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INSIDE Finding Hokie Spirit in an Unexpected Place Family Reunion Recap VACUHO-RA Conference

GREETINGS FROM THE DIRECTOR It was an eventful fall, and I am always amazed by how fast each semester comes and goes. As I reflect back on the progress the department has made with initiatives and student and staff leaders, I am reminded how special Residence Life has become to others and me. I think of homecoming as a time for celebration and a renewed sense of Hokie pride and spirit. The weekend is filled with social opportunities to reconnect and reminisce with old and new friends. It’s also a time for us to come back to the home that forged the people we are today. It is difficult to always pinpoint the occasion that changed our lives, as sometimes it took multiple stops along the journey, and through hindsight we are able to confirm the change. However, I look back on my experience as a student, and find that Residence Life was the opportunity that defined my last 20 years as a person and a professional. I went to a large institution similar to Tech, was very overwhelmed by the size, and tended to be a follower or on my own. I did not actively seek out the RA position, it sort of found me. I would describe myself as an introvert: finding solitude in learning and in my own thoughts. However, the RA position gave me the chance to interact with my peers and build strong interpersonal skills, challenge my comfort zones, and be a part of the community. Being able to contribute to the community was important because my parents were teachers and I valued the educational journey. The RA experience allowed me to be an educator in a non-traditional sense and to create a positive and stimulating environment. It is this type of opportunity that not only shaped my path as a professional, but also renewed my commitment to providing an experience where students and staff members can enhance their learning outside the classroom, cultivate relationships that will provide social and professional connections, and ultimately develop them into contributing leaders to the Virginia Tech community, as well as their future communities. We have talented and inspiring student and staff leaders living in our halls, each one taking something different from their experiences. This issue of The Link celebrates many of our student and staff achievements. Hopefully as you read on, you will remember your story that brings you home to Residence Life. Wishing everyone the best for spring 2011! Sincerely,

Leon McClinton, Jr., Ph.D. Director of Residence Life


Bringing Academics Closer to Home


Finding Hokie Spirit in an Unexpected Place


Alumni Spotlight


RA Focus


Residence Life Family Reunion


VACUHO-RA Conference 2010


Bulletin Board 1

Bringing Academics Closer to Home By: Jamie Penven, Associate Director of Residence Life, As a significant component in a student’s educational experience at the university, residence halls support academic achievement. This is why Residence Life works to continuously support learning by providing a variety of academic initiatives in the residence halls. For example, we boast several living-learning communities that bolster student learning by providing a space and community dedicated to a student’s specific major, general academic inclinations, or common interests. The academic major learning communities on campus, for instance, assist first-year students in acclimating to their specific major/academic discipline. Enhanced learning communities explore specific areas of interest (e.g., leadership, service-learning) through shared course work. Lastly, themed housing brings students who share common interests (e.g., substance-free housing, international/domestic issues) to live together and in community with one another. Additionally, several colleges took advantage of the residence halls this fall by offering on-site course advising. Students in Pamplin College of Business, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the College of Engineering had the opportunity to meet advisors within the residence halls. Also, the Center for Academic

Enrichment and Excellence and Residence Life partnered to provide free tutoring services for students of two common first-year math courses. The outstanding attendance at the tutoring sessions not only indicated the value of such services, but also encourages Residence Life to continuously consider how it can make new connections with academic affairs to better support student learning. In alignment with such efforts, we will be opening the first of two residential colleges in the fall of 2011, providing further opportunities for student engagement and education within the residence halls. These faculty-led communities will capitalize on the rich history and tradition at Virginia Tech and intentionally create a community designed to encourage students to explore and develop both academically and socially. Our vision in Residence Life is that the residence halls truly become an extension of the classroom and the “life of the mind” is interwoven throughout the fabric of our residential communities. We cannot achieve this vision alone and seek to continually create new relationships with faculty, academic departments, and students to better enhance the learning opportunities in the residence halls.

