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Ujima

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UJIMA llc logo
A family photo of the Ujima Living-Learning Community, some standing, some sitting, all in a large group outside of Peddrew-Yates Hall.

The Ujima Living-Learning Community (LLC) places a special emphasis on understanding the unique experiences of African-Americans in society, including their experiences in college. Located in Peddrew-Yates Hall, Ujima is open to students of all backgrounds who are interested in understanding, supporting, and learning about African-American culture. The Ujima Living-Learning Community provides students with opportunities to be immersed in Black/African-American culture. Focusing on cultural enrichment and academic excellence, this community allows students with similar interests to partake in programming and dialogue surrounding Black/African-American culture.

The Ujima Living-Learning Community (LLC) is named after an essential concept in African philosophy and the third principle of Kwanzaa. Ujima (pronounced oo-JEE-mah) means collective work and responsibility - to build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and solve them together. Ujima, as principle and practice, also means that we are collectively responsible for our victories and achievements as much as we are for our failures and setbacks.

  • Academic Support and Mentoring
  • Cultural Identity Development
  • Leadership Development
  • Service
  • Solidarity

Founded in 2018, we envisioned a unified community where the Black/African-American experience is not only celebrated but also understood; a place where students, especially African-American students at Virginia Tech, can be their whole selves and are able to thrive. Students who live in Ujima will:

  • Live in a community with other people who are interested in understanding, supporting, and learning about African-American culture and experiences.
  • Be supported by faculty and staff who are invested in your success at Virginia Tech.
  • Engage with African-American history, tradition, and community through weekly seminars and workshops.
  • Benefit from personalized academic support and access campus resources designed to help you succeed.
  • Attend cultural excursions and field trips to further explore identity.
  • Connect to other resources that emphasize Black culture (clubs, organizations, leadership opportunities).

It is important for applicants to understand that being a part of Ujima is more than just living in the same residence hall with people who have similar interests. Students are required to engage in the community in ways that require a time investment:

  • Incoming students are required to enroll in an Africana studies course (AFST 1714). This course fulfills Pathways Core Requirements 3 and 7, and it can be taken in either the Fall or Spring semester with other members of the Ujima community.
  • Participate in weekly community activities that focus on academic and professional development, as well as community-building social and service-oriented events.
  • All first-year students will be assigned a mentor. Mentor groups will meet monthly and attend occasional events.

Please give these requirements careful consideration before applying to Ujima to ensure that this will be a good match for you.

  • Cultural Excursions and Field Trips
  • Academic Assistance
  • Personal and Professional Development Opportunities
  • Mentorship and Networking Opportunities

The Ujima Living-Learning Community is located in Peddrew-Yates Hall. This building was initially known as New Residence Hall West. It was renamed in 2003 during the 50th anniversary celebration of Blacks at Virginia Tech. Today, Peddrew-Yates Hall honors Irving Linwood Peddrew III, the first black student to enroll at Virginia Tech in 1953, and Charlie Lee Yates, the first black graduate of Virginia Tech in 1958.

In September 1953, Irving Linwood Peddrew III, was the first black student admitted to Virginia Polytechnic Institute. In 1951, Everett Pierce Ramey applied to study business at Virginia Polytechnic Institute; however, his application was denied because Black students were only considered for admission if they wished to study something that was not offered at Virginia State University, a historically black public land-grant university. This made Virginia Polytechnic Institute the first historically white, four-year, public university in the former 11 states of the Confederacy to admit a black undergraduate.

Although he was a member of the Corps of Cadets, Peddrew suffered years of isolation and mistreatment. Peddrew was the only black student among 3,321 white students on campus his first year. He was not allowed to live on campus or eat in the cafeteria. He lived with a black couple, Mr. and Mrs. William Hoge, about a mile away from campus.

In the fall of 1954, three more black students were admitted to the engineering program at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute: Lindsay Cherry, Floyd Wilson, and Charlie Yates, all from Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Virginia. They too were not allowed to live on campus or eat in the cafeteria with their classmates.

After his junior year, Peddrew relocated to California where he worked in the aerospace and food industries. In 1958, Yates became the first black student to graduate from Virginia Tech. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering with honors. Yates later returned to Virginia Tech to teach in the Department of Mechanical Engineering followed by the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering. In addition, he served as a member of the board of visitors.

In 2010, Yates passed away after a long battle with leukemia. His legacy continues through the Virginia Tech Yates Society. Click here to learn more.

In November 2002, Tamara Kennelly, University Archivist, held an oral history interview featuring Peddrew discussing his experience at Virginia Tech. The interview can be found here. You can also click here for more Virginia Tech Black History featured in the University Archives.

For additional information, contact the Ujima LLC Director at ujimallc@vt.edu.