Celebrating the milestone of completing a Virginia Tech degree but not being able to walk the stage at commencement is an experience Nicholle Clinton knows well.

This MBA candidate hopes in-person ceremonies will resume by the time she earns her graduate degree in December. She remembers well her senior year in Blacksburg when she was on her way to graduating in the spring of 2007, until the April 16 tragedy took its toll on her focus. Yet even if in-person ceremonies are cancelled again in the fall, she couldn’t be prouder to be a Hokie and part of the caring and supportive Virginia Tech community.

Clinton currently works full-time for the Marine Corps as the lone negotiator for its mess hall dining. After receiving her undergraduate degree, she joined the federal government and quickly climbed its ranks, becoming chief of acquisition at the Department of Labor’s mine safety branch by the time she was 28.

Interested in an MBA to boost her credentials and advance further in her career, she sought a program that her employer offered to pay for — one that charged by the course.

“There were many options in the area and online. Virginia Tech was close to my Northern Virginia home and offered a great mix of online, in-person, and weekend classes. As a mother of two (ages 1 and 3 when I first started) I needed that flexibility. I also knew what to expect academically. After attending an information night, I was hooked and felt right at home.”

Many students in the Virginia Tech community are dealing with losses and challenges during the current crisis, and Clinton is all too familiar with facing adversity and loss as an undergraduate.

A marketing senior at Virginia Tech in 2007, she tried to cope with the aftermath of the April 16 shootings. It didn’t help that the school year had begun with cancer — a young cousin’s death; her mother’s battle with the disease and her family’s efforts to keep their insurance, with Clinton doing her best to complete complex paperwork; and Clinton’s own health scare as she went to a local hospital, by herself at midterms, to have what turned out to be a benign tumor removed.

During her time in the MBA program, she lost her mother in the fall of 2018 and her father passed away the following June.

Clinton says she is still emotional when recalling her losses and struggles during this period. Through it all, she says, “Virginia Tech’s MBA program was incredibly accommodating.”

She also credits her professors from her undergraduate years, especially Janine Hiller, Robin Russell, and Steven Sheetz, “who went above and beyond to help me my final semester in 2007, who inspired and helped me as I managed life after the shootings and with whom I remain good friends.”

Clinton’s experience is the “essence of how Hokies come together and support each other, especially in difficult times,” said Dana Hansson, Virginia Tech MBA programs director.

Life is better for Clinton these days, and she is grateful to have found Virginia Tech’s Evening MBA program, which has given her the opportunity to balance her family needs, work, and personal passions.

Clinton, who had played Division 1 lacrosse for the Hokies, also referees girls’ lacrosse for Fairfax County Public Schools once a month and owns and manages a non-profit girls’ travel lacrosse club.

Now 35 and on track to receive her MBA in December 2020, Clinton is looking for “leadership opportunities that will best prepare for me for senior executive service.”