Ambler Johnston Residential College Renovations


Kitchen, November 2010

Kitchen, Architectural Rendering

Atrium, November 2010

Atrium, Architectural Rendering

Finding Hokie Spirit in an Unexpected Place By: David Kruchko, House Supervisor, My goal of traveling to Costa Rica and shadowing an anesthesiologist was to gain a better understanding of the culture, improve my Spanish proficiency, and observe the global variations in medical practice. I was able to do so by contacting a doctor at Carlos Luis Valverde Vega Hospital Publico in San Ramon, Costa Rica, through a faculty member at Virginia Tech, Dr. Quesada. He was extremely helpful and helped me set up the six-week internship at

the hospital with the anesthesiologist. The fact that I was on my own, without other American students, and did not participate in some sort of satellite program, enriched my experience tremendously by forcing me to interact only with Costa Ricans. During the six weeks that I was there, I worked in the hospital Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The first week it was difficult to converse fluently with the doctors, nurses, and even the grandmother with whom I was living. However, in what seemed like overnight, I was speaking, thinking, and even dreaming in Spanish. In considering my time both in Costa Rica and at Virginia Tech, it was initially difficult to draw parallels between the experiences. However, once I got home and back in the Residential Life community, it was clear that Ut Prosim is an ideal that can resonate with everyone worldwide. For instance, one experience during my third week in Costa Rica really helped me understand the meaning of Ut Prosim and service. I was eating dinner after work with the Costa Rican grandmother with whom I was living and a homeless man approached our open door. I figured

she would ask him to leave so that she and I could both go on with our lives undisturbed. It turned out this man was younger than she was, although he seemed much more decrepit than she, and she invited him to eat with us. Once he left, I asked, “Why did you give him food?” I will never forget her simple response: “Porque yo tengo comida y él no tiene” (“I have food and he doesn’t”). That was all she needed to say and, frankly, all I needed to hear. She understood that he needed food and gave it to him. As I returned for fall training, filled with the rich experiences of my trip, I was thrilled to take advantage of the opportunity to build community through service and civility. My experiences had left me vulnerable, in a sense, but not necessarily in a negative way. Rather, the experience had left me vulnerable to the potential for learning and growth that comes from stepping outside of one’s own context. In order to see and understand the rare compassion and desire to serve others that certain individuals may possess, it was necessary to place myself into an entirely new culture. Oftentimes when I am in a familiar environment that I have known for years, I can overlook certain situations, environments, and even people. However, realizing how I can have an impact in any environment is important, and it is something that I hope resonates with whomever I come into contact with. Overall, this vulnerability has translated into my increased understanding of and passion for being a Hokie. Whether it is apparent through working as an orientation leader or as a resident advisor, I hope that I have been able to and can continue to make a positive impact on at least one person in this community. Ut Prosim.


Name: Manisha P. Patel Years/Positions: 2004-2008, RHF Peddrew-Yates Hall Council 2004-2005, RHF National Communications Coordinator 2005-2007, RHF President E-mail: Path taken since leaving Virginia Tech: After graduating in May of 2008 with dual bachelor’s degrees in Economics and History, I began law school in fall of 2008 at Elon University School of Law in Greensboro, N.C. Where are you now? I live in Greensboro, and am a second-year law student at Elon Law, set to graduate in May of 2011. I plan on staying in North Carolina and taking the N.C. bar exam in July of 2011. What do you do now? I am a full-time law student, involved with the Women’s Law Association and my school’s chapter of Phi Alpha Delta. Also, I am an active alumna of my sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, and advise the High Point University chapter. What were your favorite Virginia Tech Res Life moments? Definitely all of the conferences I attended. I attended all of the RHF fall conferences and winter retreats from 2004-2007, VACURH 20052007, SAACURH 2005-2007, NACURH 20052007, Mini-VACURH 2005-2007, SAACURH No-Frills 2005-2007, Blue Ridge Summit 20052007, and presented programs at SAACURH 2005-2006 as well as the Blue Ridge Summit 2005. I still have my Hokie tail and remember all of our cheers! :) Favorite moments since graduation? I definitely have enjoyed being a law clerk for a local attorney practicing family law here in Greensboro. I want to practice family law in


