Claire Seibel Named the Virginias Collegiate Honors Council (VCHC) Emerging Scholar of the Year

Honor, Duty, Brotherhood, Sacrifice, Loyalty, Service, and Ut Prosim (“That I may serve”) are the eight words etched in the Pylons at Virginia Tech. These words define the values on which Virginia Tech was built. For Virginia Tech Honors College student Claire Seibel, who grew up admiring the Pylons as a child, these words sparked a very important question:  Who do I want to be?

“Not just what do I want to do, or what kind of credentials do I want to have, but really who do I want to be? And I wanted to be a person who upheld those values, who was able to take on challenges and accept the sacrifice in the trials of leadership – and do something bigger than themselves with their life,” said Seibel. 

Seibel, who served for the 2020-2021 academic year as the Corps of Cadets Representative for the Virginia Tech Honors College Student Council, has been named the Virginias Collegiate Honors Council (VCHC) Emerging Scholar of the Year due to her inspiring journey in leadership and growth as an Honors College student at Virginia Tech. 

The VCHC Emerging Honors Scholar of the Year is awarded to the best and brightest emerging Honors students who have completed 54 or fewer credits at a post-secondary institution. This award serves to recognize a student from a member institution who has shown extraordinary potential as an emerging scholar, and who embodies the scholarship, character, and ambition associated historically with Honors students and the VCHC.

Claire Seibel in her Corps of Cadets uniform
Claire Seibel in her Corps of Cadets uniform. Photograph provided by Claire Seibel.

Seibel is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in International Trade & Development through the department of Agriculture & Applied Economics with a minor in leadership and Chinese studies. She is also working on independent research in leadership.

As an Honors College student, Seibel wanted to wholly embrace the values of the Virginia Tech Honors College. “[I wanted to] be somebody who can work as a team, embrace experiential learning in the world as their classroom, rise to their social responsibility to do something with their education, and provide opportunity and support to others,” explained Seibel. “In my own Honors College experience, I've been able to discover more about myself and the world.”

In Seibel’s VCHC Emerging Scholar of the Year Presentation, she reflects on how the Virginia Tech Honors College has impacted and guided her life as a rising leader in the Corps of Cadets. Seibel, who was raised on a farm in the Appalachian area of Virginia, recounts the beginning of her journey at Virginia Tech. Initially, Seibel was determined to become a biological systems engineer to study cropping systems and work toward solving the problem of hunger.

After Seibel enrolled in an Honors College reading seminar about water scarcity, she became interested in studying how water scarcity affects global security. She was then inspired to attend seminars at Norwich University to achieve a deeper understanding in this topic. These two experiences led Seibel to pursue research in water scarcity and accessibility with Dr. Leigh-Anne Krometis in the Virginia Tech Department of Biological Systems Engineering.

“All of these experiences combined gave me a richer appreciation for the field that I wanted to go into, but I also realized that this was actually not the field that I wanted to really spend my life on… In these discoveries, I found that I really enjoyed the discussions around politics and economics more than the science behind systems,” reflected Seibel. “I ended up changing my major to agricultural and applied economics to work on these same problems from a very different avenue and I also determined that I really wanted to be able to have a commission in the military.” 

The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets is a 24-7 commitment for cadets. Every day, the cadets wear a service-specific uniform, train together, and learn how to apply leadership as well as carry out a structured military lifestyle in close-knit living quarters. “This is an intense commitment,” said Seibel. “On the surface, it may seem like a program like this and a program like the Honors College could be incompatible, but that hasn’t at all been my experience because of the flexibility in the approach the Virginia Tech Honors College provides… Students can really figure out who they want to be in life, [and] where they want to go in shaping their Honors College experience.” 

Claire Seibel and her roommate, Kyrsten Dallenagra, at VTCC Graduation
Claire Seibel (right) and her roommate, Kyrsten Dallenagra (left), at VTCC Graduation. Photograph provided by Claire Seibel.

One of Seibel’s favorite values of the Virginia Tech Honors College is experiential learning, which allows Seibel to make the VTCC a central part of her Honors education and shaped her academic career personally. 

“Experiential learning is extremely important to me. In fact, one of the things that I learned from my time in agricultural education is that we learn 70 percent by experience, 20 percent by peers, and only 10 percent formally – in the classroom,” said Seibel. “I truly believe that the Virginia Tech Honors College does an exemplary job of embracing how we learn and using this 70-20-10 model in our curriculum.” 

To earn an Honors Laureate Diploma, Honors students are required to earn at least 30 honors credits and at least 6 of those credits must represent experiential learning. With this requirement, Seibel was encouraged to explore research opportunities as well as embark on more exciting leadership experiences, such as serving on the national Future Farmers of America (FFA) committee. She additionally served as a VTCC fire team leader, where she mentored two new cadets every day to support their physical, academic, and personal growth.

“In this Honors education, we don't just stop at the classroom. We think about what it really means to be this kind of student and think about what we can do in that next step with our education to bring impact,” Seibel said. “The Honors College has provided me this love of learning and a love of learning as a lifestyle where we embrace curiosity in all of our pursuits.”

The Director of Professional Development and National and International Scholarships for the Virginia Tech Honors College, Christina McIntyre, who also serves as the President Elect of the National Collegiate Honors Council, is impressed by Seibel’s ambition and leadership.

 “Claire highlights the flexibility of the Honors diploma curriculum. Her strong communication skills have allowed her to navigate across university communities, inadvertently serving as an ambassador for the various communities she belongs to,” said McIntyre. “I very much admire Claire’s willingness to take a chance on elements of her education. Not always knowing where something will lead, but trusting that her interest, engagement, and curiosity will serve her well.”

After graduation, Seibel intends to spend her career working on critical issues in food production and resource allocation to combine her passions of service, leadership, agriculture, engineering, and public outreach. She additionally hopes to be commissioned into the military and eventually work in the military intelligence department. 

Watch Claire Seibel’s full VCHC Merging Honors Scholar of the Year Presentation.

Written by Michelle Fleury