Because Virginia Tech's new president is deeply committed to engaging with students, it's only fitting that undergraduate and graduate students are actively involved in the planning of events celebrating the installation of Timothy Sands as the university's 16th president.

“We wanted students to be involved in installation activities because, as I have heard President Sands say many times, students are the essence of the university,” said Kim O’Rourke, chief of staff in the Office of the President and secretary to the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. 

O’Rourke chairs the presidential installation committee whose members include a broad cross-section of the university community.

Jean-Luc Ford of Virginia Beach, Virginia, a senior majoring in marketing management in Pamplin College of Business, said his role on the committee was to give insight into ways students could participate. 

“I have been a voice for students to help make the installation meaningful and relevant to them,” said Ford. “This has been a phenomenal experience because President Sands and the steering committee have really seen the significance of engaging students, especially in an event that might not recognize the need for student participation.” 

Ford has helped plan the Thursday evening spirit rally organized by the Student Alumni Associates that will kick-off the installation celebration.

Noha ElSherbiny of Alexandria, Egypt, a doctoral student in the Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering, is president of Council of International Student Organizations and has been working with the Cranwell International Center on a display of flags outside Burruss Hall to represent the home countries of all of Virginia Tech’s international students.

“Being part of this event has been a learning experience,” ElSherbiny said. “It has given me a unique opportunity to experience the intricacies involved in planning such a huge event. I have worked with various members of the Virginia Tech community, and observed how each member brings an extremely valuable perspective that really adds to the planning team.”

Nikki Grace of Erie, Pennsylvania, a senior majoring in hospitality and tourism management in the Pamplin College of Business, was part of the student involvement committee. 

“I think it was important to involve students in the planning since we are able to speak on the behalf of the student body,” Grace said. “For example, when we would discuss marketing strategies, it was beneficial for the students to respond to what the best avenues are to get information out.”

Many other students have helped plan or will participate in installation events, including the game viewing party, the ice cream social, the movie on the Drillfield, and a pick-up basketball game with Sands.

Members of the Order of the Gavel will represent the student body in the procession that will precede the formal installation ceremony on Friday. The Corps of Cadets will present a formal pass and review immediately following the ceremony, and more than 20 student organizations will perform and provide family-friendly entertainment at the community pizza party to be held on Saturday.

“I feel as though my participation will benefit others by bringing a unique perspective to the table – the student perspective," said Lester Schonberger of Alexandria, Virginia, a senior majoring in food science and technology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Schonberger was involved in the planning of "Experience Virginia Tech: Learn, Explore, Engage."  On Saturday, Oct. 18, the academic showcase will transform The Inn at Virginia Tech into an open classroom through hands-on demonstrations, interdisciplinary panels, and lectures that highlight Virginia Tech’s teaching, research and outreach.

“My favorite part, other than the anticipation for the weekend, has been seeing the intentionality with which every detail is being planned," said Schonberger. "This will be an incredible weekend and I cannot wait to see everything come to action."

The latest information on the university's presidential installation celebration can be found on the presidential installation website . All events listed on the website are free and open to the public.

Written by Brooke Williams of Christiansburg, Virginia, a junior double-majoring in English and communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.