‘Passionate and Prepared’ Working in South Africa gave Will Hardage '20 a chance to combine his economics major and his poverty studies minor.
Will Hardage ’20
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
Minors: Poverty and Human Capability Studies, Mathematics
“A lot of the W&L economics electives are purposely integrated with the Shepherd Program, which gives us students the ability to see the inner workings of a system that often perpetuates poverty.”
You worked with the nonprofit iKhaya le Langa in Cape Town, South Africa this summer. What did you do there?
There are a lot of cool economic development projects and social initiatives going on right now at iKhaya le Langa. At the beginning of the summer, I was given the chance to dabble my feet in all the projects being undertaken, from our job readiness program to research on hunger and unemployment in the community. At first, I was really inspired by this new cryptocurrency we’re helping implement within the township. It’s called Project UBU and it helps alleviate poverty by reducing economic inefficiencies such as food waste while providing a universal basic income, which adds liquidity to the currency-deficient township. A project like this is really a huge undertaking, as you have to go door-to-door within the entire township. I decided to pivot my time working in the Langa Township to a project where I could really make a tangible difference.
Tell us more about that work.
Over the course of the summer, I developed a website which will directly increase all commerce in Langa Township, the oldest historically black township in the Western Cape. The majority of the funding for iKhaya le Langa’s social initiative and development programs comes from an in-house tourism agency. This agency is run by members of the organization, and it coordinates with different community groups such as Langa’s apartheid museum and the local AirBnb owners that were trained at iKhaya le Langa. Currently, the only way to book a tour is through DMOs or direct contact. However, the website will showcase the cultural offerings in Langa available to a potential tourist while also offering an e-commerce portal to easily handle bookings. As tourism increases in Langa, more capital will be spent within the community, which will foster job creation and infrastructure development. The Langa Township is truly a beautiful and safe cultural destination with a fascinating history; however, the community has kind of been exiled due to Apartheid-era urban planning. I believe it’s only a matter of time until the potential of this township will be realized.
The second website I worked to develop is called The Langa Development Forum. While Langa is part of greater Cape Town, the township has no formal government or institution that coordinates commerce and events within the community. A lot of investors have been wanting to develop the community; however, there is no central institution that can speak on behalf of the people. Thus, different factions within the community end up fighting for funding. I added capabilities to the website that will allow people to register their business and showcase their events to the community. When the website gets rolling, I’m going to work with future interns at iKhaya le Langa to help further formalize this institution. Hopefully, one day the Langa Development Forum will be a platform that extensively benefits the community through economic and financial means.
What made you want to work with the iKhaya le Langa?
My POV 101 class really opened my eyes to the needs of the world and how, oftentimes, we live in a bubble and become rather ignorant to global issues. I wrote my final paper on Peter Singer’s “effective altruism,” which basically uses economics, philosophy and math to prioritize charities, lifesaving treatments and other actions. One of my takeaways from this paper was that I would be able to make significant impact with an organization in a second- or third-world country. I also felt that this was a really good time in my life to immerse myself in an extremely foreign destination, and both the William’s School and Shepherd Program offered opportunities that I could not pass up.
How did you find this opportunity?
Both the W&L Cape Town Program and the Shepherd Program utilize a third-party agency called Connect123. They have deep connections with the broader Cape Town community, and they were able to find an internship that matched my personality and academic interests while fulfilling the requirements of the Shepherd Program.
What did an average day for you look like on this project?
I tried to spend the majority of my day working on one of my two websites, however, Langa has a really limited WiFi infrastructure. When the internet was down, I usually ended up wearing a variety of hats. Some days I was out in the community buying art for our local shop. Other days I helped other interns with their projects. After a Fulbright Scholar left, I completed maintenance on some of the projects that she started.
What was your favorite part of being in South Africa?
I love South Africa because there’s so much cultural diversity. Outside of Cape Town, there’s a huge French Huguenot wine making community. The town of Franschoek was able to put together a massive festival for Bastille Day, and a couple friends and I were able to celebrate French heritage and culture. At the same time, there is also a major Malay and Indian population, so it’s really easy to find some great curry. Both these cultures somewhat seamlessly integrate themselves with the dominant Xhosa and Afrikaans culture.
What is the most interesting knowledge you picked up while doing this work?
