Joe Frazier


Joe Frazier

Joe Frazier said that, though he loves studying sociology, he gets frustrated with the apathy that’s often unavoidable in college courses. Joe received degrees in sociology and philosophy in 2013, and he’s currently pursuing master’s degrees in both subjects.

He said, “It starts to feel kind of pointless to talk about these problems all day long but not look at ways to stop them.” The issue that weighed on Joe the most was undoubtedly police brutality on black youth.

So he took matters into his own hands. Following Michael Brown’s death in 2014, Joe and some friends spontaneously traveled to Ferguson, Missouri, to meet with activists on the front lines. They came back to Blacksburg inspired to be part of creating an inclusive climate at Virginia Tech, and Joe had a specific plan in mind.

He originally pitched the Student Police Unity League—affectionately known as SPUL—to the Blacksburg and Virginia Tech Police Departments. He showed up at each shift—7 a.m. and 7 p.m.—for nearly a week to convince the departments to play volleyball on integrated teams consisting of police officers and black Virginia Tech students. No convincing was needed. Twenty officers were on board without a second of hesitation.

Students, though, proved to be harder to recruit. Joe finally spoke up at an NAACP meeting on campus.

He said, “If we want to start doing something, this is the place to start. I understand the frustration, but, at the end of the day, that’s not helping the problem. By taking a hands-off approach, you’re not doing anything.”

He was summarizing Paulo Freire, who said, “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”

This quote drives Joe’s passion for activism. And, apparently, it drove others to do the same. Eighteen students signed up following that meeting. Four teams were created, and the season went better than expected. Everyone who participated came out of the season with a renewed mindset regarding culture. And, for some of the police officers, they came out of the season a bit more sore.

Literally and figuratively, Joe Frazier wants people from diverse backgrounds to play on the same team. The volleyball league was just the tip of the iceberg.

Joe and another student have begun to speak about race and activism at local high schools. They’re looking for funding to take SPUL to local schools and also to Roanoke.

On March 22, the two students will host the first Allyship and Activism Leadership Conference at Virginia Tech, which will focus on not only race issues, but also issues regarding the LGBTQ community. More than 100 high school students have signed up, which maxes out the space.

Following commencement in 2013, Joe took a year off to work at an independent school in Christiansburg, where he worked with at-risk youth.

Joe will graduate this spring with two master’s degrees. He has applied to join the Virginia Tech Police Department following graduation and dreams of attending law school one day.

Joe serves as the political action chair for the NAACP. He has facilitated, spoken at, and organized countless vigils, programs, and initiatives since he traveled to Ferguson less than two years ago. In addition to social justice, Joe is passionate about weight lifting—in 2015, he placed second overall in his division at the state championships.

Joe mentioned that the highlight of his college experience was meeting his girlfriend, Karen, while working at Owens. After that, though, he said, “SPUL was the biggest thing for me. It was a large project that I launched by myself. Seeing it all come to fruition let me know all that I was capable of doing without help. It really boosted my confidence.”

For his desire to see our campus and our nation become united once again, and for his unwillingness to abandon his compassion while doing so, I’m honored to present the Aspire! Award for CIVILITY to Joe Frazier.

2017-2018 Aspirations Breakfasts*

April 27, 2018
Owens Banquet Room, 8-10 a.m.

*Registration is required to attend the Breakfast.

Aspire! Awards History

Past Recipients

April 27, 2018 Recipients

Akshay Rajendran - Curiosity
Lea Neumann - Self-Understanding and Integrity
Hunter Anderson - Civility
Miguel Parrado - Courageous Leadership
Matthew Morency - Ut Prosim

Stephany Brown - Ut Prosim

Dan Maguire - Ut Prosim

March 23, 2018 Recipients

Travis Bauer - Curiosity
Ben Batman - Self-Understanding and Integrity
Brian Kehs - Civility
Juan Hernandez - Courageous Leadership
Jaclyn Marmol - Ut Prosim

Krista Gwilliam - Courageous Leadership

February 23, 2018 Recipients

Sam Buck - Curiosity
Amy Chen - Self-Understanding and Integrity
Jaclyn Abramson - Civility
Andrew Peck - Courageous Leadership
Bethany Lackey - Ut Prosim

Maggie Holmes – Curiosity

December 1, 2017 Recipients

DeAngelo Haynes - Curiosity
Hadley Carter - Self-Understanding and Integrity
Nick McDaniel - Civility
Stephanie Lemus-Ortiz - Courageous Leadership
Noah Jennings - Ut Prosim

Chris Wise – Self-Understanding and Integrity

October 27, 2017 Recipients

Jordan Kuhn - Curiosity
Joseph Walker - Self-Understanding and Integrity
Harley Curran - Civility
Fahad Ashraf - Courageous Leadership
Julia Monroe - Ut Prosim

Laurie Fritsch – Curiosity

April 21, 2017 Recipients

Bobby Hollingsworth - Curiosity
Annemarie Bresson - Self-Understanding and Integrity
Christopher Bardo - Civility
Nala Chehade - Courageous Leadership
Elizabeth Galbreath - Ut Prosim

