Class of 2023: William Poland and Blake Warner named Outstanding Seniors for the Honors College
For the first time in its history, the Honors College has named two Outstanding Seniors: William Poland and Blake Warner. These students have consistently demonstrated a commitment to the Honors College's core values and have worked collaboratively over the past four years to make significant positive contributions to the honors student experience.
The pair became close during their sophomore year when they were paired as roommates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their friendship grew through academic collaboration as well, as they shared many academic experiences as members of the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program.
“It is an understatement to say that our 'accidental' roommate arrangement was a blessing in disguise,” Warner said. “Ever since then, our relationship has grown extremely strong, and I have been able to consistently learn from William.”
Warner joined the Honors College Student Council his sophomore year and encouraged Poland to join the following year. The council was left without a presiding member in 2021 after the previous leader graduated, and Poland and Warner took on the responsibility jointly.
“When the previous presiding member of the council graduated, everyone was hesitant to step into the role, but then I suggested that Blake and I should do it together. Being co-presiding members with Blake has been a great decision, and I think we balance each other really well and reduce the stress of the role on each other,” Poland said.
The council serves in an advisory capacity to the dean of the Honors College, and members help to build relationships across campus to enhance the honors student experience.
“It’s been a privilege to support the dean and give our input on initiatives and ideas for the Honors College. I think Blake and I were able to bring a lot of positive change and energy to the council, and I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish,” Poland said.
In the beginning of Poland and Warner’s tenure, the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for student council members to make real progress. Poland and Warner worked to bring enthusiasm and energy back to the council by helping to revitalize the tradition of the Honors Spring Formal, which is organized by the council. The Spring Formal has maxed-out its attendance two years in a row.
Outside of the Honors College, the seniors were active on and off campus to advance their personal and professional goals.
Warner is graduating with a dual degree in finance and business management from the Pamplin College of Business and a minor in leadership and social change. He has been active in various organizations across campus, including Pi Sigma Epsilon and the Dean’s Advisory Board of Students for the Pamplin College of Business. Warner has also served as a Pamplin Engage undergraduate teaching assistant for five contiguous semesters, positively influencing students and easing the stress of first-year students as they transition into college.
A member of the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program since its first year and the only management major in his cohort, Warner speaks positively about the experience, saying the program "allowed me to mature very quickly over the past four years. Whether I am working on extensive industry projects or learning technical skills from my peers, the program has taught me how to work with students across many majors and from all different backgrounds."
After he graduates this May, he will move into a full-time position with Capital One as a part of the Management Rotation Program in Richmond, where he will be either a project manager or agile delivery lead in his first year.
“I truly believe that my experience within honors has taken me to the next level professionally and set me on the path to success. I am forever grateful for the honors program and network,” Warner said.
Poland will graduate with a degree in electrical engineering from the College of Engineering with minors in math and Spanish. He has a list of similarly impressive accomplishments. At Virginia Tech, he has served as an undergraduate research assistant for the Manufacturing Engineering Education Program research team at the Hume Center for National Security and Technology since his sophomore year.
He has also been a student leader for the Honors Residential Commons community in East Ambler Johnston Hall. “It has been very rewarding to stay part of this community for four years and see it grow and change as well as make a continual impact. The motto I’ve taken for heart to this role is ‘know and be known’ when it comes to students in the community.”
Like Warner, Poland was a member of the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program beginning in its very first year.
“The impact of the Honors College on my college experience can’t be overstated,” Poland said, “I think honors is all about going above and beyond because you’re not content to be average. Honors gives students the opportunity to learn and experience more, as long as they are up for a challenge. Above all, I will miss the friends I’ve made and my relationships I’ve developed with the faculty and staff.”
After graduation, Poland will continue at Virginia Tech as a part of the electrical engineering master’s program. His research is focused on electromagnetics and specifically computational modeling for how electromagnetic waves scatter over the surface of the ocean.
"We are proud to have Blake and William represent both their classmates and the Honors College through this recognition,” said Paul Knox, the college's founding dean. “They have contributed a great deal to the honors community while maintaining outstanding academic records.”
Poland and Warner are pleased to share recognition as the 2023 Outstanding Senior, as their honors student experience wouldn’t have been the same without one another. “It makes me really happy to be able to share the Outstanding Senior award with Blake," Poland said. "Blake’s become one of my closest friends and he’s a great guy to be around. It’s an honor for me to share this award with him.”
Warner said, “I would not be where I am without William. I could not be more honored to get to share this award with him.”
Both seniors will receive their honors medallion and record remarks to be played at the Honors College Medallion Reception on May 11.