I learned that in many foreign countries jobs are not going to be handed to you on a silver plate. In the United States, I think we often take our educational and employment opportunities for granted. In South Africa, 50 percent of people who start K-12 do not finish. The employment rate also hovers near 30 percent. All the staff members at my work did not receive a salary. They’re simply gaining relevant experience and buying into iKhaya le Langa’s vision.
Do you think pairing majors in economics and poverty studies gives you a special skill set or perspective that you might otherwise not have had?
Yes, 100 percent. A solid background in economics and poverty studies allowed me to analyze inequality in South Africa on a much deeper level. A lot of the W&L economics electives are purposely integrated with the Shepherd Program, which gives us students the ability to see the inner workings of a system that often perpetuates poverty. For example, in Urban Economics we analyzed historical failures of urban planning for public housing throughout the United States. These analytical tools became increasingly relevant in understanding Langa. A lot of the economic inefficiencies in the township were created by ingenious Apartheid-era urban planners and are pretty discreet. A background in urban economics allowed me to play detective and uncover the truths to why poverty persists just streets away from booming parts of greater Cape Town.
You stayed really busy with work – but you took a class, as well! What topics and coursework were involved in that?
Every Monday we took a really interesting politics class co-taught by Prof. LeBlanc and Mattias Kroenke, a University of Cape Town professor. It was really not your typical politics class. We learned a lot about the history of Apartheid, government corruption, service delivery to the poor, and the current political climate. The class perfectly intersected the fields of history, politics and economics, which gave us the perfect background to understand the country we were working in. On Monday afternoons, we had the opportunity to visit a ton of different Cape Town institutions such as the Government of the Western Cape and the Robbin Island Museum.
Did your experience this summer impact your future plans in any way?
For sure. I originally wanted to pursue a career in finance, but now I feel a lot more passionate and prepared to solve complex problems in our society, whether it be through public policy or business.
How did W&L prepare you for this experience?
The Shepherd Program and Fran Elrod were really helpful. They prepared me for my internship through a ton of different readings and lectures. The Cape Town Program also provides a history class during the Winter Term, so I had a really good foundation before I arrived. The Williams School also sponsored a “braai” with John Campbell, Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria. Ambassador Campbell spent extensive time working in South Africa for the State Department during the transition from apartheid to majority rule. He was really helpful and allowed me to understand South Africa on a deeper level.
Why is this kind of experience important to W&L students?
I’d really recommend an international immersion or Shepherd Internship to all W&L students. We often get caught up in the flow of things and have tunnel vision on a certain type of career or field. It’s important to take a step back for a semester or summer in order to really understand your true strengths and passions.
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A little more about Will
What extracurricular activities do you do?
I played on the tennis team freshman year, but this year I got a lot more involved in community service at Lylburn Downing and Project Horizon. I’m also heavily involved in L.E.A.D., the Alpha Phi Omega service organization, Campus Kitchen and Neighbors Service League.
Why did you choose your major?
I love learning more about how the world works. When I’m in the thick of making graphs I often regret choosing economics; however, the research papers and electives are super rewarding for me.
Has anyone on campus inspired you?
Professor Erin Taylor’s lectures in POV 101 really ignited my interest in public policy and philosophy. As a philosophy professor, she always made me take a step back and question the status quo. I was actually so intrigued by her lectures that I enrolled in Medical Ethics without any real interest in medicine; however, the class still ended up being really beneficial. Professor Amanda Bower is also super inspiring. In our Spring Term class, we did consulting for JetBlue, and she brought this problem-solving energy that has carried me throughout my internship.
What’s your personal motto?
Keep life weird.
Favorite place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
I get the Blue Sky from Blue Sky with a Blue Sky Square at least once a week.
What one film do you recommend to everyone?
“Living on One Dollar”
What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
Walmart is far. Winter is also cold.
Anyone’s guess, but definitely something involving strategy.
Favorite W&L memory:
Spring Term class trip to Universal Studios and Disneyland; however, 6 a.m. tennis practices are a close second.
Creative Strategic Planning or POV 101.
What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I have a pet cockatiel named Sméagol.
Why did you choose W&L?
Small class sizes and good culture. I’m also a huge fan of squirrels, and W&L had the most out of any college I visited.
Eastern Art Meets Western Virginia Dr. Ling-ting Chiu, a Fulbright Scholar and assistant professor of history at Soochow University in Taiwan, spent the summer at Washington and Lee studying the works of former W&L professor and artist Professor I-Hsiung Ju.
