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HRC Traditions


The Faculty Principal helps shape the intellectual vision of the Honors Residential Commons (HRC) and an ambitious goal for the Junior Fellows: Prepare to be citizens of the world in a globalizing age.  The founding principals established four pillars that will help Junior Fellows achieve the most out of their time at Virginia Tech and to become globally engaged students. These four pillars are a foundation on which to build a successful college career.  That does not mean that these are the only things that matter; we each still need to go out and make ourselves interesting.  The Principal and Senior Fellows will do their utmost to help Junior Fellows make the most of their years at Virginia Tech, and we believe that these four pillars provide a firm foundation.

 In the era of globalization, communication becomes key. Technological developments over the last century have shrunk the size of the world, and global communication has become an everyday reality. Developing an ability to communicate across cultures prepares us for the future.

 Large research universities offer opportunities to do real research with serious scholars, and we encourage all fellows to take full advantage of this opportunity. Talk to members of the HRC that have done serious undergraduate research, and they will tell you what a valuable experience it is.

 College is the perfect time to go out and see the world, to gather a fuller understanding of the challenges and opportunities before us, and to figure out how we can make a difference. Living abroad may be the most transformative thing a student can do in college.

 Virginia Tech's motto is Ut Prosim (that I may serve), and the HRC offers a number of opportunities to engage in a life of service at the local, national, and international level. Engagement means not only offering your service others, but learning about other people in a deep and meaningful way.

Our Crest

The crest of the Honors Residential Commons at East Ambler Johnston was designed by a group of faculty, staff, and students in the spring of 2011. The Crest has five foregrounded symbols that sit upon the shield.

The shield references the many Gothic arches found across the campus. It has a maroon-shaded border that meets the forest green bezel signifying the unity between the green of growth in the crest and the traditional maroon at Virginia Tech. The green throughout the design emphasizes that a learning community should be designed for vivification, balancing the rhythmic, seasonal cycles of tradition and the possibility that something new and auspicious will sprout in the right conditions.

The tree references the stately beech trees that frame the east and north doors of the hall. Etymologically, "tree" and "truth" have a common root, which reminds us that just as the roots of a tree serve to nourish the whole, truth serves as the source of discovery and learning. A tree teaches patience and the wisdom of a long-term perspective on life and offers shelter to those in need. The roots anchor our community in the soil of a specific place and draw up nourishment from the rich ground of learning and scholarship we have inherited. The roots stretch in all four directions to acknowledge that humans learn and know through multiple intelligences and disciplines. The open horizon between earth and sky echoes the Honors motto, In Itinere Virtue (The Virtue Is In the Journey).

All life comes from and goes back to the earth, and this cycle of reciprocity is suggested by the relation of the book to soil and to the tree. It happens that beech wood was used as a writing surface prior to the availability of paper in Europe, thus our word "book" is derived from the Old Norse and Old English "boc," or "beech." The paper in books comes from trees and reflects how the tree transforms the nutritive learning potential of the earth into knowing and being, in a perennial cycle.

Placed over the east door in the original building, this floral cross-and-quarters is an ancient symbol found in various forms on every continent that represents the eternal cycles of life. For the Honors Residential Commons, its place at the bottom of the crest speaks to the way that the present is founded upon the past and how we are called to remember and appreciate those who have come before us.

The cord forms a braid made up of three interwoven strands of learning that are expressed in our learning community – scholarship, creative activity, and service. It speaks to the unique weaving of the partnership between faculty, staff, and students. A careful eye will note that each individual cord is woven of smaller cords, suggesting the integrated and iterative way that each element of the commons must remain faithful to ideals of the endeavor. The woven strands signify that a strength greater than the sum of its parts is created when our efforts are united. The weaving together of lives and elements of the college life remind us of the commons’ residence hall namesake, J. Ambler Johnston, and his statement: "It’s our hope we may weave equally good threads into the fabric of the history of VPI [Virginia Polytechnic Institute]."

Stars help us find our way. At the same time, they humble us and sensibly place us in the midst of a vast universe. These four stars tell of how the people in our community will "Know and Be Known." From their five points shine the five Aspirations for Student Learning: curiosity, self-understanding and integrity, civility, courageous leadership, and Ut Prosim. The ascending scale of their brightness suggests the way that a true education progressively reveals the brilliance and light in each person, while the change in size symbolizes the continuing presence in the community of students throughout their years at Virginia Tech.


The Honors Residential Commons is composed of freshmen, transfers, residents previously from other residential communities, and native HRCuleans—upperclassmen who have always lived in the HRC.  How did we create a community from this hodgepodge mixture of students?  For insight, check out the HRC Story.  We made traditions.  Nearly every day of the week, someone is cooking up free food for stressed students, putting on a well-loved movie in the theater of learning, making crafts, playing games, or inviting conversation.  As our community grows, so will our community’s culture; how will you participate?

Throughout the course of history, sharing a meal with someone has been a symbol of confraternity, acceptance, and peace.  It is in this spirit of community that we are each invited to sit at table with our HRCulean family and take part, not only in a celebrated HRC tradition, but also in the lives of one another.  Each Tuesday of classes, fellows gather in the east dining room of Dietrick’s D2 Dining Hall, 5:30-7:00pm.  We have brief announcements at 6:00pm, but that is the only structure to the dinners; you may come and go as needed.  The generous D2 staff reserve the room specifically for HRC use and often provide some sort of additional refreshments to supplement the all you can eat D2 spread.

As we develop our sense of community, we continue to search for opportunities to engage in fellowship with one another.  The bondfire events typically occur on a fall evening, when we can enjoy s'mores and song around the charcoal grills and benches at the main entrance to East Ambler Johnston Hall.  HRCuleans share their musical talents, and everyone joins in the singing the lyrics of familiar songs.

You’re done with classes for the week, and it is time to eat tasty baked goods, drink tea, and interact with Virginia Tech faculty members and your fellow HRCuleans.  At the HRC Principals’ Teas, you can expect to have interesting conversations with interesting people.  These events occur in the Faculty Principal’s apartment every Friday afternoon (3-5pm) during the academic term.  Technically, the dress code is business casual, but in reality, the dress code is “look decent.”  You’ll meet new people, learn new things, eat great food, all right in your residence hall—usually in the principal’s apartment.


Each semester in the HRC culminates with a time of recognition and reflection known as the End of Semester celebration.  The event often involves catered food and a program meant to review the highlights of the semester.  It includes recognitions for the accomplishments of individual HRCuleans as well as a montage of pictures and video clips that capture the spirit of life in the HRC.  There is likely to be speakers from both the Junior and Senior Fellows.  In addition, graduating seniors are recognized for their accomplishments and wished the best of luck as they pursue their life goals.  It is an excellent time to sit back and reflect on how far we have come as a community as well as look forward to even more growth in the coming semester.