2019 Outstanding Graduating Seniors
The college recently named its 2019 Outstanding Seniors who are recognized for their academic achievements, leadership, and experiences beyond traditional coursework.
Benjamin Garber of Verona, Virginia, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics
Benjamin Garber is obtaining a degree in applied economic management with a minor in global security and health. He has excelled academically with dean’s list recognition each semester and is a member of the Virginia Tech University Honors Program as well as the Alpha Zeta Agricultural Honors Fraternity where he provided leadership for Virginia Tech’s National Ag Week celebration. Throughout his time at Virginia Tech, Ben consistently sought out opportunities for service leadership and fulfillment of the university’s land-grant mission to serve the commonwealth. As a program development specialist for the Virginia Cooperative Extension, Ben collaborated with the Piedmont Environmental Council on the “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” campaign and empowered farmers in Virginia to sell their products to restaurants through the development of an online curriculum. Through an experiential learning course, Ben researched the economic impact of broadband internet access on the agriculture and forestry industries and presented his findings to the Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative. Ben continued his service leadership abroad through an internship in Ecuador where he researched sustainable farming practices and developed solutions for the Chimborazo watershed. Upon graduation, Ben plans on attending graduate school and ultimately wants to develop undergraduate and graduate curriculums that combine Extension and development work.
Mikayla MacNeill of Cortland, New York, Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education
Mikayla MacNeill is obtaining a degree in agricultural sciences with a minor in horticulture. Mikayla’s experiences while at Virginia Tech have enabled her to develop leadership skills, learn from her peers, and apply what she learned in the classroom to the community. On campus, Mikayla provided leadership as vice president and captain of the Polo Club, advocacy chair of the Virginia Chapter of Alpha Zeta, and as a CALS Ambassador, where she met with future Virginia Tech students. Mikayla has been involved in multiple service opportunities in the Blacksburg community, including serving as a team leader for the Big Event, and volunteering for Micah’s Backpack and the Junior Master Gardener Program, where members of 4-H learned about plants, insects, and other natural biological processes in the garden. In her hometown of Cortland, New York, Mikayla continues her service work with 4-H by volunteering with the Dairy Rodeo, where 4-H’ers clip, bathe, and halter break their calves. Mikayla’s experiences working with youth in agriculture influenced her plans to attend a graduate program in career and technical education in agriculture. She aspires to become a middle or high school agricultural educator and an FFA chapter advisor.
Bryce Carter of Stuart’s Draft, Virginia, Department of Agricultural Technology
Bryce Carter is obtaining his landscape and turf management degree from the agricultural technology program. Bryce has excelled academically with dean’s list recognition and is a member of the Honor Society of Agriculture, Gamma Sigma Delta. His stellar GPA has placed him at the top of his graduating class. As an Agricultural Technology Ambassador, Bryce represents the program to future students, the industry, and the public. Beyond the Virginia Tech campus, Bryce volunteers in his hometown of Stuart’s Draft, Virginia, where he works with the local food pantry through the Cavalry United Methodist church. Additionally, Bryce maintains the landscaping of the local SPCA, volunteers for local youth football camps, and supported the remodel of his high school’s athletic field house. Upon graduation, Bryce will return to the Old Trail Golf Club in Crozet, Virginia, where he also completed an internship, to take over several responsibilities, including irrigation of the course and nutrient management planning.
William Boyd of Chesapeake, Virginia, Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences
William Boyd is obtaining a degree in animal and poultry sciences with a minor in dairy science. He has excelled academically with dean’s list recognition and is the recipient of numerous scholarships, including the John Lee Pratt Animal Nutrition Scholarship and the Maryland Sheep Breeders Association Scholarship. Throughout his experiences at Virginia Tech and beyond, William has taken what he has learned and supported others through service leadership. On campus, William has served as an Animal and Poultry Science Ambassador. As president of the Swine Club, he promoted the industry on campus and to the surrounding community. While involved in the Curie and DaVinci Living Learning Community, he gained skills in research, academic writing, and teamwork, which prepared him to share these skills as a teaching assistant. In his hometown, he serves as a volunteer for the Chesapeake Area Shelter Team and for the Norfolk Emergency Shelter Team, as well as for his local 4-H club. As an alumnus of 4-H, William enjoys sharing the importance of 4-H in his life. He continues to support his local 4-H livestock club in fundraising and helps with the annual livestock show and sale, and the annual “clover sale.” Upon graduation, William wants to pursue large animal veterinary medicine in underserved areas in the United States and abroad.
