Residents and associated faculty of the Residential College at West Ambler Johnston will have the opportunity to begin the new academic year with a thoughtful conversation about their purpose at Virginia Tech. 

The "Aims of Education" event is an annual tradition in which the new and returning student residents meet the senior fellows, associate principals, and the faculty principal associated with their living-learning community. The guest speaker for the event is Arun Gandhi, grandson of the legendary spiritual leader, Mahatma K. Gandhi.

Gandhi’s presentation will focus on his grandfather’s 20th century view of education and its relevance to education today. The Aims of Education presentation is Sunday, Aug. 25, at 7:30 p.m. in the Commonwealth Ballroom in Squires Student Center at 290 College Ave. A limited number of tickets for the public are available. Those interested in attending may fill out this survey.

“The Aims of Education event is an opportunity for faculty, students, and staff in the residential college to discuss the salient issues of higher education, while ruminating over how education can and should adapt to the ever-changing complexities of modern life,” said Ben Sax, live-in faculty principal for the Residential College at West Ambler Johnston. “The goal of the event is to encourage intellectual and professional collaboration across disciplinary lines at Virginia Tech to enhance a student’s learning experience.”  Sax is assistant professor of Judaic studies in the religion and culture department in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Erica Bennett of Chesterfield, Va., a junior majoring in electrical engineering in the College of Engineering, is co-president of the Residential College at West Ambler Johnston. She said events like The Aims of Education bridge the gap between academic life and residential life. “We do this in a variety of ways, including encouraging students to interact with faculty outside of class,” Bennet said. “We also encourage students to interact with each other in new ways, outside of the experiences a traditional residence hall may provide. This means encouraging students to discuss powerful topics and learn new things from each other. We use the diversity in the resident population to increase interdisciplinary learning, in and out of the classroom.”

“By revisiting his grandfather’s views on individuality, ambition, and independence, Arun Gandhi will challenge the current neo-Liberalism in higher education in the United States – i.e., that capitalism solves all problems,” said Sax. “He will examine the impact on education particularly and on society more broadly of changing the goals and aspirations of a university into that of a corporation.”

Arun Gandhi was born in apartheid-era South Africa. At the age of 12 he was sent by his parents to stay with his grandfather during a turbulent period in India’s struggle for independence. He witnessed firsthand the effects of his grandfather’s national campaign for liberation through nonviolent means.

After leading successful projects for economic and social reform in India, Gandhi came to the United States in 1987 to complete research for a comparative study on racism in America. In 1991, Gandhi and his late wife, Sunanda, founded the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, headquartered at the University of Rochester. The institute’s goal to foster an understanding of nonviolence as taught by Gandhi’s grandfather has become a reality through workshops, lectures, and community outreach programs.

Free parking for Squires Student Center is available in the Squires Lot, located at the corner of College Avenue and Otey Street or the Architecture Annex Lot also on Otey Street. Find more parking information online or call 540-231-3200.