Those familiar with the history of art at Washington and Lee will have heard of Professor I-Hsiung Ju, an artist-in-residence and professor at W&L from 1969 to 1989. Professor Ju’s name can be found on art still hanging on university walls, as well as on an endowment for art studies and on the Ring-Tum Phi’s 1971 award for Professor of the Year.
But Dr. Ling-ting Chiu only recently became acquainted with Ju’s work. A Fulbright Scholar and assistant professor of history at Soochow University in Taiwan, Chiu came to Lexington in June 2018 to study Ju’s life, legacy and art. She has taught courses in both Chinese and Taiwanese art history, and has published four books in those areas. Her next book, she hopes, will be about Professor Ju.
Chiu’s current research studies the impact of traditional Chinese artists, specifically Chinese literati painters, who went overseas to practice their art. Born in Jiangyin, Jiangsu, China in 1923, Ju came to the United States in 1968 and became an artist-in-residence at W&L the following year. Among his many art classes, he taught literati painting.
“He was a very versatile artist,” Chiu said.
Literati paintings are done in black ink and bold yet delicate brushstrokes, often focusing on beautiful landscapes and the expressions of nature. More than the beauty of painting itself, Chiu says, literati is about the artist behind the canvas: “The research of literati painting is not about the style of work, but about the challenges the painter faced.” She believes that studying Ju and his work in Lexington will provide a new perspective of literati painting untold in current academia.
Chiu first learned of Ju from his daughter, Jane Ju, an associate professor of art history at National Chengchi University in Taiwan. “The academic trend has been to really focus on literati painting in one place: Taiwan or China,” Chiu said. “We were ignoring overseas painters like I-Hsiung Ju, but it’s important to recognize the role they play in the tradition.”
Since arriving in Lexington for on-site research as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar, Chiu has been working closely with staff throughout the university. Leyburn Library, Special Collections and the Global Learning Center have all contributed to helping her document the impact that Ju had on campus as both an artist and educator. The Reeves Center has played the special role of introducing her to many of Ju’s paintings still in University Collections of Art and History.
Chiu’s favorite piece is “One Autumn Leaf,” which portrays a “relentless flow of water,” “stones full of hate,” and a falling red leaf, seen as if looking from above. But, she explains, the true expertise of this painting isn’t in its style or skill — or even the poetic phrases that grace the top of the painting — so much as the feeling it is meant to portray to the viewer.
“For a realist painter, water, stone and leaves are just objective existences, but for a literati painter, each existence shares the mood of a moment from the painter,” Chiu said. She noted that Ju was 62 when he painted “One Autumn Leaf,” and that the water and stones in the painting are symbolic of his feeling of life.
While the format of the painting has many elements of traditional literati painting, the bird’s-eye composition, a break with tradition, highlights Ju’s mastery for combining the traditional and the modern. Chiu’s research is focused on this shift: how overseas literati painters took traditional styles and techniques and used them in new ways, bringing Eastern art to the West.
But Chiu wanted to explore Ju’s influence as both an artist and educator at W&L, so she interviewed many of his former students. That included those who attended W&L and took his classes, and those who studied under him at the Art Farm, which he and his wife, Chow-Soon, opened in Lexington after he retired from W&L. These interviews revealed the most interesting aspect of Ju’s work in America.
“I’ve spent a lot of time studying literati in Taiwan,” Chiu said, “but at W&L, my interviews are different. These students are now 60 or 70 years old, but when they talk about Professor Ju, they get teared-up. They were so inspired because his teaching wasn’t just about skill or painting, but about life and philosophy. When the students entered university, they thought he was just teaching literati painting, but when a literati painter paints, he shares a piece of himself. So when they were taught, it wasn’t just how to paint; it was about the life and the personality of the teacher. And they still carry that with them.”
In Chiu’s eyes, this revelation makes Ju an important figure in the “East-to-West” transfer of art, and provides a new perspective in rethinking the value of literati in the 20th century.
“I am fully aware of the love and influence that Professor Ju left behind,” said Chiu, who will finish her research in August. “Ju’s case shows us how a Chinese literati painter had a great influence on these American students in their early lives.”
Breaking Through Financial Barriers Senior Stephanie Williams '18 says W&L's First-Generation Low-Income Partnership (FLIP) gave her support to overcome obstacles and mentor other low-income students.
“Overall, my experiences at W&L have taught me how to take more opportunities and open doors for myself — ones I might not have originally thought possible.”
