“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

Rhiannon Hasenauer, of Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania, a senior majoring in human development in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, shared this quote on her Facebook page.

For her, part of her heart resides in Honduras. As president of Virginia Tech’s chapter of Students Helping Honduras, Hasenauer has travelled to Honduras four times in the past three years.

To get assistance from the organization, a Honduran community reaches out to Students Helping Honduras and asks for aid in building a school. University chapters break ground over winter break, equipping local community members with the resources to continue building when the students leave. During the spring semester, students raise funds for the school, while Hondurans continue to build.  

Hasenauer has gone a step further. She's currently serving as an intern with Train for Change, which helps train teachers for the schools being built in the country that has her heart.

In recognition of her efforts, Hasenauer was honored Nov. 4 as the recipient of the Aspire! Award for embracing Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) as a way of life.

Hasenauer has a passion for learning and inspiring others to learn. But her love for school stems from tragedy. When Hasenauer was in the eighth grade, her mother died unexpectedly.

“My mom passed away on a Saturday, and I was back to school on Monday,” said Hasenauer. “School was my only remedy — I fell in love with it. It was the only way to look back at my past and have a positive outlook on looking forward. I have a sad past, but that won’t stop me from having a bright future.”

Because school was her safe haven, Hasenauer hopes to provide that refuge for others.

Following graduation, Hasenauer will go on to serve with Teach For America, inspiring young students to love learning like she does. Through this opportunity, Hasenauer hopes to live among her students, learning about the ways communities work together for educational equity.

In 2018, she’ll marry her college sweetheart, Nicholas Schields, who was a member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and is currently stationed in Washington as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. Hasenauer said that her fiancé has been one of the most inspiring individuals for her.

“He has had a huge impact on me wanting to learn about what is happening beyond our borders and has believed in me every step of the way,” said Hasenauer.

A university honors student, Hasenauer has a lengthy list of accolades. She’s in three honor societies, is SafeZone certified, was named Outstanding Undergraduate Student Leader of the Year last year, and was awarded the Virginia Tech ACC Creativity and Innovation Grant last March to fund her summer in Honduras.

Her nominator and academic advisor, Katherine Allen, professor of human development in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, said, “As I examine the mission, values, and opportunities provided by the DSA (Division of Student Affairs), I can think of no other undergraduate student in my 26 years as a professor at Virginia Tech who practices the philosophy of the Aspirations more than Rhiannon Hasenauer. In every way, Rhiannon exemplifies the qualities of leadership, service, integrity, authenticity, and quest for knowledge that are among the critical components of an excellent student, professional, and citizen.

“Rhiannon is a brilliant young woman, with a passion for service as deep as her passion for learning,” Allen said.

The Division of Student Affairs’ Aspirations for Student Learning represent the pinnacle of Virginia Tech’s aspirations for and expectations of students and of ourselves.

Students and employees who embrace one of these five Aspirations can be nominated for an Aspire! Award. Visit the Aspire! Awards website for nomination information and deadlines and to read about other extraordinary Aspire! Award recipients.

The Division of Student Affairs celebrates the Aspirations for Student Learning through Aspire! Award presentations five times each academic year. At each celebration, a different Aspiration is explored, extraordinary students and employees are recognized, and the audience is challenged to seek knowledge in everyday experiences.

On Feb. 17, 2017, the division and university community will celebrate civility. Nominations are due Jan. 20, 2017.

Written by Holly Paulette

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