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Student Leaders Speak

What have students been up to this year? What are they worried about? Six student leaders tell us in their own words.

Honor Committee Chair: Ann Marie McKenzie (Col ’12) 

What’s up with Honor? We’ve been busy pushing new education initiatives and reviewing our adjudicative processes. We have begun investigating student opinion on the Honor System by hosting town hall meetings and will be conducting a comprehensive student survey this semester. As well, the Faculty Senate will distribute questions about Honor on a faculty survey. The committee has discussed several potential legislative changes, discussion I hope to see continue both in the coming months and in future committee terms. Although nothing concrete has been legislated, fruitful discussion on the procedural aspects of Honor as well as the philosophical tenets of our system defined the 2011-12 committee term.

Big student concerns? As the student body expands, I know that many students are concerned with the issues that come with expansion. Everything from construction projects to class sizes to dining hall food are at the front of students’ minds. On the student government front, student leaders are continually looking for ways to connect to a large and diverse student body. One of the challenges of an expansion is the ability for organizations like the Honor Committee to adequately represent and reflect the needs of the student body. The logistics of self-governing the student body as it expands are something many student leaders think about.

The student experience? The student experience is what makes UVA unique. Alumni would be pleasantly surprised to hear that many facets of the student experience have not drastically changed. Time spent outside of the classroom is as productive for most students as time spent inside the classroom. The same fundamental organizations that students ran 30 years ago are still student-run. The number of student organizations has grown substantially and continues to expand as the student body diversifies and new interests come to Grounds. Now more than ever, undergraduates are heavily involved in independent research projects outside of the classroom. Leisure time is still spent on the Lawn and the Corner, and students are more active now than ever in volunteer activities.

What’s next for you? It has been a privilege to serve my peers and the University in this capacity and I am looking forward to continue serving others in the nonprofit/nongovernmental organization field.

President of the Student Council: Dan Morrison (Com ’12)

What’s up with Student Council? We’ve been up to great initiatives this year in just about every realm of student life, and that’s largely because we have been able to revamp our process using new technology. This year—more than ever before—we have been able to listen to the heartbeat of the student body and act on it. is a site the Student Council Representative Body uses to check in with its constituents. Students can post an idea they want to see happen and students can show support by voting on them. The posts that rise to the top go to representatives for action by Student Council. Amazingly, on top of our normal workload, we have completed an extra 100+ projects that have come directly from the student body.

Additionally, using Google’s survey tools, we have been able to survey the entire student body a number of times to solicit feedback on current projects. With thousands of responses, we adjust our trajectory and spending to ensure we tailor our events to what students want.

I’m proud to say that we’ve upgraded Council for a new decade. By using tools like these, we have a real chance to empower students to engage the government they elected.

As a member of the Student Council, I’ve had the opportunity to see how other universities run their leadership experience, and, to be frank, I’ve often found it pretty regimented and limiting. Groups have faculty advisers. Administrative tasks are handled by salaried employees. Approval is needed from multiple levels. That has never been the case here.

I have been impressed time and again at the free rein given to student leaders at UVA. The administration truly believes in the value of student self-governance and how it matures a student body. By taking the training wheels off, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to succeed in ways I never thought possible. On the other hand, I’ve also seen my projects crash and burn a few times. In both cases, however, I learned infinitely more because I was given the keys to the car, if you will.

Big student concerns? You’ve heard the adage: “It’s the economy, stupid.” A UVA degree is one of the best in the world, but the economy is hurting job prospects for many of our graduates. More people are enrolling in the Batten School and the McIntire Masters in Commerce Program in order to buff up their credentials. Others are headed to law school or into Ph.D. programs. It’s never looked like a better time to be a student—at least until the market improves.

What’s next for you? Like many UVA grads, I will be working in D.C. next year and living with some of my closest college friends. I love the project management work I have done in Student Council and would love to bring that experience to my own business. My time at McIntire has exposed me to a number of entrepreneurial ideas I’m hoping to follow up on outside my day job. Time will tell which ones spark and which ones fail—but life wouldn’t be fun if I already knew.