Hometown: Concord, North Carolina
Major: Global Politics
Minors: Russian Language and Culture, Middle East and South Asia Studies
Being a low-income student at a school like W&L can be a little challenging, so a lot of my experiences in college revolved around finding various resources to accomplish all the things I wanted to do. In my senior year at W&L, a group of students (including Kiki Spiezio ’18, Taylor Reese ’19 and Edwin Castellanos ’20) brought FLIP to our campus. FLIP is the First-Generation Low-Income Partnership, and it brings together students and faculty members who are, or were, first-generation and/or low-income students.
I was already a part of the Questbridge organization on campus, but the FLIP program created small mentorship groups composed of both students and faculty members to provide a small and direct support network for its members. My mentorship group included two faculty/staff members, myself, and one first-year student. We got off to a bit of a slow start, but eventually we were meeting once every other week for lunch, as well as attending organized FLIP events. It was great to get to know faculty members who had been in a similar situation as I am in now as a low-income student just trying to stay afloat during college.
I also felt good that I could pass on what I had learned from my time here at W&L to my first-year friend; and we really did become friends. As I put it during one of our official FLIP dinner events, being a part of these mentorship groups was like getting free friends. You already knew you had things in common and were interested in reaching out to each other, all you had to do was do it. The mentoring aspect wasn’t even the main focus of our biweekly lunches. We shared life experiences, placed each other in Hogwarts Houses, discussed favorite family recipes, and so much more.
At official FLIP dinners, we met with all the members of the organization and shared with each other helpful ideas we’d picked up and resources we’d discovered, and this way we made each other’s lives here slightly less stressful (or at least no more stressful than the life of a college student already is). I was fortunate enough to receive grant funding through CIE and alumni-sponsored scholarships to spend my summer at an internship with the Near East Foundation while also studying Arabic in Jordan. I was able to share my insight into financial aid options for study abroad with my fellow FLIP members as well as encourage them to not let financial insecurity stop them from stepping outside their comfort zone.
In my experience, making face-to-face connections and having a kind and respectful attitude can open a lot of doors and create many unexpected opportunities. My work-study helped me with that as well. I work at the Lenfest Center for the Performing Arts, and my supervisor, Susan Wager, has given me so many opportunities to grow professionally and individually. She is always there when I need her. My Box Office supervisor, Rena Cromer, has also given me so much support and advice over the years. I always suggest to my younger FLIP friends to explore their options in work study and to develop strong relationships with their supervisors, because they are really the most helpful and encouraging people when it comes to figuring out how to be a real adult. Overall, my experiences at W&L have taught me how to take more opportunities and open doors for myself — ones I might not have originally thought possible.
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A little more about Stephanie
Ready for the Next Adventure As she prepares to work for the Equality of Opportunity Project, Amanda Wahlers '18 is grateful for the education, opportunities and research experience she has had in Lexington.
“Working as a member of the Equality of Opportunity team, which is directed by economists Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren and John Friedman, is an invaluable opportunity for me to expand my technical skills and understanding of economic research prior to pursuing a Ph.D in economics.”
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
It wasn’t until my sophomore year at W&L that I took my first economics course. The first hundred times I was asked “What are you majoring in?” upon coming to college, I got flustered and responded that I wanted to major in biology and Spanish. After all, I had loved AP biology in high school and, as a Phoenix native, had always aspired to become fluent in Spanish. Yet on the first day of my sophomore year (with Fundamentals of Biology, Gen Chem, three Spanish courses, and a summer spent in Madrid under my belt), I hesitantly edged into Professor Katharine Shester’s Principles of Microeconomics class.
As I sat in the front row of an introductory micro class dominated by freshman boys, Professor Shester’s engaging lectures drew me into a world of academic thought that I never wanted to leave. A month into the semester, I gathered the courage to ask Professor Shester about research opportunities in W&L’s Economics Department. Within a week she took me on as her research assistant. At that point, I had maybe six weeks’ worth of introductory economic knowledge and had never even heard of Stata, a statistical software package many economists use to conduct research. Still, Professor Shester took the time to explain economic concepts and introduce me to the realm of economic research with simple data tasks.
I spent the summer after my sophomore year in Lexington working as one of two economics research assistants to Professor Shester and Professor Chris Handy. John Juneau ’18 and I spent 30 hours a week meeting with them and working on research assignments for a number of projects. They gave us tasks throughout the summer that challenged us and allowed us to cultivate valuable technical skills.
