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Aspire! Award Profiles

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 accepted for the 2020-2021 Aspire! Awards.

Aspire! Award Celebrations

  • October 8, 2021
  • December 3. 2021
  • February 25, 2022
  • March 25, 2022
  • April 29, 2022

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

The Aspire! Awards were established by the 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, the 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.

The 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
  • 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
    Vincent Russo
    Vincent Russo

    To be perfectly blunt, there were no easy jobs during COVID-19. As an Isolation Assistant, Vincent Russo worked with the I/Q team, Housing and Residence Life, and the entire Student Affairs and Virginia Tech community to care for the mental, physical, and educational needs of students who needed to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure. He assisted with preparing temporary housing spaces, referring students to resources, planning opportunities for engagement, and serving as an after-hours resource for all students in Isolation/Quarantine.

    Date: Oct 22, 2021
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    Johan Carballo
    Johan Carballo

    Johan Carballo’s nominator tells this story: “I walked into my chemistry class not knowing anyone. I sat in the third row, hoping I would someday have a friend to sit next to. Someone sitting in the front row turned back and introduced himself. ‘Hi, I'm Johan,’ he said. And that is how our friendship started.

    Date: Oct 15, 2021
  • General Item
    Brian Plum
    Brian Plum

    The phrase “Been There, Done That” doesn’t even begin to cover the experiences Brian Plum has sought out in his life. Brian has visited more than 35 countries and has been to six of the world’s seven continents. He travels not just to see the world, but to learn about the geography, the people, their place in the world, their history, and their culture. AND to learn about himself. Most of his travels involve working with and for the communities he visits.

    Date: Oct 08, 2021
  • General Item
    M.M. Lipford
    Mary Michael Lipford

    Embracing the unknown is Mary Michael Lipford’s approach to life. In fact, she said, “I say yes to everything! Curiosity to me means never being satisfied in a stagnate state. It means accepting that the more you learn, the less you know -- and not letting that discourage you but excite you to keep learning, asking, and experiencing.

    Date: Apr 30, 2021
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    J. Gray
    Jack Gray

    Jack Gray defines self-understanding and integrity in this concise way: “Integrity is being honest even when you have no reason to be and being a good person to others. Self-understanding is knowing where you are, where you want to be, and how you can achieve it.”

    Date: Apr 29, 2021
  • General Item
    Amaan Raheem
    Amaan Raheem

    In a year when so many people have felt isolated, Amaan Raheem has found a way to bring people together. Amaan is the founder and president of a Virginia Tech student organization called Closing the Gap. The organization is dedicated to bringing together diverse people -- often holding conflicting world views, ideologies, or perspectives -- to find common ground through meaningful conversation.

    Date: Apr 28, 2021

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