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28.9.15

VTRally prepares for its first race after years of building

Originally published by the Collegiate Times as News. 
Published in print edition, front page, on Tuesday, Sept. 29. 2015.

VT Rally is a team of 25 Virginia Tech senior mechanical engineers designing and building an off-road race car from scratch for a senior capstone project. They will be racing their car in the Method Race Wheels Laughlin Desert Classic in Laughlin, Nevada, from May 5-8, 2016.

BLACKSBURG, Va. — VTRally's car sits inside the WARE Lab, the team's on-campus workshop. Sam Paras, the team's co-captain, works on a computer. Photo by Zack Wajsgras/Collegiate Times
The idea began in 2013, and the vehicle will debut on the racetrack for the first time in the spring. John B. Ferris, Ph.D., the director of the vehicle terrain performance laboratory of Virginia Tech, is overseeing the team as the academic advisor. Alec Jones and Sam Paras, both mechanical engineering majors, are co-captains of the team.

“You have classes all day, sitting in a classroom, listening to professors, staring at a computer, and then, at the end of the day, you get to go and hang out with a bunch of relaxed people that are fun to be around, and you get to get your hands dirty a little bit and mess around with the car,” said Tess Robinson, who is part of the engine and drivetrain sub-team. “It completely relieves all the stress and makes you feel better.”

VTRally is comprised of three sub-teams: chassis and suspension, engine and drivetrain, and controls and electrical, in addition to a marketing team. The small size of the VTRally team allows for easy collaboration and familiarity.

“It’s only in its third year, so being a part of something that's new and trying to match the quality of the build of the other teams is something that we want to do, but also staying true to our values,” said Jonathan Alabran, a member of the controls and electrical sub-team. "It's really cool to be able to go to the western half of the country where there's probably people out there who have no idea what Virginia Tech is, so I think it's really cool to be able to go out there and share a part of Virginia Tech.”

The car has expanded significantly since its inception and exists as a two-seater vehicle with an estimated completion weight of 2,500 pounds. Most of the car remains unfinished, with many parts that still need to be completed and improved.

"There's a fair amount of engineering work to be done, but the project is already in its final stages,” Alabran said. “We created a prototype, so what we're doing now is improving issues. I think we have a really good outlook as far as our timeline; it's very realistic and it's very accomplishable.”

The team hopes to finish the car by the end of the fall semester, leaving the spring for final adjustments and test drives. Many students on the team have experience with vehicles and all share a passion for cars. One student will be chosen among them next semester to drive the car during the race.

"It's the best learning experience: getting hands-on experience,” Robinson said. “It teaches me way more than any class could, and I feel like our team has so many experienced people that really know what they're doing and they're also very passionate, and it's just people that are very easy to learn from.”

 Currently, the team is optimizing suspension and frame designs and is working to integrate headlights, taillights, engine mapping capabilities, GPS tracking and real-time telemetry on digital displays. The team also began working with SOLIDWORKS last week, a 3-D CAD design software. Fueled by donations and sponsorships, last year’s team collected more than $100,000 as well and received physical car parts, including a 2.0-liter EcoBoost motor from a Ford Focus ST with a Weddle Transaxle and suspension level of 20 inches.

"If it gets done and we race it, we can show everyone else that we're such a young team but we managed to get this car done and race it. Hopefully more people will join the team next year and it'll just continue to grow and be one of those Ware Lab projects that goes on for years,” said Eric Rauchenberger, a member of the chassis and suspension sub-team. “I feel like this team is really committed and everyone seems like they're really interested in the project as a whole, and no one's just doing it for a grade.”

This year’s team continues to be active in pursuing sponsors daily, with a goal of $74,000 for this year to cover safety equipment, travel and competition expenses, manufactured components, tools and shop equipment, and raw materials.

"It's going to be a lot of work this year, it's going to be a lot of time spent, probably more than if we would've chosen other projects, but I think it's also going to be so rewarding that I don't think the time's ever going to bother us,” Robinson said. "We're just going to be really proud that we're just a small team from Virginia Tech that is racing in a huge race that's actually televised: people can watch this.”

Ashley Anderson, a senior public relations major and member of the marketing sub-team, describes the team as being both hardworking and fun.

"Every time I'm in the Ware Lab, there's somebody in there working hard, making sure they're staying on schedule for making all the changes that they have to,” Anderson said. “They're really dedicated, and I would love to see them go and race and get out there and test what they've been building.”

The team emphasized their welcoming of volunteers and curious students while preparing for busier workloads ahead as the semester progresses.

“We're all a great group of engineers and we love teaching people about vehicles,” Rauchenberger said. “If anyone is interested in coming by and just looking at the car, there's always someone in the Ware Lab working on it, just because we're all inspired by what this university has to offer, and we're all thankful we're able to do a project like this.”

The race, called “Duel in the Desert,” is hosted by Canidae Tap It, and while it is targeted to amateur drivers, it will feature many competitive teams and professionals. The goal for this year’s team will be getting the car to the track and completing the race successfully.

“Even right now, I can see that it's a huge stress relief, and it's something that's fun to go do,” Robinson said. “Even though it's going to take a lot of time away from doing homework and things like that, it's going to be completely worth it: to be able to say, 'We built this car, we made it run, we're the reason that we're here.'”

National Coffee Day arrives in time for Blacksburg fall

Originally published by the Collegiate Times as Lifestyles.
Published in print edition, front page, on Tuesday, Sept. 29. 2015.

The first official day of fall was last week, which means it is now acceptable (kind of) to order pumpkin-flavored everything. Tuesday, Sept. 29 is national coffee day, and rainy weather is forecasted for Blacksburg all week long, making this the perfect time to explore coffee shops and cafes around town.

Photo by Ben Weidlich/Collegiate Times
Beginning with on-campus options, Virginia Tech students can use their dining plans at Deet’s Place. Seasonal and classic favorites include their pumpkin pie latte, pumpkin pie chai and the Swanson special, which was a student original, mixing hot chocolate, the Deet’s house blend Hokie coffee, steamed milk, whipped cream and sugar.

Deet’s place offers six regularly-rotated flavors and seasonal flavors like gingerbread and peppermint for the holiday season. Imported from Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, Africa and more, all beans are roasted in-house behind the counter at Deet’s and distributed throughout campus, including to Dietrick Hall and West End.

