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Thankful for Student Success

November 18, 2014

This 2014 Thanksgiving season finds me thankful for the opportunities I have to become acquainted with standout Old Dominion students. For anyone who has chosen a career in education, the most satisfying payback is the success of our students.

Let me give you an example of a student whose accomplishments during her years at ODU amount to a bountiful payback to our campus community and to her teachers and mentors. The student is senior communication and theatre arts major Saige Hill.

Earlier this year, Saige was a recipient of Old Dominion's Evon-Broderick Award for Community Engagement, which my wife Kate and I established two years ago in honor of our mothers, Joan Evon and Ellen Broderick. The award recognizes ODU students, who, like the award's namesakes, exemplify a commitment to service and civic engagement to the university and surrounding community through superior leadership and service.

Perhaps Saige's most significant community service is her work with the university's Women's Center, where she has been an intern and leader of the center's peer education network. She has worked tirelessly to combat sexual assault and sexual harassment on our campus and in our community. In fact, she was so diligent and effective in this work that it attracted the attention of the White House.

Twice this spring, Saige traveled to the White House to participate in planning sessions for the launch of a comprehensive, national campaign addressing campus sexual assault, led by President Obama and Vice President Biden. When this national campaign launched in September, imagine how proud we were when Saige was chosen as a student spokesperson for a White House panel discussion that helped to kick-off the "It's on Us" campaign against sexual assault.

Saige was the model of poise and eloquence when she delivered her statement during the nationally televised program. She also made it clear that Old Dominion takes sexual assault awareness and prevention very seriously. In her comments, Saige pointed to the university's Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) on which she has served as a student representative. She also praised the campus' M-Power Peer Education program, which is an educational resource on the issues of sexual and relationship violence; our participation in the Red Flag campaign to raise awareness about the prevalence of dating violence on university campuses; and the Men of Quality program on our campus that encourages male students to take an active bystander intervention role against predatory behavior.

From remarks Saige prepared for delivery at the White House program, I will quote directly:

"Over the past three years, I have had the pleasure of working with the Old Dominion University Women's Center. The Women's Center offers programs and services designed to promote empowerment and leadership, and is a key resource for victim advocacy, crisis-response, and awareness and prevention training. The students, along with faculty and staff at Old Dominion University, are working diligently to build a safe campus for everyone. We have zero tolerance for violence of any kind, and our goal is to become a model for sexual assault prevention and bystander intervention programs. In fact, the SART of Old Dominion University has been asked to travel to other campuses to teach our best practices for sexual assault prevention."

Saige, thank you for your leadership and dedication to this cause. We are proud to have you as a standout student at Old Dominion University.

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