Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, will give the keynote address at Virginia Tech’s 2014 Graduate School Commencement ceremony to be held Friday, May 16.

The Graduate School Commencement ceremony will begin at noon in Cassell Coliseum located on the Blacksburg campus. Approximately 1,000 Virginia Tech graduate students are expected to complete their degree requirements this spring and participate in the ceremony.

Gastañaga joined the ACLU of Virginia in 2012 after almost four decades of legal and government relations work at the local, state, and federal levels.

Prior to her current position, Gastañaga owned a consulting firm that provided management and consulting advice to non-profit organizations and public agencies. She represented clients before the Virginia General Assembly on issues including immigration policy, violence again women, LGBT rights, and equal economic opportunity for women and minority business owners.

From 1986 to 1994 Gastañaga served in the Virginia Attorney General’s Office where she was deputy attorney general of the Human and Natural Resources Division. She later became the first woman to serve as Virginia’s chief deputy attorney general. While in the Attorney General’s Office, she argued cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Virginia.

After leaving Virginia’s Attorney General’s Office, Gastañaga was a senior advisor to the leadership of the Virginia General Assembly holding positions including chief of staff and counsel to the Speaker of the Virginia House, legislative counsel to the Democratic leader, legislative counsel to the House Democratic Caucus, counsel to the House Courts of Justice Committee and the House Committee on Finance, and redistricting counsel to the Joint Democratic Caucus and the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

Gastañaga has won numerous awards for her legal and advocacy work. In 1998 the National Association of College and University Attorneys named her one of their first two Fellows in recognition of her contributions to higher education law.

In 2010, Virginia Lawyers Weekly named her as one of 50 Virginia Women of Influence.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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