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As a community of curious thinkers, we pursue science to serve humanity and the earth that we inhabit. We work to better the lives of our peers, support each other, and collaborate for a common goal. From the biological and life sciences to the quantitative and physical sciences, we are grounded in the stuff of stars. We look to the future and reach for the stars to see just how far we can go. We look towards Orion.

Integrating the Curricular and Co-Curricular

Orion helps students develop professional skills integral to the practice of science! Through shared courses, peer mentoring, mixers with alumni and professors, citizen science projects, service learning through science outreach, and fun study breaks, Orion students have easy access to academic support, professional development, and a close-knit community. Students apply as incoming first-years and have the option to stay multiple years by applying for leadership roles that focus on serving and mentoring younger students.

Located in New Residence Hall East, Orion is an academic and co-curricular program supported through a partnership with the College of Science, College of Agriculture and Life Science and Housing. Orion includes over 250 first to fifth year students from 35+ science majors in three colleges: College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Science, and College of Natural Resources and Environment. We aim to foster a small community of students who have a shared learning experience and a sense of belonging at a large university. We are committed to supporting retention and diversity in STEM at Virginia Tech.

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Our vision is to challenge, support, and inspire undergraduate science students to strive for academic and professional excellence. We will pursue this vision by giving our students opportunities to actively develop skills that are critical to the development of “T-shaped” professionals – with disciplinary depth as well as strength across the skills that the modern workforce demands. We will accomplish this by:

  • Helping first-year students successfully transition by providing academic support, skill development, and a sense of belonging to a small community within a large university.
  • Providing sophomores, juniors and seniors with opportunities to a) develop leadership and management skills in alignment with employer and graduate school expectations of scientific research and project managers, and b) serve Orion in ways that are integral to enhancing the first year experience.

It is important that applicants have a clear understanding that being a part of Orion is more than just living in the same residence hall with other science majors. Students are required to engage in the community in ways that require a time investment. All Orion first-year students are expected to:

  • Enroll in the Successful Starts in Science First Year Experience course series (one course each, fall and spring semesters).
  • Fall semester (COS 1015, 1 cr.): This course provides first-year students with a connection to a network of personal, academic, and professional support, as well as exposure to a wide range of opportunities presented by upper-class peers (e.g., study abroad, undergraduate research, internships, professional networking, and service learning through science outreach).
  • Spring semester (COS 1016, 1 cr.): First-year students develop collaborative teamwork, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills through participation in the Orion citizen science projects, which are managed and implemented by Orion’s student leaders. In the Peer-to-Peer Project model, first-year students collaborate with second- through fifth-year student leaders in different professional roles on citizen science projects designed to reflect the problem-oriented, peer-run, participatory practices of scientists.
  • Participate in community activities that focus on academic and professional development, as well as community-building social and service learning events.
  • Participate in a mentoring program in which first-year students share a sophomore mentor with up to six other first-year students in the community. Mentor groups will meet for one hour each week throughout the fall semester.

Please give these requirements careful consideration before applying to Orion, to ensure that this First Year Experience will be a good match for you. 

  • Gain a valuable perspective on college life through peer mentoring.
  • Enroll in a First Year Experience course series that promotes academic and professional development through curricular and co-curricular integration.
  • Participate in social and professional networking events.
  • Participate in citizen science, service learning, and science outreach.
  • Have the option to enroll in shared sections of General Chemistry.
  • Commit to living and participating within the LLC for one year at a time.

For additional information, contact the Orion Director at