"We have to watch what temperature and change the gas levels and change how the air flows through the roaster in order to get the best roast,” said Kaitlin McKenna, a junior hospitality and tourism major and the general student manager at Deet’s. “A lot of places, like a Starbucks, would not roast their own coffee; they'd roast it elsewhere and get it sent to the stores themselves, but we roast it in-house.”

McKenna also explains a common misconception in that darker coffee does not necessarily have more caffeine. One of Deet’s current specials is the single-origin elephant bean, the “maragogipe,” which McKenna explained as a mutant bean originating in Brazil. Its taste is unique but hasn’t reached a consensus, inviting coffee enthusiasts in to visit Deet’s for a cup.

Bollo’s Bakery and Café in downtown Blacksburg also features daily specials and will start evening specials from 6 to 8 p.m., offering a free house mug of coffee or tea with the chosen pastry of the month. October’s pastry of the month is pie.

"The thing that makes us unique is that we're locally owned and operated downtown,” said Barbara Wright, the pastry manager. “Our coffee is always fresh, and we have a lot of fair trade and organic coffee.”

In addition to local roasters, like Red Rooster, and state roasters, like Honduras Coffee, Bollo’s also receives coffee from more distant roasters, like Equal Exchange. Bollo’s offers favorites like pumpkin lattes, espresso drinks and mochas, and it also boasts strong coffee and freshness: the cafe receives coffee shipments multiple times per week.

Idego coffee shop, a third-wave coffee shop, also strives for a strong taste, so inherent flavors of coffee are evident. Paul DeArras, the owner, specializes in fully-developed lighter roasts. Their beans are picked 10 to 14 months prior to ensure freshness and rotated seasonally.

"You still get the taste of the coffee with lighter roasts,” DeArras said. “I have a coffee right now that's super ripe-black, cherry-tobacco, and you get to taste that without it being a sour or weird cup of coffee."

A unique trait of Idego coffee, in addition to its source of beans, is that the cafe handcrafts all of its flavorings and almond milk. The pumpkin spice flavoring contains real pumpkin.

DeArras explains that another misconception with lighter roasts is that they are not sour if they are fully developed. This past summer, DeArras and his family packed up and went on a two-week road trip around the country, stopping in coffee landmarks including New York City and Los Angeles. After returning, DeArras applied what he’d learned to his own coffee shop and found that he preferred Idego’s own mocha.

"We really want to focus what we do so that what we do is at a high level. Instead of doing a bunch of things okay, we do a few things very well,” he said. "There's a lot of good coffee out there, and we wanted to recalibrate some of the things we're doing based on that."

Back on-campus but not yet available through the FLEX portion of Hokie passports, EspressOasis is a chain coffee shop with more than 12 locations in hospitals and universities. The cafe ensures its freshness by brewing espressos two weeks prior to arrival and throwing them out after three weeks.

Offering more than 40 flavors, from lemon to white chocolate to banana, EspressOasis is able to create more than 200 variations and rotate its flavors seasonally. Some of its fall drink specials include a pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin spice mocha, harvest chai, banana bread latte, toffee nut mocha and blended cider lattes.

Customer favorites include the mocha Milano, which is a mix of chocolate, hazelnut and caramel, and the “Walter White” and “Frank Underwood,” which are nicknames for a blackberry mocha and a redeye Irish crème, respectively.

"I think it's a great community that coffee provides for us,” said Jennifer Barber, a senior biology and animal poultry sciences major and the general manager at EspressOasis. “I would definitely consider myself a coffee enthusiast, not only for the coffee but for the community it brings."

Barber usually opens the shop in the mornings and looks forward to the smell of coffee to start her day.

“I love that I can provide that to people and that everyone is always happy to see me, and I can provide something that's such a necessity for the setting I'm in, for college,” Barber said. “So many people come up to me in desperation like, 'I need caffeine,' and I'm like, 'You're at the right place.'"

But no matter the weather or time of day, National Coffee Day is an excuse for coffee aficionados and newcomers alike to celebrate their love of their choice (safe and legal) drug by indulging – in liberal doses, of course.

"I'm a big coffee addict,” McKenna said. “I like that it's bitter, but it can also be sweet with a little sugar in it. It's just a comforting drink. Whenever you have coffee, you feel at home.”

24.9.15

Catholic students make pilgrimage for historic Pope visit

Originally published by the Collegiate Times as News. 
Published in print edition, page 3, on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. 


The World Meeting of Families is an international conference that brings together families every three years and will be held in Philadelphia from Sept. 22 to 25.

The pilgrimage tradition began in Rome in 1994 by Pope John Paul II and typically coincides with a papal visit, with previous destinations including Milan, Rio de Janeiro and Manila.

This year, the Newman Community of Virginia Tech, an on-campus Catholic ministry, will be making a pilgrimage to the event to see Pope Francis, who will be present as a part of his first visit to the United States.

“Once we found out about that, we knew we had to go,” said Lindsey Neimo, a Newman intern and graduate student majoring in nonprofit management. “The whole purpose of the Newman community is to bring people closer to Christ and have that experience, and nothing is going to be better than this experience this weekend.”

Neimo and other members of the Newman staff, including Father David Sharland, the Chaplain and director of campus ministry, and Irene Saul, the director of development, have overcome various logistical challenges.

Three Coach buses will depart at noon Friday, carrying 160 students to an empty convent, where they will stay packed in until Sunday night.

“We have friends who work in food sciences, so this morning, we hard-boiled 450 eggs in their broilers and we have them cooling in their cooler system so we can bring them with us,” Neimo said. “We're hoping to hit where we're staying by 7:30 or 8 p.m., where we will be greeted by 60 pizzas. We'll dive into those and everybody settle in and do some prayer and really just get our heads centered around the awesomeness of the weekend but also the craziness of it.”

On Saturday, the group will walk to the National Shrine of St. John Neumann, attend mass by their own Father David and visit cathedrals in town. The festival where Pope Francis will speak will begin at 4 p.m., followed by aconcert with performers such as Mark Wahlberg, Aretha Franklin and The Fray.

“The thought of me being in the same place as the vicar of Christ is unheard of. It's something that I can't imagine. I can't believe I've been blessed with such an opportunity, and I'm so excited to encounter it,” said Daniel Mehr, a senior industrial and systems engineering major and member of the Newman community. "I am so excited — could not be more pumped.”

Dressed in matching t-shirts with rosary in hand, the group will stand outside Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in anticipation of seeing Pope Francis pass by. Then they will attend mass celebrated by the Pope on Sunday at 4 p.m. outside the Philadelphia Art Museum, where they will be close enough to receive the Eucharist.