North Carolina and I was given the opportunity to argue child support enforcement cases in court from June 2010 to the present, and I love it! I know this is definitely what I want to do, and there is no rush like arguing a case in front of a judge. Impact of your Virginia Tech Res Life role on your life now? I definitely took a lot of what I learned during my time in Residence Life to help me in law school and in my current internship. From speaking on a professional level to student affairs administrators, to working in groups of my peers, to the administrative skills I learned, I have put all of these skills to use not only during my time in law school, but in my internship as well. I definitely would not be in the place I am if I were not as involved in Residence Life during my undergraduate years at Virginia Tech! Thoughts from you to current Res Life folks: Do not take your time with Res Life for granted, and meet/network with as many people as you can. I know all of the forms, meetings, etc. may be a lot of work, but it will definitely pay off in the end with how much you take from Res Life in your future plans. Networking is important as well! Staying in touch with those you work with and your advisors will be helpful, even if only for memory’s sake! I still talk with my former advisor (Yolanda Avent) and the peers I worked with during my time with RHF. I made some of my best friends during my time in Res Life, and I would not give that up for anything!

Name: Naren Aryal Years/Positions: 1989-1991, RA Thomas Hall 1991-1992, Head RA O’Shaughnessy Hall E-mail: Where are you now? What do you do? I live in Northern Virginia with my two daughters, Anna and Maya, where I am CEO of Mascot Books, a company that began with the publication of a children’s book called “Hello, Hokie Bird!”—a title many Hokie families have in their library. From the first book starring the Hokie Bird, the company has gone on to publish over 300 books for collegiate and professional sports mascots. More recently, Mascot Books has published children’s titles for elementary schools (both public and private), has worked with self-publishers of children’s books, and I have released a hit series called “Bo, America’s Commander in Leash” about the adventures of first dog Bo Obama. What is your favorite Virginia Tech Res Life moment? Without question, my biggest takeaway from my RA years has been the many lasting friendships that were established during my time as an RA, both with fellow RAs and students on my hall. I keep up with many people that I met 20 years ago as a result of my work as an RA.

What impact did the RA position have on you? Being an RA comes with a lot of responsibility and accountability, and those two traits have served me well in my post-Virginia Tech years.

Where has life taken you since VT?

What advice do you have for current Residence Life staff and leaders?

After graduating from Virginia Tech in 1992, I went to law school at the University of Denver and worked as an attorney for seven years. Since 2003, I’ve been devoting my full-time efforts on running and growing Mascot Books.

Enjoy your college years! I often tell my friends that one of the best years of my life was my senior year at Virginia Tech (1992) when I was head RA at O’Shag. My staff included close friends and I also had a great group of residents.


Name: Caroline Dolores Gimenez Hometown: Williamsburg, Virginia Major: Math Class: 2013 RA experience: 2009-2010 Newman Hall Community Representative 2010-2011 RHF President E-mail: Why did you decide to get involved with RHF? My RA was actually the person who really pushed me to get involved with RHF. I have always been a very outgoing student, and I love doing as much as possible. It sounded like a great way to not only meet people but serve the other residents by making sure we had a great time living on campus. What are some programs, events, or initiatives you have worked on this year? I helped at freshman orientation at the RHF booth, answering questions about Residence Life as well as promoting our vendors. I also planned and put on the RHF Fall Leadership Conference with the help of the rest of the executive board. I was also involved with running Campus Bonanza, and constructing RHF’s Homecoming float. I am also RHF’s representative to the SGA House as well as the Commission on Student Affairs. Through those two organizations, I have tried to spread RHF’s name and promote Residence Life across campus by working with other student leaders. I have also been active working with initiatives to benefit our residents or on issues that may be contrary to what the students want. What has been the most fulfilling aspect of being part of RHF? First, through this organization, I have been given the opportunity to meet and work with so many wonderful people in Res Life who really care about the students and making Virginia Tech the best place to live on campus. Second, with RHF I get the chance to serve my fellow residents and classmates, not only by putting on programs and improving conditions in residence halls, but by representing them and their voice to the