I worked as a research assistant throughout my junior year, and professors Shester and Handy continued to support my development and aspirations. They helped me compose a resume and mock-interviewed me throughout the process of securing an internship at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for the summer after my junior year. My work with Professor Shester and Professor Handy prepared me to assist with research in the Capital Markets group at the New York Fed, where I studied primary dealers’ positions and trading activity in U.S. Treasury securities.
Now, I have less than two months left as a student at W&L, and I am extremely grateful for the education, opportunities and research experience I have been afforded as an undergraduate. My time at W&L ultimately prepared me with the knowledge, experience and skills to compete with nearly 600 applicants for a handful of positions with the Equality of Opportunity Project, where I will begin a full-time position as a pre-doctoral fellow this summer. Working as a member of the Equality of Opportunity team, which is directed by economists Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren and John Friedman, is an invaluable opportunity for me to expand my technical skills and understanding of economic research prior to pursuing a Ph.D in economics. My undergraduate education at W&L has given me a wealth of opportunities to pursue my passion for economic research and I count myself very blessed to have received it.
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A little more about Amanda
From Dream to Reality Shapley Davis '18 produced and premiered his own short film, and he hopes to continue making films as he heads off to USC's film school after graduation.
“I do believe in storytelling, and I’m excited to get to continue pursuing it as a career.”
Hometown: Winston-Salem, NC
I woke up, but kept my eyes closed. I had just exited a strange dream, unusual in that I did not appear in the dream myself at all. It had been about a girl struggling with thoughts of suicide and having flashbacks to her childhood and interactions with her father. Still very conscious of the story, I polished off the ending and opened my eyes. Not bad. I wrote everything down on my phone, already with the idea that I might make it into a short film.
About a month later, my high school buddies took me to a bar I had been to only once before. A friend from church, Santiago Ramos, walked in and said hello. He was only stopping in to use the restroom. I knew he had been involved in making a candle commercial or something, so after catching up, I told him the story of my dream. “Maybe we should make it — you can produce, I’ll direct! Haha.” It was the kind of conversation you don’t expect a follow up on.
The next morning, however, Santi texted me: “Let’s make it Saturday.” I reminded him that it was Wednesday and that we didn’t have a plan, actors, equipment or money. He was not phased. In retrospect, part of me would like to say we put our noses to the grindstone and worked furiously to put together a masterpiece in three days. In reality, we goofed around, test-drove a Tesla (pure joy), and spent a lot of time at the pool, all the while making phone calls and spitting out ideas.
Santiago had a friend who had acted in a play once, so she quickly became our number one candidate for lead actress. She happened to be very good. Another friend from church connected me to a father-daughter pair willing to come in and shoot on Saturday morning. The six-year-old daughter just happened to greatly resemble our actress. I then texted a friend from preschool who was involved in film in some capacity at UNC School of the Arts. He said he was a cinematography major, had a camera, sound equipment, lights, etc., and was available to shoot on Saturday. For free. Boom, we had a cast and crew.
Production was smooth and very fun, and I spent the next few months working with an editor and composer who were friends with Santiago. I loved the finished product and had a blast premiering it in October in Stackhouse Theater at school. Coincidentally, the premier was the day I submitted my film school application to USC. I would say that I am proud of the film, but more thankful than proud. Between the odd dream and the extremely unlikely circumstances by which the film came about, I can’t help saying the credit for making it feasible at all really goes to God.
Fast forward to mid-March, 2018. I was hanging out with friends when one brought up the fact that he had never seen my short film. I hadn’t shown it to anyone in person for several months, but I decided to sit down and watch it with him. After the credits rolled, he said he very much enjoyed it. I thanked him and told him the story of its production, almost exactly as written above. Fifteen minutes later I went upstairs, checked my email, and I had been accepted to my number one film school. So, no, I do not believe in coincidences. But I do believe in storytelling, and I’m excited to get to continue pursuing it as a career. I’m thankful for everyone who’s gotten me this far.
A little more about Shapley
A Leader Forged by Fire As a first-year student at W&L, Jane Chiavelli '18 had no idea that she would face a huge challenge — and come out of it with strong leadership skills.
“Faculty and my peers saw something in me that I didn’t initially see in myself. They gave me the confidence to believe in my ability to lead, and they showed genuine interest in my development.”
