Student-athletes excel on and off the court
December 16, 2021
Two Hokies with ties to the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences — an alumna and a graduate student — have been named finalists for the 2021-22 Senior CLASS Award.
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the Senior CLASS Award recognizes students with notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character, and competition. The program also encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
Aisha Sheppard, who earned her bachelor’s in multimedia journalism from the Virginia Tech School of Communication in 2020, has been named one of 30 NCAA Division I women’s basketball student-athletes in contention for the Senior CLASS Award.
Sheppard, now a graduate student in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, has been on the ACC’s Honor Roll every year since her sophomore year. She also earned the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll every semester since the fall of 2018.
Sheppard has served as a member of Hokie Women RISE, a group that organizes leadership programming for female student-athletes. She has also been an active member of the Virginia Tech Athletic Department’s “Next-Level Leadership Program,” a three-year leadership academy that allows promising student-athlete leaders to connect monthly and participate in discussions to develop and expand their leadership skills.
In addition, Sheppard serves as the head of athlete relations for “Blacksburg UNCUT,” an organization that works to give student-athletes a platform to share their stories.
In response to her leadership, Sheppard has been selected for many roles that allow her to serve her teammates. She was named the community outreach representative, which allowed her to help create and communicate with her team about upcoming community service opportunities. She was also named a team captain and the team’s time management representative.
For all of her efforts, Sheppard was selected to receive the 2021-22 Skelton Award for Academic Excellence in Athletics, an honor that recognizes one male and one female student-athlete each year who have excelled not only in the classroom, but also in their leadership and in the community.
During her time at Virginia Tech, Sheppard has earned several prestigious accolades and become the school record-holder in multiple statistics. She is the program’s all-time leader in three-point field goals scored and has the top two individual seasons in terms of three’s made. Sheppard is also one of only seven women to ever score 1,500 career points — and she will likely finish her career as the Hokies’ all-time leading scorer.
Last season, Sheppard was named an AP All-America Honorable Mention, while also earning an All-ACC first team nod.
Justyn Mutts, a graduate student in the Virginia Tech School of Education, was named one of 30 NCAA Division I men’s basketball student-athletes in contention for the Senior CLASS Award.
After graduating from the University of Delaware in May 2020, Mutts transferred to Virginia Tech ahead of the 2020–21 season. The 6-foot-7 forward started in 21 of the Hokies’ 22 games last season that culminated with Tech advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight time.
Through nine games this season, Mutts is averaging 10.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and three assists per game. He leads the team in rebounds (64) and his .526 field-goal percentage leads all starters. In Virginia Tech’s 62-58 win on the road at Maryland, Mutts had a season-high 16 points.
Mutts, who was named a team captain this season, has been active in MY Turn — a nonprofit started by head coach Mike Young that focuses on bully prevention. During the 2021 NCAA Tournament, Mutts took time out of his schedule to read to local elementary school kids over Zoom. In addition, Mutts assisted with wrapping and delivering Christmas gifts for local women’s resource centers the past two Decembers.
In addition to his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Delaware, Mutts holds a master’s degree in agricultural and life sciences from Virginia Tech. He will complete his master’s degree in educational psychology, curriculum, and instruction in the School of Education in the spring of 2022.
From each list of 30 candidates, a committee will select 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award in February. Those 10 names will then be placed on the official ballot for a nationwide vote. Fan balloting will be coupled with votes from coaches and media to determine the recipient of each award.