Brittany Steffens knows some people might not see the immediate connection between her work with the Office of Academic Integrity and her future career as a physician, but it is there nonetheless.

Steffens, who will be attending medical school in Erie, Pennsylvania, at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, put it this way: “My work with the honor system at Virginia Tech taught me how to handle tough conversations.”

She elaborated, “Being able to communicate effectively and let the student know all the information they need to make decisions, but also being able to show empathy, is important. I feel that this is similar to some of the tough conversations I may have with future patients. This experience has given me the opportunity to start developing these skills.”

During her time at Virginia Tech, Steffens has made an impact in her own way. The senior human nutrition, foods, and exercise major from Virginia Beach, Virginia, is serving this year as the vice president of the student delegates for the honor system. In this role, Steffens meets with honor council delegates to coach them through difficult situations they are currently having with students going through honor system processes. 

“I got involved with academic integrity because I had never really seen students given the chance to participate in the adjudication process of academic misconduct. I was drawn to the educational aspect of our system and how we strive to have every student walk away from their experience better understanding the importance of integrity … not only here on our campus but also how they will carry much further than just their time here at Virginia Tech,” said Steffens.

In February, Steffens attended the conference held by the Association for Student Conduct Administration (ASCA) and received the Undergraduate Student of the Year Award in recognition of undergraduate students who have greatly contributed to their institutions in the past year. Known as a leader for handling student conduct in higher education, “ASCA’s network of qualified professionals is dedicated to cultivating student responsibility and accountability through prevention education, investigation and adjudication.”

Steffens said that the conference, which was attended by more than 900 student conduct professionals, made her appreciative of the role that students at Virginia Tech play within the adjudication process for academic misconduct.

“The conference was such a great experience because we were able to see how other schools run their honor systems. Virginia Tech is very progressive in the fact that many institutions are just now trying to find ways to get students more involved in their adjudication process. As an institution we are one of the leading models for this,” said Steffens.

Brittany Steffens (center) being awarded the Undergraduate Student of the Year Award by the Association for Student Conduct Administration in recognition of undergraduate students who have greatly contributed to their institutions in the past year.

Steffens is also quick to point out that the opportunity to serve as a resource to students who are reported for honor code violations has proven educational not just for the students involved with issues of academic misconduct, but for her and the other delegates as well.

Fellow delegate Katie Mumm said Steffens exhibits patience and responsibility in working with students facing honor code violations. In addition to having empathy for those students, Mumm said Steffens “works tirelessly to ensure that the delegates feel comfortable and confident with the way the case is progressing,” noting that she always creates a positive environment in the student conduct office, whose delegates are a close-knit group.

Mumm added, “I believe this positivity translates in our ability to effectively meet with students because our interactions tend to be more positive with them when we are positive within our own office.” 

Steffens said she encourages other students at Virginia Tech to find ways to get involved on campus, whether through an organization like the honor council or something else relevant to their own career goals.

“Getting involved with the honor system gave me a place at Virginia Tech where I was able to grow in ways that I had not even considered before becoming a delegate,” said Steffens. 

“I was able to find a meaningful way to live out Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) and directly serve the students and faculty of the Virginia Tech community. I will miss working with the students who come through our office, and also my fellow delegates and administrators that I worked with on a daily basis.”

Written by Rachel Kinzer Corell

Share this story