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Virginia Tech affinity groups elevate community

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The affinity groups at Virginia Tech give graduate students a sense of belonging and community at the campuses in the Greater Washington D.C. area. They host special events and gatherings that bring students together, like meet-and-greets and food tastings.

My name is Chontrese Hayes and I'm an Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs and Student Success in the graduate school at Virginia Tech. So today we're hosting a "Warm-Up to Graduate School" event. Its hosted by the Affinity groups with the notion of easing graduate students, the new graduate students into their programs, by discussing the key differences between undergraduate and graduate school. So the Affinity Groups came together. We invited program coordinators and alumni to tackle this issue. And hopefully we will offer some advice to new students that will expedite their transition into graduate school. We were still in the pandemic phase, so I still was able to create a small knit, smallish community, especially with Dr. Chontrese Hayes and the Latino affinity community where I ought to meet Latinos from this area and got to then do extra curricular activities within Virginia Tech. And so yeah, it's just I would say, keep yourself open to different possibilities, different types of friends because you never know who might be your best friend in the near future. I mean, I can tell you that in both undergrad and grad, my bestest friends are not the same ethnicity as me. They are completely different, but we have such an appreciation for each other. We have such an understanding that we learn from each other all the time. And so just keep an open mind, but always create that community, that friendship with your peers, because that's what's going to push you to finish that little bit that you need for either a job application, graduate school or anything else. (It's always a pleasure to see what kind of ideas come from our students, come from our staff. The ways that we can...) Excitingly, I want to note that we're starting to host events with graduate student groups at neighboring universities. So kind of inherent within our DNA is collaboration and partnership. So I think that the international food tasting was an outgrowth of this. This is our first foray in collaboration with the graduate students. And we hope that it won't be our labs. But the thinking was food connects and connotes communities. So why not have a celebration of our international graduate students by hosting event where we're breaking bread together. It's a joint venture by the Affinity Groups and also GSA. So this is, after I became a president, this is the first event. And this event brought the community together. And also every food is symbolize the community, [and] the world. And this helps students feel more gathered and also bring them to a common community. So these are first event in the semester and it's a networking event. So every student needs to know other people and if they have some kind of doubts or stuff, they should have some network. And these kind of common community events will build those relationships between the students. And it's great to be part of this event. And I thank Dr. Hayes, for making this kind of international food festivals [event]. I think that the best gauge of the impact of the affinity groups is the invitation to participate in the university's Giving Day, which is a celebration of support with Hokies from around the world. I think that speaks directly to the reach of the affinity groups. And moreover that the character of the students who are participating in this initiative, I can't think of any, any better way to, to underscore the good work that our students are doing in the affinity groups.