'Ut Prosim': More than a motto at Virginia Tech
A glance at Virginia Tech’s resumé reveals 37,000 students, nearly 300 degree programs, campuses at locations from Blacksburg to Roanoke and the greater Washington, D.C., area, as well as education centers around the globe, a $500 million research portfolio, a nearly $2 billion operational budget, and worldwide influence in numerous fields of study.
Yet interestingly, the foundation for all that impact centers on two simple Latin words encompassing eight letters.
Ut Prosim (That I May Serve)
John McBryde, the university’s fifth president, assigned this motto to the university in 1896. No one has been able to ascertain his exact reasoning, but McBryde’s speeches often reflected a desire for students to serve the interests of others. In an 1893 speech to graduates, he said, “And remember that any pursuit honestly followed, with due respect for the interests of others as well as one’s own, is honorable.”
As Virginia Tech celebrates its sesquicentennial, the 150th anniversary of its founding, its motto remains at its core, having been fully embraced by students, faculty members, and alumni as a timeless ideal of helping fellow humans and bettering the communities in which they live.
Many Hokies see Ut Prosim the key to overcoming society’s struggles, and others cite it as a measure of the true value of a Virginia Tech education.
“I think it’s as important as their degrees,” said Tom Bagamane, who established The Giving Spirit, a nonprofit organization serving those experiencing homelessness and educating communities in Los Angeles. “It [service] basically crosses over so many boundaries. Having a balanced sense of yourself and what's important and especially being able to teach others and guide others as leaders or as parents, I don’t know how you can't be a better, more well-rounded, more holistically capable person with service as a part of your walk in this life.”
Opportunities for service abound across Virginia Tech’s campuses. Fraternities, sororities, the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, and countless student organizations do their parts, and the university also has a center devoted to service learning and leadership.
VT Engage: The Center for Leadership and Service Learning, led by Director Meghan Weyrens Kuhn, coordinates service opportunities and develops programs to target specific issues. VT Engage hosts leadership workshops, faculty training, and civic engagement workshops, such as voter registration efforts.
“One of the differentiators about Virginia Tech is that students come to Virginia Tech knowing what our motto is,” Kuhn said. “It is one of the reasons why they come to this institution, and one of the reasons why alumni are so connected to this institution. They devote part of their lives to serving and to supporting fellow Hokies and their communities. They’re willing to support industries. They’re willing to support the Hokies who are coming up the ranks. That is something that you just don't see at many places.”
But service is only as helpful as the people performing it. As we celebrate the university’s sesquicentennial, we recognize just a few of the students, faculty, and alumni who embrace Ut Prosim — and more importantly, live by it.
Article ItemTom Bagamane '83 , article
"Our legacy as Hokies should be measured not on the material value that we have created or possess, but on the impact our learning and success has on underserved lives in positive and sustainable ways.”
Article ItemGabriela Carrillo '14, '22 , article
“I see service as a way to build and strengthen our community. I think you can only do that when you truly integrate into the community, when you’re able to listen to other people’s stories and perspectives and understand the context of how your community has been shaped. Service allows you that opportunity.”
Article ItemAlivia Colon , article
"I would encourage all students to try and do some service during their time at Tech. It doesn't matter — 10 hours or 400. To me, if you do one event every semester, that is a perfect way to kind of give back. You put attention toward something, and it grows."
Article ItemMadisyn Dalton '22 , article
"The attitude of service on campus and among the faculty is so evident and empowering."
Article ItemCarla Finkielstein , article
“I’m a person who believes that every scientist has a social responsibility. I think service should be part of being a scientist, so I think the university aligns very well with my beliefs of what science is all about."
Article ItemCollin Jessie , article
"No matter what you want to do in life, you go to Virginia Tech to make a difference in this world, and I'm extremely proud to call myself a Hokie because of that."
Article ItemAna Montoya , article
"I like to devote my time and service for others, and I don't want to do it three hours a week or five hours a week. I want to be as involved as I can in the community."
Article ItemAaron Rouse '07 , article
"As an elected member of a governing body, I feel putting action toward words is so important because, at the end of the day, rhetoric only gets you so far."
Article ItemEmily Satterwhite and Rebecca Hester , article
“One thing that I think about is how hungry the students are to be meaningfully engaged,” Satterwhite said.
Article ItemEmily Smith ’22 , article
“I think service is a product of a small town and a product of Virginia Tech. People want to care about each other and want to be involved in each other's lives."
Article ItemMartha Sullivan , article
“I think people need entry-level opportunities to really be mindful citizens and really be connected to their community and realize if we all give a little, the community is going to be just amazing."
Article ItemMaj. Gen. Timothy Williams '85 , article
“We now face a critical juncture in our nation. Can our nation move into the next 250 years? Not just Virginia Tech's 150 years, but can we go into the next 250 years? I think Virginia Tech will be a key component of leading that way, so that, as a republic, we continue to thrive and to grow. "