ODK to Initiate Four Honorary and 39 Student Members during 2017 Founders Day/ODK Convocation
Alpha Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society, will welcome four honorary and 39 student initiates at Washington and Lee University’s annual Founders Day/ODK Convocation on Jan. 19 at 5 p.m. in Lee Chapel.
The convocation is free and open to the public. The program and ceremony will be broadcast live online.
Jonathan Holloway will speak on “The Price of Recognition: Race and the Making of the Modern University.” He will be signing his latest book, “Jim Crow Wisdom: Memory and Identity in Black America Since 1940” (2013) on the museum level of Lee Chapel from 4—4:30 p.m.
ODK honorary initiates are: Judy L. Casteele, executive director of Project Horizon; Eugene Michael (Gene) McCabe, associate professor of physical education and head men’s varsity coach at W&L; Joan Marie (Shaun) Shaughnessy, Roger D. Groot Professor of Law at W&L; and Kevin A. Struthers, director of jazz programs at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.
Casteele is the executive director of Project Horizon, a nonprofit human service organization dedicated to reducing domestic, dating and sexual violence in Lexington, Virginia. Casteele is a summa cum laude graduate of Bluefield College and has worked in the field of violence against women for nearly 30 years. She has been recognized for her outstanding work in the field of victim services by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, in 2000; by the International Association of Forensic Nurses Advocacy Award, in 2000; and by Virginia Tech, who named her Community Woman of the Year, in 2001. She is a lifetime member and past chair of the governing body of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (VSDVAA). Casteele also was honored by VSDVAA with a Nexus Catalyst Award in 2010, for her collaborative work with law enforcement. In 2011, she was named one of the Top 30 Voices of people whose work made an indelible impact in the field of violence against women in Virginia. In 2014, she was named to Governor McAuliffe’s Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Assault. Casteele has served as president of the Rockbridge Area Community Services Board. She belongs to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Lexington, where she serves on the church council and chairs the Social Ministry Committee.
McCabe is an associate professor of physical education and head men’s lacrosse coach at Washington and Lee University. In his 11th season as the head men’s lacrosse coach, he has posted a 119-61 (.661) overall record and won a pair of ODAC titles and three trips to the NCAA tournament. He was named the USILA National Coach of the Year in 2003 while head coach at Hamilton College. His overall coaching record over 15 seasons is 173-79 (.687). McCabe was an assistant football and lacrosse coach at W&L from 1998 to 2002. He graduated from Bates College in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in European history, and he also earned certification to teach secondary social studies education. At Bates, he lettered in lacrosse and football. McCabe was elected to the University Board of Appeals in 2016 and recently completed a four-year term on the Student Affairs Committee. He is a board member of Lacrosse the Nations (LtN), a foundation that provides physical education and life-skills mentoring to disadvantaged children in the U.S. and abroad. In 2016, he led nine W&L students on a service trip with LtN to Managua, Nicaragua. McCabe is also on the board of Lime Kiln Theater in Lexington. He is the vice president of the USILA (United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association) and serves as a USILA All American Committee member. He and his wife, Kristen, have four children.
Shaughnessy is the Roger D. Groot Professor of Law and a core faculty member of the Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Program on Poverty and Human Capability. She joined the faculty of the School of Law in 1983. She received her B.A. from the State University of New York at Binghamton and her J.D. from the University of Chicago, where she was inducted into the Order of the Coif. She teaches and writes in the areas of federal procedure and child maltreatment. She has been a visiting professor at Washington University School of Law, Washington College of Law at American University and Brooklyn Law School. Beginning with her service on the Co-Education Task Force Committee on Security, Shaughnessy has served the law school and the university in a wide range of capacities. She was associate dean in the law school and has participated in numerous search committees. She chairs the University Faculty Review Committee and the School of Law’s Admissions Committee and is a member of the President’s Advisory Committee and the University Board of Appeals. She has been a member and chair of the Lexington Planning Commission and of the board of Rockbridge Area Hospice. She provides volunteer legal assistance to victims of domestic violence through Sanctuary for Families, based in New York, where she is a member of the bar.
Struthers, a member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1989, is director of jazz programs at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. He is responsible for the artistic programming and day-to-day direction of jazz programs (collaborating with Jason Moran, artistic director for jazz, 2011 to present, and with Dr. Billy Taylor, artistic director for jazz, 1994–2010), including over 50 annual subscription series concert presentations and Kennedy Center-produced performances; the Kennedy Center Jazz Club; the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival; and the two-week Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead international career development residency. Highlights of his Kennedy Center tenure include the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters Tribute Concert 2016; the creation of the interdisciplinary Jason + series, showcasing jazz pianist Jason Moran with artists and companies of varied genres; the Blue Note at 75 celebration of the iconic record label’s diamond anniversary; the Jazz in Our Time: Living Jazz Legends award ceremony and concert, honoring over 30 international jazz icons; concerts marking the careers and birthdays of James Moody, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Taylor, Jimmy Heath and Benny Golson; the production of several CDs of Kennedy Center performances; the recording, broadcasts andstreaming of programming on NPR with “JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater,” “Billy Taylor’s Jazz at the Kennedy Center,” “Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz,” “Toast of the Nation,” “A Jazz Piano Christmas” and “Jazz Night in America”; and the implementation of international public diplomacy Jazz Ambassador tours with the U.S. Department of State. Struthers holds an M.A. in arts management from the American University and a B.A. in music (independent major in music, emphasis on musicology) from Washington and Lee University. He resides with his wife, Courtney Harpold Struthers ’89, M.D., and their children, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
Undergraduate Class of 2017:
Md Azmain Amin (Dhaka, Bangladesh) is majoring in computer science. Debating from a young age, he did not let the lack of debating opportunities at W&L hinder his dreams. He founded W&L’s first-ever Parliamentary Debating Club and led it for two years before passing on the responsibilities to the upcoming W&L debaters. He has acted as the teaching assistant for the Computer Science Department for two years, helping new students understand the fundamentals of programming. He won three business-pitching competitions in W&L with his ideas for a jute bag and a social app.
Andrew Jacob George Blocker (Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida) is a public accounting major. Blocker has served as the Executive Committee representative for the Class of 2017 for three years. An avid violinist, he has played in the first violin section of the University Orchestra for four years. He serves as a co-chair of the CONTACT Committee and as a lector at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. He is a member of Beta Alpha Psi, the accounting honor society.
Jeffrey Jake Burnett (Anaheim Hills, California) is majoring in psychology and music. Now in his fourth year in the ensemble, he is the student manager and bass section leader for the Washington and Lee University Singers. He also serves the a cappella group General Admission as co-music director and has been active in university theater since his first year. This is his third year working in the Prejudice and Intergroup Relations Lab under Professor Julie A. Woodzicka, including one summer with a Summer Research Scholar grant. Burnett continuously pursues more opportunities to lead on campus, including his work on the First-Year Orientation Committee and as a University Big for the past two years.
