2016 Aspirations Fellows
Aspirations Fellows are students who embody the Aspirations for Student Learning. Being named a Aspirations Fellow is a unique honor and coveted distinction. Selected Fellows have the opportunity to further develop the Experience Virginia Tech program, mentor students in the early stages of discovering the aspirations while developing their own Virginia Tech experience, receive a distinction cord for graduation, and be celebrated at an annual spring induction ceremony.
Senior | Industrial and Systems Engineering
“That phone call was a turning point in my life. Initially I deciphered the message as ‘You’re burned. Give up.’ The timing of the message was inopportune as successes came to a screeching halt. However, the real message was something much deeper. When you can walk away from a time so devastating by placing one foot in front of the other, you soon realize that a step leads to a stride and that stride leads to a leap.”
Achiever | Belief | Competition
During his time at Virginia Tech, Patrick Acker has pushed his mental and physical boundaries when it comes to balancing academics, founding a cross country cycling organization, cycling solo across the United States, and additionally founding a company that will soon provide supply chain services to major corporations. This “balancing act” and learning how to persevere on the path to reaching these goals were direct results of being a member of the Freshman Leadership Experience (FLEX) at Virginia Tech. FLEX provided critical resources in the forms of connections and a tightly knit support group, helping Patrick accomplish goals that stemmed from simply asking, “What if…?” Challenging topics in engineering, business, and computer science coursework has given Patrick the confidence and motivation to conquer cross-disciplinary issues often presented when “starting up” a new company. Patrick looks forward to continuing this work full-time post-graduation.
Mentor: Mike Abbott, owner and managing editor of Cambrian Design and Development
Senior | Political Science
“There are so many people on this planet and it’s hard to internalize that we truly are unique. I think we all have the ability to be unique but it’s a trait that has to be nurtured. The alternative to being unique is being average, but what does that really mean? To me it means falling into the lowest common denominator patterns.”
Belief | Empathy | Learning
Despite coming from a meek background, Samuel Aguilar-Chavez has been able to attend Virginia Tech due to strong community support back in his hometown of Winchester, Virginia. He is in deep gratitude to the many friends and faces from John Handley High School and Lord Fairfax Community College that oversaw his early academic and personal development; without them, he wouldn’t be here. Samuel came to Virginia Tech with an expectation of further personal and intellectual growth, and thus far the school has exceeded his expectations. Through the university, he has met and connected with a vibrant community that supports and nurtures student development and excellence. Due to that community and their variety of support, Samuel has been able to take part in various advocacy, political, and academic undertakings with ease. The many friends and community Samuel has connected with during his time here cement the university in his life and heart.
Mentor: Dr. Xavier Medina Vidal, former Assistant Professor of Political Science
First Year | University Studies
“I believe that everything happens for a reason. If you had come to me a couple years ago and told me this, I would have been furious.”
Connectedness | Restorative | InputIntellection | Empathy
Nivedha Balan is a freshman at Virginia Tech but still needs to pick a major. She is also in SERVE, a living-learning community based in Pritchard. It’s mandatory to take a leadership class alongside the service they partake in, but neither is a burden to Nivedha. She loves the class because it makes her question things she never even thought twice about. She enjoys service because she gets to spend time with and learn from little kids and also mentor prospective Tech students. Nivedha has learned a lot through her volunteer experiences, and she can’t wait to continue expanding her horizons!
Mentor: Catherine Cotrupi, Assistant Director for Student Engagement with VT Engage
December ’15 Graduate | Agricultural Sciences
“Service to me is not just doing for others but connecting and growing together in community. Through service we can make the best better.”
Belief | Positivity | DeveloperResponsibility | Achiever
Kelly Berry is a recent graduate of Virginia Tech. She graduated in December of 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences; previously she obtained an associate’s degree also through Virginia Tech in the Agricultural Technology program. Kelly is from Orange, Virginia, and she is the fourth and final Hokie in her family. She is the founder and executive of 209 Manna Ministries, which is a food pantry just for Virginia Tech students. Kelly receives joy being able to connect with the students who come in, and she feels as if she is a part of their Virginia Tech experience. Kelly is a volunteer with Fieldstone United Methodist Church, where she helps lead the youth group. She received an Aspire! Award in November of 2013, and was later inducted into Gamma Sigma Delta, an agricultural honors fraternity. Kelly will be attending Jefferson College of Health Sciences’ physical therapy assistant program this fall. Her plan is to continue to lead and volunteer with 209 Manna Ministries as she continues her education. Kelly’s dream is to become a hippo-therapist and work with kids that have disabilities doing physical therapy on horseback. She enjoys volunteering at other local food pantries and organizations, Virginia Tech football, riding horses, and being a part of Wesley, the United Methodist faith community at Virginia Tech.
