Acceptance, diversity and inclusion are more than just nice words for Jonathan Zur, ’03. They are the ideas around which he orients his life.
As president and chief executive officer of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC), a nonprofit organization that works with schools, business and communities to promote inclusion, he works throughout the state to help people and groups “value and respect diversity.”
George Boston, ′13, isn’t the first person many would have expected to play for a Division I football team.
When he started high school in New York City, he couldn't play football because the school only had a track team. In fact, the school didn’t have a lot of things. Boston knew if he wanted to attend college, he was going to have to make some changes.
You are headed to Cambodia to volunteer with the Peace Corps. What will you be doing?
I’ll be a community health education volunteer, which entails living with a host family in a rural village somewhere in Cambodia and working in the local community health center. My other main responsibility will be biking to nearby communities to deliver presentations in Khmer, the local language, on healthy living while focusing primarily on maternal health and disease prevention.
When Sharon Lim, ’16, talks about the many ways she’s exploring education inequality, it’s hard to believe that just two years ago, she had no idea her college experience would be dedicated to the issue.
She has always been an active volunteer. She spent her free time in high school working at a local hospital and teaching children to read. Her work inspired an interest in social justice so when she applied to Richmond, she also applied to the Bonner Scholars program.
Kelsey Ensign, ’15, remembers the exact moment she decided to transfer to University of Richmond. Following a conversation with Bonner Scholar Emily Blevins, ’13, who attended Ensign’s Chattanooga, Tenn., high school, Ensign logged into her computer to learn more about the work Blevins was doing through the University of Richmond’s Bonner Center for Civic Engagement (CCE).
“I vividly remember sitting in my dorm room exploring the CCE home page,” Ensign says. “I looked at all the community partners and thought I could learn a lot about civic engagement and myself at University of Richmond.”
Eric Van Der Hyde, ’08, first saw the Jepson School of Leadership Studies as an eighth grader. A small town native, Van Der Hyde had grown up on a dairy farm in rural Virginia, an upbringing that instilled him with not only a strong work ethic but also a desire to do something different. He visited his aunt and uncle in Richmond to learn more about what it took to get into a good college, and on that trip, he saw the University of Richmond.
Four years ago, when Regina Cavada, ’16, left San Diego for Richmond and began her freshman year at the University of Richmond, her path seemed obvious.
“I was really interested in international issues,” she says, “I knew that was where I wanted to be.”
Cavada naturally chose an international studies major and spent her freshman year studying Arabic. She complemented her interests by partnering with World Pediatric Project as a Bonner Scholar — a program that pairs students with local organizations for four years of sustained community engagement and social justice education.
When I applied to the University of Richmond, I asked Gil Villanueva in the Office of Admissions what one piece of advice he would offer an incoming Spider. What hadn’t students taken advantage of that they should have? He replied without hesitation: “Take advantage of the city.”
It didn’t take much convincing. Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, has historic truths in its veins; provocative stories echo through the halls of museums and on battlefields where the North and South fought, brother against brother. As a lover of American history and political science, I was hooked.
In a written reflection from the beginning of my senior year, I began describing a person whom I know through service by using an excerpt from the first chapter of Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s “Remnants of Auschwitz,” which I read for a French class the year before.
The chapter is entitled “The Witness,” and in this excerpt, Agamben quotes an interview with Primo Levi – a Jewish Italian chemist, writer, and Holocaust survivor. In the excerpt, Levi talks about himself in direct comparison to the classic trope of the sailor who must tell everyone his tale:
In nearly four years as a Spider, Russell Gong, ’11, has never looked back on his decision to pass up offers to play Division I lacrosse and instead attend the University of Richmond. With his record of leadership and civic engagement on campus — plus a consulting job waiting for him after graduation — why would he?
Gong, who grew up in Singapore and Fairfax, Va., was a regional lacrosse standout and was captain of his high school’s varsity lacrosse and football teams. But athletics captured only part of his attention; ever since a summer restaurant job washing dishes, he has wanted to work with refugees and immigrants.
“In the kitchen, I witnessed traumatic abuses against Mexican immigrant workers,” he says. “From there, I focused my college efforts toward social justice and community inclusion issues.”