larger Virginia Tech community. I love serving my school, and all the different doors that RHF opens for me to do that are amazing. What has been the most challenging aspect of being part of RHF? Last spring I was elected to be president. While I was enthusiastic about the position, I knew it would be a challenge, because it required me to be a leader in a different way. Before, I was content to lead by simply helping where I was needed. As president, I have had to learn how to take charge, delegate tasks and deal with conflicts when they arise. It has been one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. However, it has also been one of the most rewarding and educational experiences, and I would not trade it for the world! Describe your RHF experience in one word: Priceless! Favorite memory from being part of RHF: My favorite memory was when the executive board put on a dry tailgate/viewing party for the Boise State Game. We ran out of food within 20 minutes and lost count after 850 people, and that did not include the people who came for food and left. It was an enormously successful event and it felt great to see so many people come out. What will you take with you from this experience upon graduating? RHF has helped me hone my leadership skills, giving me the confidence to step up and take charge when I’m needed. Most importantly, I will take away the memories of great events and changes made with the help of some amazing people.

Name: Winfield Whittington Hometown: Virginia Beach, Virginia Major: Chemistry Class: 2011 RA experience: 2008-2010, RA Slusher Hall 2010-2011, RA Eggleston Hall 2011, Imaginarium Resource Center Manager E-mail: By: Lis Ellis Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Imagination rules the world.” Welcome to the world of Winfield Whittington, where his imagination has allowed him to develop as a student leader and become a stellar RA. Winfield is currently a senior resident advisor in the Eggleston community, a thirdyear RA in our department, the Imaginarium Resource Center manager, and a chemistry major on top of it, from the Virginia Beach area. Winfield is known by others to be gentle and quiet in his demeanor, but truly filled with wisdom and talents not easily seen. He is extremely creative and innovative with his ideas, as he was given the 2009-2010 Bulletin Board Builder of the Year award and was a large part of the 2010 VACUHO RA Conference Display win. Winfield’s dedication to the team and his residents has made him an effective and hardworking leader. He is also a force to be reckoned with on the volleyball and basketball courts, as he plays on the club volleyball team here at Tech and has a mean left-handed hook shot down in the paint. When asked about why he continues to return to the RA position, Winfield says it is an excellent leadership opportunity. He really enjoys getting to meet new people and serving as a valuable resource for new RAs and residents. Winfield values relationships, and the people here are a main reason he comes back as well. He said, “I felt like if I’d ever needed help with anything, the professional staff would be more than willing to step in and help, because I feel they genuinely care about the student staff.”

Winfield has been able to model that same behavior with his residents. He really believes in and values the mentorship he can provide through this position. He said, “Being able to stay in contact with past residents and being able to see how much they have grown and learned makes me feel like that I have actually had a positive impact on their lives.” Dennis Priebe and Donald Walker, his current and former supervisors, could share the same sentiments in watching Winfield’s growth as a student leader. Dennis has appreciated Winfield’s ability to step up to certain tasks in times of need, especially with Dennis being new to Virginia Tech. Donald has witnessed Winfield’s confidence and comfort as a leader grow during his time as an RA in Slusher Hall. His loyalty to the team and the department are effortless and inspiring to others. Winfield has admitted that he has had to challenge himself to be more outgoing in this position because he tends to be quiet, and sometimes the RA job doesn’t allow you to be quiet. He also said the position has challenged him to find the right “style of RA” that works best for him (i.e., how to best handle confronting situations and finding his boundaries as a person and a staff member). Both supervisors have said Winfield has taken the challenges and additional responsibilities in stride and has really come out on top. Winfield is a senior and will hopefully continue to find success in graduate school or the workforce. Until then, his imagination is flying while he soars to new heights in Residence Life.