Hillary KovacsUt Prosim

Robert and Kara JuliusUt Prosim
Jerry Colyer [posthumous award] – Ut Prosim

March 17, 2017 Recipients

Mitch Clements - Curiosity
Samantha Nichole DiBiaso - Self-Understanding and Integrity
Maria Jernigan - Civility
Manjot Kaur - Courageous Leadership
Stephen Pistoia, Jr. - Ut Prosim

Lt. Tony Haga – Courageous Leadership

February 17, 2017 Recipients

Danielle Jeffers - Curiosity
Colleen McGovern - Self-Understanding and Integrity
Min Kyung “Julie” Sim - Civility
Lamont “Gucci” Livingston - Courageous Leadership
Jacob Long - Ut Prosim

Alece Alderson – Civility

November 4, 2016 Recipients

Rhiannon Hasenauer - Ut Prosim
Zack Sever - Civility
David Gardner - Courageous Leadership
Zachary Hoopes - Curiosity
Bridger Johnson - Self-Understanding and Integrity

Jon Fritsch – Self-Understanding and Integrity

October 7, 2016 Recipients

Zachariah Ewen - Ut Prosim
Jordan Evans - Civility
Megan Lee Myklegard - Courageous Leadership
Alex Hamilton - Curiosity
Bryan Faulkner - Self-Understanding and Integrity

Catherine Cotrupi – Curiosity

April 22, 2016 Recipients
Samantha Hall - Ut Prosim
Charelle Berry - Civility
Audrey Semel - Courageous
Jess King - Curiosity
Mike Schoka - Self-Understanding
and Integrity

Frances KeeneUt Prosim

John GrahamUt Prosim

March 18, 2016 Recipients
Joe Frazier – Civility
Nina Miller – Self-Understanding
and Integrity
Jacob Rosenthal – Curiosity
Haley BurgessUt Prosim
Tanushri Shankar – Courageous

Susan Anderson – Courageous

February 19, 2016 Recipients
Javier González-Rocha – Self-Understanding and Integrity
Obaid Rehman – Civility
Claire Kelling – Courageous
Meghan McLoughlinUt Prosim
Erica Nagotko – Curiosity

Anthony Purcell – Civility

November 13, 2015 Recipients
Kelsi Faley – Self-Understanding
and Integrity
Nivedha Balan – Civility
Rachel Cotton – Courageous
Ryan HopkinsUt Prosim
Caroline Amodeo – Curiosity

Gladys Sartin– Self-Understanding
and Integrity

October 2, 2015 Recipients
Walter Gonsiewski – Self-Understanding
and Integrity
Seyi Olusina – Civility
Skyler Mueller – Courageous
Anastasia MatusiewiczUt Prosim
Natasha Laramie – Curiosity

Vera Kidd – Curiosity

April, 2015 Recipients
Ankit Saigal – Curiosity
Baker Martin – Courageous
Nicole Selz
Self-Understanding and Integrity
Brett MontagueUt Prosim
Conor Cosgrove – Civility

Residence Life Resource Officer John TarterUt Prosim

Robby MoserUt Prosim

March, 2015 Recipients
Juan de la Rosa Diaz – Courageous
Jamaica Sykes – Curiosity
Luke Birch
Self-Understanding and Integrity
Jake VoorheesUt Prosim
Turki Saad Al-Zahrani – Civility

Captain Jim Snyder – Courageous Leadership

February, 2015 Recipients
Catherine Goggins – Courageous
Allison Laclede – Curiosity
Samuel Aguilar Chavez
Self-Understanding and Integrity
Larissa PeraraUt Prosim
Lauren Cashman – Civility

Jay Read – Civility

November 14, 2014 Recipients
Andrew George – – Courageous
Esther Moon – Curiosity
Kaleigh Leal – Self-Understanding
and Integrity
Stephen Bennett Ut Prosim
Philip Norman – Civility

Scott Busiel – Self–understanding and Integrity

October 3, 2014 Recipients
Patrick AckerUt Prosim
Ethan Poole – Civility
Danielle Smalls – Courageous
Emily Neer – Curiosity
Austin Dickey – Self-Understanding
and Integrity

Robin Boucher – Curiosity

April 25, 2014 Recipients
Brent AshleyUt Prosim
Anna Isserow – Civility
Daniel Evans – Courageous
Jacalyn Polis – Curiosity
Neal Moriconi – Self-Understanding
and Integrity

Tricia SmithUt Prosim

March 21, 2014 Recipients
Meredith Cahill
Natasha Chadha
Wes Williams
Emma Cohen
Emily Blair

Belinda Pauley

February 21, 2014 Recipients
Meghan Gilliam
Steven Gethard
Kylie Gilbert
Ashley Taylor
Emily Brown

Kelley Woods-Johnson

November 8, 2013 Recipients
Jordan Disney
Kelly Berry
Daniel Pierce-Parra
Anusha Rizvi
Camryn Sorg

Lyndsy Manz

October 11, 2013 Recipients
Rob Grimm
John Turbyfill
Brendan Craig
Thomas Friss
Chris Atkins

Meredith Hampton