“We're gonna have to walk a lot and we're not going to shower, but if everybody smells bad, it's fine,” said Kate Burke, a junior economics and computational modeling and data analytics major and member of Newman. “I'm excited that everybody's excited. Especially the way Pope Francis is approaching certain things, it just sheds a lot of light on how kind and loving the Catholic Church truly is, which is something I think a lot of people overlook.

“I think that Pope Francis in general is just a good reminder to always care for your neighbor, to care for the lowly ones, for anyone who needs help, even if it may not be readily obvious that they need help or you may not want to help them," Burke said.

Burke has seen the Pope once before during the procession of Corpus Christi in Rome two summers ago. But for a majority, it will be their first time.

"An opportunity to see him come here is like a pilgrimage; it's a part of your spiritual journey. It's not just, 'Oh, we're going to see a famous person,’ you're seeing somebody who leads your church and leads your church closer to God,” said Christian Williams, a senior psychology major and member of Newman. “Going there and seeing 1 or 2 million Catholics in Philadelphia shows the universal church and shows how big the Catholic Church is in the world.”

Students embarking on the pilgrimage are predominantly Catholic and are of all years, including graduate students. The trip fee is $50 for students, including food and lodging and is a result of donor support, grants, sponsorships and fundraising. Some students attending had Friday night exams rescheduled for 7 a.m. Monday, after an estimated return time of 3 a.m.

“We have 160 college-age students who are willing to take three days out of their life to go see the Pope,” said Daniel Mehr, a senior industrial and systems engineering major and member of Newman. “I think it's just such a beautiful opportunity that God has blessed us with, and I'm so excited to experience it.”

Through logistical challenges and last-minute swaps and sign-ups, the Newman staff and community are optimistic, with continuous echoes of excitement.

"I think, for me, this is going to be the most powerful experience for us as a Newman community,” Neimo said. “The world is changing because it doesn't matter if you're Catholic or Jewish or no religion at all – he's shaking up the world. There's something about him that people want to know more about: we want to know his faith, we want to know how he loves so well.”

The three-day trip will be an opportunity to strengthen faith and build fellowship for Catholic students on campus, members of the community and other attendees.

“Not only being close to the Pope, who's the head of the Catholic church, but being around millions of people who are going to be there for the same reason – it's all worth it,” Neimo said. “We have overcome it with a lot of jokes and a lot of laughter and covered ourselves in peanut butter, trying to make sandwiches.”

Armed with hundreds of packed lunches, sleeping bags and open minds and hearts, the community hopes to grow closer in both their faith and with each other, anticipating great stories that will last a lifetime.

“The fact that I'm going to see him hasn't hit yet. I think it's beautiful that the Newman community was blessed with such an opportunity,” Mehr said. “God provides.”

22.9.15

International Community Tailgate Flyer

Distributed flyer for an event hosted in part by Global Education Office and Cranwell International Center at Virginia Tech. Created using Adobe Illustrator.

The first version is optimized for print distribution, featuring a QR code. 


The second version is optimized for web distribution, featuring a shortened link to a survey.

21.9.15

Making students feel at home: the first year of flexible housing

Originally published by the Collegiate Times as News.
Published in print edition, front page centerspread, on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015. 
*one of the top viewed stories online.

For the first time in Virginia Tech history, Housing and Residence Life has offered a gender-neutral housing option, allowing students of different genders to room together.

The flexible housing option is currently available in two co-ed dorms: Pritchard Hall and New Hall West, both of which have full gender-neutral bathrooms either in the room or hall. On-campus students 18 years and older and of all academic years are invited to apply, free from judgment.

“We were very happy to be able to offer a housing option that does not focus on the gender designation,” said Eleanor Finger, the director of Housing and Residence Life. “It’s been wonderful because people want to live together for a variety of reasons, which could include gender identity, but sometimes it’s siblings or friends.”

The program became possible after the Resident Hall Federation voted unanimously to approve a resolution for flexible housing on Feb. 24, 2014. The flexible housing option does not question reason on its application, but students who are in relationships are discouraged from applying. Based on the number of students who signed up, only three rooms on campus are considered part of the program.

“We really try to discourage partners and people in relationships from pursuing it,” Finger said. “If we even knew, we don’t ask, but we say sometimes relationships don’t always end up staying for the long term, so housing can be complicated when that’s the case.”

Paul Faust, a junior chemical engineering major, and Raelynn Scherer, a senior biochemistry major, share a room in New Hall West.

“All of my friends are guys. I get along better with guys, generally speaking. I have, like, two female friends,” Scherer said. “I just get along better with guys.”

BLACKSBURG, Va.  Raelynn Scherer sits at her desk adjacent to her bed against one wall of the dorm room she shares with her male roommate, Paul Faust. Photo by Ben Weidlich/Collegiate Times
Gender Neutral Housing Both have known each other since they were freshmen, became friends sophomore year and are very close but completely platonic. Both prefer to interact with people of the opposite gender.

“I really don’t like hanging out with guys,” Faust said. “I’d rather hang out with a girl because it’s more interesting to me, just because of the social dynamics of what women tend to talk about socially, as opposed to what men talk about socially. Guys don’t have that, ‘let’s talk about social upbringing,’ where women do, so it’s a lot easier for me to be living with Raelynn, who’s got that, instead of with a dude, who I cannot connect with emotionally.”

Faust was previously a cadet his freshman year and a Resident Advisor in Pritchard Hall for two years. Both have only lived on-campus with people of the same gender during their time at Virginia Tech.

“We live in the 21st century. No one is really going to be upset that these two are rooming together,” Faust said. “You know who’s going to be upset by it? Parents and old people. That’s it.”

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Paul Faust sits at his desk adjacent to Scherer's bed. Photo by Ben Weidlich/Collegiate Times
Gender Neutral Housing Both Faust and his girlfriend, who is also a student, are comfortable with the understanding. Faust gets along better with his mom than his dad, and Scherer was born into a family as the first and only girl.

“I only have uncles and all my cousins are boys,” Scherer said. “It was my mom and a boatload of men, so I grew up watching football and playing sports and doing guy things, so I just get along with guys a lot better than girls. I don’t have that ‘girly connection’ to girls that girls have.”

After being denied from Virginia Tech’s buyout deal with Foxridge Apartments because they were of different genders, they turned to the flexible housing program. Both have received support from friends, family and the community.

