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Aspire! Awards

Aspire! Award Winners
April 2024 Aspire! Award Winners. Photo credit: Brian Muncy

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 2023-2024 Aspire! Awards.

Student Affairs exists to sustain a culture of learning, reflecting the profound opportunities inherent for students at Virginia Tech. We believe students can develop habits of interpersonal awareness, intentional actions, and self-reflection, which complete and complement academic and professional education. Student Affairs is deliberate in discerning and designing the learning opportunities available in student environments, creating new and innovative practices for student learning, and assessing the extent to which students are able to apply knowledge to solve problems. We challenge students to connect knowledge to the possibilities for improving humanity near and far, creating a legacy now and in the future.

We aspire that our work leads students on a life-long quest to:

Commit to unwavering CURIOSITY

Virginia Tech students will be inspired to lead lives of curiosity, embracing a life-long commitment to intellectual development.

The Virginia Tech student affairs experience seeks to instill the value that learning is the common essential element for intellectual development, discovery, and engagement, instead of a necessary means to a specified end. Virginia Tech believes that all environments of the college experience provide countless opportunities for learning. Student organizations, service projects, classrooms, residence and dining halls, student centers, leader development programs, cultural and recreational events, and many other planned and spontaneous encounters at Virginia Tech, cumulatively represent a vibrant learning laboratory for students.


Virginia Tech students will form a set of affirmative values and develop the self-understanding to integrate these values into their decision-making.

Virginia Tech students will experience, explore, and understand the values and principles of their families, communities, and the many cultures they encounter. As students better understand themselves, their strengths and interests, and align their values with purposeful decision-making they will adopt an integrated set of principles to guide their personal and professional lives.


Virginia Tech students will understand and commit to civility as a way of life in their interactions with others.

Living and learning as individuals who believe in the Principles of Community and Hokies Respect, students will pursue and embrace the value of civility which will be carried throughout life. At the heart of this pursuit is a basic commitment to consideration, respect, and courtesy. Civility is a shared gift that we give and receive in turn. Accordingly, civility expects that: we strive to listen, as well as to speak to each other; we try to understand each other in our commonalities and differences; we give respect due to all members of the university community; we favor courtesy over rudeness and encourage considerate treatment over dismissive behavior; and we combine free speech with reasoned expression so that liberty and peace are both served.

Prepare for a life of COURAGEOUS LEADERSHIP

Virginia Tech students will be courageous leaders who serve as change agents and make the world more humane and just.

Virginia Tech students will be courageous leaders who are willing to challenge the status quo in pursuit of a more humane and just world. They will have the fortitude to speak up when they witness an injustice and reach out to those who are vulnerable, marginalized, or in need. Courageous leadership is possible whether or not the individual is in a position of responsibility. Virginia Tech students will inspire others with their actions, changing the world one decision at a time.

Embrace UT PROSIM as a way of life

Virginia Tech students will enrich their lives through service to others.

The university motto, Ut Prosim – That I May Serve, and the Principles of Community will stand as a foundation for the development ofpersonal relationships, physical spaces, and intercultural experiences, which create communities. Within, these communities compel students to understand and develop a value system that will guide their decisions and enable them to offer themselves as responsible citizens of the world.

Aspire! Award Celebrations

  • Aspire Curiosity - Friday, October 25
  • Aspire Self-Understanding and Integrity - Friday, December 6
  • Aspire Civility - Friday, February 21
  • Aspire Courageous Leadership - Friday, March 21
  • Aspire Ut Prosim - Friday, May 2

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
  • 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.

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    Zack Feldman
    Zack Feldman

    From the time Zack Feldman heard from his first-grade teacher that there is no such thing as a stupid question, he was off to the races.

    Date: May 01, 2024
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    Joseph D’Agostino
    Joseph D’Agostino

    Joe has consistently demonstrated a commitment to personal growth and self-reflection,” said his nominator. “His ability to introspect and make ethical decisions even in challenging situations is truly commendable.

    Date: Apr 30, 2024
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    Kristal Hines-Pressley
    Kristal Hines-Pressley

    Civility means caring and contributing to the community around you, whether it’s in small ways such as upholding community standards or in large ways such as taking leadership and guiding the community.” With that perspective, Kristal Hines-Pressley models and mentors her community in respectful collective living.

    Date: Apr 29, 2024
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    Judith Obregón
    Judith Obregón

    Judith Obregón shows us what it means to lead bravely,” said her nominator. “Her actions remind us that true leaders stand up for justice and help those who need it most. Not only is she getting ready for a life of courageous leadership – she's living it.” In 2020, Judith established the Bright Light STEM organization, providing mentoring programs for underprivileged children in Peru and the Wayuu Indigenous Nation in Colombia. The initiative had over 60 volunteer teachers and empowered over 800 children, many of whom were inspired to pursue further education in STEM fields.

    Date: Apr 28, 2024
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    Ellie Thurneysen
    Ellie Thurneysen

    Ellie's leadership is only surpassed by her selflessness,” said her nominator. “She is a constant presence in her living-learning community as well as in the local community.

    Date: Apr 27, 2024
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    Tammy Dowdy
    Tammy Dowdy

    Tammy goes above and beyond her duties to serve the Cochrane Hall community,” said her nominator. “No matter what personal things may be going on, she always shows up with a smile on her face, ready to crack a joke to get a laugh out of you. She exemplifies what Ut Prosim stands for and students can feel that through every interaction.

    Date: Apr 26, 2024

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