Byron Hughes started at Virginia Tech in Student Conduct, and, though he’s spent the majority of his career in Fraternity and Sorority Life, those three years working with students in some of their lowest moments centered his purpose on helping students reach their best moments.
From 2008 to 2011, Hughes served as the assistant director of Student Conduct at Virginia Tech. And it was there — in the adjudication and sanctioning processes, but also in outreach and education initiatives — that Hughes developed a passion for Fraternity and Sorority Life.
“During these Student Conduct referral meetings, I would notice young men and women who, during the day, would embody the ideals of their organization or even the messages of their philanthropy,” said Hughes. “But at night, they would sometimes behave in a way that almost contradicted those values.”
While some may simply have credited this behavior to the negative stereotypes surrounding fraternities and sororities on college campuses, Hughes instead saw an opportunity for change. In July 2011, Hughes transitioned to a role as associate director of Fraternity and Sorority Life and began to implement a work methodology that would directly impact students.
“One of the most important things that I stress with any group I meet with is the idea of transformative work,” said Hughes. “A main staple in the promises that fraternities and sororities make to their initiates is that through this lifelong commitment, they would begin to positively grow and change as people to inevitably become better young men and women.”
In August 2012, Hughes became director of Fraternity and Sorority Life. Though his position is defined by the overall leadership and direction of the department, Hughes never forgoes the opportunity to make a personal connection; in fact, those little moments and one-on-one relationships are what he credits for big-scale transformation.
One student who has benefited from Hughes’ leadership is Travis Bauer, of Silver Spring, Maryland, a senior studying civil engineering. Bauer serves as the president of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and represents Fraternity and Sorority Life on the Virginia Tech Commission on Student Affairs.
“It would be hard to overstate the impact Byron Hughes has had on my life,” said Bauer. “Consistent with all great mentors, Byron's influence in my life has become multidimensional. From our first conversation, it was clear: Byron wasn’t merely well-versed in the field of student affairs. Rather, Byron will lend an objective, honest ear to anybody experiencing hardship in any facet of their life.
“Byron’s wisdom and rational demeanor are what make him such a phenomenal educator. Through our conversations I have learned more about what it means to be a man, leader, and critical thinker than any book or class could have possibly taught me. Many young men live out their entire formative years without a proper mentor; I consider myself extremely lucky to have found one so early in my college days.”
Chase Ginther, who serves as the president of the Interfraternity Council at Virginia Tech, is another direct recipient of Hughes’ intentionality.
“I’ve grown so much as a person as a result of Byron’s mentorship,” said Ginther, of Midlothian, Virginia, a junior studying statistics and computational modeling and data analytics. “Although I have always been a natural leader, I never really understood what it meant to be an effective leader. Byron taught me how to be a courageous leader and that the relationship you have with those you lead is fundamental. Byron wants his students to be the driving force for a healthy and valuable fraternity and sorority experience at Virginia Tech. Not only has he served as mentor for me, but he has for countless others as well.
“I can honestly say that I do not think Virginia Tech Greek Life would have the great reputation it has without Byron.”
By intentionally stressing to his students the impact the individual has on this campus, Hughes has truly redefined Fraternity and Sorority Life at Virginia Tech. However, when asked about his overall vision for the department, Hughes described an approach that opens itself up to the entire Virginia Tech community.
“It begins with an internal process — working on yourself to become the best that you can be,” said Hughes. “After that, it’s all about the outreach. Those who have worked on themselves to the extent that they can help others will begin to do so and help their peers externally. This is what begins to shape a good community.
“And effectively, if fraternity and sorority members can become those who reach out to shape this community, then they will become a vehicle for Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) on our campus and in our world.”
Written by Holly Paulette and Jason Arquette, of Springfield, Virginia, a senior triple majoring in history, literature, and professional and technical writing, with a minor in political science.