Former Cavalier Daily Editor-in-Chief: Jason Ally (Col ’12) 

What’s up with the Cavalier Daily? The paper has been doing what it does best: reporting news that affects the University community. That in itself is quite the challenge. People who aren’t a part of the paper may not realize how many things have to happen before a paper gets printed every day. Articles have to be written and edited by several people, pages have to be designed, pictures have to be taken, graphics have to be drawn—you get the idea.

One of the most trying times of my editorship was last fall when the paper’s managing board was brought up on University Judiciary Committee charges for allegedly breaching the confidentiality of an Honor Committee investigation by reporting on a plagiarism incident that occurred at the paper. For six weeks the board members had to deal with a judicial proceeding we felt should never have happened, on top of running a daily newspaper and being full-time students. The story had a positive outcome in that the managing board was cleared of wrongdoing, but at the time it was a situation none of us wanted to be in.

The paper’s biggest challenge is staying viable, both financially and in terms of content. My managing board started a conversation with staff members and alumni about how to keep the paper’s finances stable. I look forward to continue contributing to that process even though I’m no longer editor-in-chief. The staff is also in the process of redesigning the paper’s website. When that launches later this year the staff will be able to provide more online content to readers in a timelier manner.

I’m frequently impressed by the level of interest my peers exhibit regarding issues at local, national and even international levels. More often than not these issues have a link back to the University, too, whether it’s discussing income inequality in Charlottesville, the direction of the U.S. economy and the job market, or what community members can do to build a more sustainable future.

Big student concerns? By many accounts, UVA is one of the nation’s best colleges in terms of value, but that doesn’t mean tuition and fees are cheap. I know plenty of students who must rely on financial aid or work to help make ends meet. UVA students are busier than ever, so balancing school and other commitments continues to be a challenge.

What’s next for you? Editing the paper provided me with opportunities to gain real-world experience, take risks and learn from my mistakes. I know my experiences at UVA will prove useful regardless of where I end up.

President of the Black Student Alliance: Sarajanee Davis (Col ’12)

What’s up with the Black Student Alliance? We’ve had a busy fall semester, and we are already in the midst of a spring semester full of activity. Last semester, we sought to help matriculating students acclimate to the University through resource fairs as well as networking and fellowship events. Some of our biggest moments came during Black Culture Week, a series of events that foster awareness of the cultural and political experiences of African Americans. This fall we were able to bring the creator and lead actress of the hit web series Awkward Black Girl to Grounds. While we have received tremendous support from several offices on Grounds, one of our biggest challenges has been securing consistent funding to execute our innovative vision and fulfill our organizational mission.

This spring, we’ll have Black History month forums, an awards dinner, the Ladies Cocktail Soiree and Black Men’s Breakfast, as well as a leadership award ceremony to recognize local high school seniors. Our goals for this semester are to continue to facilitate unity in the black community, strengthen bonds across the University and to bridge gaps with the Charlottesville community.

Big student concerns? I believe that many students are concerned with using our position, influence and resources to help others. Locally, many students are concerned with fostering a true community of caring for all by pushing our University to enact a living wage for all direct and indirect University employees. Overall, I think that students are really just concerned about applying the lessons we learn in the classroom to the real world.

The University, to our benefit, has a diverse population and a wealth of accessible resources. We have more opportunities to interact with people from various backgrounds as well as opportunities to enhance our learning experience by studying and serving abroad. I’ve had the opportunity to expand my worldview in St. Kitts, London and Berlin.

What’s next for you? I’ll take the skills and lessons I’ve acquired over the last four years and apply them in the classroom as a Teach For America corps member in Miami, Fla.

Student Representative on the Board of Visitors: Jonathan Overdevest (Grad ’09, ’11, Med ’12)

What’s up with Board of Visitors? Walking into the first Board of Visitors meeting and being surrounded by such accomplished individuals was an intimidating experience. My anxieties were soon set at ease by a universally warm welcome from the current members of the Board and administration. The general respect and passion for the University shared by everyone in the room served as a unifying force.

