Feature Stories Campus Events

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.”

Jane Chiavelli ’18Jane Chiavelli ’18

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.

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A little more about Jane

Extracurricular involvement:
– Captain of the Varsity Equestrian Team
– 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
Why did you choose your major?
I like how accounting is challenging but also useful for anything business-related.
Has anyone on campus inspired you? 
Dean Sidney Evans, Professor Megan Hess and Lauren Jensen have all supported me tremendously during my time at W&L.
Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Kind Roots is my all-time favorite! I usually order cranberry chicken salad or a Green Mountain smoothie. I love Haywood’s and TAPS, too.
Post-graduation plans:
I’m working for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Charlotte this summer, and I’m pursuing my masters in accounting at Wake Forest University next year.
Favorite W&L memory:
Spring Term
Favorite W&L event:
Homecoming. I love seeing the young alumni back on campus!
Why did you choose W&L?
It checked all my boxes. I wanted a small, liberal arts school in the South with a good business program and equestrian team.