Virginia Tech will launch a new living-learning community (LLC) for students interested in understanding, supporting, and learning about the African-American experience.

President Tim Sands announced the founding of the Ujima (oo-JEE-muh) Living-Learning Community this weekend during the 2018 Black Alumni Reunion.

Ujima will become the university’s 15th living-learning community. Virginia Tech’s living-learning communities connect students’ academic and co-curricular experiences to create a supportive, dynamic learning environment that becomes home.

“The Ujima LLC will help build and strengthen relationships across the larger university community and support discussions on identity, culture, and history,” said Sands. “It will be an important resource in developing our future leaders.”

Ujima is the third principle of Kwanzaa and is defined as collective work and responsibility and community. The living-learning community will place a special emphasis on understanding the unique experiences of African-Americans in society, including their experiences in higher education. With a focus on building and maintaining community and solving problems together, the community will be located in Peddrew-Yates Hall.

Peddrew-Yates Hall honors Irving Linwood Peddrew III, the first black student to enroll at Virginia Tech in 1952, and the late Charlie Lee Yates, the first black graduate, who earned a bachelor of science degree with honors in 1957.

This year’s Black Alumni Reunion celebrated the 65th anniversary of Peddrew's admission and the 60th anniversary of Yates’ graduation from Virginia Tech.

The announcement was made at the reunions’ Influential Black Alumni Awards Ceremony on Friday evening.

“I wanted to share this exciting news with our black alumni during the reunion weekend because this is part of their legacy. I have great respect for their years of hard work and commitment to developing a more inclusive university community,” Sands said. “Their ongoing support is vital as we move forward together.”

The Ujima LLC will consist of 70 students (male and female) who will participate in structured learning experiences.

“Ujima will support Virginia Tech’s commitment to InclusiveVT – the institutional and individual commitment to Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence,” said Menah Pratt-Clarke, vice president for strategic affairs and vice provost for inclusion and diversity. “Ujima will provide an opportunity to explore the relationship between Ut Prosim and diversity and our collective responsibility and obligation as an institution to prepare students to be of service to anyone and at any time.”

Students in Ujima will gain leadership skills through Virginia Tech student organizations, including the Student African American Sisterhood (SAAS), the Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB), as well as other cultural organizations.

“Ujima will support both Virginia Tech’s commitment to InclusiveVT, as well as support our broader institutional goal of growing living-learning participation to involve at least two-thirds of our undergraduate residential students over the next decade,” Patty Perillo, vice president for Student Affairs agreed.

Virginia Tech’s living-learning communities, part of Student Affairs’ Department of Housing and Residence Life, provide students with the opportunity to thrive both in and out of the classroom in a learning environment that becomes home. There are LLC options for students from every academic college and every class year.

Tommy Amal, assistant director of the Student Success Center and chair of the Virginia Tech's Black Male Excellence Network, has been active in the planning of the LLC.

“This community is important because it provides a space for students who are really interested in the success, history, and culture of black students. That is black students, but that does include other students who want to be a part of that community, the learning process, and the activities that come along with that community,” he said. “It’s all about excellence. It’s all about ensuring that students have that sense of belonging and have ownership on this campus, making sure they have the things they need to thrive on this campus and in the future.”

Written by Annie McCallum


Share this story