Mentor: Reverend Bret Gresham of the Wesley Foundation
Senior | Food Science and Technology & Biological Systems Engineering
“When I think of Courageous Leadership, I think of someone willing to put themselves in the position of others. It takes courage to step out of yourself and feel someone else’s vulnerability. It is much easier to try and be above it all as a leader and feel nothing for those around you.”
Learner | Adaptability | DeveloperInput | Achiever
Kevin Carney is originally from the Philadelphia area and is working on a dual degree in food science & technology and biological systems engineering, hoping to go into food engineering. While he is a senior now, he is taking a fifth year to finish off his degree in biological systems engineering. Kevin has spent the past four years living in Hillcrest Hall where he has also been an RA for the past two years. Hillcrest has been his home away for home during his years here, and he has grown very attached to that old building. Kevin did spend a short time away the spring of his sophomore year when he studied abroad in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, with the President Global Scholars program. Kevin Carney is very excited to be one of the first Aspirations Fellows!
Mentor: Joseph Welsh, Residential Learning Coordinator
Junior | Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise
“I believe that shedding a couple tears into your pillow when you think about the universe is okay. The universe is huge and scary and I love it.”
Positivity | Futuristic | Woo | Harmony | Input
Veronica Demarest is a Hokie, foodie, gym-rat, nature lover, hiker, photographer, friend, and animal lover. Trying new things excites Veronica, and sharing those new experiences with friends and loved ones makes it all the better. Tech has an unwritten guideline that students will grow during their college experience, and she has done just that. There is plenty growing left to accomplish, and Veronica is thankful for the people she met here to help move her toward that growth and success. Veronica has no idea what she wants to do with her life; she just knows that she wants to do it all with the people that support her. Another way to put that would be to say Veronica likes adventure, even if she doesn’t know where she is going. Just give her good people to do it with.
Mentor: Melissa McLevain, Residential Learning Coordinator
Senior | Psychology
“I believe in others and the fact that we have greatness within; sometimes it just takes an extra chance to show it. Give second chances to people. You never know what they might do with them.”
Restorative | Ideation | CommandContext | Activator
The past four years have just been so special to Ryan Hopkins here at Virginia Tech. He is from a really small town and never had many friends or people he was close with. However, the community here has welcomed Ryan in since his very first day on campus, and he has felt so at home ever since. This university and the incredible people that make it so special have given Ryan so much that he is forever grateful for, and he has been so lucky to be able to work with and learn from so many different parts of campus. Through this, Ryan has seen how many extremely special students the university has, and, even though Virginia Tech is a large university, it feels smaller and more of his home with every single person he meets. These people are the reason why Virginia Tech degrees are so treasured and why so many students have fallen in love with the idea of being a Hokie. Ryan knows he certainly has.
Mentor: Dakota Farquhar-Cadell, Assistant Director of New Student and Family Programs
Senior | Statistics & Economics
“I believe in leading the march. I believe that if there is a choice to do something or do nothing, the answer is obvious. I believe that in order to make positive change in our society, we must be bold in our efforts to be leaders and to create leaders in our communities.”
Achiever | Woo | CommunicationCompetition | Includer
For the last four years, Claire Kelling has coordinated Take Back the Night at Virginia Tech—the largest event for raising awareness of gender-based violence on campus—and has advocated for this movement at the regional, national, and international levels. She also serves as the president of Womanspace+, the longest-running feminist activist organization at Virginia Tech. Claire volunteers in her community through the Clothesline Project, which is a visual testimony to the shattering effect of gender-based violence and its impact on society. In addition, Claire seeks to empower people through her role as a middle school volleyball coach and a coach for Special Olympics. In the fall of 2016, Claire will begin pursuing her Ph.D. in statistics in an effort to bring the power of data analytics to social and economic justice issues.
