At Virginia Tech, innovations aren’t exclusive to inventions; breakthroughs aren’t always scientific; and maroon and orange aren’t our only two colors. The true strength of Virginia Tech isn’t the size of its endowment or the height of its halls, but the determination of students from different backgrounds to achieve against great adversity.
Being a Hokie isn’t about where you come from, what you look like, how you pray or who you love. Being a Hokie is about not allowing others to tell you what you can and can’t do. So when people ask, “What is a Hokie?” remember that a Hokie is someone who accepts people for who they are and doesn’t tolerate it when others don’t.
Growing up, I was fascinated by Neil Armstrong, my childhood hero. It’s easy to see why so many of us admire this moonwalking man from Ohio — he was the first. Before him, no one had ever set foot on the surface of the moon. Young Neil Armstrong had good role models as a kid, but no one he could point to and say, “I want to go to the moon just like they did.” Instead, he blazed a trail and inspired a generation of engineers, scientists and astronauts.
For that same reason, I love Virginia Tech. Like the astronauts, we too share a commitment to service and to discovery. We are a university of firsts. First generation and underrepresented college students at Virginia Tech are breaking down barriers every day. We sit in classrooms, study halls and dining areas full of Neil Armstrongs.
For many, it’s difficult being first. Irving Peddrew and Charlie Yates struggled at Virginia Tech so that those who came after them would have greater opportunities. Some of these barriers persist. Students don’t always feel safe or welcome in spaces on campus. Some students can’t even get into these spaces because they’re not accessible. If we want them to continue reaching for the moon, then we will need to give students the fuel to do it. Inclusion must never stall behind diversity. Accessibility must never lag behind advances in infrastructure. When we are increasing representation of students through our admissions, we must be sure to prioritize inclusion and accessibility.