“When I told my mom, she said ‘Go ahead, it’s probably better for you anyway,” Scherer said. Scherer’s hair on the floor and using more toilet paper are the only challenges they have encountered as a result of different genders. Otherwise, they are like any other friends who simply share a room.
Coming into college, Scherer would have taken advantage of the program had it been available.

"Aw heck yeah,” Scherer said. “I feel like girls overreact a lot, and there’s a list of 400,000 things that could be going wrong. If you see a guy crying, sh-- is going down – like there’s actually something wrong and you need to fix it. Guys are just a lot easier to deal with.”

The program aims to accommodate all students, from siblings to students who prefer to interact with the opposite gender and those who do not identify with traditional gender binary.

“The main thing people were coming back at us (during the process) with was if boyfriends and girlfriends live together, and that wasn’t our intent at all,” said Jackie Fisher, the vice president of membership and legislation of the Residence Hall Federation (RHF) last year. “The goal wasn’t to let just anyone live together; it was to make sure that if someone was really close to their brother, they have that option.”

The Residence Hall Federation is the main programming and governing body for the on-campus community. “This pilot holds promise for increasing inclusion in student housing, and we look forward to following its progress,” said David Travis, the interim vice provost for inclusion and diversity, in a statement to the Collegiate Times.

“We hope that students considering the flexible housing environment have the support they need as they reflect on this decision.”

 While there are not yet concrete plans to expand the program for next year, the University has received positive reception and will continue to strive to accommodate students.

“The community members have just been very receptive,” Finger said. “We’ve got bed space for both of these options, and we really like the way the housing options differ.”

Plans were started by the RHF in the 2013-2014 academic year and were submitted to Housing and Residence Life. The multistep process included the creation of the Committee on Gender-Neutral Housing.

“It’s been such a pleasure working with RHF and to see student leaders recognize that we had a gap,” Finger said. “To see student leaders recognize that we had a gap and their own leadership helped us be better in what we can provide for our students.”

While many students have not yet participated in the program, the option continues to make itself available to interested students.

“The University has been striving towards more inclusivity lately, and we realized that by forcing people to live with people who are of their biological gender isn’t the most inclusive thing because there are a lot of people who aren’t necessarily comfortable with that,” Fisher said. “We want to make sure that everybody here is able to succeed, and without ensuring that everyone is here living comfortably, we can’t make sure that they succeed academically.”

The goal of the program is to make all students feel welcome and included, regarding gender an arbitrary divider between students.

“Men and women who are either related or they’re friends or if students don’t identify with the traditional continuum of gender, they have a space that allows for them to be who they are with a wonderful, caring community where they can be engaged in everything that goes on in our residence halls,” Finger said. “I think it speaks to our emphasis on providing diverse housing options to meet the needs of our really diverse students.”

Kylie Gilbert, a Virginia Tech graduate and former president of the committee, was passionate about the cause and began the movement two years ago.

“She was the one who started the movement and it was super important to her,” Fisher said. “She was in tears the day it passed.”

After brainstorming and finalizing language, the reality of this year’s pilot program is an idea-turned-reality. Virginia Tech adds itself, along with another Virginia school, George Mason University since last fall, to the expanding list of schools that offer a gender-neutral housing option.

“It’s just another normal part of our residential community: we value diversity. We really want students to have a sense of belonging and care and to love where they live,” Finger said. “This is yet another way to offer a living experience where students can learn and engage and not have gender impacting their decisions in that space.”

So far, the program has allowed for students to room together more comfortably without any problems.

“This is just a long time coming,” Faust said. “It’s been a really great experience – all you have to do is change in the bathroom, that’s about it.”

TOTS expands to lower level as BOTS

Originally published by the Collegiate Times as Lifestyles.
Published in print edition, front page, on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015. 
*one of the top three most viewed stories online.


BLACKSBURG, Va. — TOT's sign announcing BOTS hangs at the entrance on the lower level, with a projected opening in spring 2016. Photo by Loren Stinker/Collegiate Times
A staple of the Virginia Tech college experience, with its iconic light-up maroon and orange flag photo-op and Tuesday night karaoke, Top of the Stairs (TOTS) will be expanding to the Bottom of the Stairs (BOTS, of course).

Mike Whaley owns PK’S Bar & Grill and has owned TOTS for 20 years. He also owns the building and has started construction on the bottom portion of the building, with the projected completion being next spring.

“I think because we’re going to close at 11, even though a full bar will be offered down there, there won’t be a bar you can stand at, and it’s going to be more focused on the dining part,” Whaley said. “What I’m hoping it’s going to do is bring a more diverse clientele in. It is geared toward students, but it’s also geared towards adults and families and that kind of thing.”

Traditional TOTS Tuesdays will remain the same but with additions to the menu, especially for BOTS.

“I’m most excited about expanding the kitchen and expanding the food options and being able to offer more choices,” said Chaz Oldfield, a manager at TOTS.

Students frequent TOTS more in the evenings, but Whaley is excited for the bigger kitchen and expanded restaurant, which will allow for new menu items and an additional capacity of 45 people inside and up to 40 people outside on College Avenue. The theme of the first floor will be similar, with the idea of a gourmet barbecue shack.

“I’m going to have the capacity to do a lot of food down there with the smokers, so it’s going to be fun and it’s going to be a lot easier,” Whaley said. “The quality of the food is excellent now, but it’s going to get better and more consistent.”

In addition to a larger kitchen, the downstairs will feature a “menu replacement counter,” where customers can get to-go meals and order ahead for pick-up. “Blacksburg isn’t really known for its barbecue – most barbecue restaurants have the same stuff,” Whaley said. “We’re going to do some fun stuff, like brine a pork loin and lightly smoke it and slice it, put it on a jalapeño roll on top of a potato pancake and put apple chutney on it.”

TOTS classics, including their pulled pork and chicken, brisket, sausage and traditional barbeque sides, like macaroni and cheese, will be available both upstairs and downstairs. BOTS will also offer new menu items with a focus on seasonal recipes, including brine, pork loin, turkey legs, honey-baked ham and sauces of the week, inspired by international cuisine.

“I feel like our food’s really good but not as many people come to eat because they consider it a big college bar hangout – and it is, after 11, and all day on football games,” Whaley said.“Hopefully more people will give it a try.”

