“Traditions and Transitions”
Hokie Family Tailgate.
As I write this, I’ve just spent my weekend participating in one of Virginia Tech’s greatest traditions—Ring Dance! I was humbled and honored to have been asked to be the Class Sponsor this year. Now completing my sixth year as vice president for Student Affairs, I remember all too vividly welcoming this class to the university not so long ago.
Each year, during my orientation address, I talk about how quickly time passes from orientation to graduation, bookends of the collegiate journey. I explain that everyone will have a Virginia Tech experience (an exceptional one, I hope), but my greater hope is that all students truly experience Virginia Tech.
I can now say without hesitation that Ring Dance is one of the incredible time-honored traditions that exemplify that experience. I’ve found our alumni will frequently and nostalgically wax poetic about it. In fact, the entire ring tradition at Virginia Tech is revered, and I’ve learned so much more about the history of this great institution from my involvement this year. In reflecting on my experience, words like history, tradition, pride, and admiration are present and strong.
The Perillo family -- Patty and her seven siblings.
I’ve also reflected on what makes Virginia Tech unique among its peers and the other institutions where I’ve worked. What I know, unequivocally, is that Virginia Tech is a special place … not perfect, but really and truly special. It’s community, a family—the Hokie Nation—linked by shades of maroon and orange; a beloved, albeit unorthodox, mascot; and with an affinity as solid as Hokie Stone.
I’ve also considered the ways in which higher education and the collegiate experience have changed in my 30-year career.
As I look back, it’s clear that I’ve always loved learning. My parents recognized my inquisitive nature and encouraged it from a very young age. It was their support and my own curiosity and insatiable quest for understanding that rendered me the first to graduate from college from the Perillo family (significant, given I have seven siblings and 80 first cousins!). I’ve carried my experiences as a first-generation student with me throughout my career. I know the significant and transformational difference that just one person can make in the lives of our students, whether it is a resident advisor, housekeeper, professor, Student Affairs staff, donor, or family member.
I find myself also looking forward, perhaps because this summer we welcome the Class of 2022. This is an incredibly special incoming class, but perhaps neither they, nor you, know why. The class of 2022 is not only our first Y2K birth year cohort (shocking, right?), but they are also the university’s sesquicentennial class. That’s right, Virginia Tech will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2022.
From our beginnings as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College to the Virginia Tech we know today, we are at once the same and so very different. We value our heritage and humble beginnings, and we desire to reignite our mission as a global land-grant university. We take pride in our Corps of Cadets and our senior military college status (one of only six in the country) while offering a citizen-leader/non-commission track. We seek to embrace Ut Prosim as a way of life, while defining “That I May Serve” in myriad ways. We expect students will graduate with a degree, and we also hope they graduate with a much better sense of who they are because we have helped them understand that well-being and lifelong thriving is more than merely a job or career.
Our history is foundational to our identity. We are earnest, tenacious, and proud. Our future is bright and full of possibility. We strive toward inclusivity, social justice, and courageous leadership, while being adaptable, agile, and relevant. The common link—past and future, you and me, the 250,000+ living alumni, and the class of 2022—is a shared human Hokie experience.
Patty Perillo is vice president for Student Affairs for Virginia Tech.
IN THE NEXT ISSUE
In August, Virginia Tech will welcome a new class of Hokies. Many of these students will graduate with the Class of 2022, during Virginia Tech’s sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary, a historically significant moment for the university and the entire Hokie Nation.
The fall edition of Virginia Tech Magazine will introduce you to these new students, offering glimpse of who they are, where they are from, and how they hope a Virginia Tech education will help them shape the future.
Many of the careers for which today’s university students are preparing did not exist a decade ago. As technology advances and connectivity plays an even greater role in our personal and professional lives, how can we ensure the safety of our systems and our communities?
Integrated security, a growing area of study, involves understanding security as a system of values, capabilities, and preparedness in order to learn how can we advance and assure the security of our social, political, and financial networks, while balancing the needs and expectations of privacy and governmental oversight. Virginia Tech Magazine will take readers into classrooms and where students are learning how to develop innovative solutions for real-world security challenges. The feature story will also highlight regional, national, and international competitions where university students expand their knowledge and learn through their rivalries.
Fall readers will also get a special behind-the-scenes interview with the Hokie Bird. Look for these stories and more in your next issue.