Thomas Bryant Cain (Greenville, South Carolina) is majoring in accounting and business administration. He is captain of the three-time state champions, the W&L Screaming Minks rugby team, and is a former president of the Kappa Alpha Order. He was selected as an Outstanding Male Peer Counselor and is involved in Washington and Lee Student Consulting.
John Mayer Crum (Charlotte, N.C.) is majoring in history and minoring in creative writing. As a member of the Executive Committee of the Washington and Lee Mock Convention, he served as co-director of communications. He has served on the Voting Regulations Board and is a member of the Student Body Constitutional Review Committee. He is also a tenor II in the Washington and Lee University Singers.
Kinsey Regan Grant (Tallahassee, Florida) is a Johnson Scholar majoring in business journalism. A devoted financial news reporter, she serves as the managing editor of the Ring-Tum Phi. Grant also works as a producer of the “Rockbridge Report,” the area’s only live television news broadcast and website. Prior to producing the show, she was an anchor and weather analyst. Grant has the privilege of serving as treasurer, and was formerly programs chair, of the W&L chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. She is active in Greek life and has served two years on Kappa Delta’s chapter council. She enjoys the opportunity to serve others through volunteering with Feel Good and giving campus tours as a university ambassador.
Batsheva Honig (West Bloomfield, Michigan) is a psychology major and poverty and human capability studies minor with a concentration in health studies. The Bonner Scholar is an active volunteer in the Rockbridge community, serving as the Burish Intern for Natural Bridge Elementary School, a patient care volunteer for Rockbridge Area Hospice and as president for College Access. Honig has held the role of chair of the University Big/Little Program for three consecutive years, connecting all incoming first-years with upper-division mentors. In addition to being a member of Hillel and serving as its social action chair, she is a peer health educator on W&L’s campus.
Conley Karlovic Hurst (Little Rock, Arkansas) is majoring in history with minors in music and creative writing. A two-time ODAC Men’s Golf Scholar-Athlete of the Year, he is co-captain of the W&L Men’s Golf Team. Hurst served as Arkansas state chair for the 2016 W&L Mock Convention, and he serves as co-editor of opinions for the Ring-Tum Phi. An accomplished classical pianist, he recently won the Music Department’s 2016 concerto competition and will perform as a soloist with the University Symphony Orchestra this spring.
Daniel Coleman Johnson (Flintstone, Georgia) is majoring in economics and politics. He serves as the vice president of the Executive Committee, a lead class agent, board member of Kathekon, and trip leader on the Volunteer Venture Leading Edge program. Johnson was formerly an active member of the Faculty Executive Committee, the University Board of Appeals, and the Mock Convention, serving as the Georgia state chair. He belongs to Phi Delta Theta.
Laura Elizabeth Lavette (Birmingham, Alabama) is majoring in biochemistry with a minor in poverty and human capabilities studies. With a passion for medicine, Lavette plays an active role in the Student Health Committee, has volunteered in the emergency department of Stonewall Jackson Hospital, and spent a year shadowing a public health nurse in Buena Vista. She devoted her summer to obesity research and has spent the past two years as a general co-chair for the First-Year Orientation Committee. Lavette is a co-founder of the Little Generals Club, which seeks to stimulate disadvantaged children beyond the walls of the classroom.
Courtney Jennifer McCauley (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an accounting and business administration and politics major. She served on the Executive Committee of the 2016 Mock Convention as director of operations and is a trustee of the organization, interviewing first-years for 2020 leadership positions. McCauley is involved in W&L Student Consulting, Kathekon and Beta Alpha Psi. After graduation she will be working for JP Morgan as an analyst in the investment grade finance group of the investment bank.
Kristin Angelle Sharman (Williamsville, New York) is a classics major and education minor. A Johnson Scholar and Bonner Scholar, she is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Eta Sigma Phi Classics Honor Society, and Phi Eta Sigma. She has served as a Burish Intern at Rockbridge County High School and as president of the Multicultural Student Association. She is co-president of Nabors Service League, and chair of the aging, health and disability impact area. She is a board member for Campus Catholic Ministry and volunteers at Hoofbeats Therapeutic Riding Center.
Aalekhya Tenali (Melbourne, Florida) is majoring in biochemistry and mathematics. A three-time residential advisor (RA) to first-year students, she also serves as the assistant head RA. Tenali leads the W&L Red Cross Club in hosting campus blood drives, peer tutors students, and volunteers at the Community Table. She is serving as an organic chemistry teaching assistant and provides professional assistance to students in her role as a Career Fellow in W&L’s Career Development Center. Tenali is also an active University Ambassador.
Zachary Joseph Taylor (Syracuse, New York) is pursuing majors in philosophy and classics and a minor in poverty and human capability studies. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Taylor serves as a hearing advisor, chief editor of the Mudd Journal of Ethics, president of the Philosophy Club, and a community assistant as part of the Residential Life staff. He is also involved in peer tutoring and DJs a weekly show for WLUR. Taylor is an active member of St. Patrick Catholic Church, where he often reads as a lector and serves as a eucharistic minister.
Anna Caroline Todd (LaGrange, Georgia) is majoring in English. As president of SPEAK, she leads first-year orientation week programming and represents the organization on the university’s Healthy Sexual Culture Committee. She has also served on the Panhellenic Council for three years as secretary and programming chair. She has tutored at Waddell Elementary School and been the student representative on the Faculty Executive Committee and the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Committee. A member of University Singers, she also works as a tutor in the Writing Center, as a two-time intern with the Shenandoah literary review, and as a community assistant in upper-division housing.
Caleigh Wells (Calabasas, California) is a journalism, politics and sociology triple major. Acting as team captain of the equestrian team her junior and senior years, she also earned the title of Most Valuable Rider in 2016 and the ODAC Rookie of the Year in 2014. Wells is active in community service, serving as secretary of Alpha Phi Omega, W&L’s service fraternity, since its re-chartering effort began in 2014. She has directed, reported, produced and anchored on “Rockbridge Report,” and interned at NPR in Cleveland the past two summers. She also is a member of General Admission, W&L’s competitive a cappella group.
Undergraduate Class of 2018:
Raymond Emory Cox (Pell City, Alabama) is majoring in American history. Elected his first and sophomore years to represent the Class of 2018 on the Student Judicial Council, he serves as SJC secretary. In addition to his work in student government, he co-chairs the University Development Office’s Development Ambassadors Program to engage students about the importance of philanthropy. A passionate politico, Cox chaired the College Republicans Club his sophomore year and served as the Alabama state chair during Mock Convention 2016. He is a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity and has served on the Student Financial Aid Committee since his first year at Washington and Lee. Cox attends R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church and is an active member of the Rockbridge Area Republican Party.