Construction has already begun and will continue to progress at a steady pace to prevent disrupting the current business and adjacent businesses, including Jimmy John’s. “TOTS isn’t the TOTS people think it is until after 11 at night,” Whaley said. “That’s how all the places are in town – we’re just like every other restaurant before 10, 11 o’clock, and then the atmosphere changes later at night, and we start having karaoke, DJs and bands and all that kind of stuff.”

Some students have not yet heard rumors of expansion to the TOTS they know and love.

“I had no idea they even had food until my friend told me last year. They have an all-you-can-eat rib night, and I went with all my roommates,” said junior Caroline Cleary. “I think it’s a smart idea, and they should definitely advertise it a lot because I don’t think anyone knows about it."

Students who typically visit TOTS only at night have also heard about the expansion. “It’ll be interesting to see what’s going to happen,” said senior Tyler Thrift. “It’s pretty good – I like their mac and cheese. Given the opportunity, I would try their food again.”

Established in 1978, this new addition to a long-time downtown destination aims to expand the menu and dining space of TOTS. In the coming years, Whaley has ideas about off-site cuisine and large-scale catering. But for now, TOTS is focusing on taking the restaurant to another level.

 “BOTS is going to make all of TOTS look a little better without getting rid of the rustic charm that it has,” Whaley said.

17.9.15

Battling the "Blacksburg Plague"

Originally published by the Collegiate Times as Lifestyles.
Published in print edition, Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. 

The advent of fall and sweater weather brings with it coughs, sneezes and congestion, spreading rapidly across the Virginia Tech campus. It’s enough to garner the nickname “the Blacksburg Plague,” in reference to an ambiguous sickness that often goes undiagnosed.

Se Jin Lee, a junior neuroscience major and member of the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad, became ill after the Ohio State football game on Sept. 7. “I probably got sick from someone at the Ohio State game since I was working with rescue, and I was interacting with a lot of sick people,” Lee said. “I wore gloves and washed my hands between each call, but I think just being in a stadium full of more than 66,000 people had enough germs to make anyone and everyone sick.”

Students who are past the point of prevention might consider measures to contain the spread of germs, including washing hands, not sharing food and drink and getting enough rest.

“One of the biggest things a student can do is to get enough sleep,” said Laurie Fritsch, MS CHES and assistant director of health education at Schiffert Health Center. “A lack of sleep directly compromises health, and you have a harder time fighting off germs and simple viruses.”

Fritsch also references the impact of smoking on health, as it compromises the respiratory system and exists as another opportunity to share germs.

“A lot of times, people will go downtown and share drink and share water bottles,” Fritsch said. “They don’t think twice when they say, ‘Oh, you can have a sip.’”

Flu season typically begins in November, but can start spreading earlier in October. Flu vaccines are available for $23 and flu mists are available for $40 through Schiffert Health Center at McComas Hall, as well as in all local pharmacies. This year’s flu clinic will be from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 7, in McComas Hall Gym.

“I would recommend students to get a flu vaccine,” Fritsch said. “Researchers work very hard to figure out what strains are for this year, and sure, they’re not right every year, but it’s very easy to get a vaccine.”

Students who are unsure of their condition but may be suffering from a runny nose, sore throat, congestion or more can visit the cold care clinic inside of McComas Hall to learn more about their symptoms.

Schiffert Health Center can provide four different symptom-relief medications, including cough suppressant, cough drops, nasal decongestant and pain relief. These resources are already included in tuition charges for full-time students. If symptoms persist, Fritsch recommends students see a doctor or provider at Schiffert.

“I don’t remember how it feels to be not sick, to be honest,” Lee said. “But the day my cough disappears and my throat and nostrils are mucus-free, I will be the happiest person in the world. Being sick makes me really appreciate health in general.”

For those who are already sick or still of good health, frequent hand washing, opening bathroom doors with a paper towel, keeping food and drink separate and avoiding direct contact with potentially contagious students are safe and clean practices that can help keep your body healthy.

14.9.15

Virginia Tech ranked No. 70 in the nation

Originally published by the Collegiate Times as News.
Published in print edition, page 3, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015.

In the 2015 U.S. News & World Report, Virginia Tech ranked No. 70 of all national universities, tied with Texas A&M University, and No. 26 of public institutions. Both rankings are one position ahead from last year.

The report’s rankings review undergraduate programs in the fall and graduate programs in the spring. This year marks the 31st year for the U.S. News & World Report.

The Virginia Tech college of engineering ranked No. 8 among public institutions and No. 15 among all national institutions, defending its titles since last year and tying again with Texas A&M University.

“The thing about rankings is that it’s always a good thing when other people are talking about you and saying you’re pretty darn good,” said Mark Owczarski, assistant vice president for news and information.

Virginia Tech’s department of biomedical engineering and mechanics, which was established in 2014 as a product of a merge between the department of engineering science and mechanics and the biomedical engineering program, was ranked No. 4 among engineering science programs. Several of Virginia Tech’s engineering programs, including civil and industrial, were among the top 20 undergraduate engineering programs in the nation.

Along with the highly ranked school of engineering, the Pamplin College of Business earned a No. 27 spot among public universities and No. 43 among national institutions. The U.S. News & World Report went on to describe Virginia Tech as a “research powerhouse.”

School rankings are based on these measures: A formula for academic quality comprises 77.5 percent and is based on graduation rates, faculty information and admissions data. The remaining 22.5 percent is based on academic reputation determined by top college academics and high school counselors.

Surveys from high school counselors from more than 2,200 schools nationwide put Virginia Tech as one of the “High School Counselors’ Top Picks.” Virginia Tech’s welcoming military accommodations also put it as one of the “Best Colleges for Veterans.” Virginia Tech is new to both of these lists this year.

Data was collected from 16 areas related to the college experience and then weighted by the most important qualities from both spring and summer of 2015.

The ranking takes into account a variety of factors, including high school counselor score (4.1 out of 5 for Virginia Tech), average freshmen retention rate (92 percent), class sizes, student-faculty ratio (16:1), acceptance rate (72.6 percent) and graduation rate.

“Rankings are great but the ultimate connection is when the individual comes and explores and learns and you see yourself being a part of Virginia Tech,” Owczarski said. “We want students to come here and invent the future in a Virginia Tech way.”

From some of the best food on campus to the fittest students, Hokies continue to excel in every aspect of their experience and education, bringing dimension to the ranking and making this school much more than a number.

“We are who we are, and rankings are one of a hundred different ways you can learn about us,” Owczarski said. “What’s most important is that we attract the students that will be most successful and that they will continue to do wonderful things for the rest of their life.”

