Growing up in Virginia Beach, VA there were two things that I always knew; that I would go to Virginia Tech and that I would use my artistic skills to change people’s lives. Even though I was accepted to several other universities I kept my word and decided on VT. In 2003 I enrolled at Virginia Tech and I knew that my life had changed forever. From day one I met strangers who became friends and from friends they became more like family. I was even a bridesmaid in 2 Hokie themed weddings for two of my old roommates!
After graduating in 2007 I went on to become a Residential Remodeling Design Consultant specializing in Kitchens and Baths. I have won several national design awards and started my own company, Designs by Ebony. I still keep in contact with my professors from my college days and one in particular Dr. Kathleen Parrott even came all the way out to Las Vegas to cheer me on from the audience as I received my award on stage.
When I received the announcement about the 2016 Black Alumni Reunion there was zero hesitation to register for the full event. Any excuse to go back to Tech is good but to go for the Black Alumni Reunion was priceless. Besides going to the spring game and reconnecting with old friends, I will be using this opportunity to give back to my community. While I am in town I will be taking advantage of our alma maters motto, Ut Prosim by volunteering my time to mentor students interested in my career field. I look forward to sitting down and speaking with students to answer any questions that they may have about the design and construction industry.
I am so excited to attend the 2016 Black Alumni Reunion and see all of my friends, but first West End for some London Broil!
Join Ebony and hundreds of alumni April 21-24, 2016 in Blacksburg, VA!!
2016 Virginia Tech Black Alumni Reunion Registration and Schedule:
Returning to the Virginia Tech’s campus brings to life the time capsule of life before the “real world.” I have wonderful memories of my time at Tech, a time filled with a wonderful mix of challenges, rewards and excitement as a student at the College of Engineering. I had the pleasure of attending one of the top ranked electrical engineering program in the country.
The rewards of my undergraduate years have influenced my personal and professional life and shaped my career, my network and family. I met my wife, Veronica Gentry Adewodu, a Pamplin College Graduate (2008), we married in 2013, and are the proud parents of our 18 month old daughter Leah and have another bundle of joy on the way! Let’s hope the legacy admission policy works for future Hokie’s!
My Virginia Tech foundation put me in a position to start an engineering and technical solutions company, Infrastructure Solutions International, based in Maryland. Coming back to where it all began is a great way to keep a connection with fellow classmates, keep the Hokie spirit alive and be reminded of all the great beginning that took root in right here in Blacksburg.
I am most looking forward to showing our daughter, and maybe future Hokie, around the campus.
Join us in Blacksburg April 21-24, 2016
2016 Virginia Tech Black Alumni Reunion Registration and Schedule:
Dr. Sharnnia Artis, a triple Hokie, and diversity advocate currently serves as the Assistant Dean of Access and Inclusion in the School of Engineering and School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. She hails from Chesapeake, VA and graduated with a bachelor, masters, and doctorate degree in Industrial Systems Engineering! While at Virginia Tech she was the President of several student clubs – NAACP, Theta Phi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc., and National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). She was also named VT Graduate Woman of the Year, NSBE Graduate Student of the Year, and most recently VT College of Engineering Young Alumni of the Year.
Dr. Artis continued her engineering career in numerous higher education roles and can also add author as a list of accomplishments. I spoke with Dr. Artis about her roles in STEM and why she is attending the 2016 Virginia Tech Black Alumni Reunion.
What year did you graduate and what was your major?
I graduated with three degrees in Industrial Systems Engineering from Virginia Tech. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in in 2002, Master’s degree in 2005, and Doctorate in 2007.
Tell me about your time at Virginia Tech and what inspired you to attend?
I came to Virginia Tech for an engineering degree. When I was in high school, I participated in a summer program called C-Tech2. C-Tech2 was focused on introducing computing and engineering disciplines to girls. It was an all-girls camp with about 20 of us from high schools across Virginia. We spent about three weeks on campus. It was a lot of fun. I really fell in love with the campus. I fell in love with different opportunities that revolved around technology and engineering. The people were great. Dr. Bevlee Watford was the Director of the Program at the time. She was so inspiring. She was also a Virginia Tech graduate. Meeting her kind of sealed the deal for coming to Virginia Tech.
