Student Leaders

Group photo of STEP UP team

Leading trips, exploring issues you care about

Our student leadership team, STEP UP (Students Together Engaging in & Practicing Ut Prosim) coordinates all VT Engage service trips. Our leaders are passionate about service, social justice, and inspiring change. They work closely with peers, VT Engage, and community partners to coordinate community-driven service trips. Leaders are trained to develop engaging, learning-centered reflections for each trip.

Throughout each service experience and STEP UP meetings, they explore their passion for service and the issues they care about. STEP UP leaders coordinate a range of service programs and have opportunities to take on increasing responsibility as they progress through STEP UP.

Our programs include:

  • Alternative breaks: spend spring break or a portion of winter break immersed in service and learning
  • Get on the Bus trips: half-day and daylong projects in our region
  • Campus Kitchen trips: delivery shifts, diversion shifts in dining halls, cooking shifts, and service trips focused on food insecurity 
  • Global trips to Peru and the Dominican Republic
  • Weekend trips: regional experiences focused on social issues

Questions? Contact Jessica Davis, student engagement coordinator, at or 540-231-6947.

Become a STEP UP leader! Apply by Monday, March 25.

Undergraduate and graduate students of any major are invited to apply for our 2019-20 student leader team.

Please review application questions, expectations, and each cohort's curriculum topics before applying.

Our leaders have the unique opportunity to develop their leadership capacities through the lenses of service and social justice. Through hands-on experiences and weekly meetings, STEP UP leaders become more knowledgeable about best practices in community engagement and service-learning.

As they develop reflection facilitation skills, STEP UP leaders learn how to engage in meaningful discussion about complex social issues. STEP UP leaders are trained to cultivate sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships with communities and teach trip participants to do the same.

Leaders are encouraged to venture out of their comfort zone as they learn with and from a team of thoughtful, fun peer leaders. Our goal is to help STEP UP leaders recognize their own capacity to be change agents, then equip them with the knowledge and tools to be engaged citizens both during college and throughout their lives.


Leaders are expected to:

  • Attend a new leader orientation on Thursday, May 2 from 5 - 6 p.m.
  • Commit to a yearlong term as a student leader.
  • Attend twice monthly meetings throughout the 2019-20 academic year. 
  • Commit to develop their leadership, reflection, and trip management skills. 
  • Commit to co-lead or lead VT Engage trips the academic year. 
  • Attend the two and half day retreat in August (dates to be determined.)

Engaging, learning-centered curriculum

STEP UP leaders attend weekly meetings focused on developing new skills and building impactful service experiences for their peers. Throughout the program, leaders will be immersed in learning more about best practices for community engagement and trip coordination while taking a critical look at service and social issues.

Our students will have the opportunity to develop as leaders, as well as build their communication and conflict management skills, become trained in facilitating reflection, and learn more about local and global social issues. Additionally, students may choose to earn one credit hour of elective credit each semester they participate in the program.

Each semester, STEP UP leaders will focus on a different set of topics related to service learning and community engagement. The curriculum is designed to build knowledge and expertise as students progress in the program, with goal of developing leaders into mentors for new classes of STEP UP.

Fall: Introduction to service learning
During weekly meetings, new leaders will learn about VT Engage's community engagement philosophy, criticisms of volunteerism, trip logistics, and risk management. They will build skills in leading reflection and developing group dynamics on service trips. Opportunities available to new students include:

Spring: Deep dive into issues
This semester will continue to build reflection skills and critically discuss service learning. During weekly meetings, leaders will engage in conversations centered around specific local and global topics including food insecurity, literacy and education access, refugees and immigration, poverty, incarceration, gender and sexuality, and mental health.

  • In addition to the same opportunities from fall semester, leaders may lead half-and day-long trips and co-lead weekend trips.

Fall: Global service learning
Students will focus on the complexities that service in a global setting brings, and discuss the connections between local and global issues. In addition to opportunities available to year one leaders, students will also have the opportunity to co-lead domestic spring break trips.

  • After completing this semester, leaders will be eligible to lead VT Engage global immersion trips to the Dominican Republic and Peru (preference will be given to students who have participated in an international trip with VT Engage previously.)

Spring: Deep dive into issues part II
Leaders will continue to develop and refine skills in reflection facilitation and critical thinking. Weekly meetings will continue to examine local and global issues.

Mentorship & Leadership
Students in year three of STEP UP will continue to develop their leadership competencies while mentoring new leaders in the program. They will partner with VT Engage team members to plan weekly meetings and co-facilitate the meetings.

Throughout the year, they will be paired with new leaders on half-and full-day and weekend trips to assist new leaders with reflection facilitation and trip management.

Please be prepared to respond to the following questions on the STEP UP application.

  1. Why are you interested in becoming a VT Engage student leader?
  2. Please briefly describe your past service and/or leadership experiences. What was one thing you learned from those experiences?
  3. How would you define "social justice"? What does social justice look like to you?
  4. Tell us about a social or environmental issue (or issues) that you care about. Why is this issue important to you?
  5. Please indicate which types of VT Engage programs you would be interested in being trained to lead. Check all that apply.

    -Get on the Bus trips (half- and day-long local service projects)

    -Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech (semester-long commitments. Opportunities include leading delivery shifts, diversion shifts in dining halls, cooking shifts, and community partner service trips.)

    -Recurring trips (a semester-long service trip commitment to the same community partner, typically on a weekly basis)

    -Weekend trips (regional trips focused on a single issue or set of issues)

    -Weeklong domestic trips / alternative spring breaks (trip leaders may receive a 50% scholarship of the cost of the trip, and will be responsible for the other 50%)

    -International trips (trip leaders may receive a 50% scholarship of the cost of the trip, and will be responsible for the other 50%)

    Please expand on the choices you selected above. Why did you choose the trip(s) you did?


Our leaders are trained to put together thoughtful, quality service experiences for students. One aspect of those experiences includes reflection activities. Reflection allows groups and individuals to process service, social issues, and the questions these experiences bring up. Leaders guide participants through this process using a variety of methods.

Below are reflection guides put together by former SERVE students Analise Adams and Emily Neer. All are welcome to download and use these guides, but please credit VT Engage if you do so.