About 20% of the student population (undergraduate, graduate, and professional) at Virginia Tech are first-generation, which is a little over 6,000 students. They are leading in all areas of the university and creating a blueprint for the generation who will be empowered by their resilience. We wanted to highlight some of our students who are already making their mark.
Doctoral Student: Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health
Hometown: Nigeria/Reston, VA
I have made my mark at Virginia tech in various ways. When I first stepped foot on this campus through building community across cultures, being a student leader in multiple organizations, and giving back through participating in alumni groups, I served as a mentor for children in the area but also have been able to serve as a mentor to the undergraduate students through MAOP a program that helped me get through my undergraduate career at Virginia Tech. I enjoy giving back and helping those around me but also those following my similar path. In my freshman year of college, I saw no representation of African Americans in the homecoming court, let alone any diverse representation, I made it my internal goal to run for Homecoming Queen when it was my year. When deciding what to run on, being a person that had experiences with mental health resources and being exposed to climate data for our university on this topic solidified my platform. I ran for homecoming queen on the platform of wanting to implement an annual campus-wide mental health week that would serve as a medium where students can come together and receive information about different mental health illnesses and coping mechanisms and attend social mixers to get better acquainted with professionals and advocates outside of a professional setting to help break down barriers and stigmas. A week that also would bring the conversation of mental health to the forefront and display that students' mental health is of the utmost importance to the university. Even through the bad and good of it all, running for homecoming has been one of the most impactful ways I think I left my mark. I got to see my community advocate for their needs and serve as a voice for many students who don't have one or are not comfortable speaking up. I believe leaving your mark is shown not in what I do as a student/Alumni/Staff but in how I leave those around me and uplift, improve and advocate for those not only in marginalized communities but also underserved and underresourced.
If I could go back to my first month on-campus, I would tell myself to accept the things I know and don't know but never stop at the acceptance of what I don't know. Seek to be curious about those things and ask questions to better understand them. You are gifted and were accepted to your program/department because of your knowledge of what you know, but you are also accepted here because of what they hope you will learn, and that is important. Don't be afraid to toot your own horn, and give yourself grace in this process of learning and growing inside and outside of academia.
Senior: Business Information Technology (Decision Support Systems)
Hometown: Manassas/Washington DC
I have been a mentor for first gen students since sophomore year and started my own brand to encourage others to find their crown using entertainment, events, and fitness.
Put yourself out as much as you can, have a strong start and the rest of college will be an easier transition
Sophomore: Biological Sciences
Minors: Adaptive Brain and Behavior, Disability Studies, and Psychology
Hometown: Toms River, NJ
I have made my mark at VT by being a Gen One LLC Peer mentor and a Bio Orientation Seminar Peer mentor.
If I could go back to my first moth here, I would tell myself to relax because it takes time to adjust. It will take time to make VT feel like home.
Senior: Public Health
Minor: Data and Decisions, Medicine and Society, and Global Business Practices
Hometown: Northern VA, specifically Annandale
I am a HEAT Peer Educator for Hokie Wellness and a First-Generation Peer Mentor
Get involved on campus! It is the best way to meet new people and makes your college experience more enjoyable!
Hometown: Roanoke, VA
I serve as a mentor and am the president for the Caribbean Student Organization, assisting with planning the Hokie Student Leadership Summit.
Getting involved seems difficult, but it gets better.
Junior: Biomedical Engineering Major with a Computer Science minor
Hometown: Randolph, NJ
I am making my mark on VT through peer mentoring and research. I was a mentee in the CEED program my first semester, and I really valued that experience. Now, I am a mentor to other first generation students through Hokie's First, and I am able to provide guidance and resources to first-time college students as they navigate Virginia Tech! I am also involved in research in the Fluid Dynamics in Nature Lab (FINLAB) where we are working on an innovative design for an insulin delivery system. I love that I am actively contributing to research that can be applied to help people in their everyday lives!
If I could go back and give myself one piece of advice, I would tell myself to go to more events, join more cubs, and engage with my peers more in class and residential living. It is really important to make friends and find communities early on. Do not finish college without taking a part in the many Virginia Tech traditions and events on campus!
Master’s Student: Higher Education and Student Affairs
Hometown: San Diego, CA but now Blacksburg, VA
I work as an advisor to first gen students here at Tech as part of my assistantship. It is amazing to work with these students and share my knowledge, insights, but most importantly my ear to hear them and acknowledge how wonderful they are.
If I could, I would tell myself during that first month on-campus that I have this. It is going to be hard and there will be many sleepless nights. But you will come out stronger and learn so much. Hang in there!
Master's student: Higher Education Administration
Hometown: Lorton, VA
I am currently the GA for the Transfer Experience LLC. As a first-generation student, I am able to connect with transfer students about their transition! I am also a committee member of the DEI Advising Strategic Plan and the Higher Education Advisory Council. I look forward to being a part of these organizations and bringing in my first-generation identity into those spaces!
One piece of advice I would say to myself is make plans with people! I am a graduate student and it was hard getting back into the habit of initiating plans, like I did in undergrad. I would advice myself to not be afraid to reach out to people and make those connections and memories early on.
Junior: National Security and Foreign Affairs
Minor: Japanese Studies
Hometown: Fairfax, VA
I have been an active member of the Virginia Tech community in many different ways, and Virginia Tech opportunities are endless!
As for my involvement with First-Generation student support I was a mentor for the 2021-2022 inaugural cohort of the GenerationOne LLC, and am currently acting as a teaching assistant for the course History of First-Generation Students. I currently serve as the Disability Alliance President, Mozaiko's Vice President of Mentoring, and as an undergraduate research assistant.
One piece of advice I would give myself is to reach out to your professors. They can help you navigate your interests and provide you with guidance and mentorship! When I started to build relationships with faculty that is when I felt like I belonged at Virginia Tech.
Master's student: Public Health, Community health promotion and equity concentration
Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA
I enjoyed joining and supporting a few small student groups on campus.
If I could go back, I'd tell myself to get involved on campus sooner than I did.
Senior: Business Management (HR)
Hometown: Richmond, VA
I have been very involved in my community. I am a Yates Society Scholar, MAOP Undergraduate Scholar, Events Coordinator for Black Organizations Council (BOC), First Generation Student Mentor, and intern for the VT Human Resources Department.
Have a voice for yourself when necessary. College is a time to grow into adulthood and you are accountable for your success and future so be your biggest advocate.