Italy, here I come

I just found out that I was accepted into the International Business minor in Pamplin.

This video just made me so excited to study abroad. Every time I start to doubt myself, I find encouraging things like this that reassure me; it’s meant to be.


Think Different

In 1997 Apple Inc. created a new advertising slogan, “Think Different.” I was really affected by the original concept of the campaign and the philosophy it reflects. The original text is below. I found it on Wikipedia.

Apple Inc. Think Different advertising slogan in 1997.

Apple Inc. Think Different advertising slogan in 1997.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

In the past year I’ve experienced so much, not even a fraction of what life has to offer. It’s overwhelming, but I think I’ve figured out what I want to do with my life and that is change the world. There’s so much wrong in this world that doesn’t have to be. I’ve been joking recently that my to-do list gets longer and longer with every mention of world news and how am I going to save the world when the world is working so hard to prevent being saved. I know it’s not a one person job, but talking about it this way makes me feel obligated, responsible to affect change- or at least try. I have one whole life to live and when I’m gone, everything I wanted and everything I had will be inconsequential. I’ve always been passionate about living my life for others, but I think the idea really embedded itself into me since I’ve arrived here at Virginia Tech. With all the opportunities for self-discovery and learning about others, it’s hard not to come away with the idea that we are not alone in this world, so why live only for ourselves? Anyway… I digress.

Steve Jobs was a great, smart man. In 1994 he spoke in a documentary by PBS, offering his wisdom. Like Jobs, I’ve seen a trend in the way people approach the idea of “life” in that it is an existing, predetermined structure, that we are all pieces in the game and we follow the path to the Candy Castle or we get stuck in the Molasses Swamp on the way. That’s not true at all. I like to believe that we can affect the game board; that we are the path, not the pieces. As Jobs put it, “when you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world… That’s a very limited life.” I want my life to be broader than those smothered by this simple idea that the world is unchangeable. It’s not. I, like Jobs, want to change life to make it better.

I want “to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.”

Though I haven’t figured out what medium through which I’ll attack all the messed up things in this world, whether it’s through pursuing a degree in higher education and working to reform the cookie cutter university model, or bringing my fresh ideas based in ethics to the world of corporate finance, or flying to Nepal to work with orphan children and pursue my purely humanitarian interests. All I have in mind is the end goal for now. I’m going to change the world and I’m going to stray from the path on the game board; I’m taking the Gumdrop Pass (whatever I decide it will be).

Seven days

I spent the last couple of weeks of my summer training to assume my new position as an RA (Resident Advisor). During one of our training sessions, I learned about journaling as a stress-reliever- of course I picked the journaling session over the running one. I wrote the following post during that session and I'[m happy to say that it was very relaxing to get my feelings, which had been piling overwhelmingly high as the days went by, out on (cyber)paper. Though this is the closest I’ve come to having a journal, I’m a huge fan of writing as a stress-reliever. GO, WORDS!

In just a few days I will begin the opportunity of a lifetime. Wednesday is move-in day for my residents.

My team.

I have to say that a few weeks ago I was extremely nervous about this time. I was worried that I might misuse or not satisfy to the best of my ability this chance to impact the lives of my residents and inspire them to become life-long learners.

These past seven days have been incredibly eye-opening for me. Going through the training process to become an RA has really opened my mind to the challenges, but also the rewards, of this upcoming experience. I’ve found in only the last seven days that I was meant to play this role at my school. I feel like I was always supposed to be a role model and positive influence in the lives of others. Now I have my chance.

Before last week I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to handle this much responsibility- being a source of support and inspiration for my residents. Now, after I’ve developed incredible relationships with the other members of my staff and have thus been the recipient of their unwavering support and encouragement, I feel very confident that I will be able to do the same for my residents.

It’s three days before move-in and the door decs and bulletin boards are done. All I have left to do is hope that they will learn as much from me as I will be learning from them this year.

Seven days. That’s all it took to find where I belong.

New living-learning community of entrepreneurs occupies former Sig Ep house

The $5 million home to first-year students and residents of the Innovate living-learning community.

