W&L’s Legendary Volunteers: Cynthia Cheatham ’07 James Torbert ’23 interviewed Cynthia Cheatham ’07 to learn more about her dedication to Washington and Lee.
W&L alumni give their time to their alma mater in many ways, including serving as class agents, on reunion committees, as chapter leaders and on advisory boards. This winter, the Development Ambassadors, Annual Giving’s student volunteers, interviewed some of the university’s longtime, high-achieving, legendary volunteers.
James Torbert ’23 interviewed Cynthia Cheatham ’07 to learn more about her dedication to Washington and Lee.
Volunteer Roles: Cheatham is the Washington, D.C. Alumni Chapter president as well as a member of the Shepherd Program Advisory Board, Campaign Council and her 15th reunion committee. She has also served as the Black Alumni Reunion co-chair, a member of Alumni Board and on the Commission on Institutional History.
W&L Background: Cheatham double-majored in politics and Spanish with a concentration in poverty and human capability studies. She was a head resident assistant, a charter member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, sang with a gospel choir and served on the Student-Faculty Hearing Board for ESOL.
Career: Today, Cheatham is the director of industry research and education at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, where she works with advisory committee members and leaders to create programming for the business development and investor community in the biotech industry. She also manages diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. After W&L, she earned an M.A. from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and worked in politics and human rights.
“I have continued to devote my time to W&L because I want to be part of the progress in fostering inclusivity for all students. Through my service, I am helping to enable every student to have the best possible experience at W&L.”
~ Cynthia Cheatham ’07
Q: How did you first get involved in volunteering for W&L as an alumna?
There was never really a time after graduation when I wasn’t involved in some way. My first official role was with the Alumni Board in 2014. I have also supported Black alumni engagement in various ways, from serving on a Black Alumni Working Group to co-chairing Black Alumni Reunions.
Q: What inspired you to become a volunteer?
I have continued to devote my time to W&L because I want to be part of the progress in fostering inclusivity for all students. Through my service, I am helping to enable every student to have the best possible experience at W&L.
Q: What has been your proudest moment as a W&L volunteer?
The 2017 and 2019 Black Alumni Reunion events were successful, and I had advocated for affinity-based alumni reunions. During the 2019 Black Alumni Reunion, many came together to raise money for a Black Alumni Student Experience Fund which provided funding for five students to take advantage of a high-impact learning opportunity outside of the classroom.
I am very proud of that work and what the fund made possible for W&L students.
Q: When were you last on campus?
I was glad to be able to attend the Student Association for Black Unity’s Black FLEX conference in early February.
Q: Why should alumni consider giving their time as a volunteer for W&L?
There are so many opportunities at the university that allow people to find their niche, where they can contribute to something they are passionate about that also helps current students have the best experiences. It is a rewarding experience to watch progress unfold and see the students benefit from all the work that is taking place.