It has been a remarkable year for Kareim Oliphant of Union, N.J., a graduating senior who will receive a degree in psychology in the College of Science.
Oliphant, who is also pursuing a minor in leadership studies, served as regimental commander last fall for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets. He was also sworn in as a U.S. citizen. Later this month, he will graduate, and he looks forward to serving his new country in the field of social work and counseling. Next fall he starts graduate school at Rutgers University.
The Corps of Cadets has also had a remarkable year, due in no small part to Oliphant’s leadership. Oliphant was in charge of the largest Corps of Cadets since 1968, with more than 1,000 cadets and more than 400 new cadets.
He instituted new tutoring programs, which helped the corps earn the highest fall grade point average on record. Service was also at an all-time high. Under Oliphant’s command, the corps raised more than $20,000 for scholarships and charitable organizations, and set a new record for the corps blood drives. Oliphant also helped create a new program called “Regiment’s Got Talent.” The corps-wide talent show raised funds for Hurricane Sandy relief, and he served as master of ceremonies for the event.
Commandant of Cadets Maj. Gen. Randal D. Fullhart said, “His passion to lead fairly, to serve constantly, and to do the right thing sets him apart. He lives the spirit of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) every day.”
Oliphant said, “I have learned that it is possible to lead, make constructive changes, and positively affect others no matter what your current position is. It only takes one person to step up and decide to stand out from the crowd to have a positive influence. Developing the confidence and boldness to do this is not easy, but far from impossible. Peer leadership is often difficult, but can be mastered by having tact, patience, and treating people with respect.”
Oliphant shared his strong faith and musical talents as keyboard player for the Enlightened Gospel Choir at Virginia Tech. Last year he led the Southern Colonels, the Highty-Tighties' 18-piece jazz orchestra.
He said, “The two things I am most passionate about are helping people lead better lives and playing music. Fortunately, I'm able to combine the two by volunteering at Pointe West, a day support program for adults with intellectual disabilities. A few Fridays of each month, I play the piano and encourage the clients to sing along with me. It is absolutely fulfilling to see the therapeutic effect that music tends to have on everyone -- clients and staff alike.”
Oliphant wants to be a clinical psychologist with his own practice, and he may pursue teaching at the college level. In addition to his coursework in psychology, his experience in the field includes working as a research assistant for the Virginia Tech Psychological Services Autism Clinic, interning with a substance abuse and mental health counseling group, mentoring low-income youth and providing piano lessons for children in a YMCA after-school program, and volunteering with the New River Valley Community Services Raft Crisis Hotline.