Review: Track your digital footprint with Apply Magic Sauce

Originally published by the Collegiate Times as Lifestyles.

Soon-to-be alumni (and Hokies of all years) are preparing both mentally and academically to leave Blacksburg for the workforce, meaning resume revisions and overflowing email outboxes.

A crucial, often overlooked aspect of the job hunt is to clean up social media outlets to seem employable, and with the Business Horizons Career Fair coming up, this week is the prime time for cleaning and suiting up.

Apply Magic Sauce, a prediction engine developed by the University of Cambridge Psychometrics Centre, is a prediction API (application program interface) that analyzes your digital footprint into a psychological profile using Facebook data. Storing personal data, Apply Magic Sauce utilizes likes, statuses, tweets, browsing data and open text to provide statistics on personality traits, intelligence, life satisfaction, political and religious views, sexuality and profession.

“Students have to be very careful on what you post on Facebook and how you are perceived,” said Bonnie Gilbert, assistant director of alumni relations at the Pamplin College of Business. “It’s fine to put some information up, and it’s important to be out there on Facebook to keep up with trends and where people are, and sometimes it’s the only way to find people.”

Available for research, business and personal use, the app asked for consent to access my Facebook digital footprint. Based purely on Facebook data, which limits the reach of analysis severely to those who are active users, caused feedback to be insufficient. My results were disappointing, often not matching up to my actual preferences or identifications.

My initial confidence in the application was quickly replaced by disappointment, starting with its lack of accuracy in major areas that might be obvious to another human user as opposed to an algorithm. However, this discrepancy could also provide insight into how my actual Facebook profile does not reflect myself.

“I wouldn’t mind using the application, not because I would be sketched out by it but because I don’t really care if they have my information,” said Esther Yi, a third-year engineering student. “A lot of people use apps like, ‘Who should you room with?’ and that takes their information, or they log into things using Facebook. I don’t really put any information out there.”

Though Apply Magic Sauce’s age guestimate was almost ten years off, and its political and religious orientations were also inaccurate, the analysis was interesting to see. Nevertheless, Gilbert advises students to avoid consenting personal data unless necessary.

“Only if you’re trying to project a certain image on Facebook and you need to know what you’re projecting from an outside source,” Gilbert said. “Employers do go out and look at your information, and that could be a deciding factor of whether you’re offered a position at their company or not.”

Despite the source, even if it is academic, such as the University of Cambridge, Gilbert advises to absolutely avoid applications of this nature.

The verdict: The information was brief and some parts even complimentary (I was told I was “more intelligent than 89 percent of the population”), but the site proved to be just another place for more of my personal information to be stored somewhere online with little return.

10.9.15

Tech alumna to debut designs at New York Couture Fashion Week

Originally published by the Collegiate Times as Lifestyles.
Published in print edition, page 7, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015.

Mixing cultural inspiration with timeless style, DiDomenico Designs draws inspiration from around the world into unique, handcrafted designs. Kelsy Dominick, the founder of the brand, graduated from Virginia Tech in 2013 with a degree in Apparel, Housing and Resource Management.

From her freshman to senior year, she worked at a tailor shop and her designs were featured in school and community fashion shows. They started to sell at 310 Rosemont in downtown Blacksburg and other local boutiques.

Now they will be debuting for the first time in one of the fashion capitals of the world: at New York Couture Fashion Week.

Eight of Dominick’s dresses will grace the runway at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12 at the Crowne Plaza in Times Square. A product of six months of preparation, the theme of her collection is a virtuous woman, inspired by her Christian faith. Most of the dresses are silk and decorated with hand-beaded embellishments and stitching work.

“As crazy as the concepts might be, they are still very elegant,” Dominick said. “They transcend through different trends. It’s different, and it’s different in a tasteful way.”

Since 2009, Dominick has been building her brand, which specializes in eveningwear and custom-wear and designed for women 25 to 35 years. The pieces to be featured on the runway are couture and are available in ready-to-wear versions. Her designs are no stranger to runways, but when a friend encouraged her to apply to New York Fashion Week, she went for it.

“When I got the email from them, I was kind of like ‘Wait, now what?’” Dominick said.

Sleep-deprived, nervous, but most of all prepared, Dominick anticipates the networking opportunities to meet and collaborate with other designers. “It’s an overflow of emotions,” Dominick said. “I know once it’s all done and once it’s all out there, I will appreciate the nights I sacrificed, not sleeping, to get to this point.”

During Fashion Week, Dominick hopes to raise awareness of her brand and to inspire others to share her perception of beauty: that fashion is not confined to any look. As part of her efforts to showcase diversity, DiDomenico Designs features models of different ethnicities on the website. She also explores diversity through photography, as a part of her photo series of her in exotic places with a rustic sewing machine.

Do you remember the time? ... #MichaelJackson http://ow.ly/PgrTE Funny story about this picture. I was actually in a cab driving along the highway passing by the dust hazed mountains of Sinai. Because I was on a roll with sewing pictures, I couldn’t let the moment pass. I asked the man to pull over in the middle of nowhere, I jumped the roadside barricade and darted off with my back pack towards the mountains. As I pulled out my props, the man understood what I was trying to do and immediately started styling my outfit! haha Nothing like having an international stylist as a cab driver. Fun Fact: The biblical Mount Sinai is one of the most important sacred places in all three Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions. #SewingTheWorld #DiDomenico #DiDomenicoDesign #Egypt #MtSinai #MichaelJackson #TravelingSeamstress #DoYouRememberTheTime #Cleopatra
A photo posted by DiDomenico (@didomenico_design) on

“When I first posted the #SewingTheWorld photos, I was like, ‘People think I’m crazy.” Dominick said. “But the more you inspire other people, the more they inspire you.”

A self-proclaimed travel addict, Dominick’s travels first began after she quit her day job to backpack through Southeast Asia for two months.

“When I came back and still continued to travel, I was like, ‘How can I merge the two together? How can I put fashion with travel?’” Dominick said. “A lot of people who like one like or are inspired by the other or they can appreciate both at the same time.”

The photos are part of her brand, showcasing cultural influences. Dominick’s first trip featuring the sewing machine was to the Middle East, with one of the places she photographed being Petra, the Lost City of Stone in Jordan. Now she researches and plans ahead of time.

“I know every time I go somewhere now, I have to bring my stuff with me,” Dominick said. “This week, when I go to Fashion Week, I have a photographer lined up who’s going to shoot me sewing something on a rooftop with New York in the background.”

