The Virginia Tech Favorite Faculty Awards recognized five recipients who encompass the five Aspirations of Student Learning in their work. The awards, chosen by students, honor faculty at Virginia Tech for their contributions to student education, growth, and development through values of learning, leadership, and service.

“Some of the most meaningful awards for faculty are those that come from student nominations. Faculty members who are nominated by a student or group of students have learned that they have made an impact and made a difference for those students. I was pleased to attend the awards program and recognize the favorite faculty who were honored,” said Jack Finney, vice provost for faculty affairs.

The Favorite Faculty Awards recognize the dedication of Virginia Tech faculty who embody the five Aspirations for Student Learning: Commit to Unwavering Curiosity, Pursue Self-Understanding and Integrity, Practice Civility, Prepare for a Life of Courageous Leadership, and Embrace Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) as a Way of Life. 

The awards, which date back to 2006, were held virtually. This year, the ceremony acknowledged the active work of faculty who streamlined operations and methods of learning for students in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The five recipients are: 

Chevon Thorpe, collegiate assistant professor of biochemistry and assistant dean of inclusion, diversity, and equity, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), was awarded for the aspiration Commit to Unwavering Curiosity. Thorpe has shown her students that the college experience nurtures environments that provide innumerable opportunities for learning. Thorpe’s student nominator noted that she “always makes it known that science is a collaborative field and that we should be questioning and observing the world around us.” 

Molly Wilkens-Reed, instructor of music and director of the Virginia Tech String Project, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, was awarded for the aspiration Pursue Self-Understanding and Integrity. She inspires and encourages her students to experience, explore, and understand their values and principles. “She encourages me to do what makes me happy and is a helping hand through every struggle. She fortifies my relationship with music and helps me remember my passion for music,” her student nominator wrote.

Hamdy Mahmoud, collegiate assistant professor of statistics, College of Science, was awarded for the aspiration Practice Civility. He invites students to push themselves to listen and speak to one another, with the goal of understanding commonalities and differences. “[He] promotes conversation and fellowship between my classmates and me. Hamdy is so thoughtful, kind, and accepting of everyone, and that sets an example of how we should interact with each other,” his student nominator wrote.

Katharine Knowlton, Colonel Horace E. Alphin Professor of Dairy Science, CALS, was awarded for the aspiration Prepare for a Life of Courageous Leadership. Knowlton challenges her students and those around her, to view the world through different perspectives. “[She] encourages students to be change agents and to see themselves and their work as beyond the status quo,” said her student nominator. 

David Bluey, assistant professor of practice (management), Pamplin College of Business, was awarded for the aspiration Embrace Ut Prosim as a Way of Life. He has integrated service to others into his life, guiding students in their decisions, and enabling them to be responsible citizens of the world. “During the extenuating circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was known to work personally with students to keep them on track and ensure everyone had a fair chance at assignments,” his student nominator wrote.

Key speakers joined the celebration, including Finney and Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Shushok.

“We celebrate these extraordinary faculty members because of their hard work, inspiration, and deep care, which play an enormous role in the lives of students. These teachers literally change the course of history with their hard work and dedication,” Shushok said. "Brilliant teaching and deep care are hard work no matter the season, but COVID-19 required heroic effort. Our students’ well-being was challenged like never before, and these educators offered game-changing support."

The Favorite Faculty Awards are administered annually by Housing and Residence Life and Student Affairs.

— Written by Tayten Allison

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