Architecture and urban studies students serve through community leadership, on and off campus
Virginia Tech’s motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) is expressed throughout the Hokie community in a multitude of ways. For some members of the community, volunteering, donating, or lending a helping hand, are demonstrations of service. For a subset of students in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS), serving their communities through leadership positions, both on and off campus, is a demonstration of Ut Prosim in action. Their varied experiences extend and expand our perspectives on community, service, and motivation.
Claudia Budzyn ’24 is majoring in Environmental Policy and Planning (EPP) in the School of Public and International Affairs, where she also serves as a representative to the Undergraduate Student Senate (USS) on behalf of CAUS. For her, service is not only ensuring that students’ voices are heard but that actions result from what she has learned. To that end, she and her USS colleagues are helping to revise policies to improve communication, prevent sexual assault, share diversity data, and improve transfer student experiences.
As an EPP major in CAUS, she is actively striving to achieve sustainable growth on campus. Claudia views service in terms of reciprocity.
“Instead of considering service as something you do for people in need, I think of it as an exchange," she said. "Today, I may be helping resolve issues and listening to students' concerns, but tomorrow I may be the recipient of someone else's volunteer efforts.”
She credits her ability to serve as a community leader to her “strong supportive group of friends through the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program, Sigma Kappa sorority, USS, and Leadership Class of 2024 Team.”
As a CAUS representative to the USS, a Landscape Architecture major, and a member of the Virginia Tech chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA-VT), Alex Pomeroy ’25 views Ut Prosim in the same light as his academic work.
“Our job is to serve our communities by reimagining landscapes to champion sustainability and welcome people to a greener lifestyle," he said.
He is motivated to support change for growth, improvement, and community flourishment — weeding out problems and replacing them with vibrant solutions that serve everyone.
“As leaders, we can always do better for our communities by improving systems that are outdated, while representing the people we serve," Pomeroy said.
Through his USS role, Alex serves as a voting member of the University Council, an advisory committee to Virginia Tech President Tim Sands that is charged with formulating university policies. Whether an organization is large or small, Pomeroy recognizes that community isn’t just about size. Instead, it is about the people who each make small contributions for the betterment of the whole landscape.
Sidney Stearns ’24 is pursuing a degree in a Construction Engineering Management, a program offered to students in the College of Engineering through the Myers-Lawson School of Construction. Stearns is no stranger to collaborating across academic disciplines — she serves as a USS Senator representing the Residence Hall Federation, a governing body for the entire on-campus community.
The federation’s mission is to make residence life as fun and beneficial to students as possible, while focusing on leadership development and involving students in the wider Virginia Tech community. She is motivated to serve others through building construction and creativity.
“While working in construction, you have a special opportunity to serve others," she said. "I learn to manage and build different types of construction projects, which gives me the chance to help others with the skill of building and innovation among any type of community.”
For Stearns, community is “the connections and people that make you feel wanted and loved. They support you, care for you, and give you a sense of belonging as an individual.”
Mohsen Manteghi, a graduate student in the Center for Public Administration and Policy (CPAP), brings his unique perspective to community. Born in Iran, he immigrated to the United States in 2011 “with $300 in my pocket, a head full of dreams, and a strong desire for liberty.”
He came to Virginia Tech to study, but after two semesters could not afford to continue. Instead, he integrated himself into the Blacksburg community, working various jobs in town and taking in all that the region has to offer.
In 2019, Manteghi became a U.S. citizen. He saved enough to re-enroll at Virginia Tech, but he wanted another way to give back to the community that embraced him. Based on his perspectives as an immigrant, a student, and a Blacksburg resident, Manteghi saw areas for improvement in Blacksburg.
Eager to serve, he ran for mayor of the Town of Blacksburg in 2021. While he his bid was unsuccessful, he neither regrets his attempt nor the process. He credits the ethos of CPAP with instilling in him “a culture of serving others ethically and efficiently.”
For Tyler Wedrosky, a master’s student in the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) and the president of the Northern Virginia Graduate Student Assembly (GSA), service is a passion that extends beyond campus boundaries. He points out that Washington, D.C., area campuses are decentralized, physically separated from both the main Blacksburg campus and from each other.
Because of this, Wedrosky works to instill a sense of community among graduate students in the region by organizing social events like happy hours and weekend hiking trips, and by listening to student needs and concerns. But his community involvement is not confined to campus. He also serves as a Management Analyst Intern at the Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS). During his time as an intern, he has assisted DCHS with planning related to Alexandria’s Recurring Income for Success and Equity (ARISE), an innovative guaranteed income pilot (GIP) program. When implemented, ARISE will provide $500 per month for approximately 24 months to 180 economically disadvantaged Alexandria city residents
The student leaders in CAUS come from diverse backgrounds, with varying academic and professional interests and motivations. What they have in common is an altruistic desire to use the knowledge, skills, and abilities they acquire at Virginia Tech to serve their communities, wherever they are now or may land in the future.
Written by Phil Miskovic
Editor’s Note: Phil Miskovic is a Ph.D. student in the Center for Public Administration and Policy (CPAP) in the School of Public and International Affairs and a Master in Public Health student in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. He serves Virginia Tech as the 2021-2022 Graduate Student Representative to the Board of Visitors and he is the mayor of his hometown of Crewe, Virginia.