Dana Purser Gary (Franklin, Tennessee) is majoring in English. She is an artistic director for Friday Underground and Friday Underground Records, W&L’s only student-run music venue and associated record label. Gary is the co-musical director for General Admission, an active peer counselor, and a cast member of six university theatrical productions so far. In 2016, she received funding from the Cynthia D. Klinedinst Fund for Theater for a summer internship with Telsey + Co. Casting, in New York City. She is a tenor I in the University Singers and frontman for the student jazz group Hella Fitzgerald.
Thomas Mason Grist (Lexington, Virginia) is majoring in economics and religion, with minors in classics and poverty and human capabilities studies. The former president of the Executive Committee, Grist sat on numerous committees last year, including the Presidential Search Committee, which brought President Dudley to campus. He serves on the Faculty Executive Committee, is an App Adventure Pre-Orientation Trip leader and a peer counselor for first-year students. He is also an Owings Fellow, a W&L tour guide, and a co-speaker’s chair for Kathekon.
Ralston Carder Hartness (Chattanooga, Tennessee) is majoring in religion and minoring in education. As the assistant head community assistant for Woods Creek/Theme Houses, Hartness is an active leader in creating community for upper-division students in a residential setting. He also coordinates Washington and Lee student involvement in an after-school program at Maury River Middle School through his Burish Internship. Ralston is an avid member of the Outing Club, a Young Life leader at Rockbridge County High School, and an active participant in Leadership Education and Development (LEAD). He enjoys writing and performing his own music at Friday Underground and other venues in Lexington.
Kassie Ann Scott (Pennsville, New Jersey) is an English and sociology double major with a minor in poverty and human capability studies. She co-founded and co-directs Friday Underground, a weekly coffeehouse event, in addition to leading the Gender Action Group. Scott assists her peers in the job and internship application process as Head Career Fellow for Washington and Lee’s Career Development. Now a writing center tutor and assistant editor for the Mudd Journal of Ethics, Scott has published in inGeneral, the Ring-tum Phi, the Stone Academic Journal and USA TODAY College. She serves as a peer counselor and University Ambassador. Off campus, Scott has worked as a human rights intern in Romania through the Shepherd Internship Program and Erik T. Woolley Fellowship and as a cultural ambassador through the U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission.
Thomas Hart Thetford (Birmingham, Alabama) is majoring in mathematics. As a member of the swim team, he has twice earned the Memorial Swimming Award, and was honored as the ODAC Rookie of the Year and ODAC Swimmer of the Year in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Thetford is the reigning NCAA national champion in the 100- and 200-yard freestyles. In 2016, he set three individual school and conference records on his way to becoming a five-time NCAA All-American. He dedicated the past two summers to preparing for and competing in the 50-meter freestyle at the 2016 United States Olympic Team Trials, where he placed 66th in the nation at a young age of 20. He is captain of the men’s swim team.
Angel Francisco Vela De La Garza Evia (Monterrey, Mexico) is majoring in chemistry-engineering and mathematics. As a Bonner Scholar, he has devoted his time to the student groups English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Campus Kitchen. In ESOL, he teaches English to adults and coordinates family placements. In Campus Kitchen, he leads cooking shifts and delivers food in an effort to combat hunger and promote nutrition in Rockbridge County. He is also a first-year resident adviser and manages the Peer Tutoring program.
Law Class of 2017:
Anne Marie Anderson (Grand Junction, Colorado) is a managing editor for the Washington and Lee Law Review, where she oversees and manages the publication process of articles. In the summer of 2016, the Washington and Lee Law Review Online published her Note, “How Much Are You Worth? A Statutory Alternative to the Unconstitutionality of Experts’ Use of Minority-Based Statistics.” Anderson was selected for the Washington and Lee Black Lung Legal Clinic, and she was selected to be a peer mentor to fellow law students as a Kirgis Fellow. She is also a member of Phi Delta Phi.
Christopher Clayton Brewer (Morgantown, West Virginia) serves as a Kirgis Fellow, where he advises first-year students as they transition into law school. In addition to peer advising, he is a staff writer for the Washington and Lee Law Review, and is a member of the Moot Court external competition team. Before law school, Brewer graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in history from James Madison University. At James Madison, he presented scholarship at multiple undergraduate research conferences and was active in Greek life, serving as president of his chapter for two years. Outside of academics, he is an Eagle Scout and remains active with the Boy Scouts of America, volunteering as an adult leader with his local troop in the summer.
Matthew Christopher Donahue (Benicia, California) is a former elementary school teacher, who has continued to work in the public interest as a law student. He is a board member for the Public Interest Law Student Association and works with the Shepherd Poverty Program to strategize ways to build stronger relationships between Shepherd and the law school. Donahue is also a staff writer on the Washington and Lee Law Review and actively engaged in research focusing on the environment, private industry, and cultural heritage spaces
Peter Martin Szeremeta (Reston, Virginia) graduated in 2012 from the University of Virginia with a degree in foreign affairs. After UVa, he taught sixth-grade earth science in Atlanta as a Teach for America Corps member. At W&L, he is the senior articles editor of the Law Review and recently published his Student Note discussing constitutional challenges to teacher tenure. As a second-year law student, he served as a Kirgis Fellow by mentoring a group of first-year law students.
Annie Cox Tripp (Poquoson, Virginia) graduated from the United States Naval Academy, served as a nuclear warfare officer, and then worked with homeless veterans in Colorado before coming to W&L. She serves as a Hearing Advocate within the school’s Honor System, a Kirgis Fellow for first-year law students, and the Burks Writing Fellow within the Law School Legal Research program. She also writes and edits for the W&L Law Review as an online articles editor. In the Rockbridge community, Tripp is actively involved with Earthsong Community School, which her daughter attends.
Arthur Ross Vorbrodt (Allendale, New Jersey) is studying corporate, securities and tax law. He holds upper board positions on two W&L Law journals — the Washington & Lee Law Review (managing editor) and German Law Journal (senior articles editor). Additionally, his article “Clapper Dethroned” has been published in the W&L Law Review Online. At Rutgers University, he was the social chairman of Theta Chi fraternity, assisting in the organization of, and participating in, philanthropic events to raise money for wounded soldiers and children with terminal illnesses. He is an avid skier and tennis player, having substantially competed in both sports for much of his teenage life.
Elizabeth Randle Williams (Austin, Texas) is in the Criminal Justice Clinic. The co-president of the Women Law Student’s Organization, with a membership list of men and women including nearly half of the law school community, she is also a Burks Scholar working with first-year students on research and writing. She is a member of the Student Advisory Group to the Harassment and Sexual Misconduct board, as well as a lead articles editor for the German Law Journal. She is a member of the External Mock Trial Team and a hearing advisor, and has held leadership positions with the American Constitution Society. In her spare time, she is an avid distance runner and hopes to run her first marathon in 2017.
