During his tenure as president, Julian Ashby Burruss helped shape the course of VPI, now known as Virginia Tech. But perhaps his most significant contribution to the university was convincing the board of visitors that the time had come to admit women.
In September 1921, 12 women registered — five full-time and seven part-time — and all courses except the military were opened to them. However, their presence on campus was not universally accepted for many years.
Today, women enjoy full access to all that Virginia Tech has to offer and they continue to make an impact — both on campus and off.
One group of women who are making a difference is the Women in Leadership and Philanthropy (WLP) Council. This small group of women is helping university officials find new ways to engage Hokie women in the life of the university.
“Women have a lot to offer Virginia Tech and we want to make getting involved with this great university easy,” said Cindy Ingram, co-chair of the WLP Council. “We also want to shine a spotlight on all that women do for the university in giving of both their time and treasures.”
Council members are both alumnae and friends. They come from all over the country. They support a variety of programs at the university. They serve on college advisory boards and the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. These women are also ambassadors of Virginia Tech in their own communities.
The council began in 2004, and since then has started a number of programs designed to help get women more involved in the life of the university. These initiatives include a mentoring program, a lecture fund, and the Women in Leadership Award, which recognizes women students — both graduate and undergraduate — who exemplify the values of the university motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).
The council’s mentoring program pairs Virginia Tech students with women who are interested to trade stories and experiences. The goal of the mentoring program is to provide a framework for mentors and students to engage in meaningful discussions through which students may learn from the work and life experiences of their mentors. There are currently 26 mentoring pairs who meet on a regular basis.
The WLP Lecture Fund partners with campus organizations to bring recognized speakers to Virginia Tech. Since March 2007, the fund has provided money for 11 speakers, including author Maya Angelou, rape and suicide prevention advocate Andrea Cooper, San Carlos Apache Mary Kim Titla, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee and author Greg Mortenson.
The Woman in Leadership Award is presented to one graduate and one undergraduate student each year whose accomplishments include leadership and service to the community. In 2008, the winners were Christine George and Sara Crickenberger. In 2009, Kelsie Ostergaard and Ashley Tomisek took the honors. Those looking for a way to recognize an outstanding female student are invited by the council to nominate her for the 2010 award. The deadline for nominations is Feb. 28, 2010.
The council also hosts the WLP Conference, held annually in June. The conference is open to any woman who would like to learn more about Virginia Tech or other issues relevant to women. Conference participants discuss leadership, broaden their intellectual horizons, and learn about new endeavors and innovations at Virginia Tech. Past speakers, including NBC Dateline Correspondent Hoda Kotb and best-selling author Sharyn McCrumb, have addressed such topics as current affairs, cancer research, financial planning, elder care, and the arts. The 2010 conference will be held at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center in Roanoke, Va., on June 13–15.
Ashley Tomisek (left) and Kelsie A. Ostergaard, a member of the corps of cadets, were named as the 2009 recipients of the Women in Leadership Award by the Women in Leadership and Philanthropy (WLP) Council.
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