You talked about Bevlee Watford being influential in your time, can you talk about how she inspired you?
She was responsible for creating many of the student support programs for engineering students, especially programs to help students of color and women in engineering. I participated in many of those programs. I was in a mentoring program that paired me with an upper-class student. My mentor Lynette helped me establish myself as a student leader and stay on course as a scholar. There was also tutoring services that she was instrumental in establishing for the College of Engineering. I don’t think I could have been a strong student without the student support programs her office provided.
In 2016 we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of black women who entered Virginia Tech. Would you say Bevlee was one of the most influential black women for you at VT?
I’ve had quite a few black women at Virginia Tech who were instrumental to me – Dr. Bevlee Watford, Dr. Glenda Scales, Dr. Karen Sanders, and Dr. Tonya Smith-Jackson. Dr. Watford is definitely one of the most influential because I met her when I was a teenager and I still keep in touch with her this day. If I ever need anything, she is someone that I can call on to help me.
You mentioned Bevlee Watford being influential in your career. Can you talk about your professional role now and what you do?
Currently, I am the Assistant Dean of Access and Inclusion for the School of Engineering and School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California Irvine. I am responsible for recruiting diverse talent to computing and engineering and making sure they graduate and earn degrees in these exciting fields. In my professional role, I create opportunities to introduce students from diverse backgrounds to technology, computing, and engineering. My office provides students tools and resources to be successful. We have programs to help them be competitive in the workplace. I really feel like life has come full circle for me because all of the programs that I took advantage of as a college student are very similar to the programs that I offer for computing and engineering students at my university. I am probably what Dr. Watford was for me to students at UC Irvine. I think she was in an Assistant Dean role when I was an undergraduate. This is the same position that I am in today. It is pretty awesome to see how God works and how life is orchestrated. Everything comes together pretty well. It is a blessing to doing what I love to do. I am doing what I have been doing since I have been in school. Even as an undergraduate at Virginia Tech I was a mentor. I was a tutor. I always wanted to give back and help students and now I do it full time in my career. I get to help in so many ways. I create programs to provide access to students from under-resourced backgrounds who want to go to college. I work to close the achievement gap when it comes to preparing students for engineering and computing careers. To serve and help others is an awesome opportunity.
The 2016 Virginia Tech Black Alumni Reunion will commemorate important milestones in black history at the university. This year marks the 50th anniversary of black women attending Virginia Tech and the 25th anniversary of the Black Cultural Center opening in Squires. We will celebrate both moments during the reunion.
In addition to these legendary milestones it is important to honor the history of black students at Tech and their contribution to the Hokie tradition. Virginia Tech History is Black History.
Irving L. Peddrew III was the first black student admitted to Virginia Tech in 1953.
Virginia Tech Black Alumni recently celebrated Peddrew’s 80th birthday during the summer of 2015. He will also be in attendance at the 2016 VT Black Alumni Reunion.
2.) Charlie Yates was the first Black Virginia Tech graduate. He received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1958.
In 2003 Virginia Tech renamed New Residence Hall West to Peddrew-Yates in honor of Irving L. Peddrew III and Charlie Yates.
3.) In 1966 the first black women were admitted to Virginia Tech. (l to r) Marguerite Harper, Linda Edmonds Turner, Freddie Hairston, Jacqueline Butler, Linda Adams, and Chiquita Hudson were among the first black women to attend the university, leaving a lasting legacy.
4.) Did you know that a black man helped create the original Virginia Tech mascot? In 1913 Floyd Meade began taking a turkey on an orange and maroon leash to Virginia Tech football games. After drawing attention from the press, they started to call the football team the Gobblers. The Hokie Bird was then created.
5.) Jerry Gaines became the first black scholarship athlete at Virginia Tech in 1967. He was a star track runner and was the first black inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.
6.) Groove Phi Groove was the first black organization at Virginia Tech in 1968
7.) In 1969 John Dobbins became the first black football player at Virginia Tech.