Hometown: Ashland, Massachusetts
Majors: Accounting and Business Administration
Minor: Education Policy
If you had asked me as a First Year what I would be doing by the time I was a senior, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine how I would grow and develop. As an incoming student, I came to school interested in riding horses and pursuing a business-related major, but I did not give much thought to doing anything else on campus outside of Greek life, let alone holding any leadership positions. I have always been the type of person to naturally provide direction and support in a group setting, but I never actually imagined myself pursuing an official leadership role.
After holding a small position on my sorority’s council during my sophomore year, this mindset started to change. Older members of my sorority encouraged me to apply for Money Matters, an educational group for women interested in finance, and gave me reasons I should be the next president of our sorority. Fellow accounting majors and professors expressed why they thought I would be a good candidate for president of Beta Alpha Psi, the accounting honors society on campus. And finally, the senior captain of the equestrian team started giving me greater responsibilities to prepare me to take on her role after she graduated. When I look back on my time at Washington and Lee, each and every leadership position I have held on campus is due in part to the support of members of the Washington and Lee community.
This community was particularly supportive during my time as president of Kappa Delta and Delta Society. When I was elected president of Kappa Delta, I had no idea what kinds of challenges I would face. Shortly after becoming president, the chapter discussed the possibility of disaffiliating from our national organization and starting a new, local chapter on campus. This was something I did not anticipate when I originally became president, and I wasn’t sure if I was the one who could create an entirely new organization of more than 80 women.
Nevertheless, I knew I had to do what was right for our chapter. The transition from a national organization to the first local sorority on campus was not easy, but having my Washington and Lee support system made it possible. Dean Sidney Evans and Lauren Jensen spent countless hours working with me to figure out logistics, and they answered my late-night phone calls when obstacles arose. Our chapter’s alumnae, ranging from founding members to recent graduates, sent me dozens of emails saying how proud they were of our chapter doing something we believe in and providing me with strong words of encouragement. Members from other Greek organizations also reached out to me expressing their support. In this moment I fully realized how lucky I am to go to a school like Washington and Lee.
Before starting school here, I knew that Washington and Lee was a close-knit community, but I didn’t fully realize how caring and supportive it would really be. Faculty members and my peers saw something in me that I didn’t initially see in myself. They gave me the confidence to believe in my ability to lead, and they showed genuine interest in my development. Without the encouragement of my professors and peers, I would have never found my interest in leading and helping others, and I certainly wouldn’t have stepped out of the comfort zone I was happy to stay in as a First Year.
To carry on that legacy, I make sure to reach out to my peers when I hear about any open leadership positions or opportunities that I think would help them develop as leaders, or that I think they would enjoy. I can only hope to have the same impact on others as the Washington and Lee community has had on me.
A little more about Jane
– Former President of Delta Society
– Lead Class Agent
– President of Beta Alpha Psi
– Member of Money Matters
– Member of the Athletics Strategic Planning Task Force Committee
‘A Good Place to Grow’ From Lexington to London, Faith E. Pinho '18 has had a vast array of experiences.
Hometown: Everett, Massachusetts
Majors: Journalism and Politics
“How does it feel to be back?” everyone seemed to want to know.
I had just returned to Lexington for my senior year at Washington and Lee University from a year of living, studying and working in London. The rolling hills of Lexington marked a drastic change from the towers and bridges of the London cityscape, and my friends seemed to think that I would bemoan the difference in scenery.
And yet, coming home to Lexington was one of the happiest moments of my life.
As a city girl from the Boston area, I originally had some reservations about attending this southern college nestled in the foothills of Shenandoah country. When I entered W&L as a First-Year student, I quickly became an adamant advocate for increased diversity at the school, and immediately set to work with W&L’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. In my first year, I organized programming to celebrate Black History Month. As a sophomore, I hosted the annual Parents’ Weekend multicultural dinner for more than 250 guests. I served on committees and boards that sought to bring more students of diverse backgrounds to the university.
Along the way, I picked up a few diverse experiences myself. I spent my freshman Spring Term in Ghana, studying African politics with Professor Tyler Dickovick and working with a nonprofit founded by then-W&L senior Emmanuel Abebrese ’15. During my sophomore year, I lived in the Global Service House with students from around the world and interned for a newspaper in Washington, D.C. Then I left for a year to live in an international city, study at King’s College London and work in a tiny British coffee shop.