Law Class of 2018:
Peter Scott Askin (Richmond, Virginia) majored in political science at Davidson College. He is the marketing editor for the Law News, a junior editor for the German Law Journal, the treasurer of the Latin American Law Students Association, and the Class of 2018 chapter representative for the Virginia Young Lawyers Division. Along with his teammate Thomas Griffin, he was the 2016 winner of the Robert J. Grey Negotiation competition. He volunteers for the James River Association doing environmental law research, and loves to hike and whitewater kayak. Askin is also an avid saxophonist and has performed for the Washington and Lee jazz band and at events and restaurants in the Lexington area. Before law school, he developed a strong command of the Spanish language while living in Argentina, and served as a Virginia senate page for then Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine.
Christopher Clayton Brewer (Morgantown, West Virginia) is a Kirgis Fellow. He is a staff writer for the Washington and Lee Law Review and belongs to the Phi Delta Phi legal honor society.
Matthew C. Donahue (Lexington, Virginia) is a staff writer for the Washington and Lee School of Law. He was a finalist, Appellate Brief Writing, in the John W. Davis Moot Court Competition, and is a board member for the Public Interest Law Student Association.
Kendall Pierce Manning (Norfolk, Massachusetts) graduated from the University of Delaware in 2015 with a major in English/professional writing and a minor in legal studies. As an undergraduate student, she served as the treasurer for Students for Haiti and the volunteer coordinator for the Student Association for the Education of Young Children. While at the University of Delaware, she traveled to Haiti and South Africa to work with orphaned and at-risk children. Manning works as a staff writer on the Journal of Civil Rights & Social Justice and is a member of the Women Law Students Organization, Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity and Phi Delta Phi Legal Honor Society. She is also a Kirgis Fellow and, as such, mentors incoming law students.
Jonathan Andrew Murphy (Salem, Virginia) is the former 1L and current 2L class president and a leader in the W&L Student Bar Association. He represents the law school student body on the W&L Student Advisory Committee and is a member of the Christian Legal Society. He is a staff writer for the W&L Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice and has worked as a research assistant for Visiting Professor Christopher Whelan and Visiting Academic Fellow Henok Gabisa. He traveled to the London School of Economics in 2016 to present a paper he co-wrote with fellow student Luisa Hernandez Juarez. He serves on the board of directors for a Ugandan non-profit, Serving His Children, which combats malnutrition in rural villages throughout East Africa. He attends Grace Presbyterian Church.
Benjamin Stuart Nye (Little Rock, Arkansas) is president of W&L’s chapter of the Christian Legal Society. Nye serves as a peer mentor in the Kirgis Fellow program and is a member of the Washington and Lee Law Review. Prior to law school, he volunteered regularly with Rockbridge Area Habitat for Humanity, where he was given the Helping Hands Award in 2014. Nye has also taught Sunday school and led worship at Grace Presbyterian Church, in Lexington.
Nicholas Alexander Ramos (Woodbridge, Virginia) is the founding president of W&L Veterans’ Advocates. In November 2016, he spearheaded a charity movie night at Hull’s Drive-In and brought together the Lexington community for a screening of “Black Hawk Down.” The event raised several hundred dollars for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. In addition to continuing the charity movie night in the future, Ramos plans to invite guest speakers to W&L Law to discuss pro bono legal services for veterans. He also actively speaks about his eight-plus years of active-duty military service throughout the community. Most recently, he spoke to VMI’s ROTC Cadets and to eighth-graders at Lylburn Downing Middle School. He is also a Law Ambassador and supports the Law School Admissions Office by assisting potential applicants and admitted students make decisions about whether to apply to or attend W&L Law.
Alix Myer Sirota (Kingston, Pennsylvania) graduated from the College of Charleston in 2011 with a B.A. in political science. He is a Kirgis Fellow, a staff writer for the Washington and Lee Law Review, and a research assistant to Professor Jill Fraley. Before law school, Sirota worked in the produce business for three years, during which he spent time in Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia and Texas. During his 1L summer, he was a judicial intern to the Honorable Richard M. Hughes, III, president judge of the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Peter Treutlen Thomas (Birmingham, Alabama) is a hearing advisor under W&L’s Honor System. He is a staff writer on the Washington and Lee Law Review and will be representing the school in external moot court competitions beginning this semester. He was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa before graduating magna cum laude with honors in psychology from Sewanee: The University of the South.
Katheryn (Kit) Paige Thomas (Charleston, West Virginia) is focusing her studies on capital defense work. She serves as the vice justice for the law fraternity Phi Alpha Delta, and as the treasurer for the law school’s chapter of the American Constitution Society. Through Phi Alpha Delta and with the help of other organization’s leaders, Thomas was able to help organize the law school’s first annual chili cook-off, which raised money for public interest law students. She is an active member of the law ambassador program at the law school, welcoming new and prospective students to campus. In addition to her extracurricular involvement, Thomas is a member of the Washington and Lee Law Review, where her Note deals with a criminal defendant’s rights to counsel of choice and court-appointed counsel. As a second-year student, she is a student attorney in the law school’s death penalty clinic, the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse.
Catherine Elizabeth Woodcock (Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida) graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in political science. She taught high school English for two years in Jacksonville, Florida, as a Teach for America corps member. At Washington and Lee, she is a staff writer for the Law Review Journal. She is the vice president of the Student Bar Association and the Women Law Students Organization. Woodcock also serves as a Kirgis Fellow Mentor for the first-year class.
Washington and Lee Names New Associate Dean of the Williams School
Timothy Diette, the Harry E. and Mary Jayne W. Redenbaugh Term Associate Professor of Economics at Washington and Lee University, is the new associate dean of the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics, beginning July 1. He succeeds Raquel Alexander, who has held that post since 2015. Alexander is leaving W&L in June to become dean of the College of Management at Bucknell University.
Diette joined the Williams School faculty in 2004. He holds an honors B.A. in economics and history, summa cum laude, from the University of Vermont, and an M.S. and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to W&L, he worked in the finance departments at Bank of America and Wachovia, followed by a stint as an economist for the North Carolina Department of Revenue.
He has served since 2016 as acting head of the Economics Department, teaching courses in Economics of Education and Health Economics, and is affiliate faculty in both the Africana Studies Program and the Shepherd Poverty Program. He also helped create and advises students for the Education Policy minor.
Diette serves on the university’s SACS Reaffirmation Team and as a faculty representative to the Board of Trustees, as well as on a number of university committees, including the Faculty Administrators Evaluation Committee and the President’s Advisory Committee. He previously served on the Student Affairs Committee, the Faculty Executive Committee and the Student Faculty Hearing Board. He is also a member of the Shepherd Program’s Strategic Planning Steering, Faculty Review and Advisory committees, and served on the organizing committees for Questioning the Good Life and Questioning Passion, two year-long seminar series devoted to the interdisciplinary study of contemporary topics.