The $5 million home to first-year students and residents of the Innovate living-learning community.


The recently constructed $5 million house on Oak Lane, originally intended for the Sigma Phi Epslion fraternity, has been designated a new purpose as of this semester.

This semester marks the beginning of a two-year pilot program for Innovate, a new living-learning community that has been given access to the house after Sig Ep lost its charter last year due to misconduct and failure to meet national expectations.

Innovate is a residential community with an entrepreneurial concentration where 35 first-year students of different majors will work together to ideate and launch student-led business ventures.

The community-specific course in entrepreneurship is being taught by assistant professor in Pamplin College of Business Department of Management, Marc Junkunc.

“My immediate reaction was ‘this is outstanding, a great opportunity for the students… for the university,'” said Junkunc. “I felt this was something that really was going to be impactful.”

The idea for Innovate stemmed from the collaborative efforts of the provost’s office, the Division of Student Affairs, Pamplin College of Business and the department of Housing and Residence Life.

“In terms of entrepreneurship education and living-learning communities, those are two separate phenomena that are occurring now at universities and this is bringing [those] together,” Junkunc said.

Two staff members of Housing and Residence Life reside in the house with the students in the program including residential learning coordinator for fraternity and sorority life, Chad Mandala, along with the resident community fellow, Drew Stegmaier, a graduate of Virginia Tech class of 2013 and CEO of Drink it Up.

Stegmaier calls his situation a “win-win.”

“I’m learning a lot from the students,” said Stegmaier. “They’re so much further ahead of where I was when I was a freshman… some of them already have patents, some of them already have started companies.”

According to Junkunc, most students get involved with entrepreneurship in their junior or senior years, while one of the benefits of the Innovate community is encouraging students to pursue their ideas early on.

“If we can get students engaged in those activities earlier it gives them a much greater opportunity to develop those aspirations and capabilities throughout their whole college experience,” Junkunc said.

Freshman apparel, housing and resource management major, Caroline Johnson, is a member of Innovate this year and has always had dreams of opening her own clothing store.

“I feel like overall we’re going to become a family,” said Johnson. “It’s going to be really cool to bounce ideas off each other and learn what everyone’s different talents are and be able to build something.”

Students in Innovate will learn to network and create business models, among other useful skills.

“One of the first things we’re doing is demystifying it, showing the kids that this is possible,” said Stegmaier. “[If] you think you can’t, you’re the biggest barrier to your own success.”

One concern that has been mentioned about the location of Innovate is that it may be too far from campus for the students to be engaged in the Virginia Tech community as a whole.

“I don’t feel connected to the campus just because I’m so far away from everything, but everyone in my classes are making me feel welcome and they don’t treat me [differently],” Johnson said.

However, Junkunc says this barrier shouldn’t last long into the school year, especially with a Hokie Express bus stop located very close to the house.

“I don’t think there’s any reason they should miss out on anything,” said Junkunc. “It’s an interdisciplinary program… We have a cross-section of many different cultures and majors. I think it’s a way for them to have a lot of like-minded housemates, but at the same time they’ll be able to plug into many different aspects of what’s going on on campus.”

Johnson says she feels very fortunate to live and learn as a member of Innovate.

The future of the community is uncertain at this point, but Junkunc predicts that the results of this pilot program for Innovate will be positive and the community will evolve and grow in time.

“Right now we’re just focused on doing the best Innovate program we can,” said Junkunc. “I think it’s poised to be one of the best programs of its kind in the country.”

Turner Place takes the gold

Turner Place has recently emerged as the new star player of Dining Services.

The line of Bruggers stretching out into the lobby even with the new line pattern.

The line of Bruggers stretching out into the lobby even with the new line pattern.

The National Association of College and University Food Service (NACUFS) has awarded Dining Services an honorable mention for the Dinner on the Titanic themed event last spring and has also awarded its highest ranking Gold Award for Turner Place in the large school category for Retail Sales-Multiple Concepts/ Marketplace Design.

Turner Place claimed victory over dining facilities at University of Wisconsin and Ball State University, which won silver and bronze in the same category, respectively.