Dominick hopes to entertain and to provide a story for her audience to follow.

“If I find an opportunity or someone who will go with me, I usually drop everything and go,” Dominick said. “Life is short. It’s inspiring because the people you meet are sometimes more interesting than the people you meet on the runway or in your line of work because they have such a different perspective.”

The name “DiDomenico” finds roots in culture as her family’s original surname before being Americanized by her grandmother. Half Italian and half African American, her family and culture is reflected in her brand. The logo was also inspired by her grandmother’s signature. Italian in origin, DiDomenico means “day of God,” which serves as a subtle reminder of her faith.

Dominick expresses gratitude towards her parents for supporting her and allowing her to major in a creative field. Her mother, who was also an entrepreneur, inspired her to believe anything is possible and to never stop learning.

“It’s not just about making pretty dresses – it’s about everything business-savvy and everything you have to learn in order to be successful in every aspect,” Dominick said.


After graduating, transitioning out of school and into a nine-to-five job was difficult and left little time and energy for anything else. It was her commitment to her passion that set her apart.

 "It is wonderful seeing our program graduates thriving in the fashion industry and Kelsy is an excellent example of a young entrepreneur who has risen to the challenges of creating her own product line,” said Dr. LuAnn Gaskill, Professor in the Apparel Program at Virginia Tech in a recent press release. “Kelsy identified her career goals early and is making great gains in living her dream through her drive, tenacity, and creativity. She is clearing an inspiration to those who know her."

Simultaneously working and pursuing her passion into building a business forced Dominick to make compromises, but her persistence and consistency kept her going.

“It’s so easy to say, ‘I’m really passionate about something,’ and have life take you over and you don’t practice it anymore or you’re not good at it anymore,” Dominick said. “You have to be consistent and stick with it and do it every single day, and you will see some type of change or difference.”

With eight years of business experience, Dominick’s team has grown with added seamstresses and employees. All products are handmade, despite volume increase and consequent expansion. From making dresses on the side after coming home from work to becoming a designer brand, the fear Dominick once had has become ambition and curiosity.

“Sometimes you’re just afraid to tell people you want to build a business because they might laugh at it,” Dominick said. “It’s being embarrassed to be ambitious. You have to believe in yourself first and that’s the hardest part.”

In the future, Dominick hopes to become a larger e-commerce business with her own warehouse and assembly team. She also wants to ease custom ordering with the added option of made-to-measurement clothing, to allow all women to wear the designs. Despite challenges, Dominick continues to work and to learn as she pursues her passion and keeps high standards.

“I could have stopped and been like, ‘This is good enough,’” Dominick said. “But I want someone to be moved by what I put out there. Not like, ‘Oh, it’s kind of nice.’ I want to speak to people through designs; I don’t want to have to say anything.”

Of the entire process, Dominick considers the most rewarding part to be connecting with people who are passionate about what they do. She believes the more passionate people you meet, the more likely you are to succeed.

“Whether it’s abroad or it’s here, I think everybody has a story to tell,” Dominick said.

7.9.15

Drillfield Paths Committee experiments with fourteen new surfaces

Originally published by the Collegiate Times
Published in print edition, front page, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015. 

Between September 14 and September 25, students can share feedback about 14 materials being tested on Drillfield paths for permanent installation. The decision is scheduled to be announced announced December 2015.

Students can share feedback via Twitter (@drillfieldpaths), online and by scanning QR codes posted on signs adjacent to the materials on the Drillfield. Feedback from community members will be collected in the winter and spring. The original Drillfield did not feature any planned paths, but years of students trekking across the field to and from class created natural “desire paths.” 

These student-made paths led to maintenance issues, primarily mud being carried into academic buildings. The main paths currently in use were first paved in the 1970s, with smaller asphalt paths added in summer 2014 as a temporary fix until a permanent solution is decided upon.


Tested materials include the existing asphalt, stabilized turf, synthetic turf and a combination of concrete, gravel and pavers chosen by the university Drillfield Paths Committee. The committee identifies, tests and evaluates materials to be weather-durable and in compliance with the Americans with Disability Act.

Maintaining a greenspace aesthetic and the Drillfield’s multipurpose use are two goals of the larger initiative supported by the Board of Visitors.

“The Drillfield is the iconic outdoor recreation and transition space in the heart of the Virginia Tech campus,” stated the Virginia Tech facilities request proposal. “A comprehensive master plan is currently being developed for the Drillfield… the pedestrian pathways across the Drillfield are a key component to this master plan.”

The Drillfield Paths Committee, created in spring 2015, is comprised of students, faculty and staff and will provide a recommendation to university officials at the end of the 2015-2016 academic year.

“We brought together experts from our faculty, with those that maintain the Drillfield, and those that use it on a daily basis,” said Sherwood Wilson, vice president for administration. “They have the expertise and they have a thorough understanding of what the Drillfield means to a university community.”

The University is requesting faculty proposals until September 15 for a path material with the selection announced in December 2015. The proposal will be selected by the Drillfield Paths Committee and receives a $30,000 stipend for research, development, testing and evaluation to be shared between the vice president for administration and the vice president for research and innovation. Field testing will begin in the 2016-2017 academic year.

“I hope to accurately represent the graduate student body and be an advocate for a sustainable all-weather solution,” said Devita McCullough, a student member of the committee majoring in industrial and systems engineering. “I bring a pretty unique perspective and educational background.”

The Drillfield Master Plan will address changes in the pathways, field turf, seating, crosswalks, lighting, landscaping and amenities such as Wi-Fi. Seemingly in a constant state of construction, Virginia Tech continues to improve and invent the future.

5.9.15

Center for the Arts prepares for 2015-16 season

Originally published by the Collegiate Times as Lifestyles.
Published in print edition, front page centerspread, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015.

According to NPR, 90 percent of the music we listen to is music we’ve heard before, due to repeating riffs in similar tunes. The remaining 10 percent is what the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech strives to explore through a variety of musical, physical and visual performances.

“How do we expand that 10 percent?” asks Ruth Waalkes, executive director of the Center for the Arts. “That’s where you really learn. Maybe you’ve never heard of an artist, but that doesn’t mean it might not be interesting or something that expands your thinking.”

Set for its third fall season, packed with visits from musicians, dancers, painters and even puppeteers, The Center for the Arts designed its events to challenge students. Among this year’s performers are Los Angeles, New York and London-based artists, deliberately unique in their shared theme of storytelling through multimedia.