Sierra Raney of Hillsboro, Virginia, Department of Biochemistry
Sierra Raney is obtaining a degree in biochemistry with a minor in chemistry. She has excelled academically with dean’s list recognition and is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, an honor society reserved for students in the top 10 percent of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. This high-achieving student supported her peers as an undergraduate teaching assistant for several classes in the biology and chemistry departments and was a tutor in the Chemistry Learning Center. In addition to her stellar academic and on-campus achievements, Sierra excelled outside of the classroom through multiple internships with the United States Postal Service where she provided leadership in the development of technology designed to reduce vehicle load and delivery time. A patent is pending for the system. On an outreach trip to Panama, Sierra participated in fundraising for medical supplies, worked with local doctors, and taught children classes on hygiene, dental health, nutrition, and first aid. A pivotal moment for Sierra was when she joined Alpha Chi Sigma, the professional chemistry fraternity, which gave her the confidence to pursue a profession in the medical field. Upon graduation, Sierra plans to attend medical school in order to give back and strengthen her community.
Katelyn Allen of Jefferson, Maryland, Department of Dairy Science
Katelyn Allen is obtaining a degree in dairy science with a minor in communications. Katelyn is the recipient of numerous scholarships, including the Paul M. Reaves Outstanding Senior Scholarship and the Dairy Foundation of Virginia Scholarship, and has received dean’s list recognition. By combining her interests in dairy science and communications, Katelyn is able to take what she’s learned in coursework for her major and minor and develop the ability, as she put it, “to share the story of agriculture.” As advertising chair for Milky Way, the Dairy Club yearbook, she was instrumental in the development of more efficient ways to communicate with alumni and potential advertisers, and as Collegiate FFA reporter, she developed content to represent Virginia agriculture at the National FFA Convention. In her capacity, as President of Alpha Zeta, Katelyn provided leadership on agricultural advocacy events, including National Farmer’s Day, and helped with fundraising for Micah’s Backpack. As an FFA state officer in Maryland, she conducted mock interviews to support students interested in running for state FFA office. Katelyn also helped with the Hokie Dairy Day event which brought 4-H youth to Virginia Tech to learn about the dairy industry through hands-on activities. Katelyn’s career goals include pursuing agriculture public relations and communications. She plans on working for an agriculture publication after graduation.
Sophia Pinton of Forest Hill, Maryland, Department of Food Science and Technology
Sophia Pinton is obtaining a degree in food science and technology with a minor in interdisciplinary engineering and science. She has excelled academically with dean’s list recognition, is a member of the Honors College, and received scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation each year, as well as awards from the Association of Food and Drug Officials and the Institute of Food Technologists. Sophia’s dedication to food safety and sustainability is apparent in the opportunities she has sought out both on- and off-campus. During her undergraduate research, she participated in a USDA-NIFA Research and Extension Experiential Learning fellowship program during which she studied the survival behavior of several vegetables. The results will be published in the Journal of Food Protection. She also earned first place in several poster competitions. Additionally, Sophia conducted her own experiments to convert food waste from the Virginia Tech campus into biogas as a sustainable energy source. As president of the Food Science Club, Sophia has expressed her passion for the promotion of food science by hosting children’s STEM nights during which club members provide food science-related, hands-on activities for children. Upon graduation, Sophia plans to attend graduate school and ultimately work towards, as she puts it, discovering “innovative ways to feed the growing population while promoting gradual yet monumental changes in the way we perceive and interact with our food systems.”