Since the $35 million facility opened last August, the award acknowledges that the eight restaurants in Turner Place have produced quality food and provided good service to students.

John Barrett, assistant director of Turner Place and Virginia Tech alumnus class of ’92, worked in the catering department as a student and remembers what the food was like during his undergraduate year, saying it was not at all like it is now.

“I think that every employee… buys into the program that we want to provide everybody a quality dining experience, where safety is paramount,” said Barrett. “You give good food, good service and people will eat it up.”

Turner Place is not the first dining facility at Virginia Tech to win this award. In 1999, after renovations, West End Market received the Gold Award from NACUFS, as did D2 in 2004.

Criteria for granting the Gold Award involve judging of facility design, merchandising, nutrition and wellness, menu and meal and marketing.

Executive senior chef, Mark Moritz, oversaw all recipe and menu development for the restaurants original to Turner Place, including Atomic Pizzeria, 1872 Fire Grill, Origami, Soup Garden and Dolci e Caffè.

“Here, we care about what we serve our students,” said Moritz. “The habits you’re picking up when you’re eating now are more important than when you were a teenager because these are the ones that are going to stick with you the longest. If you’re accustomed to eating crap, then for the next 15 to 18 years that’s what you’re going to do.”

Both Barrett and Moritz expressed the immensity that was the effort of creating Turner Place.

“The amount of time that myself, as well as my crews, put into developing recipes and [maintaining] the consistency… that was a herculean effort, but it’s what we do and we don’t expect an award for it,” Moritz said.

“[The award] tells us that we’re doing something right,” said Barrett. “It comes from the fact that people put a lot of hard work into it and it shows us that our efforts are not unnoticed.”

The acceptance of the Gold Award will allow Tech Dining Services to compete for the overall Grand Award at the national conference to be held this July in Minneapolis.

Community shows up to run in honor of Boston victims

Runners start the commemorative jog at the beginning of the Huckleberry Trail on the corner of Draper Road and Miller Street.

Runners start the commemorative jog at the beginning of the Huckleberry Trail on the corner of Draper Road and Miller Street.

The mood was energized Monday night, as members of the community gathered to show support for those affected by the explosions in Boston last week by walking or running on the Huckleberry Trail.

The Runners for Boston runs are organized as part of a national effort by the Independent Running Retailers Association (IRRA).

At 6:30 p.m., Cortney Martin and Kirsten Thompson Mosby, who ran the marathon last week, spoke of their experiences, followed by a moment of silence at 6:42 p.m. to remember those injured or killed in Boston, as well as those in West Texas affected by the fertilizer plant explosion.

“Running is a lot about freedom and getting out in the world and being unencumbered and just going… this was such an affront and assault to what we love and value,” Martin said.

Thompson Mosby and her husband traveled to Boston with their children to run the marathon.

“I think sometimes the worst things bring out so much good in people,” Mosby said. “It was really humbling to know that in such a moment of tragedy there’s a lot of good still.”

The participants last night gathered for different reasons, but all shared the underlying hope of solidarity.

Sophomore health, nutrition, foods and exercise major Shacoria Winston participated last night to show her respect for the victims in Boston.

“It’s a time to promote unity amongst our campus again,” Winston said. “I feel like we’re used to tragedy and we’re used to events of this nature so the things that occurred in Boston are similar to what we have experienced. We need to show respect for them and show support in the same way that everyone else around the country has shown for us.”

Brett Sherfy — a graduate student in math education — sported blue and yellow, the colors of the Boston Marathon, while he ran Monday night.

“Races have always been a safe, energetic environment and I think that was all kind of taken away last Monday,” said Sherfy. “(The Boston Marathon) is still going to be the pinnacle of marathon running, but it’s never going to be the same.”

Runabout Sports, a member of the IRRA, hosted the event for the area and sold “Runners for Boston” t-shirts with 100 percent of the proceeds going to One Fun Boston aiding victims of the tragedy.

Owner of Runabout Sports, James DeMarco, called the Boston Marathon a celebration of life and endorses running as a good way to express emotions.

