A passion for exploration helps this Hokie Experience VT

Lydia Gilmer, Photo credit: Christina Franusich
Lydia Gilmer, Photo credit: Christina Franusich


This is undoubtedly a recipe for civility. It is also how Lydia Gilmer approaches life and leadership.

Lydia resides in the global living-learning community Mozaiko and serves as Leadership Council president. She relies on her Strengths — Learner, Consistency, Relator, Connectedness, and Discipline — to model civility, build relationships, and facilitate tough conversations.

Her nominator wrote, “When Lydia took the helm of the Leadership Council, I was impressed with her ability to facilitate a truly inclusive conversation as part of the regular leadership meetings. She has a knack for patiently soliciting opinions and ensuring all are heard; making space for competing ideas; and asking thoughtful questions that entice others to think critically and carefully. She is adept at knowing when to speak, but more importantly, when to be silent and listen.”

Part of Lydia’s role is leading Mozaiko’s Controversial Conversation program. The program brings people with diverse perspectives together to discuss topics such as free speech in public education, the death penalty, and arranged marriage.

Her nominator believes Lydia’s leadership has greatly strengthened the program

“In August, she ensured that student leaders were trained by Dr. Todd Schenk, an assistant professor on campus with special expertise in civil discourse,” she wrote. “By mid-semester, she identified a need to adopt guidelines for student leaders to better introduce conversation topics so all participants can participate from a shared understanding of the topic.”

Lydia says, “As simple as it sounds, I have learned the importance of making connections with people, exchanging ideas, and, most importantly, listening to stories any time I can, from absolutely anyone. Whether I’m talking with a professor after class, engaging in conversation with someone in line at Turner, or learning about someone as we leave class, I am constantly, actively trying to learn from those around me—and I am always able to do so.”

She believes one of the highlights of college is the opportunity to “learn a seemingly endless amount of information” and encounter diverse perspectives.

A passion for exploration and meeting new people drives how she experiences Virginia Tech. The Honors College, Moss Arts Center Ambassador Program, and Blacksburg Refugee Partnership all benefit from Lydia’s curiosity and commitment to civility.

A junior from Atlanta, Georgia, she hopes to become a city planner. She is pursuing her dream by majoring in smart and sustainable cities in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and minoring in French in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. She plans to stay at the university to pursue a master’s degree in urban and regional planning after graduation.

Her reaction to receiving the Aspire! Award for Civility? “Humility,” she says. “100 percent. Now, more than ever, I want to make an effort to spread kindness, practice civility, and encourage acceptance.”