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Alumni speakers series highlights link between student leadership and successful leadership in life


BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 4, 2011 – Several Virginia Tech alumni are returning to campus to share with current students how they can form the necessary traits for successful leadership in business and in life right here on campus.

The alumni speakers series, sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs, began Oct. 4 with three alumni discussing the impact their leadership experiences at Virginia Tech had on their professional and personal lives.

They told the audience of the valuable lessons they learned as leaders in various student organizations and positions, and urged students to take advantage of the numerous leadership opportunities available to them at the university.

There will be two more alumni speakers events in February and March. The events are free and open to the Virginia Tech community.

Alumnus Kevin Mottley, a 1993 political science graduate and former Virginia Tech Student Government Association president, owns The Mottley Law Firm in Richmond and is a certified NFL players’ agent. He has also worked as a trial lawyer, which included his pro bono representation of four African-American single mothers and their children against a neo-Nazi group that had threatened them.

Mottley told the crowd he believed leadership was about taking risks and understanding the difference between success and significance.

“Success is inward. It’s about you. Significance is about giving back. When you start thinking about being a leader, do yourself a favor and start thinking about how you can help other people,” he told the crowd. “If you really want to be one of those rare leaders, one of those influential people, you have to start thinking about how you can help other people.”

Barbara Rigatti of Roanoke, a 1990 marketing graduate and territory manager for the business communications provider Avaya, built on Mottley's ideas through her experience as a resident advisor at the university. She said that aside from learning the importance of genuinely caring about those she led, she discovered the value of teamwork, management, and communication in the everyday aspects of life.

“You take all of that with you in your career as you manage those relationships, just as you learned to manage your time when you had school and other commitments,” she said. “You have to be able to prioritize and take responsibility for yourself. You have to understand what your motivations are and how you want to spend your time.”

Rigatti’s various leadership roles at Virginia Tech, including sorority and honor society membership and work-study positions in housing and marketing, earned her the title of Virginia Tech's Woman of the Year in 1990.

Mascot Books CEO and 1993 finance graduate Naren Aryal told the audience about his highly successful yet unfulfilling career in law and how pursuing his passion led him to leave his comfortable job to start a publishing company. The popularity of his first book, “Hello Hokie Bird!” was so great that he expanded to other college mascots, and eventually to professional sports mascots.

He said some of what he learned as a resident advisor at Virginia Tech has helped him deal with the ups and downs of managing his own company, and one of the most helpful skills he says he took away from the experience was personal responsibility in the face of adversity. He said that while none of it seemed important when he was a resident advisor, he now sees how it shaped him and led him to a successful response when a 2006 retail crash threatened his company’s existence.

“As a leader, I had to own what had happened. I had to be responsible. I had employees, I had a family, and they were all looking to me. There were some days when I thought I would just go back to practicing law. But we overcame,” he said. “The moral here is part of being a good leader is how you deal with adversity because people are going to turn to you. They will listen to you and watch how you act.”

For more information on student government and other leadership opportunities, visit the Student Centers and Activities website. Information on resident advisors can be found on the Housing and Residence Life website.

The Division of Student Affairs at Virginia Tech encompasses departments dedicated to providing a rich co-curricular experience and essential student services. Virtually every aspect of a student's life outside the classroom is represented through the division's departments.

Written by Jennifer Gibson.