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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
    T. Pignataro
    Todd Pignataro

    Flash back to spring 2019. Long before the pandemic, Virginia Tech faced a different challenge: the Class of 2023 enrollment surge. And Todd Pignataro, Student Affairs’ Associate Director for Facilities Management, was in the thick of it. In less than thirty days, Todd ordered more than 700 hundred sets of furniture for student rooms at The Inn at Virginia Tech and the Holiday Inn Express, and staggered their arrival in thirty tractor-trailers for an efficient unloading process.

    Date: Apr 25, 2021
  • General Item
    Aleysha Varghese
    Aleysha Varghese

    When she was a senior in high school, Aleysha Varghese contacted her nominator and asked if she could join his research lab for the summer. He said, “I had never before experienced a high school student 'cold calling' me and eloquently and articulately describing how her interests would be a great match for our on-going work. I decided to give Aleysha a chance and I never regretted it. Not only did she quickly become a valuable member of our lab, but she was also the most mature, introspective student I have met.”

    Date: Mar 10, 2021
  • General Item
    Sydney Cole
    Sydney Cole

    For Sydney Cole, civility is all about listening and really hearing what others have to say.

    Date: Mar 09, 2021
  • General Item
    Jeyein Cepillo
    JC Cepillo

    JC Cepillo defines courageous leadership as “understanding the potential you have for making a positive impact and putting aside your own personal interests to make time to help others for the betterment of the community.”

    Date: Mar 08, 2021
  • General Item
    Nicole Tuckman
    Nicole Tuckman

    For Nicole Tuckman, serving others is not confined to when she can carve out time in her busy schedule. It’s something she does each day.

    Date: Mar 07, 2021
  • General Item
    Rachana Somaiya
    Rachana Somaiya

    Rachana Somaiya believes in sharing her academic curiosity – and its fruits – with the broader community.

    Date: Mar 06, 2021

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