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Manifesting passions through institutional introspection

Jonathan Falls sits in front of a brick wall
Jonathan Falls sits in the atrium of Major Williams Hall, where he recounts, among other things, his connection to the building as an environment of honesty, introspection, and opportunity. Photo by Luke Williams for Virginia Tech.

Why did you choose Virginia Tech?

I applied to 9 different schools. Out of them, several were public and some were private, and Virginia Tech was the most cost-effective option. Cost was a big factor for me. Location was a big factor as well; I wanted to be in the mountains. Public school is big, it can be intimidating, but with the big school comes a lot of opportunities – from student organizations to sports! Within those many opportunities is where you can find the small feel. That took me a while to realize, and I still stand by it!


What’s your major, and what got you into that field of study?

My two majors are International Relations and German, and I’m now minoring in Philosophy - as of this week, actually! I always knew that I wanted to do something in world affairs because of my interest in other countries – maps, governments, etc. – since I was a kid. In high school I realized that climate change is an issue for all of humanity, and I want to be a part of that front. I’ve taken German since middle school, and continued it through high school, including a home stay sophomore and senior year with a German family. I picked that language simply because it was different in middle school – everyone was doing Spanish – but I was fortunate enough to have fantastic teachers through high school that helped develop this little niche for me. Foreign languages can be a cool, creative space, i.e. having to form your thoughts with limited vocabulary and find creative detours around words.


You asked to do this interview in this building - Major Williams Hall. Why is this building important to you?

I come here a lot to visit with professors. We have a neat tradition here where a lot of students in the majors will do their work here in the atrium, or upstairs, and it’s a nice space to run into people. This building definitely is an example of making the big school small. I have a lot of professors who have office hours throughout the week here. Especially on the political science floor, it’s always a welcoming space to go and talk to faculty, and they’re always interested in talking to you. Both of my majors and my minor are in this building, so I spend a lot of time here!


How has Virginia Tech shaped you?

I’ve become a lot more inquisitive. It can be overwhelming at times, but I think all of these departments and classes do a really good job of fostering an atmosphere where we don’t just talk about what’s happening, but what should or could happen. Faculty foster an environment where you’re able to question things. A lot of people here are very passionate about Virginia Tech, and part of what is fostered in our department is thinking theoretically about what we could improve here and where we could be better – because by asking those questions, you can achieve long-term change. To see your passions manifested, in an institution where those passions can carry forward for decades, is very special to me.

"To see your passions manifested, in an institution where those passions can carry forward for decades, is very special to me."

Jonathan Falls stands next to the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences building sign.
Jonathan Falls stands next to the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Building sign. Photo by Luke Williams for Virginia Tech.

What's your favorite part of living in the Honors Residential Commons?

I like how the community encourages residents to move in early – that was a special experience my freshman year – and they have a lot of events right off the bat, which helps the community connect. We have a dinner at D2 every Tuesday, in addition to guest speakers on Fridays. I went to pretty much all of those my freshman year, and the dinners were particularly special because of the faculty that partner with us and eat dinner with us. I developed a really strong relationship with one of my professors through the HRC’s dinner program that has opened up a lot of opportunities this year and a lot of great conversation. This year I’m the Director of Communications, so I put out flyers about our guest events and communicate through announcements what’s going on in the community throughout the week. 


Do you belong to any student organizations?

I’m in the Student Government Association as an at-large member of our General Assembly, I’m in the German Culture Club as an event planner, and I’m an ambassador for the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. 


What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received from a professor?

Don’t be afraid to question or identify the source of problems. Don’t be afraid of getting involved in what institutionally we can do better. That’s the first step in tackling big problems – asking why and how can we do better.


What advice would you have for other students coming to Virginia Tech?

Don’t be afraid to say no! There are a lot of students that come in – and I was one of them, and I suffered the consequences – that go to Gobblerfest where it’s stimulation overload with 900 student organizations out on the Drillfield, tons of free stuff and listservs… but DON’T overextend yourself. Personally and professionally, it’s not worth it. Find a few organizations that you can have fun in and be passionate about, and don’t overcommit yourself; otherwise, you are no longer able to be invested in what you’re truly passionate about, because you have too many other obligations.