Virginia Tech’s own motto, Ut Prosim, reflects an important component of academic life – service in the support of your community. As a graduate student without a doctoral department (though I am also making progress on my civil engineering Masters degree), I consider my community to include other graduate students and other Disability rights activists on campus, as well as my larger interdisciplinary research network. While I detail my work with the Disability Alliance and Caucus (DAC) and the Graduate Academy of Teaching Excellence (GrATE) within other sections, I feel that my involvement with other campus organizations are also important sources for creating my own sense of community.
Graduate Student Assembly
The Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) is the governing body of the approximately 6000 graduate students who are connected with Virginia Tech. The GSA works to improve the campus graduate community by representing student concerns and working with university administration to bring these concerns to different areas of governance.
I was elected as the Director of Communications for 2018-2019, and my responsibilities to the graduate student population have grown dramatically as a member of the Executive Board. I am directly responsible for maintaining and developing the GSA’s presence via social media (Facebook and Twitter) as well as the official GSA website. Major accomplishments within this role have included adding a calendar feature to the GSA website, introducing remote access to our General Assembly Meetings, and ensuring consistent and accessible formatting for anything GSA officially releases, such as original Tweets with image descriptions.
I’ve served as a delegate for the Engineering Education department (2014-2016) and as a special delegate for the Disability Alliance and Caucus (2016-2018). As a part of this appointment, I became involved with the graduate student body at large during Assembly meetings and events such as the Graduate Research Symposium.
I’ve been specifically involved as:
- Library Committee member and Library Advisory Board member
- Volunteer with the Graduate and Professional School Fair
- Session chair for the Graduate Research Symposium
- Interview panelist for the Vice President of Research and Innovation candidates
- Interview panelist for the Senior Advisor to the President and Vice-Provost of Inclusion and Diversity candidates
- Graduate School InclusiveVT Advisory Board member
- Graduate representative at luncheons for Provost candidates
Graduate Honor Code Panel
I am a strong believer in academic integrity, and that led to my involvement with the Graduate Honor System as a means to express my commitment to honesty and ethical behavior. I have served as a panelist to support these efforts.
Diversity Scholar Program
My work as a Diversity Scholar indicates that the Graduate School has recognized my advocacy, knowledge, and skills related to diversity and inclusion efforts. I am currently working on two projects as a Diversity Scholar. The first, which has been underway for multiple semesters, is the “Inclusive Classroom Workshop” series, which provides an opportunity for graduate students in the GRAD 5004 GTA Workshop course the opportunity to explore their classroom practices with a focus on how their identities, and the identities of their students, shape classroom climate and practices. This seminar meets multiple times throughout the semester, allowing for participants to draw on actual classroom experiences to enhance both teaching and learning within those classrooms. Graduate students have a supported opportunity to interact with their peers to develop inclusive measures for their own classroom settings via active participation in facilitated discussions and reflections.
My second project involves digging through Virginia Tech’s campus materials (such as governance meeting minutes) and working with disability rights advocates to develop a timeline that describes the Disability-related history at Virginia Tech. Creating an archive of materials (e.g., newspaper articles, photographs, committee meetings minutes, etc.) would be a major part of the process documenting how Virginia Tech has interacted with the Disability community on campus.
Both of these efforts relate back to my efforts and direction with the iPhD as well – by bringing up the absence of Disability in current efforts and knowledge on campus, I continually refine my arguments in support of access and recognition of Disability identity. Inclusivity calls for higher education that is accessible to all, removing institutional barriers that create the normative and disabled dichotomy. An important step to removing these barriers is first understanding how disability as an identity is constructed (or ignored) within and across higher education.