“I am excited to serve W&L in this capacity,” said Diette. “I look forward to strengthening the Williams School’s connections to the College, the Law School and our interdisciplinary programs, and to supporting student and faculty initiatives that further the mission of the university.”
In addition to advising the dean on a variety of matters, the associate dean of the Williams School focuses on operations and accreditation. The associate dean also represents the Williams School on a number of university committees and works closely with the dean and faculty of the Williams School on curriculum and program development.
“Tim has been a great example of the W&L teacher-scholar throughout his time at W&L,” said Robert Straughan, Crawford Family Dean of the Williams School. “He has a passion for understanding the human-capital impact of a variety of institutional variables, particularly related to education. The classes that he teaches, the research that he conducts, and his involvement in the broader Lexington community reflect that passion.
“I’m quite excited to welcome Tim to this new role,” Straughan continued. “I think he will find even more ways to contribute to the advancement of the Williams School and Washington and Lee.”
Washington and Lee Names New Associate Dean of the College
Gwyn E. Campbell, professor of Spanish at Washington and Lee University, is the new associate dean of the college, beginning July 1. She succeeds Marcia France, who has held that post since 2012. After a sabbatical, France will be returning to the classroom, where she teaches organic chemistry.
Campbell, who teaches Spanish language, literature and culture, as well as courses in the Medieval and Renaissance Studies program, came to W&L in 1985. She holds an honors B.A. in French and Spanish, summa cum laude, from McMaster University, an M.A. in Spanish from the University of Western Ontario, and both an M.A. and Ph.D. in Spanish from Princeton University. She served for a number of years as head of the Spanish division of the Department of Romance Languages, and is currently also affiliate faculty in both the Medieval and Renaissance Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies programs. A member of the Graduate Student Fellowship Committee, Campbell previously served on many university committees, including the Committee on Courses and Degrees, the Student Affairs Committee and the Faculty Executive Committee. She has been the university’s Fulbright program advisor since 2015. The appointment as associate dean of the college is a capstone to Campbell’s career at Washington and Lee.
“I am honored to accept this appointment and delighted to be able to serve the university in this capacity, as well as to have the chance to collaborate closely with Dean Suzanne Keen and Associate Dean Wendy Price,” said Campbell. “While I will miss the exhilaration of teaching, I welcome this exciting opportunity to work with our students, in all disciplines across the college and beyond, in a different role.”
The associate dean of the college focuses on academic performance and support, collaborating when appropriate with the Office of Student Affairs. The associate dean also coordinates undergraduate and graduate fellowship applications for students.
“Expanding and promoting fellowships opportunities for students is a top priority, and Gwyn Campbell has already shown remarkable skill and dedication in her work as the Fulbright adviser,” said Keen. “Gwyn will help us capitalize on the momentum that Marcia has built up in that area.”
Marcia France, the John T. Herwick, M.D. Professor of Chemistry at Washington and Lee, arrived at W&L in 1994. She holds an S.B. in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an M.S. in chemistry from Yale University and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology. She helped develop and serves as co-director of W&L’s partnership with the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, which provides a study-abroad opportunity for W&L students studying science and preparing to enter a health profession. She created and teaches the Science of Cooking course in Italy. France is active in the university’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, having served in several posts, including president.
“We are grateful to Professor France for her outstanding service,” said Keen. “She has been a tireless advocate for students in need of support and made an impact through committee leadership, behind-the-scenes work on behalf of students and collaborations across campus.
“In academics, she ran the first-year seminar program at W&L, expanding the offerings of these small discussion- and project-based courses,” Keen continued. “She contributed substantially to global learning through membership on the International Education Committee and her continuing work as a liaison to St. Andrews. She has also enjoyed great success as a fellowships adviser, including the university’s first Rhodes Scholar in many years, its first Schwarzman Scholar, a Gates winner, a Beinecke winner, many Fulbrights, and more. In strategic planning, she chaired the ad hoc Futures of STEM Pedagogy committee, serving as first author of a superb report that was subsequently incorporated into the college’s Strategic Plan in 2016. Her work as associate dean will have a lasting impact on the university.”
Welcoming Will Dudley, W&L’s 27th President
William C. Dudley took his oath as the 27th president of Washington and Lee on Wednesday, Dec. 28, and officially assumed the role on Jan. 1. He comes to W&L from Williams College, his undergraduate alma mater, where he served as provost and professor of philosophy. In addition to a B.A. in mathematics and philosophy, he holds an M.A. and a Ph.D., both in philosophy, from Northwestern University. He is a native of Virginia, born in Charlottesville and raised in Arlington.
President Dudley will give a keynote address to W&L staff during employee Enrichment Week on Tuesday, Jan. 3, and host a faculty open house on Jan. 6. To view the address, click here.
Read more about President Dudley in the interview published in W&L: The Washington and Lee University Alumni Magazine, this fall.
Alexander Named Inaugural Dean of the Bucknell University College of Management
Raquel Alexander, associate dean and Ehrlick Kilner Haight Sr. Term Professor of Accounting at Washington and Lee University’s Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics, has been named the first Kenneth W. Freeman Professor and Dean of the College of Management at Bucknell University. She will begin her new role on July 1.
Robert Straughan, the Crawford Family Dean of the Williams School, said Alexander will remain in the W&L associate dean’s position through the current academic year.
“Raquel is the quintessential teacher/scholar,” said Straughan. “Her teaching has been innovative in its approaches and in its interdisciplinary nature. Her scholarship and professional accomplishments have shaped accounting and tax policy in both the US and abroad. In her most recent role as Associate Dean of the Williams School, she has proven herself a leader on strategic planning, operations, accreditation, and more. I can’t imagine a more qualified candidate to serve as the inaugural dean of Bucknell’s College of Management.”
Alexander worked for KPMG as a tax consultant in Dallas, Texas, and Phoenix, Arizona, before earning her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. She joined the faculty at W&L in 2012, teaching courses in taxation and the business of art. She was named associate dean in 2015.
“It has been an honor to be a part of the Washington and Lee family these past five years,” she said. “With its historic campus and storied tradition, W&L has felt like home from the beginning. I will miss all the wonderful students, alumni and faculty who make this university such a remarkable place.”
More information about Alexander’s appointment is available on the Bucknell University website.
Journalism Professor Alecia Swasy on Media Coverage of Rural America
“We must teach rigorous, critical thinking so young reporters will be more skeptical and dogged to find the best sources, unpack promises, reveal hidden agendas and follow the money trails.”
Alecia Swasy, Donald W. Reynolds Chair in Business Journalism at Washington and Lee University, wrote about the media’s coverage of rural America on the Poynter Institute’s website.
Swasy, who has spent seven years studying the topic, analyzing thousands of articles over a fifty year period, argues that “despite the criticism of the biggest newspapers as being out of touch, the best coverage of serious issues facing rural America has been delivered by the New York Times and The Washington Post. Both look for stories that put a face on what really happens when policies made miles away in Congress hit small towns.”