When I returned to Lexington last fall, the community I had built during my first two years of activities welcomed me back warmly. Journalism professors took me out for lunch and gave me hours of career advice. Dean Tammy Futrell, head of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, caught me up on all the campus goings-on. My Lexington Presbyterian Church family invited me to brunches and dinners. Even the mountains seemed to embrace me. After all my efforts to expand my horizons and travel, coming back to Lexington felt like a sweet return home.
As I graduate, I reflect on the wealth of wonderful experiences I’ve had here. W&L has given me a place to advocate for my beliefs, to travel and work abroad, and to build a community. From class on the Colonnade to hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains, from the sunny seat in Pronto to Wednesday morning bluegrass jams – Lexington has been a good place to grow.
More about Faith
Stepping Back into the Spotlight Coralie Chu '18 has always been a performer, but W&L helped her discover confidence both on and off the stage.
“Washington and Lee has not only served to educate me greatly on the connection with an audience, but also helped me come out of my shell. Without the endless support I find here, I could have never found the confidence to bear my soul on (and off) the stage.”
Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Majors: Math and Music
From the time I could walk, I flourished in the spotlight. At the piano, I was confident. It didn’t matter who I compared myself to when I sat in front of the instrument, dress freshly ironed and under the scrutiny of hundreds of people — all that mattered to me was the music I created.
Away from the spotlight, however, I lost all of my confidence. I fell back into my own mind and isolated myself from the world. This dichotomy can only be explained by a headspace I used to create during the performance: When I performed, the audience would disappear and I would be alone, playing music just for myself.
Once I arrived at W&L, however, I realized I needed to make a change. I knew that my method of performance was not healthy, nor was it the most effective, and so I began to try to connect with the audience. Of course, doing so is uncomfortable. For the longest time, music had been my personal getaway, and suddenly, I had to share it with the world. I began to feel anxious before performing and sometimes couldn’t do so at all. Where I used to be able to block out an entire audience and feel like I was performing just for myself, I began to only see a critical audience. I remember my freshman year, I was performing a Rachmaninoff Prelude for SSA, and my professor told me I needed to speak before sitting at the piano. I was appalled. How was I supposed to have the audience disappear in my head after talking to them? When I expressed this, my professor told me that often, realizing an audience is there and really connecting with them will enhance the performance.
The journey to comfortably recognizing my audience has been difficult, and honestly, still ongoing. But, along with the performance opportunities offered by the music department at Washington and Lee, I found help in many other areas. Being a co-president of General’s Unity pushes me to reach out and connect (at least on a superficial level) with leaders of other organizations. The math department here encourages me to step out of my comfort zone, take different courses and, within those courses, make leaps of faith and prove them.
However, the most surprising (at least to me) help I found in developing my performance mindset was from the creative writing program here. I took a poetry writing course last semester, where we had to share our poems with the class and be subject to critiques. Surprising myself, I ended up writing (and sharing) a lot of poetry that held a large amount of personal meaning. This class just made something click in my mind: The sharing of something personal through art does not necessarily need to be a scary thing. I began to incorporate that thought into my performances.
I am by no means a performance expert. I’m not even sure I can say I love it on the level that I used to. But my understanding of performance and the personal strength I gained from learning about it is real. Washington and Lee has not only served to educate me greatly on the connection with an audience, but also helped me come out of my shell. Without the endless support I find here, I could have never found the confidence to bear my soul on (and off) the stage.
A little more about Coralie
– Co-President of General’s Unity
– One-Time University Singers Accompanist
‘My Passion for Psychology’ One psychology class led Kelsey Jervis '18 to a long-term research project, a degree, and a spot on the Institutional Review Board.
“Although I don’t know what kind of career the future holds for me, I know I will use the knowledge and skills I gained from all of the experiences with research and psychology at W&L no matter what I am doing in life.”
Kelsey Jervis ’18
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
One of the things that will always stand out about my time at W&L is finding my passion for psychology. It all begin the second semester of my sophomore year, when I took social psychology with Professor Julie Woodzicka. By this point, I was pretty sure I was going to major in psychology but had not officially declared yet. If I wasn’t sure before the course, I was definitely sure by the time it was through. I loved everything about the class. All of the topics we discussed were incredibly interesting and relevant to everyday life, and Professor Woodzicka was hilarious — she could even make people excited to attend an 8 a.m. class three times a week.
