A student’s busy academic schedule and rigorous field of study are often what come to mind when thinking about a collegiate education.

But Virginia Tech students spend the vast majority of their time outside the classroom. The Division of Student Affairs created the Keystone Experience to capture what they learn during that time. The initiative helps students explore, practice, and live the Aspirations for Student Learning in a holistic sense, while reflecting on and understanding their strengths and goals in the context of service to others.

The 15 students who have been recognized as the inaugural cohort of Keystone Fellows embody the Aspirations for Student Learning in their classrooms, student organizations, residence halls, and places of employment, as well as within their social groups. Keystone Fellows personify a commitment to learning — both inside and outside the classroom — and they are devoted to improving themselves to better the world around them.

Members of the inaugural cohort are pursuing a range of majors, and they are involved in the full gamut of organizations, activities, and communities at Virginia Tech.

In the application process, the 2016 Keystone Fellows created digital stories, “This I Believe” statements, and an ePortfolio. A letter of recommendation was submitted for each applicant.

On April 19, the Keystone Fellows were inducted in a celebration with special guests from across the university, including President Tim Sands, Provost Thanassis Rikakis, and Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Perillo. Each Fellow selected a mentor to participate in the pinning ceremony, underscoring the impact of mentorship in the Fellows’ success. Five of the fellows are majors in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences:

  • Samuel Aguilar-Chavez of Winchester, Virginia, a senior majoring in political science, pinned by Xavier Medina, former assistant professor of political science;
  • Maddie Mitcham of Virginia Beach, Virginia, a sophomore majoring in international studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and geography in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, pinned by Tom Tillar, former vice president for alumni relations;
  • Ariana Mollers of Chantilly, Virginia, a senior majoring in public relations, pinned by Ryan Beck, graduate advisor for the Student Government Association;
  • Tanushri Shankar of Rockville, Maryland, a senior majoring in public relations, pinned by Joseph Edens, assistant director for Student Government Advising; and
  • Hannah Thomas of Troy, Illinois, a senior majoring in political science, pinned by Gina Tamburro, associate director of Student Engagement and Campus Life and faculty advisor for Virginia Tech Union.

“Our Keystone Fellows represent our Aspirations for Student Learning at their very best,” said Perillo. “They are students who know, in their head and heart, what it means to be a Hokie — to be curious, to pursue self-understanding and integrity, to practice civility, to prepare to be a courageous leader, and to embrace Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) as a way of life. The potential in these students is extraordinary, and we in student affairs cannot wait to see the impact they’ll make on our university and beyond.”

To view the students’ digital stories, visit the Keystone Fellows website.