As the student representative, I initially felt a pressure to generate a number of innovative ideas and solutions to issues facing the student body. What I found most rewarding, however, was using my position as an opportunity to listen to the concerns of my fellow students while serving as a liaison to the board. The role of a leader is not necessarily to push an agenda, but to amplify the voice and wise recommendations of his or her peers.

Two focal issues that we will continue to discuss in the coming months are strategies for ensuring the sustainability of AccessUVA in the midst of an economically challenging climate and mapping the future development of the Medical Center to better serve an expanding patient population. Both of these discussions promise to be quite exciting due to the impact they have on our community.

Big graduate student concerns? Faculty retention and renewal. Graduate students work closely with faculty members who are our mentors and role models. Having our faculty filled with preeminent scholars allows us to collaborate on high-impact projects that will serve as the foundation of our careers. These faculty members have not had salary or benefit increases to the extent that we would like, especially in a manner that demonstrates our commitment to the individuals that shape the world class education that UVA students receive. We also need to strike a balance in the composition of our faculty—where we are providing for our current leaders as well as providing a path for future stars.

There is also pressure to keep tuition fees manageable, while not jeopardizing the quality of the education. Differential tuition at McIntire has been exercised as one option; we will have to wait and see if this is a tactic that is applicable to other schools and training programs at the University.

Students enrolled in graduate and professional studies—law and medicine—make up slightly less than one-third of the student population at UVA, a proportion that has not drastically changed since the mid-’80s. Interestingly, professional school enrollment has remained essentially the same since the late-’70s. Undergraduate enrollment is poised to increase by approximately 1,400 students by 2018 as a result of recent legislation from the Commonwealth. This shift in population dynamics will represent an expanded mentorship role and increased teaching responsibilities for a more close-knit group of graduate students and faculty.

What next for you? My wife, Katie, and I will be embarking on our journey through surgical residency in the field of otolaryngology—head and neck surgery.

President of the 2012 Class Trustees: Nancy Park (Com ’12)

What’s up with the 2012 Class Trustees? We’ve been busy making this the best year ever for our classmates. We kicked it off with a big class dinner on the Lawn. We held a Fall Career Focus Series, a wine tasting, Oktoberfest and Coffee Around Grounds for Fourth-Years. Fourth-Year Trustees spearheaded the 11th Annual Lighting of the Lawn, an event that brings University students, faculty and the Charlottesville community together to enjoy the illumination of the Rotunda and the buildings on the Lawn.

In the midst of all the fun events, our Class Giving committee is constantly encouraging our classmates to give back to the University that has given so much to us. Their hard work is paying off. By January, a whopping 21 percent of our class has participated, the highest percentage compared to prior fall semesters.

In the coming months, we’ll be holding career seminars, the Fourth-Year Recognition Dinner at the Rotunda and Fourth-Year Prom. Our Final Exercises committee is working hard to cap our University experience with a fantastic graduation weekend.

Having the chance to serve my class and other areas of the University as a student leader has been enriching and challenging. The University trusted me to make decisions for the Class of 2012 that involve thousands of dollars and even more importantly, a creation of a class identity.

Big student concerns? As fourth-years, we are anxiously planning our next move. Many of us are interviewing for full-time jobs and internships, studying for graduate school tests and spending the rest of our time soul-searching. On a brighter note, we are greatly enjoying and celebrating the successes of UVA athletics, especially football and basketball. Student attendance at games this year was at the highest point during my four years. I think we are all eager to see what our athletics teams will look like a few years down the road.

What’s next for you? I will graduate very different than I was four years ago. I have a greater confidence in my ability to contribute to the community, an instinctive knowledge about connecting with diverse audiences and a respect for different leadership styles. I plan to incorporate all of these things as I enter my job next year at Deloitte Consulting and also use them to engage in my new community in the D.C. Metro area.