Class of 2023: Cadet Claire Seibel named Outstanding Senior for the College of Science
A major in mathematics with three minors in agriculture and applied economics, Chinese studies, and leadership, Seibel served as the spring regimental commander for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and has connections to a host of academic organizations and community groups dedicated to volunteerism.
Claire Seibel has had a stellar past few years at Virginia Tech.
On May 13, the Virginia Tech College of Science Outstanding Senior will present the lead address at the college’s commencement ceremonies. On April 29, as the spring regimental commander of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, she handed over command of the corps to her Class of 2024 successor, Isaac Lerner. She was named the 2022 College of Science Dean’s Roundtable Scholarship winner more than a year ago and subsequently gave a talk to a packed banquet hall of alumni and friends of the college. She was also the recipient of the 2022 University Aspire! Award for Courageous Leadership. She has a 4.0 GPA.
After graduation, Seibel will start at Officer Candidate School to commission in the U.S. Navy as an intelligence officer. Last summer, she worked as an intern for the federal intelligence community.
Seibel’s professors describe her as disciplined, ambitious, realistic, organized, focused, diligent, and a calming presence. The list goes on. Seibel, who majored in mathematics, with three minors: agriculture and applied economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Chinese studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, and the leadership program housed in the Corps of Cadets.
“Claire’s achievements are really extraordinary and unique among our students as they combine high academic achievements with exceptional leadership skills and outstanding service to communities. I have not encountered a student like Claire in my whole professional life,” said Michel Pleimling, associate dean of undergraduate programs in the College of Science.
Seibel’s academics, membership in the corps, her volunteerism with campus organizations and community groups, and her faith are all part of a personality that has been growing since childhood. “It might be cheesy to say, but I feel called to serve,” she said. “Living for yourself just leaves you empty. We are made for service.”
Mathematics: Vital to the national defense
Seibel fell in love with mathematics in the fourth grade when a teacher, Mrs. Busher, taught her algebra. “I never had more fun as a kid,” she said.
When she arrived at Virginia Tech, she originally signed on for general engineering in the College of Engineering. But she soon changed her mind because of her classes in agricultural economics.
“I discovered in my courses, I love theoretical, abstract, creative thinking,” she said. “Mathematics was the perfect blend of rigor and theory and rekindled my childhood fascination with logic and problem-solving. I knew I found my new academic home at Virginia Tech as soon as I hit Dr. [Rachel] Arnold's Introduction to Proofs class. Additionally, mathematics is vital to the national defense mission, so it was a pragmatic choice for where I am headed.”
When Seibel struggled in some classes, such as proofs, she sought out extra materials and attended office hours, working toward a perfect score on the final exam.
“Claire has the most impressive and demanding menu of activities of any Virginia Tech student I have ever taught,” said Arnold, a collegiate assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, who wrote Seibel’s nomination letter for Outstanding Senior. “Unsurprisingly, she easily stands out as one of the most disciplined, organized, and reliable individuals I have worked with. When she sets goals, she carefully plans out how she will achieve them.”
The mathematics courses Seibel took will serve her pending career well. “Studying mathematics made me a more critical thinker and a better problem-solver in all facets of life. For example, the fundamental skill sets required to construct an elegant proof taught me to be precise with language and clearly present arguments, which made me a better public speaker, leader, and communicator. I know these skills will also serve me well as I look for patterns and stitch together seemingly disjoint information as an intelligence officer," Seibel said.
During her time as an undergraduate student, Seibel also excelled as a member of the Virginia Tech Honors College; served as a livestock analyst in the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s Commodity Investing by Students (COINS) group, where she helped manage a $1 million dollar portfolio in the student-run commodity fund; and participated in the Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence Program at the Hume Center for National Security and Technology. Just to name a few things.
Leadership and service
Seibel was a member of corps' Citizen-Leader Track and also sought additional physical training opportunities by participating in the Platoon Leaders Course. The corps "changed the way I view and define leadership. It is linked inextricably from the other pylons, with service and sacrifice being the fruits of leadership. So often, the world sells a version of leadership, which basically means an action used to manage people to make more money. That is not the school of leadership my peers and I have been raised in at Virginia Tech. We believe in and practice a courageous form of leadership where the purpose is to serve, where you are required to sacrifice, where you are dedicated to a mission higher than yourself, where you dedicate your life and all action to that ultimate aspiration [of Ut Prosim], ‘That I May Serve.’”
Life as a cadet can be challenging. Some days can be grueling or filled with error. That, Seibel said, is life. “It's all about sustained effort over time. How I sustained this effort is in the Holy Spirit. The inside of my notebook bears the quote that became my sustained prayer based on Galatians 6:9.”
The corps' leadership and cadets took notice of her passion for service.
Capt. Jamie McGrath, director for the corps' Maj. W. Thomas Rice Center for Leader Development, who nominated Seibel for the Aspire! Award, said, “Her vision is for a corps that honors its traditions while looking forward to the future. One of her mantras encourages cadets to serve now in a way worthy of their class ring, so that they can look at that ring in 10 years and still be proud of their performance.”
Cadet Benjamin H. Wooley, a senior and Seibel’s second in command in the corps, said, “The word that I would describe Claire with is ‘dedicated.’ I have never met someone who is willing to work so hard to help those around her. Claire has a work ethic like no one else I have ever met, and always has a smile on her face.”
Seibel’s volunteerism stretched from the Residential Well-being iniative to FFA and, off campus, to the Catholic Campus Ministries. “A life of service is a life well lived and our ultimate purpose. It is not comfortable, it is not about you, it will not be easy, but it is in every possible way worth it,” she said.
Born to be a Hokie
Seibel was bound for Virginia Tech before she even exited the delivery room some 23 years ago in Southwest Virginia. Her father, Andy Seibel, a three-time Virginia Tech alumnus, along with her mother, Megan Seibel, a two-time alumna, certainly were strong inspirations. “Thanks to my dad, I became a registered member of the Hokie Kids’ Club at about 45 minutes old, so coming to Virginia Tech was essentially predestined,” Seibel said.
“Once I started thinking more seriously about college, I asked who I wanted to be at graduation not just what I wanted to do,’ she added. “Growing up in agriculture meant I grew up surrounded by the conversation of how to serve and feed the world and was instilled work ethic and a desire to serve in some capacity.”
But choosing Virginia Tech came from more than her parents. It was also her membership in FFA from grades six through 12, which through the organization’s state convention, brought her to Blacksburg each summer. Her grandparents’ service in the Navy during the Vietnam War was one of her initial sparks of interest in the Corps of Cadets and national service.
“What could be better than a land-grant university where I could study agricultural economics on top of mathematics and Chinese, be surrounded by farmland, and be in a military college with the opportunities to prepare for officership?”