8.) In 1969 Charlie Lipscomb became the first black starter on varsity basketball team
9.) Overton R. Johnson was the first black faculty member at Virginia Tech in 1969. The annual Overton R. Johnson stepshow was named in his memory.
10.) The first black students to receive advanced degrees are: Camilla Anita Brooks (M.S. Statistics, 1970) and Franklin Mckie (M.S. Statistics, 1970).
11.) In 1973, Cheryl Butler McDonald becomes one of the first women admitted to the Virginia Tech Corp of Cadets. She is the first black woman in the Corp.
12.) Dianne Epps became the first black player on the Virginia Tech Girls’ Varsity Basketball Team in 1973.
13.) The Theta Iota Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha was the first Black Greek Letter Organization chartered on the campus of Virginia Tech. January 29, 1973.
14.) The Theta Phi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha was the first black sorority founded on the campus of Virginia Tech, May 5, 1974.
Standing (left to right): Paula Martin, Karen Francois, Delores Jones; Seated: Zoe Shaw, Avie Winston, Sandra Johnson, Linda Banks; Back: Gwen Cunningham, Maggie Lewis
15.) The Black Organization Council was founded in 1982 .The NAACP was founded the same year, and became the largest black organization on campus at 115 members.
16.) The first black homecoming queen was Marva Felder in 1982. She remains the only black woman to win queen.
17.) In 1983 Scott Otey was selected as the first black commander of the Virginia Tech Regimental Band, the Highty-Tighties.
18.) Chris Sessoms was the first black Hokie Bird in 1984.
19.) The first Black Alumni Reunion was held on October 24-26, 1986. Dr. Charlie Yates, Tech’s first black graduate was the guest speaker for the reunion banquet and dance.
20.) In 1987, renowned poet Nikki Giovanni was hired by the university and became the first female full professor in the Department of English.
21.) In 1991 Coretta Oden became the first black woman to be appointed to the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Regimental Command.
22.) In 1991 the Black Cultural Center opened in Squires. The creation of the BCC happened after student leaders from the class of 1985 proposed the opening due to the increase of black students at Virginia Tech. Brian Roberts (’85) was instrumental in founding the BCC and has a library dedicated in his memory. He wrote the first student proposal for the center among numerous achievements, including drafting the first constitution for the Black Organizations Council. Read about his legacy here: http://www.iec.vt.edu/cultural_centers/library.html
23.) Ronnie Stephenson class of 1995, was the first black President of the Student Government Association in Virginia Tech history.
24.) In 1996 Cynthia Gowens founded the Enlightened Gospel Choir. The 20th anniversary celebration will take place at Sunday Service during the 2016 Black Alumni Reunion.
25.) In 2006 Christina Royal became the first African American female cadet to hold the highest position in the Corp, serving as the Regimental Commander
The facts listed are only a portion of black history at Virginia Tech. To discover more black history facts and for further information on history listed please visit the following website. :
http://spec.lib.vt.edu/archives/blackhistory/ Join us in celebrating this year’s historical milestones. The reunion schedule includes a BCC 25th anniversary celebration on Thursday, April 21st. During the Alumni Awards dinner, Saturday, April 23rd we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the pioneers who paved the way for black women to attend Virginia Tech. Many of them will be in attendance. We will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Enlightened Gospel Choir, to close out the reunion Sunday, April 24th. You don’t want to miss this. Register for the reunion today!
I grew up in the Richmond, VA area and I always knew two things – I was going to college and I was going to do something technology related. So when it came time to decide where I was going to college, I had settled on going somewhere that had a great business technology program, great reputation, and wouldn’t break the bank. VT met all of those qualifications and more. I was amazed at the size of the campus and how many people were there on my first visit to Blacksburg. I was also very impressed by what the Pamplin School of Business had to offer with respect to my career interests during my visit as well.
I had a great experience during my time at VT. Not only did I make many lifelong friends and leave with many great memories, I also got a tremendous education. I majored in Business Information Technology and started a career in IT audit and governance after graduating in 2006. I currently serve as the Director of IT Risk and Compliance at Amtrak. I am responsible for leading our national IT audit, risk, and regulatory compliance programs.