Megan Godsey of Rockingham, Virginia, Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise
Megan Godsey is obtaining a degree in human nutrition, foods, and exercise, with a concentration in dietetics. Through hands-on leadership experiences, Megan became passionate about proactive healthcare and the education of communities on the importance of nutrition. The opportunities she has taken advantage of during her time at Virginia Tech show her passion for counseling in a variety of settings. On campus, Megan has provided leadership as a teaching assistant, as a student tutor in Athlete Academic Support Services, and as a nutrition counselor, where she created an open, welcoming environment for clients to discuss their nutrition concerns. As president of the Chi Omega Fraternity at Virginia Tech, Megan empowered women to achieve their career and personal aspirations and provided leadership in community service opportunities for the fraternity, including Make-A-Wish, the Big Event, and Greeks Giving Back. Beyond the Virginia Tech campus, Megan became involved in numerous opportunities where she learned the importance of patient-centered care, including her experience as a field study student at Lewis Gale Hospital, where she screened, assessed, and provided interventions for patients. As a summer intern in the Family Nutrition Program in Harrisonburg, she promoted information on SNAP benefits and provided education on various cost-effective ways to use local produce. Upon graduation, Megan plans on becoming a registered dietician.
Abigail Han of Arlington, Virginia, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences
Abigail Han is obtaining a degree in crop and soil sciences with a concentration in crop genetics and breeding. Her academic achievements include serving as student delegate at the Chicago Council on the Global Affairs’ Global Food Security Symposium, and as a presenter at Elsevier’s 2017 International Conference in South Africa on Global Food Security. Abigail was introduced to agriculture as a Virginia Tech student. Through her coursework, experiences on- and off-campus, and the people she has met, she has become a representative for agricultural initiatives on a national and global scale. On campus, Abigail has served as a CALS Ambassador and as president for Food Justice, where she organized events for Earth Week surrounding the topic of food security. In the New River Valley community, Abigail dedicated her time to multiple service projects, including building a home with Habitat for Humanity, gardening at Plenty! Food Bank and Farm, and other projects through her membership in Alpha Phi Omega. Off campus, Abigail participated in several internships, serving as a plant ecology intern at the Cedar Creek Ecosystem and Science Reserve in Bethel, Minnesota, as a biotechnology intern at the World Vegetable Center in Taiwan, where she learned about working in an international agriculture research center, and as a research fellow at the Land Institute in Kansas. Abigail was so successful in her internship at the Land Institute, she spent her final semester in college continuing her research in Kansas.
2018 Outstanding Graduating Seniors
The college recently named its 2018 Outstanding Seniors who are recognized for their academic achievements, leadership, and experiences beyond traditional coursework.
Meghan McLoughlin of Roswell, Georgia
Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics
Meghan McLoughlin is obtaining a degree in applied economic management, as well as minors in crop and soil environmental sciences, statistics, and French. She has excelled academically with dean's list recognition and is a member of Alpha Zeta, an agricultural honors fraternity. While at Virginia Tech, she was a senior analyst in Commodity Investing by Students, a student-run commodities trading group. She has also served as a CALS ambassador and student mentor for the Governor's School for Agriculture. In addition to her accomplishments on campus, Meghan led a “200 Can Campaign” to collect canned goods for the Blacksburg Interfaith Food Pantry. Due to her dedication and determination, more than 300 cans were collected. The following year, the goal was increased to 400 cans, resulting in donations of almost 800 cans. Meghan's dedication to serving others has resulted in several awards, including a University Student Leadership Award: Outstanding Community Service Program of the Year, and she is also an Aspire! Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) scholarship recipient. After graduation, Meghan plans to pursue a career in commodity merchandising and risk management.
Meghan Garrity of Newport News, Virginia
Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education
Meghan Garrity is obtaining a degree in agricultural sciences with minors in civic agriculture and food systems, international agriculture and life sciences, and leadership and social change. While at Virginia Tech, Meghan has been involved in many extracurricular activities, including the SERVE Living Learning Community, VT Engage, and Kindergarten 2 College, where she led educational agricultural lessons for elementary school students. As a Virginia Cooperative Extension 4-H intern, Meghan aided in 4-H camp organization and youth development programs. Since her first year at Virginia Tech, Meghan has been involved with the Hale YMCA Community Garden, which enabled her to learn the importance and value of community, volunteering, and how to directly apply in-class knowledge. Her involvement with the community garden enabled her to lead volunteer groups, serve on the Hale YMCA Community Garden Counsel, and to learn more about where our food comes from. These experiences inspired Meghan to envision a future nonprofit, urban community garden learning center where underprivileged youth and adults learn to grow their own food.