Rebecca Madill wants to make the education of children more effective. For the 2007 E&H graduate, among the chief obstacles to achieving this goal are government policies that are not informed by the best data.
Thankfully, after earning her doctorate degree from Pennsylvania State University in June of 2014, Madill, who resides in Washington, D.C., landed her first job as a research scientist at Child Trends, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that conducts research on the well-being of children.
For those of you who don't know me very well, I'm Sean Hickey, a senior intern for the Bonner Scholars Program. Before becoming a senior intern, I volunteered at Henderson Middle School as an after-school program leader with the Middle School Renaissance (MSR) program.
My time there caused me to ask many questions of myself, of the public school system, and of volunteering/service writ large. These questions were almost always stimulated by theoretical concepts I studied in courses taken here at UR.
The most grandiose of these questions was, if what we do today is later found to have a bad result, even though we think of our actions and service as good, than have we been doing bad things all along? Does this then mean we should always assume that our service is inherently bad or wrong in order to critically and constantly question our service and ourselves?
Kristi is committed to making communities more inclusive. It’s what she did at Guilford, and it’s what she’s doing in Washington.
Kristi Matthews ’06 knew she wanted to attend Guilford College years before she graduated from Greensboro’s Dudley High School.
When her sister Sunny Matthews ’04, older by two years, toured colleges, Kristi joined her. And when they visited Guilford, Kristi knew it was the place for her.
They visited the community center in the basement of Founders Hall and talked to staff member Judy Harvey. “I really just loved the sense of community,” Kristi says. “It felt like family.”
Alumna Hai Yan Chen returned to Emory & Henry College last year to work in the Honors Program, the same organization she participated in while a student at the College.
“I love being back on campus,” said Chen. “I love the atmosphere. Since I worked closely with some of the staff and professors while I was a student, it actually was not a hard transition for me.”
Since August 2014, Chen has worked as assistant director and recruitment coordinator of the Emory & Henry Honors Program. “Having graduated from the Honors Program and having an idea of the things that students need has made my job a lot easier. In fact, I had projects in mind even before the first day of work.”
Davidson Senior Melodie Mendez is among 17 North Carolina student winners of the 2012 "Community Impact Award" from Campus Compact, a national coalition that promotes civic engagement in higher education. The award was announced just days before she was also named as senior class recipient of the college's Goodwin-Exxon award for high standards of character, friendliness and consideration for others.
When it comes to community engagement, Savannah-Jane Griffin is very much a part of Stetson University’s past and present.
Walking on to campus, Savannah-Jane Griffin already possessed a passion to help in her community. As a student at Maritime and Science Technology (MAST) Academy, a public magnet school in Miami, she interned at a local hospital, working in pediatrics.
A career in medicine didn’t pan out — she couldn’t take the sound of crying babies — but she did maintain her interest in experiential learning and service. Her Stetson education only broadened that appeal. When she graduated in 2007 earning a Bachelor of Business Administration with a focus in Management, she was promptly hired to become part of Stetson’s official community-engagement efforts. By the time she received her M.B.A. a year later, she was entrenched as a campus go-to.
Zach Triplett said the values he learned at Emory & Henry are shaping him into a successful person who isn’t afraid to reach for the stars, or rather, the clouds.
Triplett is a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines, a job that allows him to travel throughout the world. “And, I actually get paid for it, too,” said the 2010 alumnae, a resident of Port Orange, Florida. “I love my job because no day is ever the same.”
The sky is the limit for the E&H grad. In the Spring of 2013, Triplett received his Private Pilot certificate and in the next couple years, he plans to earn the remaining ratings and licenses in order to become a commercial airline pilot.
Our student recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award goes to a young woman from Davidson, North Carolina. She is an English major and ethnic studies concentrator. She has spent four years as a Bonner Scholar, and according to one, is the leader within the group, organizing the ideas and initiatives of her peers to bring to action. Her primary focus is on youth advocacy, whether tutoring at a local elementary school, The LEARNWORKS afterschool program at Ada Jenkins, or as a Servant Leader for the Freedom Schools in the summer.