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Aspire! Awards

Aspire! Award Winners
December 2022 Aspire! Award Winners: (from left to right) William Poland, Emily Whitehouse, Charlie Sloop, Julianne Anderson, Loralee Hoffer, Conner Duda. Photo credit: Trent Lyles

The Aspire! Awards recognize students, faculty, and staff who exemplify Student Affairs' Aspirations for Student Learning. Five students, one representing each Aspiration, and one faculty/staff member will be honored at each celebration in the months of October, December, February, March, and April. Nominations are now being accepted for the 2022-2023 Aspire! Awards.



Aspire! Award Celebrations

  • Friday, February 24, 2022, 8-10 a.m. - Practice Civility
  • Friday, March 24, 2022, 8-10 a.m. - Prepare for a Life of Courageous Leadership
  • Thursday, April 27, 2022, 8-10 a.m. - Embrace Ut Prosim as a Way of Life

The Aspire! Award Celebrations will be hosted in person at the Inn at Virginia Tech, unless announced otherwise.

The Aspire! Awards were established by Student Affairs in 2011 as a way to recognize and celebrate the Virginia Tech students who embody the Aspirations for Student Learning.

Five times a year, five students who live the Aspirations for Student Learning are honored as recipients of Aspire! Awards. The Aspire! Awards are open to students of all majors and levels of study.

In 2013, the Aspire! Awards were expanded to include university employees who live and teach the Aspirations in their work. At each of the five Aspire! Awards celebrations throughout the academic year, one employee who has made outstanding contributions to student learning is recognized.

In 2015, the Aspire! Awards were further broadened to include the Alumni Ut Prosim Aspire! Award. Presented once each year in April, the Alumni Ut Prosim Aspire! Award goes to a Virginia Tech alumnus who represents our hopes for all students – that they live lives of curiosity, integrity, innovation, leadership, success, fulfillment, and that they continue to embody the university’s motto, Ut Prosim, as a way of life.

Aspire! Awards recipients are honored at breakfast gatherings in the months of October, November, February, March, and April. During the awards presentation, each recipient’s story is told and later featured online. The Aspire! Awards breakfasts have become an inspirational and integral part of the Student Affairs’ culture, with university, community, and family guests frequently participating in the recognition event.

Aspire! Award nominations can be made by anyone who believes an individual merits recognition for living the Aspirations for Student Learning in their daily lives. Nominations are submitted through an online form at the Aspirations website, and should include an essay of up to 750 words focusing on why the nominee fits the spirit of a specific Aspiration. Once a nomination is received, Student Affairs’ five Aspirations committees review each submission and choose the individuals they believe best represent the essence of the Aspirations. Over the years, hundreds of nominations have been received and, as of summer 2017, 174 Aspire! Awards have been presented.

Student Affairs’ Aspirations for Student Learning represent the pinnacle of Virginia Tech’s aspirations for and expectations of students. They are:

  • Commit to unwavering CURIOSITY
  • Pursue SELF-UNDERSTANDING and INTEGRITY
  • Practice CIVILITY
  • Prepare for a life of COURAGEOUS LEADERSHIP
  • Embrace UT PROSIM as a way of life.

The Aspirations for Student Learning were developed and adopted to:

  • Complement and complete students’ academic and professional education
  • Challenge students to develop habits of interpersonal awareness, intentional actions, and self-reflection
  • Connect knowledge to the possibilities for improving humanity near and far
  • Guide them in creating a positive legacy now and in the future.

In discussing how and why the Aspirations for Student Learning were developed, Frank Shushok, senior associate vice president for Student Affairs, points to a passage in the Student Affairs mission statement, specifically, the desire to “… promote student learning, life skills, and personal growth through a strong focus on holistic student development.”

“To accomplish such a worthy goal,” Shushok said, “we had to have clarity about what we wanted for our students. The Aspirations are the result of our earnest efforts to discern what we aspired to for students and their education. It’s why the process of writing them took a year full of conversation, multiple drafts, and collective insight. By the time we ended the process, we had clarity of purpose for what we wanted to do together for our students.”

Shushok continued, “In a time when college is often associated with jobs and careers, we wanted also to accentuate the importance of character development in students. Technical skills without character and virtue, we believe, are hollow pursuits. The Aspirations are indicative of Virginia Tech’s desire for developing technical expertise in students, as well as nurturing in them a care for humanity, justice, and improving world conditions for all, in the spirit of Ut Prosim.

“We want our students to find a career, but we also want them to find a life full of meaning and purpose. That’s the biggest gift an education can provide,” Shushok said.


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  • General Item
    Emily Whitehouse
    Emily Whitehouse

    To understand ourselves requires vulnerability, thoughtfulness, and courage. Often as we try to understand who we are we also must consider who we were, and who we are becoming.

    Date: Dec 02, 2022
  • General Item
    Kayla Alward
    Kayla Alward

    Let’s cut to the chase. Ph.D. candidate Kayla Alward’s resume is 15 pages long, and every line is interesting. It is filled with examples of her leadership and service to Virginia Tech, teaching and mentoring, honors and awards, and contributions to research in her field of dairy science.

    Date: Nov 18, 2022
  • General Item
    Matt Ortiz
    Matt Ortiz

    In Virginia Tech’s new Residential Well-being initiative, Matt Ortiz is graduate assistant for residential well-being and inclusion. He is also a full-time graduate student, pursuing a Master of Arts in Education, Higher Education and Student Affairs. It is a busy life, but Matt brings his ever-present smile and positive attitude to the challenge.

    Date: Nov 11, 2022
  • General Item
    Jackson Tate
    Jackson Tate

    Jackson Tate’s nominator has not met Jackson, but he did witness a choice Jackson made to step forward and challenge his community to be better. Here is what happened.

    Date: Nov 04, 2022
  • General Item
    Alivia C
    Alivia Colón

    Two years ago, Alivia Colón eagerly stepped into a new role staffing weekly pickups for The Market of Virginia Tech. Established in the summer of 2020, The Market of Virginia Tech provides groceries to students experiencing food insecurity.

    Date: Oct 28, 2022
  • General Item
    Xandra Jones
    Xandra Jones

    Xandra Jones said her passion is anything that has to do with creativity or sustainability. She put both those things—and a heavy dose of curiosity -- to work in her undergraduate research BioBin project in the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program.

    Date: Oct 21, 2022

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