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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
  • 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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    Professor’s lab is a hub for curiosity
    Professor’s lab is a hub for curiosity

    Curiosity begets curiosity.

    Date: Oct 28, 2019
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    Abby Perkins. Photo credit: Christina Franusich
    Embracing curiosity to accomplish goals and move past setbacks

    “Abby deserves to be a recipient of an Aspire! Award for her commitment to unwavering curiosity. She does not passively partake in what sparks her curiosity, she actively works towards accomplishing her goals, creating something new, and embracing what helps her intellectual development. Not only does she reflect curiosity in her own actions and values, she inspires others to embrace a life of curiosity, too. Her inquisitive nature is contagious, and we find ourselves constantly bouncing ideas of one another, regardless of their feasibility.

    Date: Oct 25, 2019
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    Diamond Gilliam. Photo credit: Christina Franusich
    “I am helping the cultures on campus be heard.”

    After the academic credentials, work experience, co-curricular activities, honors, and community service, there are three sentences on Diamond Gilliam’s resume, – just 63 words – that sum up who she is and why she stands before us today to receive the Aspire! Award for embracing Ut Prosim as a way of life.

    Date: Oct 21, 2019
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    Romantra Spence. Photo credit: Christina Franusich
    Senior brings people together with potluck dinners and a passion for different cultures

    When asked about his plans for the future, Romantra Spence consults his notes app—a color-coordinated chronological list of his plans that includes publishing a novel by age 25, creating an animated TV series by 28, and being fluent in at least four languages by 30. He is organized and outgoing, viewing the list not so much as a mountain he must overcome but as a certainty—things he knows he will do when he gets the chance. It comes as no surprise that his top strength is Strategic.

    Date: Oct 14, 2019
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    Dana Gurland. Photo credit: Christina Franusich
    A focus on serving others helps sophomore grow into the person she wants to be

    Dana Gurland isn’t someone who goes along to get along.

    Date: Oct 11, 2019
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    We are all in this together. It's as simple as that.
    We are all in this together. It's as simple as that. , redirect

    This award goes to a Virginia Tech alumnus who represents our hopes for all our students – that they live lives of curiosity, integrity, innovation, leadership, success, fulfillment, and that they continue to embody the university’s motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), as a way of life.

    Date: May 30, 2019

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