness of study abroad programs at Virginia Tech is recommended. In addition, it is advised that Residential Life develop a strategic plan for making learning communities a requirement of first-year students, and that Recreational Sports develop assessment to determine the reasons for higher majority student participation in physical fitness activities.



College students, Extracurricular activities