Riki Farmer of Hillsville, Virginia
Agricultural Technology Program
Riki Farmer is obtaining her landscaping and turfgrass management degree from the Agricultural Technology Program. The experiences she has had at Virginia Tech, including the support she received from professors, have aided her in reaching her goals, helped her gain practical career skills, and strengthened her passion for horticulture. In addition to maintaining a near-perfect GPA with dean's list recognition each semester, Riki has excelled outside of the classroom as an Ag Tech Ambassador and a member of the Carroll County Virginia Young Farmers, where she educates young people about various agriculture issues. Her service to the community includes participation in The Big Event and contributing a landscape design for the Pulaski Community Youth Center. After graduation, Riki plans to pursue a career in the green industry where her goal is to establish a greenhouse production or landscape business.
Cassie Bienert of Freeland, Maryland
Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences
Cassie Bienert is obtaining a degree in animal and poultry sciences. She has excelled academically with dean's list recognition, is a University Honors member, and was named an American Society of Animal Science Undergraduate Scholar, an honor given to students who are in the top 10 percent of their class in animal and poultry sciences. In addition to her academic achievements, Cassie has been involved in several service opportunities, including animal and poultry sciences ambassador, first-year experience mentor, and University Relations coordinator for the Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech, which combats food insecurity in the community. Within the Blacksburg community, Cassie volunteered at LewisGale Montgomery Hospital, where she assisted nurses with the daily care of patients. One of the most meaningful experiences Cassie has had while at Virginia Tech was her internship at the Center for Image Guided Animal Therapy at Johns Hopkins University, where veterinarians and physicians collaborated to diagnose and treat patients. Upon graduation, Cassie plans to pursue a dual Ph.D./M.D. degree and, as Cassie puts it, "involve [herself] in translational research designed to improve the health of all species."
Caitlin Swecker of Monterey, Virginia
Department of Biochemistry
Caitlin Swecker is obtaining a degree in biochemistry, with minors in chemistry and animal and poultry sciences. She has excelled academically with dean’s list recognition, is the recipient of the Gamma Sigma Delta Junior Award of Merit, and was a member of the Virginia Tech Honors Residential College. Along with her stellar academic achievements, Caitlin has also excelled outside of the classroom as an animal care technician at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, and through an internship at SRI International, where she completed research to discern optimal peptide characteristics for cancer cell targeting. Caitlin has taken on leadership roles in several faith-based organizations, including Cru campus ministry, and has led youth at Northstar Church in Blacksburg. She has continued her dedication to service through the Appalachian Service Project, where she participated in home repairs. All of these experiences have led Caitlin to choose a life of service. Ultimately, Caitlin plans on practicing veterinary medicine in an underserved area, in addition to conducting research on food and animal care in these underserved areas.
Izzy Ahwee-Marrah of Fredericksburg, Virginia
Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences
Izzy Ahwee-Marrah is obtaining a degree in environmental science. While at Virginia Tech, Izzy has taken advantage of a multitude of opportunities, including undergraduate research, internships, and service. She has worked for three years as a laboratory assistant in the Virginia Tech Plant Disease Clinic, where she helped to diagnose diseases on crops and ornamentals for commercial businesses and Virginia residents. Izzy has also assisted students during their transition to college through her positions as a transfer orientation leader, Hokie Camp leader, and peer mentor for the CALS First-Year Seminar. In addition to these extracurricular activities, Izzy was an undergraduate fellow in the Sustainability Institute, where she advocated for the development of compostable and reusable materials in dining facilities, additional recycling bins, and bottle-filling stations. Her experiences in Honors Service Learning enabled her to give back to the surrounding community and led her to start Sort It Out, a campus club whose students collect and recycle broken crayons and empty glue bottles. The club then donates money made from the recycled materials to teachers for new school supplies. Her experiences at Virginia Tech increased her passion for environmental justice; and after graduation, Isabel plans to pursue an environmental law degree.
