Nicholas Onopa of Wausau, Wis., a senior majoring in public and urban affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, with minors in international studies and business leadership, has been selected the 2013 Virginia Tech Undergraduate Man of the Year. Darya “Dasha” Nesterova of Fairfax, Va., a senior majoring in biological sciences in the College of Science, with minors in psychology and medicine and society, has been named the Virginia Tech 2013 Undergraduate Woman of the Year.

The Undergraduate Man and Woman of the Year awards recognize two graduating students who have achieved overall excellence during their undergraduate careers at the university. They are the most prestigious non-academic undergraduate awards given at Virginia Tech and are awarded to those students who have exceptional and balanced achievement in academics, leadership, and service. 

Recipients exemplify the qualities and values important to a Virginia Tech education, captured in the university motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), and are selected by a committee of students, faculty, and administrators from across the academic colleges and the Division of Student Affairs. The division sponsors and administers the annual awards, now in their 61st year.

Nicholas Onopa, Undergraduate Man of the Year

Onopa started early in his role as a leader when he was part of the Student Government Association’s Freshman Leadership Experience in fall 2009. He participated in Emerging Interfraternal Leaders in fall 2010 and Passport to Leadership, a study broad program through the University of Virginia, in summer 2011.

Onopa has served as the undergraduate representative on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, president of Kappa Delta Chapter of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity, a teaching assistant for a freshman honors seminar, and a member of the Student Life Council. He received the Fraternity and Sorority Life Courageous Leadership Award.

Academically, Onopa is a dean’s list student and has been recognized by University Honors for maintaining a grade point average above 3.5 (on a 4.0 scale) while completing extra hours of coursework.

“I have found Nick to be one of those very special leaders who I know will leave this place and go on to achieve great things for others and himself,” said Edward F.D. Spencer, vice president emeritus of student affairs.

Onopa is the son of Richard and Mary Jo Onopa.

Darya Nesterova, Undergraduate Woman of the Year

Nesterova is a member of the University Honors Program who will graduate in December 2013. 

In 2010 she went on a medical service trip to Peru, where she volunteered to help set up free clinics in San Lorenzo, Ville Sharon, and Pachacutec in the city of Lima. In 2011 she was awarded the Gough Scholarship to study the impact of culture on medical practice in Russia and Uzbekistan. In addition, she is an undergraduate research scholar with the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute and has worked with engineers, biologists, and writers on research projects that address global issues.

Nesterova has a near perfect grade point average and is president of the American Medical Student Association. She has served as a volunteer at the New River Valley Hospice and participated in the university’s Hospital Preceptorship Program and was part of the Virginia United Regional iGEM Synthetic Biology Team.

“What I find truly exceptional about Darya is her passion for learning and discovery,” said Jack Evans, a faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences. “She has a true love for learning and a genuine desire to contribute to the field of science and thus humanity.”

Nesterova is the daughter of Sergey and Elena Nesterova.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

Written by Catherine Doss.