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### Reflecting on Collaborating with the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors: Insights from Graduate Student Emily Tirrell

Second-year doctoral student Emily Tirrell dedicates significant time each day to investigating the human neural network, also known as the nervous system. Her research focuses on analyzing the velocity and intensity of nerve signal transmission and its impact on tactile sensation.

Within the interdisciplinary program, Tirrell collaborates closely with her advisor, Assistant Professor Netta Gurari, demonstrating a strong commitment to her research endeavors. Her ultimate goal is to contribute to the advancement of rehabilitation methods for individuals affected by conditions such as strokes, diabetes, and other diseases influencing the nervous system.

Expressing her profound interest in neuroscience, Tirrell, a proud “double Hokie” with undergraduate degrees in biological science and clinical neuroscience, embarked on her Ph.D. journey driven by her fascination with the complexities of the brain.

Aside from her academic pursuits, Tirrell eagerly anticipates the development of a crosswalk near the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine building and an upcoming resource fair tailored for graduate students. These initiatives align with her role as the 2023-24 graduate and professional student representative, a pivotal position within the university’s governance structure alongside William Storey.

In her pursuit to enhance student experiences, Tirrell seized the opportunity to engage with various stakeholders within the university community, aiming to foster positive changes. Drawing from her prior involvement in leadership roles such as ambassadorship, tour guiding, and contributions to the Graduate Honor System, Tirrell’s enthusiasm for the Board of Visitors position stemmed from a desire to collaborate with others and drive impactful transformations at Virginia Tech.

Navigating the initial challenges of balancing her board responsibilities with research commitments and residential fellowship duties, Tirrell acknowledges the significance of effective organization and project management. Despite feeling apprehensive during her first meeting in August 2023, she found solace in the supportive atmosphere cultivated by board members, staff, and administrators, describing the experience as enriching and rewarding.

Emphasizing student welfare and engagement with campus resources, Tirrell actively seeks student feedback and addresses pertinent issues such as road safety concerns around campus premises. Notably, her advocacy led to collaborative efforts with campus planning teams to address safety hazards near the veterinary buildings, culminating in plans for a new crosswalk installation—an achievement she takes pride in from her inaugural semester with the board.

As she embarks on her second semester activities, Tirrell spearheads a resource fair for graduate students, aiming to facilitate access to essential campus services and foster a sense of community among students. Her dedication to enhancing student resources and addressing financial concerns underscores her commitment to advocating for her peers’ well-being.

Looking ahead to her anticipated graduation in 2026, Tirrell envisions maintaining a balance between academic pursuits, research endeavors, and extracurricular engagements. The multifaceted experiences gained through her role as a student representative to the Board of Visitors have reinforced her belief in effecting positive change and fostering a supportive academic environment for all graduate students.

For aspiring graduate and professional student representatives interested in the 2024-25 academic year position, applications are now open. Visit [website link] for further details and to submit applications before the deadline on Feb. 25.