Mentor: Susan Anderson, senior instructor in mathematics and faculty advisor for Womanspace+
Sophomore | Applied Economic Management
“It is a much greater challenge to consciously excuse yourself from your tantalizingly full table to see that even your next-door neighbor’s plate (and therefore his stomach) may be empty.”
Achiever | Input | ContextStrategic | Relator
Meghan McLoughlin is a sophomore from Poolesville, Maryland, and she is studying Applied Economic Management in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Upon beginning her undergraduate career, Meghan was unsure of what she wanted to study and where she wanted her future career path to take her. With some guidance provided by her first-year experience course and some support from faculty mentors, Meghan discovered her previously untapped passion for agriculture and has since made her home within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Now, through her involvement with the Alpha Zeta fraternity, Leadership Tech, and Agriculture Future of America, Meghan is working to shape herself as both a leader and an ambassador within the field of agriculture. As an extension of her interest in agriculture, Meghan has also developed a passion for hunger relief. She has strived to embrace the spirit of Ut Prosim by raising awareness about global food disparities and engaging members of her community in both local and global hunger relief efforts. As a Aspirations Fellow, Meghan looks forward to further developing her understanding of the Aspirations for Student Learning and helping others to adopt the principles of the Keystone Experience to enhance their own undergraduate careers at Virginia Tech.
Mentor: Heather Evans, Director of the Leadership Education Collaborative
Sophomore | International Studies & Geography
“One look, one touch, one simple smile, is all it takes to make a change. I believe that everyone can make a positive change in the world. It all starts with the power of a smile.”
Input | Belief | RelatorDeveloper | Competition
Maddie Mitcham is a current sophomore with a double degree in international studies and geography. She also is working towards minors in both Spanish and leadership studies on the Military Track. Maddie hails from Virginia Beach, Virginia, but in her mind now, Blacksburg is her home. Over the past year and a half she has become involved in different areas on campus. Maddie is a proud member of the Corps of Cadets where she is also a member of the Army ROTC program. She is a part of the Esprit de Corps, where she has the opportunity to represent the corps on the field at all home football games and a variety of other athletic events. Maddie also represents the Corps of Cadets through class programs. She serves as the Cadet Member-at-Large for the Class of 2018. Currently, Maddie serves as the director of Internal Affairs for the Student Alumni Associates, which is a group of 100 of the most spirited Hokies. This upcoming summer, Maddie will have the joy of welcoming new Hokies into the Virginia Tech community as an Orientation Leader and Hokie Camp Leader. In addition to her activities directly involved with the Virginia Tech community, she is a volunteer with the non-profit organization Operation Smile, which goes to developing nations to fix cleft lips and palates for free. As a volunteer with this organization, Maddie is able to work with people from all over the world.
Mentors: Laura Wedin, Students Program Director for Student Alumni Associates
Tom Tillar, former Vice President for Alumni Relations
Senior | Public Relations
“I believe in the power of quiet leadership…I believe in the power of a whisper and the echo it can project.”
Input | Intellection | LearnerIndividualization | Strategic
Ariana Mollers is a senior (almost) ready to graduate this upcoming May. After graduation, she will be attending the University of Georgia to pursue a master of education in college student affairs administration. Her passion for student affairs stems from working at Career and Professional Development as a Peer Career Advisor, serving as secretary for the Student Government Association, having the opportunity to be an Orientation Leader and Student Orientation Coordinator for New Student and Family Programs, and lastly, being a member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority. In her free time, she likes to run on the Huckleberry Trail and write poetry.
Mentor: Ryan Beck, graduate advisor for the Student Government Association
Sophomore | Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise
“From a young age I have been taught to take responsibility when I want to see change. This requires me to get out of my comfort zone sometimes and be willing to spark the change.”
