Virginia Tech women recognized for leadership
Find the connection among these four people:
- An honors student dedicated to improving public health in Mali.
- A graduate student who tutors African women in English so they can feel less isolated.
- A leader in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets whose company was recognized for improvement.
- A master’s degree candidate committed to improving the lives of women and children affected by domestic abuse.
All of the people mentioned have been recognized by the Women in Leadership and Philanthropy (WLP) Council. Each year, the council acknowledges outstanding female Virginia Tech students by presenting them with the Woman in Leadership Award.
The Woman in Leadership Award recognizes female students who exemplify the values of Virginia Tech's motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). The award is given to one graduate and one undergraduate student whose accomplishments include leadership and service to the community. The most recent winners were announced at the Circle of Excellence Conference on May 31, 2009.
The 2009 undergraduate recipient is Kelsie A. Ostergaard. Ashley Tomisek is the 2009 graduate winner.
Ostergaard is a 2009 graduate with a degree in civil engineering in the College of Engineering and member of the corps. While earning leadership roles within the corps, she maintained excellence in her academics. She served as a role model for other cadets and motivated and inspired those around her.
“The leadership experience I got in the corps and the ROTC meant a lot to me because I got to watch those freshmen and sophomores come into their own and progress through the program,” Ostergaard said.
She also acknowledged her role as a female leader in areas traditionally occupied by men. From that experience she said she gained tact and social skills. “I’ve learned to know when to step back from male-dominated competition,” she explained. “And I’ve learned to be confident and competent at my job.”
Although Ostergaard said she sometimes felt as though she was just keeping her head above water, her recognition indicates she was doing better than that. She credits her success to focusing on the steps along the way and doing the little things right. In the end, Ostergaard said she discovered that taken altogether, her experiences were exceptional.
Ostergaard will serve as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, which further demonstrates her service and embodies the values engraved on the university’s Pylons.
Tomisek, the graduate recipient, is currently a master’s candidate in sociology and women’s and gender studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. She was a first-year student taking an introductory women’s studies course when she initially caught the attention of the staff at the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech. In a class filled with graduating seniors, Tomisek became the most vocal student in the room. The center’s staff invited her to volunteer for Women’s Month and then hired her as a member of the center’s front office staff, which began Tomisek’s involvement with the Virginia Tech community.
Among Tomisek's contributions included her work with the Cornerstone project. This program, funded by the Women's Resource Center of the New River Valley, raises money to decorate an apartment for women and their children seeking to begin a new life free from domestic violence.
“I am really proud of my work with the Cornerstone project at the Women’s Center,” Tomisek said. “I was able to get student organizations to adopt a room in an apartment to personalize a home for women and children.
”Everyone has it in them to be a leader,” Tomisek said. “Sometimes it just takes a special person to step up and lead. Hopefully the whole group will learn something from that leader.”
The WLP Council consists of alumae and friends of Virginia Tech and advises the WLP initiative, which is a program that encourages women to get involved in the university community by taking on leadership and philanthropic roles.
- For more information on this topic, contact Amy Ostroth at (540) 231-1969
Awards and achievements
Kelsie A. Ostergaard
- Wing Commander of the Air Force ROTC Detachment at Virginia Tech, responsible for 200 cadets and 20 cadet staff members
- Resident advisor for 53 cadets
- Volunteer with the Boy Scouts
- Activity leader for “Engineering Day” for the Girl Scouts
- Volunteer with the YMCA
- Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity
- Team captain for the Relay for Life and coordinator for all corps of cadets teams
- Leader of the corps Hotel Company, which won the Beverly S. Parrish Jr. Gold Cord Award
- Member of the Women’s Center’s front office staff
- Leadership of the Women’s Leadership Conference Student Advisory Committee
- Fundraiser for International Women in Need (IWiN)
- Volunteer for the Cornerstone project, a group of volunteers who turn empty apartments into warm and welcoming homes for women and children leaving abusive home environments
- Volunteer for TEKOA, a residential treatment facility for young girls aged 12 to 18 who have been removed from their homes
2008 Woman in Leadership Award recipients
Christine George, a University Honors student and member of the 2008 All-USA College Academic First Team, was the undergraduate winner. She was recognized for her research into malaria prevention in Mali.
Sara Crickenberger, a master's student who studied creative writing, volunteered at the Refugee Center in Salem, Va., where she tutored African women in English because learning the language helps these women to feel less isolated and vulnerable.
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