Residence Life Family Reunion By: Lis Ellis, Residential Learning Coordinator, The Hokie Spirit was alive Homecoming weekend with current and former students, fans from near and far, and friends of friends wearing their best maroon and orange to celebrate Virginia Tech and the formidable football Hokies claiming victory over the Demon Deacons. Many of us learned the Hokie spirit at a young age, idolizing the stories our moms and dads and even siblings and cousins told us, some during orientation, admiring the upperclassmen and their liveliness, and most by living on campus with fellow Hokies. We love it because we feel a sense of belonging and it’s a one-of-a-kind adventure. There are no other schools with the Hokies for a mascot, or even that color combination of maroon and orange. We are Virginia Tech. We want to live it no matter how far we are from the Drillfield, the Pylons, Lane, Burruss, or Blacksburg. We live it from memories, in the moment, and looking forward to the next time.

Residence Life values the opportunity to reconnect the past, the present, and the future, especially for our former students and staff. Working within Residence Life is an experience that is hard to duplicate and very rewarding on personal and professional levels. We understand the connections and memories that are created, and many of them are through stories. It is the legacy of our stories that continues to carry on the Hokie spirit and the Residence Life mission of enhancing learning, building relationships, and developing leaders. Homecoming isn’t just


a time to put on your best gear and cheer the Hokies to victory, but also a time to celebrate everything that makes us Hokies.

On October 16, the department hosted its fourth annual Residence Life Family Reunion, an event to provide an opportunity to reconnect with friends, network with alumni, socialize, and share memories with family and friends. The Res Life Spirit was accompanied by sunny and brisk air, photo opportunities, the Hokie kid play zone, a telecast of the game, and some Log Cabin Barbecue with all the fixings. We were able to share this event with over 200 current and former students and staff members, along with their family and friends in the New Hall West Quad adjacent to the Smith Career Center and the Student Services Building. Many of our guests were able to take tours of the New Hall West Building, which houses the offices of Fraternity and Sorority Life, Student Conduct, Housing and Dining, Residence Life, Communications and Marketing, and several hundred upperclassmen. Tours were also offered of the Residence Hall Federation main office in Hillcrest, and a sneak peak of the East Ambler Johnston renovations. Thank you to all those who were able to attend, stop by, and contribute to the success of the event. We look forward to another reunion in fall 2011.


VACUHO-RA Conference 2010 During the weekend of November 5, 2010, the Virginia Tech delegation, consisting of 14 RAs, two graduate hall directors, and two residential learning coordinators, traveled to Fairfax, Va., for the annual Virginia Association of Colleges and University Housing Officers RA conference. The theme of this year’s conference was “carnival”—the world of self-expression and exploration. The delegation brought back to Blacksburg two awards: one for their display, which offered a Hokie interpretation of carnival, and an award for the best RA presentation at the conference, which two delegation members won for their session on media use in the residence halls. However, more than awards, the Virginia Tech delegation had the unique opportunity to learn more about what it means to be an RA, gain valuable leadership training through conference sessions, and engage in conversations with non-Virginia Tech students about the world of higher education and their roles as RAs. As Residence Life at Virginia Tech moves forward, we continue to use opportunities such as the VACUHO RA conference to further educate, support, and inspire our staff members. More so, we hope that the knowledge, relationships, and experiences gained will empower students, professionals, and the department to live out the lives of Hokies in a spirit of Ut Prosim. For m ore i n for m a t i on co nce r ning this ye ar’s VACUHO trip, ple as e s e e o ur video at


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Invent the Future

The Link Spring 2011  

Virginia Tech Residence Life Magazine

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