Acknowledging that today’s news media face real challenges in providing consistent coverage of America’s heartland, Swasy points out that the problem is also one of politics. “Just like the problems that vex rural America’s poor, there’s another thing that doesn’t change much — politicians don’t show up in these parts. The reason is quite simple: the back roads of Kentucky and West Virginia do not attract $10,000 a plate fundraiser dinners of filet mignon and haricot verts.”
You can read the full essay below or on poynter.org.
Actually, journalists aren’t failing rural America
By Alecia Swasy • November 28, 2016 • Reprinted by permission
A striking miner sat in a tin-roofed picket shack, whittling a long branch into the shape of a baseball bat. Here in Southwest Virginia’s coal towns, hundreds of union miners like him had walked out of Pittston Coal’s mines in 1989 to protest cuts in health benefits.
As a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, I visited the shack to get the miners’ side of the story. When I introduced myself, the miner leapt from his seat and screamed: “Go home, bitch!”
Being young and, well, rather stupid, I argued with the bat-wielding man. Don’t assume that I write only for CEOs, I told him. I’m a farm kid from Pennsylvania coal country. My brother-in-law, Ben Hill, is a roof bolter and shuttle car operator for R&P Coal and a proud member of the UMWA, Local 3548.
The miner smiled, and invited me to sit down and talk. He helped me tell a far richer, more nuanced story of the older miners on strike, men who watched their college-educated sons cross those picket line to work as engineers and managers inside the Pittston office. They were proud that their backbreaking labor meant their children didn’t have to work in dark, dank mines.
Fast-forward to 2016, and much of the post-mortem election discussions focus on whether journalists spend enough time talking to the folks in places like Southwest Virginia.
The pundits, politicians, journalists and academics are scrambling to figure out what happened. The “peasants” rose up. The wage gap fueled anger. Main Street is fed up with Wall Street. In short, nobody is really listening to one another.
Part of the election autopsy has been a predictable “blame the media” refrain that naturally follows when the polls and front pages missed what was really happening in the heartland. In reality, the ebb and flow of coverage of “the haves and have-nots” has been the same for 50 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the “War on Poverty,” a pledge to create better schools, jobs and highways to connect Appalachia with the prosperity enjoyed in the rest of post-World War II America.
LIFE magazine’s black-and-white photo essay in January 1964 showed Delphi Mobley and her daughter, Riva, who was sick with measles in a family that couldn’t pay for a doctor. Other news reports followed, but soon vanished as the media and politicians focused on Vietnam — LBJ’s other war, which got more funding and ink.
The next five decades repeated the cycle of political and media interest in rural America. The U.S. economic picture was a story of boom and bust for the bulk of Americans: “greed is good” turned into overleveraged consumers. Then all news focused on America’s most frightening and unexpected war — the war on terrorism. Next was the Great Recession in 2008. Once major cities shook that off, the ongoing financial woes of small-town American life remained an occasional story.
So, do we just “shoot the messenger?” It’s not that simple. To understand Main Street America, journalists now must explain the global marketplace, including the meteoric rise of China and India, and the geopolitical stakes of instability in North Korea, Pakistan and Syria.
As a journalist-turned-Ph.D., I’m still chasing stories that matter, especially in this growing gulf between “the haves and have-nots.” I’ve spent seven years studying how the news media cover rural America. For this research, I analyzed thousands of articles spanning 50 years from 1964-2014. The stories were collected in 2009 and again in 2014 from the nation’s largest newspapers, news weekly magazines and the leading Southeastern U.S. papers, largely because they cover most of Appalachia.
The research shows reason for optimism: Reporters and photographers given the chance to travel to remote areas have done a terrific job of putting a face on the plight of the poor. The coverage is guided by what scholars call “frames” to tell the stories. According to media scholar Robert Entman, the frame determines “whether most people notice and how they understand and remember a problem, as well as how they evaluate and choose to act upon it.”
From this review of 50 years of stories, I found the following dominant frames: The rural poor lack basic necessities, such as housing. They don’t have access to good jobs and suffer a disproportionate share of chronic health problems. Federal programs have failed them and politicians only pay attention to them when it’s time to run for office. And, finally, the folks in rural America commit crimes, usually involving moonshine, marijuana, meth and opioids.
The research shows that, despite the criticism of the biggest newspapers as being out of touch, the best coverage of serious issues facing rural America has been delivered by the New York Times and The Washington Post. Both look for stories that put a face on what really happens when policies made miles away in Congress hit small towns.
Times reporter Diana Jean Schemo traveled to Alabama’s so-called “Black Belt” to gauge the impact of the Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” mandates to raise test scores. Inside the John Essex School, she found bare electrical wires dangling from the ceiling and antique textbooks that don’t cover the outcome of the Vietnam War and whether a man ever walked on the moon. This remains true in many rural school districts.
Likewise, the Post sends reporters well outside the Beltway to chronicle a hidden economy of selling moonshine when no other jobs are available. Reporter Jerry Markon wrote in 2008 about Rocky Mount, Virginia, where agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives staked out a distillery in the woods. The story was presented without judgment of the locals. Rather, it showed how the rural Franklin County actually prides itself as the “Moonshine Capital of the World.”
“People try to portray us as country bumpkins, but we’re proud of being rednecks and we’re proud of the craft of making liquor,” said Linda Stanley, Special Projects Coordinator for the Franklin County Historical Society, in the Post story. “Around here, people still talk about the war between the states, they still talk about making apple butter and they still talk about moonshine.”
Just like the problems that vex rural America’s poor, there’s another thing that doesn’t change much — politicians don’t show up in these parts. The reason is quite simple: the back roads of Kentucky and West Virginia do not attract $10,000 a plate fundraiser dinners of filet mignon and haricot verts.
The autopsy of the 2016 election must include some tough choices by news organizations on how to do a more consistent job of covering America’s heartland. And those of us now teaching future journalists need to work harder to reinforce the basics of quality reporting. We must teach rigorous, critical thinking so young reporters will be more skeptical and dogged to find the best sources, unpack promises, reveal hidden agendas and follow the money trails. We must teach them that Twitter is not a replacement for knocking on doors and going to the picket lines.
But Americans need be more critical and ask their Washington representatives, senators and president: Are you listening? The W.K. Kellogg Foundation did an anonymous survey of members of Congress to gauge why rural America is ignored by D.C. lawmakers. The research was done 14 years ago, but still holds true today. Only those causes supported by big money get attention.
Rural America is far behind General Motors and Carnival Cruise Lines in getting politicians to listen. Even cats and bunny rabbits have more advocates trying to keep them out of shampoo research labs.