I am excited to attend the reunion in April. Aside from re-connecting with old friends, attending reunion events, and going to the spring game, this is a great chance to re-engage. I think it is very important to come back to campus to share our story, support and advocate for current students, and do all that we can to make sure that current and future students have an even better experience than we did. Only we can make that a reality through our engagement and participation. I look forward to seeing you there!
To register for the 2016 Black Alumni Reunion click here:
I always knew Virginia Tech was the school for me. As I think back on my initial visit to the breathtakingly beautiful campus, I recall my group exiting the bus and being immediately greeted by students, who without hesitation began sharing their experiences. As I listened to them, I just knew that Tech was my school.
You see, something happens when you travel to Blacksburg. There’s a certain calm that comes over you that’s indescribable. Each time that I’ve been fortunate enough to make the trip down 81, that feeling has consumed me. It’s seeing the “VT” beside Lane Stadium. It’s the way the breeze passes through your hair as you cross the Drill Field. It’s hanging out in the Black Cultural Center in Squires and meeting your closest friends for London broil at West End. It’s seeing the pride radiate from members of the Corps of Cadets as they cross campus in their crisp uniforms. It’s discussing current events over breakfast and watching a probate in front of Deets. It’s just…Virginia Tech.
As I think about traveling to Blacksburg in April for the 2016 Black Alumni Reunion, it’s all of those things. It’s just Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech; the place that cultivated my interest in politics and current affairs. It’s the place that gave me some of my closet friends [Shout out to: Lori Green, Lanessa Brant, Ashley Carson, Solana Vander Nat, Ashley Anderson, Brittany Yates, Celeste Young, and Adina Young]. It’s the place that gave me a space to be me and question and reason and grow. It’s Virginia Tech! That’s why I’m attending the 2016 Black Alumni Reunion. I hope you will consider your why and meet me there!
To register for the 2016 Black Alumni Reunion click here:
My senior year of high school, a group of us from the Hampton Roads area had the opportunity to visit Virginia Tech through the Gateway Program. I recall the long bus ride through the mountains, wondering if I could actually manage this drive to and from Virginia Tech, should I attend this school. However, the moment I stepped foot on the beautiful campus, and dined at West End, I knew Blacksburg was going to be my home away from home.
My freshman year I had the opportunity to participate in the Residential Leadership Community which is housed in Peddrew-Yates (PY) Hall. I thought this community was very fitting being housed in PY after learning the building was named after Irving Linwood Peddrew III, who was the first black student to enroll in Virginia Tech (1952), and the late Charlie Lee Yates, who was the first black graduate, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in 1957. True leaders indeed!
While attending Virginia Tech, I made life long friends – who took care of me while I was home-sick my freshman year; gained beautiful sisters through joining Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; became a voice for the students through being elected Vice President of the Student Government Association, and continue to live by our motto, Ut Prosim, within my profession.
Virginia Tech is celebrated for being known for its engineering program and top-ranked dining halls, but what most alumni do not know is Virginia Tech has the top-ranked financial planning program in the country! It’s always an honor to say I am a Hokie, but I am also proud to say I have a degree in Bachelors of Science in Applied Economics with a concentration in Financial Planning. After graduating from Virginia Tech, I became very involved within my profession, and worked at a couple boutique financial planning firms before venturing off to launch my own financial planning firm, Your Greatest Contribution (YGC) , late last year dedicated to serving Gen-X and Millennials.
I am very excited to attend VT’s Black Alumni Reunion 2016 to finally go back to Kobe’s, reunite and share memories with former classmates, to give thanks to those who came before me and to celebrate the legacy of black graduates. This reunion is very special as we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first black women to attend Virginia Tech and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Black Cultural Center. We all have a story to share and you never know who you will inspire through conversation. The current students need us to come back so we can share our stories of failed attempts, triumphs and successes, so they can say, “because of them, I know I can”. We are Hokies making a mark in the world, what’s not to share and celebrate?! Looking forward to seeing you all in April! Let’s Go, Hokies!!!
For more information and to register for the 2016 Black Alumni Reunion click here: