In the past four months, Jamal Ross has traveled to more than 20 cities in five different countries, setting aside a semester of his educational experience on Virginia Tech’s campus for the opportunity to study abroad.

“I wanted to make my educational journey something memorable,” said Ross, whose home this spring has been Virginia Tech’s Steger Center for International Scholarship in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland.

But in a few weeks, the double major in political science and in philosophy, politics, and economics returns home and gets ready to take on something just as important.

Ross and Anna Buhle found out shortly before the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors held its April meeting that they had been selected as student representatives on the board for the 2022-23 academic year. Ross, a junior from Amelia Court House, Virginia, will represent undergraduate students, while Buhle, a third-year Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine student from Charlottesville, Virginia, will represent graduate students.

Both applied for the roles, securing references, writing an essay, and answering questions as part of the application process.

“I wanted something that would guide me in a way like no other and help me learn new skills, while allowing me to be a voice,” Ross said. “But also have those interactions, ones where I can have learning moments and positive takeaways.”

“I am excited to get to work on improving graduate student education,” Buhle said. “I think this is an especially important time to represent the graduate student voice since Virginia Tech has initiatives to grow the Health Sciences and Technology campus in Roanoke as well as continue to expand into Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.”

The students were chosen in part because they possess a wide array of skills that make them suitable for leadership roles and as representatives for diverse population groups. Buhle works daily with patients of different backgrounds, values, and perspectives, and she helps to create plans to meet their individual medical needs. Ross participates in many organizations on campus, and he understands the values of inclusivity, communication, determination, and adaptation.

Their on-campus involvement beyond the classroom certainly stood out. Ross serves as an ambassador for the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, works as a director of arts and culture in the Black Student Alliance, and participates in both the Black Organizations Council and the Student Alumni Associates.

“I think the skills I have attained and constantly utilized during my time at Virginia Tech have allowed me to gain a better grasp of the conversations students are having,” Ross said. “By being a student representative on the Board of Visitors, I can represent students in a way to bring about change.”

Buhle serves as the chair of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Honor Board and previously was the vice president of professional development for the Group on Women in Medicine and Science. She also was a member of the student support working group of the InclusiveVTCSOM taskforce.

“I believe my experiences will help me to advocate for graduate students with different needs and goals,” Buhle said.

In addition to bringing impressive skill sets to their positions, they both have lofty individual goals once they graduate. Ross wants to pursue a master’s degree and possibly a doctorate in higher education and then go on to law school. He aspires to be a federal judge or law professor.

Buhle plans to start a residency as an otolaryngologist, a medical specialty that focuses on the ears, nose, and throat, once she graduates.

Before those commencement days arrive next year, though, they plan to be keenly focused on their roles as student representatives. They already have agendas in place, ones tailored toward benefiting the groups that they represent.

Those agendas start with opening the lines of communication.

“My main priority is to ensure that students are set up for success when they choose Virginia Tech for their graduate education,” Buhle said. “To do this, I hope to have open communication with my peers to ensure I am giving them a voice within the governance system at Virginia Tech. I am excited to get to work on issues like financial support for graduate students and ensuring our campus is an equitable and inclusive place for all students.”

“My top priority is to connect immediately with not only the undergraduate student body, but also fellow student leaders and organizations,” Ross said. “I want to hit the ground running in making meaningful connections and being able to get a grasp of the campus climate and how Virginia Tech students are doing.”

Ross continued, “I want to place my focus on the mental health of the undergraduate body, food insecurity, safety, and especially diversity and inclusion. I want to be able to represent both the majority and the minority at Virginia Tech. I want to represent us all as one.”

Both begin their terms July 1. Their first board meeting as student representatives is scheduled for Aug. 21-23.

Written by Jimmy Robertson