Keystone Fellow uses academics to guide service
Meghan McLoughlin came to Virginia Tech undecided about what she wanted to study and what she wanted to do following graduation. The one thing she knew for sure was that she wanted to be a Hokie.
“When I came to visit, I was immediately struck by how much people love this school,” said McLoughlin, of Poolesville, Maryland, a junior studying applied economic management in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “You can just feel the commitment to community service. At other colleges, it’s a focus, but here, it’s a lifestyle. I love that.”
McLoughlin is a University Honors student living in the Honors Residential Commons (HRC), and, in addition to her major, she’s minoring in statistics and crop and soil environmental science. And, because she just can’t get enough of learning, McLoughlin’s minoring in French as well.
McLoughlin said she stumbled into her major, as agriculture is entirely new territory for her. But, she said, “That’s what this whole college thing is all about. You have to understand that to get to where you want to be in life, you have to be comfortable diverging from normal paths.”
It was that deviation from her comfort zone that elicited in McLoughlin a passion previously untapped.
“Through my classes, I’ve come to discover how dynamic agriculture is and how much potential it has to change the world,” said McLoughlin. “It’s how we’re going to feed the generations of the future.”
Due to her studies, McLoughlin became passionate about hunger relief, and she immediately decided to do something to make a difference. As a first-year student, McLoughlin immediately started to make plans for a canned food drive in the HRC to benefit the Blacksburg Interfaith Food Pantry; in the past two years, she has organized efforts that have collected more than 1,000 cans.
“The spirit of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) is contagious around here, so I felt that, as a Hokie, it’s something I needed to tap into,” said McLoughlin. “The best way I could do that was to fuse that larger school culture with my personal passion. I’ve been able to take my personal interests and combine them with what I’m learning here at Virginia Tech to make an impact on the world. It’s something I want to continue to hone for the future.”
McLoughlin spent the summer of 2016 as a leader for the Virginia Governor’s School for Agriculture, a program for high school students that combines traditional, in-class learning with hands-on experiences outside the classroom to give students exposure to the field of modern agriculture.
“My role was to offer assistance and support to the students as they took classes and conducted research, and to share with them insights from my experience as a Virginia Tech student,” said McLoughlin. “I found my work with the Governor’s School to be very rewarding because it helped me to develop very strong, personal relationships with the students that I mentored while helping me to refine my leadership, communication, and organizational skills.”
This academic year, McLoughlin serves as service chair for an honorary fraternity for students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Natural Resources and the Environment.
In addition, McLoughlin will participate in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ alumni organization’s mentorship program, which provides students with opportunities for personal development and career preparation by pairing them with a professional mentor in the field of agriculture.
In February 2016, McLoughlin was selected as a recipient of the Division of Student Affairs Aspire! Award, honoring her commitment to embracing Ut Prosim as a way of life.
Her nominator was Eric Kauffman, associate professor and Extension specialist in the department of agricultural and Extension education. Kaufmann serves as faculty principal in the Honors Residential Commons.
“Meghan does all of this and more without any formal leadership role or request for recognition,” said Kauffman. “She simply believes her contributions are the right thing to do, and her gracious approach to service and life is inspiring to others.”
In April, McLoughlin was again honored — this time, as a member of the inaugural cohort of Keystone Fellows as part of the Division of Student Affairs' Keystone Experience. Both Keystone Fellows and Aspire! Award recipients are students who embody the Aspirations for Student Learning.
A student’s Keystone Experience embraces the idea that students don’t stop learning once they leave the classroom. Every organization, event, and activity a student pursues helps them create their own unique Keystone Experience, as they discover who they are and what they value. Along the way, students develop a deep understanding of the Aspirations for Student Learning by utilizing their strengths to map out, develop, and maximize their time at Virginia Tech.
“If we had more students like Meghan, Virginia Tech and our world would truly be a better place,” said Kauffman.
McLoughlin is the recipient of the Division of Student Affairs’ Aspire! Ut Prosim Scholarship, established in 2015 by Virginia Tech alumni Bob and Mary McClelland, who both graduated from Virginia Tech in 1994 with degrees in industrial engineering.
Written by Holly Paulette.