Adversity can be an excellent teacher. For Lauren Provinsal, that teacher came in the form of a monsoon.

Throughout her 2018 rain-soaked journey through the Himalayan mountains that scraped the sky, the group she was traveling with had to be wary of landslides that could sweep the group down the mountain. At one point, the group had to go single file through a particularly risky section in case a landslide cut loose from the slopes above. At night, the ground beneath the tents turned to mud, soaking Provinsal, her gear, and her sleeping bag. And every morning, she’d lace up her soggy boots and trudge on.

It was a physically and mentally challenging time for Provinsal, who called her weeklong trek through Nepal a “survivor experience.”

“This trek prepared me mentally to face any challenge in the future,” she said. “When I think something is tough, I look back on what I went through that week and suddenly what I’m facing seems much more manageable. It put everything into perspective.”

The sense of perspective stayed with her as a guiding light through her time at Virginia Tech and helped drive her to become the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ 2022 Outstanding Senior.

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An outstanding journey

Provinsal, of Richmond, England, always wanted to help others. As a student in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, she heard about the work of the Family Nutrition Program in Virginia Cooperative Extension and saw that avenue.  

She has been a staple at the Blacksburg Farmers Market since 2019, where she began volunteering during her second semester at Virginia Tech. Provinsal assisted in providing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — formerly known as food stamps — applicants with tokens to buy produce and sold merchandise at the information booth.

Because of COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines at the time, Provinsal monitored and controlled the number of people inside the market. In recognition of her work, Provinsal was named an assistant director of the market, where she now organizes volunteers and vendors.

Her desire to give back didn’t stop there. In April 2021, Provinsal joined COVID Companions and had weekly phone calls with a local veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The calls allowed the two to form a strong connection that helped her recover from her own loneliness caused by COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and lost loved ones.

“I will forever be grateful to have watched her personal growth and find support within her community,” Provinsal said. “Although I was sad to have our relationship end, I was glad that she moved to be closer to family and no longer needed a companion.”

A commitment to excellence

Provinsal maintained the same commitment she had to her local community as she did to her studies. She maintained a 4.0 grade-point average, made the dean’s list each semester, and ranks first academically out of all the seniors at Virginia Tech.

The generous support of donors helped Provinsal on her journey. The George A. Oley Fund for Excellence and Cyrus H McCormick Scholarship allowed Provinsal to obtain her certification to be a clinical medical assistant.

“Due to strict COVID-19 regulations implemented across health care facilities, gaining any form of clinical experience has been extremely hard. Having completed my medical assistant class has opened health care facility doors so I can gain the necessary work experience and ensure I am on the right path,” she said.

In fall 2021, Provinsal was one of three Virginia Tech pre-medical students chosen to be an undergraduate intern for the Global Health Leadership Field Study at Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg. In the field study, she attended first- and second-year medical school lectures and observed the cadaver labs. She also assisted with preparing equipment for a future medical international mission trip and developed fundraising flyers for the international clinics.  

“None of these accomplishments could have been achieved without the help of community members, faculty, fellow students, and alumni I have met along this four-year journey,” Provinsal said. “I will be forever grateful to call myself a Hokie and a College of Agriculture and Life Science 2022 graduate.”

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