Many unemployed workers in rural America voted for Trump, thanks to his pledge to bring back coal jobs. But energy experts and miners themselves will tell you that the Appalachian coal industry isn’t coming back. Coal’s death knell was lower global demand, the move to cleaner alternatives such as natural gas and renewable energy sources. Indeed, Ben was laid off in the late 1990s when R&P closed the mine. UMWA Local 3548 is now shuttered, too.
Alecia Swasy is the Donald W. Reynolds Chair in Business Journalism at Washington & Lee University. Previously she worked as a reporter and editor of The Wall Street Journal and The Tampa Bay Times. She earned her Ph.D. in Journalism Studies from the University of Missouri. She is working on a book about rural America.
“The Election and Its Meanings: An Interpretive Panel”
In an effort to understand the recent election and its context, effects and possible consequences from a range of academic perspectives and interpretations, Washington and Lee faculty participated in a panel discussion on Thursday, Nov. 17, titled, “The Election and Its Meanings: An Interpretive Panel.”
The panel was moderated by Marc Conner, W&L’s interim provost. Presenting panelists included Bob Strong, William Lyne Wilson Professor of Politics; Elicia Cowins, assistant professor of accounting; Aly Colón, Knight Professor of Ethics in Journalism; Johanna Bond, professor of law and associate dean of The School of Law; Chris Handy, assistant professor of economics; and Lucas Morel, professor of ethics and politics and chair of the Politics Department.
Each speaker offered a commentary on the election from her or his disciplinary perspective, and took questions from the audience. “Our aim with the panel discussion is not to offer a judgment of the election,” said Conner, “but rather an intellectual interpretation of what this election means. This is a crucial role that a university should fill—offering interpretive analysis from a variety of intellectual perspectives.”
Changing Perspectives: Zach Taylor ’17 Shepherd Intern Zach Taylor explores a holistic approach to middle school education at the Washington Jesuit Academy.
In the wake of the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the five Dallas police officers killed at a Black Lives Matter protest in early July 2016, the school counselors at Washington Jesuit Academy (WJA), where black and Hispanic students constitute the entirety of the student population, decided to have a school-wide discussion led by teachers about the recent violence. As a teaching assistant at WJA, I decided to observe a discussion facilitated by a pair of my teacher-friends, one a white woman and the other a black man, with the seventh grade students whom I taught on a regular basis. In the middle of our conversation, a discussion broke out about stereotypes. For the first time in a public forum, I was called out for my whiteness. “All white people aren’t bad,” the black teacher, Mr. Shepperd, assured the students. “I mean, look at your teachers. Look at Ms. Mallahan, look at Mr. Taylor. They’re nice people. They’re not racists.” The students burst into laughter. I suppose it disoriented them somewhat to consider that their white teachers could actually represent whiteness. For a brief moment, I felt as if my skin color defined me, and that was the first time that had happened because of the privilege I enjoy as a white man in twenty-first century America. It is a privilege that my seventh grade students, who live at the intersection of oppression with respect to both race and class, do not enjoy.
In the end, I walked away from our discussion about police brutality and systemic oppression energized and hopeful, both for the future civic engagement of my students and at the possibility of respectful social justice dialogue between students and teachers in other American schools. This kind of social engagement is not uncommon at WJA, which is a truly special place. Out of all fifty states and the District of Columbia, where WJA is located, D.C.’s public academic performance ranks dead last. As a private, tuition-free, middle school for boys, WJA thereby seeks to address low-income students’ academic concerns before they enter high school, beginning ideally in the fifth grade. In order gain admittance to the school, students must, among other things, qualify for the National Free and Reduced Lunch Program, and private donors sponsor each student to cover the costs of his tuition. The WJA education model is rigorous; students attend school for eleven months of the year, including the mandatory summer program. During the regular school year, students are in school eleven hours a day and receive breakfast, lunch, dinner, and extracurricular enrichment all in addition to academic instruction. During the summer program, students are in school for approximately six hours each day and receive breakfast and lunch, attend three classes, participate in clubs and intramural athletics, and visit Smithsonian museums or the Botanic Gardens on field trips. For perspective, WJA students spend approximately 2,050 hours in school each year—approximately a thousand hours more than their peers at public schools.
WJA’s commitment to the Jesuit philosophy of cura personalis, or care for the entire person, may not be evident to those not working at the school, but it constitutes an important part of its mission. While WJA is first and foremost an academic institution, its administrators, faculty, and athletic coaches are all deeply committed to addressing almost all of students’ needs—academic, athletic, artistic, religious—and their emotional well-being. For instance, every school day at WJA starts with a ten-minute speech by one of the faculty that focuses on a theme for that week. Themes this past summer included “Being Open to Growth,” “Grit,” and “Being Men and Women for Others,” the latter a core Jesuit value that students and faculty constantly try to embody, regardless of their faith. These speeches, carefully prepared by the teachers that give them, typically touch upon students’ achievement goals in the classroom, on the sports field, for the future, and at home. WJA students pay impressive attention to their teachers during these speeches and sometimes reference them in the classroom. I am inclined to think that they actually influence students’ attitudes and behavior in and out of school. This morning ritual represents the unique way in which WJA pays careful attention to the lives of its students.
Students’ families also play a critical role in supporting their children’s academic, athletic, and extracurricular achievement and intellectual and emotional growth. Through its Home to School Association, a board dedicated to parental involvement that parents exclusively govern, WJA strongly encourages its students’ parents or other relatives to volunteer at school events, attend teacher appreciation lunches, and facilitate summer barbeques, one of which I had the privilege to enjoy during my internship. As Marcus Washington, headmaster of WJA, told Shepherd interns at the Frueauff Opening Conference at Marymount University, these volunteer opportunities ensure that parents have a stake in their children’s education, even if they do not pay for tuition. Rather than entrusting this education to WJA faculty and staff alone, parents work alongside teachers and counselors at community events and at home in a concerted effort to foster students’ continual development.
Notably, WJA continues to look out for its students beyond their middle school years. The Director of Graduate Support, Howard Blue, is a consistent presence on WJA’s campus; this past summer, he hosted an internship program through which alumni learned leadership skills and helped with the summer program as chaperones and mentors. Beyond this, alumni frequent WJA regularly to play basketball, use its gym, or simply to talk with their former teachers. I actually had the chance to meet many of WJA’s past graduates, who have all encountered academic and extracurricular success in high school and who deeply appreciate the education they received at WJA. Their testimony, perhaps more than any statistical data, speaks volumes about the efficacy of WJA’s rigorous academic program.
