Camellia Pastore and Sabrina Sturgeon share a love for Virginia Tech and a passion for its students.

They will also soon share the responsibility of representing those students at university’s highest level of governance.

“I’m just one student and I have one experience,” said Sturgeon, who will represent graduate students on Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors during the 2020-21 academic year. “One of the great challenges of this is just being able to represent such a diverse body of students in a way that does justice to all their experiences and what they each need as students. I’m excited about that.”

Pastore, who will represent undergraduate students, said she was looking forward to being the undergraduate students’ voice and helping address inequalities within the overall student experience during an important time in the university’s history.

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“Whenever I see somewhere we can make a change, I just want to help work towards that, said Pastore, a rising senior studying computer science. “It’s been a dream of mine since I heard about it during my freshman year, and I’m excited to use my passion and thoughtfulness to be the students’ best advocate and help level the playing field across campus.”

Both students began their terms on July 1 and will also be ex-officio members of the Commission of Student Affairs and University Council.

Sturgeon, who is working towards a Masters of Arts in higher education and student affairs, said her interest in higher education motivated her to apply for the Board of Visitors.

“I firmly believe we are all in an eternal state of growth, and I see higher education as a place that looks to foster that love for learning and growth and being a better person,” Sturgeon said.

She was finishing up her bachelor’s degree in communication studies at the University of Southern Indiana when a mentor there suggested Virginia Tech for grad school. Seeing the university’s approach to equality, diversity, and inclusion encouraged her to visit, which sealed her fate as a Hokie.

“I loved the people here. I loved the culture. It seemed like a place with a lot of school spirit that I could get behind,” Sturgeon said.

Pastore said she originally came to Virginia Tech because of its value for her as an in-state student, but was quickly won over by the spirit of the entire Hokie Nation.

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“I wasn’t a die-hard Hokie in the beginning, but within a month of being here, I was sold,” she said. “The culture here at Tech is so unique compared to what I hear from friends at other universities…the way people treat each other here and Hokies look out for other Hokies is something special.

Pastore said she realized the importance of connecting the students with the university administration during her time serving on the College of Engineering’s Student Engineer’s Council.

“I didn’t realize how important it would be to the students, but it was really amazing watching students just be floored when I could tell them how much administrators cared about their problems,” she said.

Pastore said she realizes the COVID-19 pandemic will cause this year to be a little different than past years and looks forward to helping find ways to keep the campus spirit alive.

“I think this semester generally is going to be a challenge for all of us because we’re going to be missing out on some of those traditional opportunities for connection,” Pastore said. “But I really think Hokie culture goes beyond football games and large events on the Drillfield, and I look forward to brainstorming with students on ways we can continue to thrive together no matter the circumstances.”

 She added that she hopes to advocate for the diverse community spaces students need to thrive, help advance Virginia Tech’s interdisciplinary approach to learning, and help work toward further integration of technology in all facets of the university experience.

Sturgeon said her three main focuses for now are mental health access, food insecurity, and overall job security, but plans to tailor those as she listens to the needs of the graduate student population both in Blacksburg and across the state. She said the pandemic does create an additional challenge in connecting with other students, but it’s one she’s ready to embrace.

“I am confident I will best represent our graduate population with tenacity and grace,” Sturgeon said. “I will do this with consideration to the multiple identities our university represents and an unmatched zeal in doing so.”

— Written by Travis Williams