Nicole Hardy of Perkasie, Pennsylvania
Department of Dairy Science
Nicole Hardy is obtaining a degree in dairy science with a minor in animal and poultry sciences. Nicole, who has been on the dean's list each semester at Virginia Tech, is the recipient of a variety of scholarships, including an RP-Animal and Poultry Science STEM Scholarship and the Paul M. Reaves Outstanding Senior Scholarship. In addition to her impressive academic achievements, Nicole has held leadership roles as Sigma Alpha sorority president, Virginia Tech Dairy Club showcase sale chair, and Southern American Dairy Science Association student affiliate division officer at large. Through her experiences with Virginia Tech's Dairy Club, Nicole became involved in Micah's Backpack, which increased her awareness of food insecurity and reinforced her commitment to agriculture. Nicole's experiences both inside and outside the classroom also strengthened her passion for dairy cows and nutrition, including her time at the John Lee Pratt Summer Research Institute, her assistant herdsman internship at Janney Holsteins, and her work with the American Dairy Science Association. During her internship at Janney Holsteins, Casey had the opportunity to diagnose and treat sick calves, administer vaccinations to newborn calves, and halter-break cows. After graduation, Nicole will begin interning with Cargill as a calf research intern.
Megan Beatty of Blacksburg, Virginia
Department of Food Science and Technology
Megan Beatty is obtaining a degree in food science and technology, along with a minor in psychology. A recipient of the Department of Food Science and Technology Scholarship and the CALS Robert Noell Scholarship, she has excelled academically with dean's list recognition each semester and is a member of Gamma Sigma Delta, an honor society for agriculture students. Since beginning her career at Virginia Tech, Megan's dedication to service has been centered in the academic, leadership, and extracurricular activities in which she has participated. This commitment led Megan to be a CALS ambassador, as well as a CALS college representative for Virginia Tech's Student Government Association, where she serves as an advocate for other CALS students. Outside of her CALS commitments, Megan served as a member and mentor for the Da Vinci Living Learning Community, where she developed and led STEM-related activities for Kid’s Tech University to encourage interest in STEM fields. Outside of the university, Megan's dedication to service continued through her involvement with Project Youth Extension Service, where she facilitated activities with military families and incorporated lessons for children, including resilience and how to handle the absence of family members. Megan is currently fielding several job offers and hopes to choose a position that enables her to combine food science with her passion for helping students reach their highest potential.
Casey Hoff of Falls Church, Virginia
Department of Horticulture
Casey Hoff is obtaining a degree in environmental horticulture with minors in civic agriculture and food systems and international agriculture. Casey, who has excelled academically with dean's list recognition, is the recipient of several scholarships, including the Cyrus H. McCormick Scholarship, the Martha E. Bowman Scholarship, and the Northern Virginia Landscape Association Scholarship. Since arriving at Virginia Tech, Casey has taken advantage of several service opportunities within the horticulture department and beyond. On campus, she served as a sustainable dining intern for Virginia Tech Dining Services, where she helped to promote environmentally minded food choices. As a member of the Horticulture Club, Casey helped to maintain Virginia Tech gardens and volunteered for educational events at schools in the Blacksburg area. She designed a capstone community-action project in partnership with the Hale YMCA garden and Mine, Me, & Us Montessori school, in which part of the garden was transformed into an educational workspace for children. After graduation, Casey will begin working at the New Morning Farm in Pennsylvania.
Julia Workowski of Fincastle, Virginia
Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise
Julia Workowski is obtaining a degree in human nutrition, foods, and exercise, as well as a minor in music. On campus, Julia serves as a Virginia Tech group-exercise instructor and student nutrition counselor and helped carry out an ongoing study on athletes and hydration through undergraduate research. As president of Sigma Alpha Lambda, a service, honors, and leadership organization, Julia played an integral part in gathering funds for Botetourt County to purchase new warming containers for their "Grab & Go" breakfast. The internships she has taken part in also speak to her dedication to service and nutrition. Julia has served as a student nutrition intern at the Salem Virginia Medical Center, a teaching assistant for Floyd High School's nutrition and wellness class, and an assistant nutrition educator for the Norfolk City Public Schools' Department of School Nutrition. Julia initially set a career goal of becoming a dietitian in a wellness facility, as it combined her passion for nutrition services and group-exercise instruction. However, after experiencing nutrition opportunities in local schools, Julia realized the need for improved school nutrition. Following graduation, Julia plans on completing a dietetic internship as part of her goal to become a registered dietitian in school nutrition.