With a total of 27 different programs this year, one of the first anticipated events is “STREB,” a company that blends dance with athletics, rodeo, circus and athletics, performing on Oct. 2.

“Elizabeth Streb is kind of a force of nature all on her own,” Waalkes said. “It’s these death-defying things they’re doing onstage, but it’s really because she’s interested in pushing the human body and seeing how far it can go.”

As a part of STREB’s visit, they will host a talk with the choreographer, Elizabeth Streb, and a documentary screening at the Lyric Theatre. Other opportunities to work with and learn from visiting artists are planned, including a jam session with the St. Laurence String Quartet on Oct. 25 and workshops with Diavolo, which combines architecture and dance.

Based in Los Angeles, Diavolo was one of the first performers at Moss Arts Center and will be returning by popular demand on May 6.

“One of the things that struck me, aside from just the beauty of the work, was that Diavolo really had a strong commitment to education and doing things off the stage, as well,” Waalkes said. “That’s really interesting to us, when artists want to come here and they’re interested in engaging somehow with students and the community.”

On Feb. 20, “Vocalosity” performs a cappella, featuring two (yet to be determined) cast members from “Pitch Perfect 2” and directed by Deke Sharon, the vocal producer for “Pitch Perfect” and NBC’s “The Sing-Off.” One on-campus a cappella group will be chosen to open the show.

The cast of L.A. Theatre Works will also grace the stage with familiar faces from television and cinema as they present “Dracula” on Oct. 30, in time for Halloween.

On April 14, 15 and 16, Teatro Hugo and Ines, a Peruvian couple, transform puppetry into art and poetry in the Cube inside the center.

“They put little eyes on their hands or they are somewhere she will sit on the floor and she puts a nose on her knee and drapes fabric, and all of a sudden, her knee becomes this face, this puppet,” Waalkes said. “It’s hard to describe, but it’s really, really beautiful work that’s very small and intimate.”

This season’s artists are no strangers to stages around the nation, with some performances anticipating full capacity months prior to opening, such as the United States Marine Band on Sept. 17. The Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, which stages most shows, seats more than 1,000 and is equipped with state-of-the-art acoustics, which was prioritized during construction.

“The quality of the space itself is amazing,” Waalkes said. “You can have the quietest moment with a string quartet or a violin and there’s really not a bad seat in the house.”

Student tickets are available now to all shows and for all seats for $10. Subscriptions comprise one third of attendance and allow flexibility in show choices to encourage exploration of diversity. Last-minute rush tickets are also available two hours in advance of shows if seats remain and can be claimed via text notifications (sign up by texting “arts” to 31996).

“We absolutely want to fill the theatre, and if we have capacity, we’d much rather have those free tickets to hand to students,” Waalkes said. “I think once students come in and have an experience here and see the theatre, they realize it’s an incredible place to hear music and see these highly visual projects we’re bringing in and they’re much more likely to come back.”

Shows attract a diversity of majors and ages, even from surrounding counties. Placed as a front door to campus from downtown Blacksburg and an arguable equivalent to the Kennedy Center for the New River Valley region (without the traffic or expense), the center prioritizes access and hospitality for its students, faculty and community members. As a part of outreach, matinees with artists who extend their appeal to primary school students are scheduled, with classroom involvement for younger students, as well.

“There really is a great interest and need for arts programming that some in our region just don’t have access to,” Waalkes said. “This is here for everyone.”

The center collaborates closely with the School of Performing Arts, the School of Visual Arts and the Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology (ICAT). Since the Center’s conception, Waalkes has noticed changes in the university, such as an increase in music majors, potentially due to the increased visibility of arts on campus.

“We’re deliberately reaching out to different colleges and departments,” Waalkes said. “We’re seeing a lot of cross-pollination happening and people are really excited about that. All of us see arts as a creative practice and process that’s important for students, regardless of what you’re studying.”

To further encourage conversation, the website features an “Explorer’s Guide,” with multimedia, information and questions for audience members. Students are invited to enter a contest to win a trip for four to Busch Gardens by attending five events.

Plans for next year’s lineup have already started, with hopes of bringing artists from even farther parts of the world, including East Africa and Cambodia. As the Center for the Arts continues to entertain and excite, their commitment to learning and connecting remains as they challenge students to expand their minds past that 10 percent.

For a complete calendar of this year’s events, visit the Moss Arts Center or their website.

3.9.15

Tech football honors fallen journalists in first game of the season

Originally published by the Collegiate Times as News.
Published in print edition, page 6, on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2015.

Virginia Tech athletics will honor two television journalists killed last Wednesday, August 26, with special helmet stickers during the football season opener on Labor Day versus Ohio State.

“It’s extremely important that the families and loved ones of Alison Parker, Adam Ward and WDBJ-TV know that we stand united with them through this painful time,” said Virginia Tech head football coach Frank Beamer in an interview with Roanoke CBS affiliate WDBJ7. “My heart is absolutely broken for the Parker and Ward families, and my prayer is that they gain strength and peace through the support and love of this community.”

Alison Parker, a 2012 graduate of James Madison University, and Adam Ward, a 2011 graduate of Virginia Tech, were shot during a live broadcast for WDBJ7 at Smith Mountain Lake.

The memorial stickers were announced Sunday and feature the number seven, representing the station, and teal and maroon ribbons symbolizing Parker’s favorite color and Ward as a Virginia Tech graduate. Athletic events this past weekend also paid tribute, with teal and maroon ribbons distributed before the start of each event and a moment of silence during volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer.

“It just breaks your heart to hear these things. We want them to know how much we’re thinking about them,” Beamer said. “They’re not going to be forgotten.”


Scholarships have been founded in both victims’ names. The Alison B. Parker Memorial Fund is established through James Madison University. Parker is also a 2009 graduate of Patrick Henry Community College, which has established the Alison Bailey Parker Memorial Scholarship with the PHCC Foundation.

“Alison was a great example of what dedication and motivation can do in someone’s life,” said PHCC executive director Chris Parker (no relation). “As a product of PHCC and Martinsville, she made us all proud of her achievements and the way she carried herself through that success in life.”

The Salem Educational Foundation and Alumni Association announced a scholarship in memory of Ward, a 2007 graduate of Salem High School, will benefit a Salem graduate who plans to pursue a career in journalism or photojournalism at Virginia Tech.