On November 5, 2015, the Virginia Tech community was horrified to learn of graffiti in Price Hall that threatened Muslim community members. As president of the Muslim Student Association, Obaid Rehman of Clifton, Virginia, a graduating senior double-majoring in biological sciences in the College of Science and religion and culture in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, knew he had to act. Within hours, Obaid and a group of students met with Dean of Students Tom Brown and Tricia Smith, director for the Intercultural Engagement Center, to discuss a response plan.

Rehman was clear in his desire to respond with love, respect, and a commitment to community. He organized an open campus event called "Standing in Solidarity: A Gathering Against Hate" during which a diverse group of students and faculty shared words that inspired the community and showed everyone what the Hokie Nation truly stands for. A series of events to show support and solidarity followed. Those events broke new ground for the university community, spreading awareness and understanding, and building a safe space on campus for many different ethnicities to learn about each other.

Rehman said, “A lot of good things came out of it. We had the opportunity to be a different, stronger community. Our message – that we stand together – was noticed around the world.”

Smith said, “This young man truly lives his values in every single way. He asks for peace and he offers peace. He asks us to love and he walks with love. He is an exemplary model of a student who chose -- in a time of anger, hate, and turmoil -- to react with civility, grace, and love.”

Born in Pakistan, Rehman and his family moved to Virginia when he was four years old and he grew up with friends of many backgrounds, pursuing many varied interests. Rehman loves the mix of cultures in Blacksburg and said, “Diversity at Virginia Tech is a blessing that everyone should take advantage of.”  

Rehman’s impact on the Virginia Tech community is multifaceted:

  • He was web designer and manager for the Appalachian Foodshed Project.
  • He worked with VT Engage on service learning activities focused on interfaith dialogue.
  • He volunteers every Sunday morning as a teacher for the Weekend Islamic School at the local mosque in Blacksburg.
  • He was a research assistant at the Virginia Tech Carillion Research Institute.
  • He is a two-time recipient of the Warren W. Hobbie Scholarship awarded by the department of Religion and Culture.
  • He was a team member on Virginia Tech’s first International Interfaith Service Trip.
  • And last spring, Rehman worked with Virginia Tech Dining Services and Meat Science Center to introduce Halal meats to West End Market.

Rehman will pursue a career in medicine, and would like to help underserved communities in Appalachia. He was recently accepted to the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.

For his conscious effort and active participation in making the campus community stronger; for his ability to see the beauty in ordinary things; and for helping Hokies realize their aspirations for a civil and inclusive society, Rehman was recently presented the Aspire! Award for Civility for his .

Each year, the Division of Student Affairs recognizes 25 students who embody Virginia Tech’s Aspirations for Student Learning.In October, November, February, March, and April, these exceptional students are honored with Aspire! Awards. Anyone can nominate a student for an Aspire! Award. Nomination information, along with Aspire! Award dates, can be found online.

Written by Sandy Broughton

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