JT Addair shows courageous leadership by advocating for first-generation students

JT Addair
JT Addair

Fortunately, JT Addair is willing to have hard conversations. He knew we could do better. As a result, Virginia Tech is more equipped to serve first-generation college students like JT.

His nominator wrote, “His willingness to have frank conversations with faculty and staff about the support needed for first-generation students has helped to shed light on areas where we can enhance our systems to better serve this group. I think sometimes it can be difficult for those of us working in higher education to hear how we have fallen short in supporting students in any way, but JT has an ability to discuss these topics with humility and introspection, inviting collaborative discussion rather than defensiveness.”

JT works hard to make Virginia Tech a better place for first-generation students in other ways as well. He is the president of 1G@VT, a student organization for those who are the first in their family to go to college.

This past summer, he worked with Student Affairs to help create a welcome letter and resource document for first-generation college students. He works with TRiO Programs, which serves first-generation and low-income students, and he actively reaches out to welcome first-generation students at events like GobblerFest and Orientation.

His nominator wrote, “JT may not be an administrator in a position to make official changes, but I believe that his advocacy for first-generation students at Virginia Tech makes him a courageous leader whose impact will be felt on campus long after he has graduated.”

JT believes that his strengths—Empathy, Strategic, Includer, Harmony, and Connectedness—explain how he is able to effect change and be a good leader.

He is quick, however, to share credit with other students and campus mentors. JT says he has learned at Virginia Tech that help can come in many forms and “we don’t have to go through our struggles alone if we don’t want to.” That realization drives his advocacy for first-generation students, which he calls the highlight of his college experience.

“I have developed a strong sense of independence, developed strong time management skills, and had to advocate for myself in my time at Virginia Tech,” he said. “Now I get to advocate for other students and teach them what I have learned. I know that having a college education has been a turning point in my life.”

A public relations major and French minor, he hopes to attend graduate school to pursue a degree in higher education so he “can be on the front lines of change.”