As a future educator, I wanted to intern at WJA not only to learn more about the education system in the United States, but also to have an opportunity to actually teach at the front of a classroom. Fortunately, the teacher in whose classroom I helped, Mr. Brace, encouraged me to teach a number of classes on my own. I even had the chance to craft a few lesson plans myself with the help of material provided by Mr. Brace. In our seventh grade “Reading” class, students and I read Joseph Lekuton’s autobiography Facing the Lion, his coming-of-age story as a Maasai warrior in Kenya. The conversations I facilitated at the end of each chapter I taught, through which students compared their lived experiences to that of Lekuton in Kenya, helped engender curiosity in multiculturalism, social justice, and globalization. As a classics and philosophy major, I found these discussions with my seventh grade students truly enriching and not unlike those shared in seminar classrooms at Washington and Lee. Clearly, the teachers at WJA foster this kind of intellectual growth on a regular basis, evident by my students’ genuine enthusiasm to learn. On a practical level, teachers also promote civic engagement in the classroom. After the July shootings, for example, one teacher encouraged her eighth grade students to write letters to their respective city council members with questions or suggestions about police brutality. I respect the faculty I worked with immensely; the commitment, energy, and patience they demonstrated day in and day out substantively impact the lives of their students.
I had never taught middle school before, and I was so impressed with my seventh grade students’ level of engagement with the material we worked through together. As a teacher, facilitating conversations was fun, mostly because my students were always eager to add their acute insight to our discussions about race, culture, and their own lived experiences. WJA demonstrates that with the proper resources, dedicated teachers, and consistent structural support, students from low-income families can excel in school and often attend college. Ninety-eight percent of WJA students, for example, have graduated from high school. Most importantly, the achievements of its students upend stereotypical assumptions about the academic potential of low-income students of color in urban areas. While WJA may not address the systemic issues that afflict the Washington, D.C. education system, it can nevertheless serve as a model for elected officials seeking to craft education policy at the state and federal level. Just as WJA’s private donors invest heavily in its students throughout their time in middle school, we as citizens should collectively invest more in public education across the United States. The consequences may very well reflect those positive outcomes facilitated by WJA and its remarkable faculty and staff.
WJA can provide its holistic liberal arts curriculum in tandem with enriching extracurricular activities and specialized one-on-one student counseling in large part due to its small size and extended school day model. Not every public middle school in the United States can serve only one hundred students for eleven hours a day over the course of nearly ten months and offer a mandatory summer program. In addition, private sponsors individually fund each student’s tuition cost of $18,000 per year for three or four years, whereas per pupil spending in the United States was $10,700 on average in 2013.* Still, public schools across the country can emulate WJA’s dedication to the Jesuit philosophy of cura personalis with what limited resources they have by introducing social justice concerns and issues pertaining to civic engagement in their classrooms. While this may require additional training for teachers, I am confident that with the right resources states can integrate this approach into their official curricula.
The deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas police officers were tragic. The hateful rhetoric propagated by those unwilling to listen to the lived experiences of people of color in the wake of those murders was disheartening and frustrating. While it is so easy to lose heart, to disinterestedly consume news of violence day after day, I caught a glimmer of hope at Washington Jesuit Academy in the midst of a violent summer across the world, as my students demonstrated time and again their commitment to productive social justice dialogue. My internship made me realize that, as a teacher, I can fulfill a critical role in those kinds of conversations, especially at a school like WJA that fosters a safe space for students to express themselves without scorn or ridicule.
*“Per Pupil Spending Varies Heavily Across the United States,” United States Census Bureau, accessed August 30, 2016, http://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/cb15-98.html. I should note, as the title of this article indicates, that per pupil spending varies widely in different states. Whereas New York spends $19,818 on each of its students, Utah spends $6,555 on each of its students.
Passionate About Public Health Johnson Opportunity Grant Winner Cameron Lee interns at the Cluj School of Public Health in Romania.
It’s a hot summer morning in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, and I look out of my dorm room to the rolling hills that pervade the Transylvanian countryside. After getting dressed and grabbing a quick bite to eat, I walk only a few minutes to the building that houses the Cluj School of Public Health, where I work as a Global Health Research Intern. In my office I meet Madalina, my research supervisor, before heading to the downtown diabetes clinic, which is about a 20-minute walk from our office. Upon arriving at the clinic, we encounter a waiting room full of diabetes patients who are anxiously awaiting their checkup appointments. These individuals are among the 12 percent of Romania’s population that is diagnosed with diabetes. During their appointments, the patients are given the opportunity to participate in our study by allowing their glycated hemoglobin and blood glucose levels to be collected and by completing a survey that gauges their level of health literacy and the frequency of their diabetes self-care behaviors. After touring the clinic where our data is gathered, Madalina and I walk back to the Cluj School of Public Health to continue data analysis for our study.
In an Eastern European setting where public health is a relatively new field, Romanians frequently encounter healthcare issues such as health illiteracy and the lack of access to healthcare, especially in rural areas. These problems are amplified for Romanian diabetes patients, whose treatment relies heavily on self-administered care. Additionally, despite Romania providing universal healthcare, Roma populations are often barred from receiving adequate care because many of them lack proper documentation and experience systemic discrimination. While Romania may be situated almost half a world away from the United States, I realized that both countries unfortunately create healthcare environments that foster exclusivity. In the future, hopefully as a healthcare provider, I aim to utilize my experiences working in healthcare settings on both a domestic and international scale in order to provide holistic and inclusive care to all patients.
Conducting public health research in Romania has been one of the most incredible experiences of my W&L career thus far. Living in a country eight time zones away from home for an extended period of time has allowed me to become more independent and grow as a person. Additionally, being able to interact with individuals from different backgrounds than mine is something that I know that I will cherish forever. I would like to thank W&L for making this experience possible through the Johnson Opportunity Grant program.
My W&L: Sejal Mistry
My W&L experience has been defined by my love of biology and my passion for being active in my community. Through W&L’s biology department, I have gotten to research with my advisor over two summers and attend two microbiology conferences. The lab classes that have been offered sparked my desire to make public health and epidemiology my future. I have had the opportunity to travel to Yellowstone, experiment with potentially deadly chemicals, and even did an entire research project in one spring term on snail behavior. It was a little slimy. This is definitely a part of my W&L experience that brings out the science nerd in me.
I have also been extremely fortunate in the two communities I am a part of—the W&L community and the greater Rockbridge area community. The W&L community includes my professors, peers and clubs, and they are a large part of my experience; however, it also includes the little daily interactions with anyone on campus. It is the facilities worker who walks by my library carrel every morning with a smile and a morning greeting, the amazing alumni I have gotten to meet through small coincidences that have become my mentors, and the administration that take the time to get to know you and check up on how you are doing.
Lastly, there is the greater Rockbridge area community. This community has really impacted my W&L experience. Through the Bonner program, I have gotten to work with a number of agencies, like Project Horizon, the Manor, Habitat for Humanity and the Lexington Office on Youth. The relationships I have built with both the staff and the individuals using resources from these agencies are priceless, and I have grown to appreciate the community that surrounds Washington and Lee. Academics can only teach you a fraction of what you’ll learn in life, and because of this I have learned more from this community then W&L could ever give me. This community even led me to declare my poverty and human capabilities minor.
These three aspects of my life all intersect at Washington and Lee University, and they’re all a part of my W&L.