During Fall Term of my junior year, I took two more classes with Professor Woodzicka: Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination, and Statistics and Research Design II. Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination was another fascinating course that covered a lot of topics and issues I find really interesting. In statistics, we were assigned a partner and together spent the term designing and conducting a psychology study. My partner, Audrey, and I chose to research the effectiveness of emojis in expressing anger in text messages. Our results were significant (let us know if you ever want to hear all about emojis and how to properly use them while texting to express your anger!), and at the end of the semester, Professor Woodzicka asked if we wanted to continue our research and work in her lab during the upcoming summer through the Summer Research Scholar program.
The summer in Professor Woodzicka’s lab was an incredible learning opportunity for me. Spending an entire summer conducting research really solidified all of the research skills I had started to grasp during my statistics course, enhancing my ability to perform extensive literature reviews, design studies, collect data, and successfully execute data analysis. It also allowed me to see what conducting research in the social psychology field looked like. Professor Woodzicka’s research was investigating methods to confront sexism and racism, a topic that was both interesting and relevant to our society today. I also wouldn’t do the summer justice if I didn’t mention that, in addition to all of the research and statistics knowledge Professor Woodzicka taught us, she also taught me and Audrey how to juggle, a true life skill.
At the end of the summer, Professor Woodzicka asked if Audrey and I would like to continue working in her lab during the school year, and I’m sure it is unsurprising by now that we both said yes. Shortly into the school year, I was given the opportunity to become student member of the Institutional Review Board committee. Without all of this previous research experience, I probably would have turned down the opportunity. However, because of my involvement with Professor Woodzicka’s lab, I had gained an appreciation for research and decided to join the committee. Being a part of the IRB has challenged me to view research from a multitude of perspectives—the view of the researcher, but also the viewpoint of the participant and the viewpoint of the institution liable for the ethics of the study.
Although I don’t know what kind of career the future holds for me, I know I will use the knowledge and skills I gained from all of my experiences with research and psychology at W&L no matter what I am doing in life. For anyone who has never taken a psychology class here, I would highly recommend it. I promise you’ll get something valuable out of it.
A little more about Kelsey
‘A Stronger Sense of Self’ At this small-town university, Nora Devlin '19 has been exposed to viewpoints from all over the globe.
“Attending W&L has made me more conscious of societal issues and more confident in my own opinions and beliefs.”
Hometown: Nevada City, California
Major: Computer Science
I grew up in a small, free-spirited town in the mountains of Northern California, so attending W&L has been somewhat of a culture shock for me. Adjusting to such a different way of life and personal interaction has been challenging at times, but I am so thankful for the personal growth I’ve experienced as a result of leaving my comfort zone.
While W&L is generally not known for its diversity, I have experienced more diversity than ever before, from meeting international students to talking with students from the Deep South to simply discussing ideas with those who hold very different political beliefs than most people I grew up with. Although I am a computer science major, I have been able to take many classes outside of my major, and I have used this opportunity to take courses that expose me to even more diverse ideas, such as “Gender and Politics” and “Social Inequality and Fair Opportunity.” It has been incredibly interesting for me to learn about the backgrounds of my classmates and understand how differences in upbringing can influence one’s outlook.
I would like to think that attending W&L has made me more conscious of societal issues and more confident in my own opinions and beliefs. Growing up, I was constantly bombarded with ideas that I accepted into my political philosophy and outlook on society. At W&L, however, I have had to defend my beliefs for the first time. This has resulted in changing ideas and strengthened opinions; I am more able to explain why I believe certain things. I am especially thankful for professors such as Melina Bell and Lynn Chin for pushing me to question theories and ideas in order to develop more precise ideas and deeper understandings.
I have had opportunities outside the classroom which have strengthened my sense of self and exposed me to new ideas as well. For example, working with the executive team for Washington and Lee College Democrats has allowed me to learn more about the political process and to collaborate with other politically active individuals. Through this group, I have found many students who are always willing to have a political conversation and help me develop a better understanding of the world around me.
I didn’t expect that coming to a traditionally Southern, conservative school would make me more liberal. But through stepping so far out of my comfort zone, I have been able to develop a stronger sense of self and a passion for working to address societal problems. It has not been easy to transition from bluegrass festivals to cocktail parties or from barefooted, didgeridoo-playing hippies to a more traditional, conservative student body, but I am very thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to experience different cultures and ideas and to strengthen my own while at W&L.
A little more about Nora
– Information Technology Services (ITS) Help Desk Student Worker
– Computer Science Lab Assistant