“One of the worst things you can do is dwell on things,” DeMarco said. “Running is definitely a proven way to get rid of…stress. If everybody ran more often I think we’d have a lot less violence in the world.”

Runabout Sports donated $300 to cover the cost of making the shirts and hope to raise $1,000 for the charity from sales.

One Fund Boston will distribute money to families most affected by the Boston Marathon explosions.

The cost of an amputation procedure ranges from $20,000-$60,000 with the average cost of a prosthesis being anywhere between a few thousand dollars and $40,000.

One Fund Boston has already raised over $10 million to donate to victims and families.

DeMarco predicts that next year the marathon will see more runners than ever before.

Martin is determined to return to run in Boston again next year and Sherfy hopes to qualify for the marathon one day.

“(At Virginia Tech) we have a really good understanding of uniting together after a tragic event,” Sherfy said. “I’ve seen what a community can do after (tragedy).”

Big Event 2013 gears up

The Big Event statsIt will be an early morning for 6,500 students on Saturday, as they gather to show their support for one of the largest student-run community service events in the country: the 12th annual Big Event at Virginia Tech.

Sponsored by Capital One, this year’s Big Event will feature speakers including Christina McClung of Capital One, an alumna and founder of the Big Event.

Doug Brainard, senior finance major and director of the Big Event team, calls the event “a big way to say ‘thank you’ to the community.”

Students will be assigned service projects such as washing windows, painting or yard work at residential and community locations throughout Blacksburg, Christiansburg and sometimes even as far as Roanoke.

“It’s an opportunity for students to embrace the school’s motto ‘Ut Prosim’ (while) redefining the typical college student to the skeptical homeowner in the area,” Brainard said.

Marcela Roy, a fifth-year senior environmental policy and planning major, who has participated in the event several times, has been assigned to plant gardens and fix a well at an elementary school in Christiansburg.

“The students would come out and they would help garden as well, so it connected us in that way,” Roy said. “We saw (how important) it was to the students.”

The event serves to revamp, and in some cases repair, the link between the students and faculty of the university and the residents of the surrounding community.

“Overall, I think it increases your relationship with the community,” said Roy. “I gained more knowledge of…what was lacking or what could be improved upon.”

However, the number of 6,500 volunteers for this year, made up primarily of Virginia Tech students, with help from faculty alumni and a few Blacksburg High School students, is down from last year’s 6,800.

Still, there is a general upward trend with projects and volunteers, according to Cody Watson, senior history major and co-director of projects for the Big Event.

Although the Big Event at Virginia Tech has been designated the largest event of its kind on the East Coast and second largest in the nation — only behind Texas A&M, where the event originated — there is still room for improvement.

This year, the Big Event team is focused on improving the internal structure by leaving some larger volunteer teams unassigned at first, to account for teams that don’t show up to be assigned projects.

“This year, we’re trying to ensure that someone at least sets foot at each project (site),” Watson said.

While there aren’t as many volunteers this year, the Big Event team is optimistic that there won’t be as many no-shows.

“There’s not much accountability if you take your project to actually show up to your job site, so we do the best we can with volunteers to keep them accountable,” Brainard said. “We’re hoping that we have a higher completion rate of our projects.”

Other improvements this year include the entertainment lineup.

The day will feature performances by the Low Techs, a cappella ensembles, and up-and-coming country star Nick Smith will be performing after the event.

“(It’s) bigger this year than it has been in the past,” Watson said.

However, one of the biggest problems the Big Event team will have to deal with on the day of the event is homeowner-volunteer relations.

“Having to…hold peers responsible…to represent the school, to represent the Big Event, is a project,” Watson said. “We’ve been dealing with the homeowners for the entire year, but now…the main interaction they get is with the volunteers, so we have to make sure…that goes well, or else it’s a bad reflection on the whole ordeal.”

Nevertheless, Brainard assures that every year, satisfaction with the event among members of the community is very high.

“I think if you were to go to most homeowners that were surrounded by a bunch of students, you might hear a lot of horror stories,” Brainard said. “This definitely works toward redefining that stereotype to try to make it a positive interaction where we’re not two separate bodies. We’re all residents of Blacksburg.”