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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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    Christine Dennis-Smith
    Christine Dennis-Smith

    Christine Dennis-Smith is well known on Virginia Tech’s campus for the enormous amount of support she provides for others. She has worked for the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech for nearly 20 years, and since 2008 has been its Co-Director of Services, working with and advocating for victims and survivors of gender-based violence, and supporting and empowering women who are caregivers. In 2003 she was recipient of the Virginia Sexual Assault Task Force Award in recognition of outstanding contributions in campus sexual assault.

    Date: Oct 14, 2020
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    Macie Snelson
    Macie Snelson

    Macie Snelson fully embraces the Virginia Tech motto. She said, “No matter what you have going on, how many things you have to do, or even if you feel like you're not doing too well in life yourself, you should always make time to serve others. Service won't only help those you are serving, but it can help improve your mood, your self-esteem, and it will help you to see the good in the world.”

    Date: Oct 13, 2020
  • General Item
    Rachel Spector
    Rachel Spector

    A glimpse at Rachel Spector’s ExperienceVT Map gives one insight into her drive to make the world a better place through climate justice.

    Date: Oct 12, 2020
  • General Item
    Grant Klich
    Grant Klich

    “Civility is best tested in adverse situations,” said Grant Klich’s nominator. As a Founding Father of Delta Chi at Virginia Tech and the fraternity’s first Scholarship Chair, Grant provided career workshops, seminars, study hours, one-on-one meetings, and study plans for students at risk of doing poorly in their classes. And he had his share of tough conversations. But he always kept an open mind, listened, and set the foundation to ensure students' success.

    Date: Oct 11, 2020
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    Abby Potter
    Abby Potter

    Abby Potter’s nominator recounts the tremendous growth Abby displayed in her time as an RA in Pritchard Hall and, eventually, as Senior Resident Advisor. At first hesitant and unsure, Abby’s confidence grew and she has become a mentor to new student staff members entering the RA role, always offering herself as a resource.

    Date: Oct 10, 2020
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    Sabrina Sturgeon
    Sabrina Sturgeon

    Sabrina Sturgeon of Evansville, Indiana, is a graduate student pursuing an M.A. in Higher Education and Human Sciences. She is hoping to work in higher education policy and governance. That is, after unicycling around the world. That’s right – unicycling is her passion.

    Date: Oct 09, 2020

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