Developer | Belief | Woo | Relator | Learner
Seyi Olusina is a proud Hokie. He is working to become a physical therapist, so his major is human nutrition, foods, and exercise. Seyi is 100 percent Nigerian and the first person on both sides of his family to be born in and go to college in the United States. Coming to Virginia Tech, he was excited, but he struggled to get a groove going in his first semester. Second semester, Seyi came back determined to do better. He told himself that he needed to get involved and find something he is passionate about and pursue it. Some RA friends helped Seyi discover how much he cares about racial issues and helped him set up his first open dialogue with his residence hall. Since then, Seyi’s Tech journey has been amazing. He has found such a passion for serving others and helping in any way he can. Seyi has found himself learning from the different leadership roles that he has, and it has been life changing. Seyi’s journey here at Virginia Tech is far from over, but as of right now, he would say it is more than he could have ever dreamed. Seyi is thankful for all the opportunities that he has here, and he plans to always make the best of them.
Mentor: Jay Read, former Student Life Coordinator in the Honors Residential College
Senior | Public Relations
“…Because of this, I will always fight for equity, justice, and will never be afraid to speak up in moments of bigotry, racism, or any other type of injustice. I believe in equity, justice, and fairness and therefore, I believe in speaking up.”
Communication | Includer | MaximizerWoo | Belief
Tanushri Shankar got her start as a member of the Residential Leadership Community (RLC) in the Peddrew-Yates residence hall. She learned about the Student Government Association’s Freshman Leadership Experience (FLEX) program through the RLC and decided to apply on a whim. She was accepted, and so began her co-curricular experience at Virginia Tech. In her time at Tech, Tanushri has served as a member of the Student Alumni Associates, Hokie Ambassadors, Women’s Center intern team, CommLab staff, Gamma Phi Beta sorority, and SGA’s executive branch. She has also served in numerous elected positions, such as the Class of 2016 Female Member at Large, the Vice President of SGA, and most notably, she is the first woman of color to serve as Student Body President. Tanushri has been heavily involved in social justice movements throughout campus such as InclusiveVT, and she is an advocate for women’s rights. Tanushri was recently awarded an Aspire! Award from the Student Affairs for Courageous Leadership and will serve as a high school English teacher in Rwanda after graduation. Tanushri says that Virginia Tech put her on a path to service and helped her become more grounded in her values.
Mentor: Joseph Edens, Assistant Director for Student Government Advising
Junior | Biology
“It wasn’t the big changes, cures for diseases and treatments for patients, that motivated me anymore. It was finding tarsi under the microscope, seeing an insect on the sidewalk and being able to pick it up and know what it was and why it was there, and connecting with people with interests like mine that brought me joy. If I could gain new knowledge, I would be happy, no matter how small the gain was.”
Individualization | Learner | InputIntellection | Analytical
Patricia Shorter is in her second year at Virginia Tech. Her passion is entomology, the study of insects, and she works in an insect systematics lab here on campus. Pat hopes to pursue a master’s of science when she graduates in the fall of 2016 and eventually teach others the wonderful world of arthropods. She lives in Hillcrest, and this dorm is has been “her Virginia Tech.” When not in the lab, Pat can be consistently found crafting in a lounge or working with the kindness or dining committees. Pat loves quotes and plants, sewing and drawing, gaming and reading, and working with her Hillcrest and bug-loving Hokie family.
Mentor: Kevin Carney, student and Aspirations Fellow
Senior | Political Science
“636. That number may not hold any meaning to you, but to me, it was my whole world. 636 miles is the distance between Virginia Tech and my home…I believe we all have something that we latch onto and can anchor us from progress. Breaking away from our numbers is the key to finding who we are.”
Competition | Significance | Self AssuranceAchiever | Maximizer
Hannah Thomas is a senior and political science major here at Virginia Tech. She comes from a small town in Illinois, but she is originally from Baltimore. Virginia Tech was always Hannah’s dream—she dreamed about ring dance in the third grade. When she was accepted, Hannah was ecstatic and just could not wait to get here. She struggled her first year, and it was not until she became involved that she truly found her happiness. She joined VTU and SGA, and these two organizations changed Hannah’s life. She is now the President of VTU and the director of Academic Affairs for SGA. These two positions have led her to become involved in other leadership positions such as Hokie Camp Counselor, Homecoming Court Queen Candidate, member of Order of the Gavel, and so much more. Hannah’s journey only has a few weeks left, but she cannot wait to continue to be connected to this university.
Mentor: Gina Tamburro, Associate Director of Student Engagement and Campus Life and faculty advisor for Virginia Tech Union