Student Spotlight: Mariam Gbadamosi

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Name: Mariam Gbadamosi

Hometown: New Castle, Delaware

High School: The Charter School of Wilmington

Year at UVA: 2nd year

Major/Department: Undeclared; Prospective Human Biology

Involvement at UVA (ie., organizations, research, study aboard, service)

  1. Office of African American Affairs Peer Adviser
  2. Peer Health Educator
  3. OSAC Advisory Board
  4. I am a research assistant working with a sociology professor on a project investigating how student relationships impact sexual assault on college campuses.
  5. UVA in Costa Rica summer study abroad to complete my spanish language requirement

If there was one thing you wish someone had told you during the college admission process, what would that have been?

I wish that someone would have told me that everything is going to work out, so I should enjoy my senior year and not stress too much. There are so many moving parts in the admissions process that you can’t control, and you should not focus on those parts. You can only control yourself and what you do, so you should focus on doing the best that you can and let the chips fall where they may.

Why did you decide to come to the University of Virginia?

I decided to come to UVA after I visited for the first time during Days on the Lawn. After that day, I could imagine myself succeeding here academically and socially. Most of all, I just had the feeling that this was the place that I wanted to be for the next 4 years. I am an out of state student, so I had some anxiety about moving far away from home, but I knew that the opportunities here were worth it.

Share with us your thoughts/feelings about diversity at the University of Virginia.

I think may minority groups are underrepresented at the University, and this is a big problem for representation. It’s hard to succeed in a place where you don’t always see people that look like you. That being said, the minority communities here are strong and tightly knit. There are many organizations that provide resources and a strong support network for students and make you feel like they really care about your experience academically, socially, and mentally.

Mariam Gbadamosi, College of Arts and Sciences, Class of 2020, mg2xn@virginia.edu

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BSA at UVA

In 1969, black students at UVA came together to form an organization that they would be able to call their own. From this, the Black Student Alliance (BSA) was formed. The main purpose of the organization was to articulate the voices and concerns of the black student population. Since it’s founding, the number of black CIOs on grounds has tremendously increased. The Black Student Alliance was even the trailblazer that pushed to establish the Office of African American Affairs in 1976. A large chunk of the black history at the University of Virginia lies with the Black Student Alliance.

This past year I held the position of Vice President of the Black Student Alliance. Being a Second Year, it was extremely intimidating to take on a position of so much power in an organization that has so much history and influence. As I look at the experience, I honestly couldn’t say that I would have chosen any differently than to run for Vice President at the end of my first year. BSA has really put in the extra effort and work that the university needed. Our first major accomplishment was our participation in the National Die-In for police brutality. Dozens of students assembled in front of Old Cabell Hall facing the Rotunda in solidarity with the numerous lives lost to police brutality. Some students even felt led to share their personal feelings and concerns. The next huge trial for this past school year was the writing of the n-word on certain doors in a first year residence hall. This was something that really took the entire black community by shock and left numerous individuals speechless. From this incident, BSA took a stand and created a “Dorm Talk” initiative where we visit different dorms and present a short presentation on implicit bias and the black experience at UVA. These dorm talks even extended to other groups across grounds besides just dorms. We’ve organized a Teach In to educate professors of not only the black experience at UVA, but the minority experience as whole. We also planned numerous events around the 2016 Presidential Election and aided with the Minority Right Coalition in it’s Eliminate the Hate campaign.

Although last year seemed to be very politically charged, we still seemed to make sure that we were still taking care of the needs of our constituents. The first ever Activity Hour was co-sponsored with the NAACP as UVa as well as the National Pan-Hellenic Council. Over winter break we held our annual Emerging Leaders retreat for first & second year black students that want to hone in on and cultivate their leadership skills. 2017 has also been the third year since our revival of the Black Ball, a tradition African American students of the past at the University started as a way for them to celebrate being in the company of one another. I have seen the black community truly come together this year whether it be activism or just plain fun.

Being apart of BSA has truly made my experience at the University worthwhile. Prior to attending the University, I never would’ve imagine the immense level of greatness I have joined by being a part of the black community at UVA. There is not one specific “type of black person,” just like there is not one specific “type of UVA student.” I believe that the Black Student Alliance has done and will continue to do it’s fair share to bring together black students and assist them on their journey to tackle both the University of Virginia and beyond.

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Cameron Stokes, College of Arts and Science, Class of 2019, Youth & Social Innovation and Psychology, cs4ng@virginia.edu

Student Spotlight: Amare Osei

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Name: Amare Osei

Hometown: Chesterfield, Virginia

High School: Mathematics and Science High School at Clover Hill

Year at UVA: 2nd year

Major: Undeclared–thinking about cognitive science with a concentration in neuroscience on the pre-med track

Involvement at UVA: Daniel Hale Williams Pre-Medical Society; Student Organization for Caribbean Awareness (SOCA); Black Student Alliance, Academic and Career Development Committee

If there was one thing you wish someone had told you during the college admission process, what would that have been?

Being yourself is the most important thing when it comes to applying to colleges. Of course, scores will matter, but at the end of the day these numbers don’t define you in any way, shape, or form. Do not let anyone tell you that you have no shot at getting into a university because your scores may not be at the high end of the spectrum! Expressing yourself through your application essays is what really sets you apart from other applicants, and gives colleges the chance to connect with you.

Why did you decide to come to the University of Virginia?

I know this is cliché but I fell in love with UVA as soon as I stepped foot on grounds. I think what attracted me was seeing how lively it was here; there was a certain buzz in the air that made me feel like this was somewhere I wanted to be.  I was also in awe at how academic it was here. It just seemed to me as if I would be learning in such an intellectually stimulating environment. Other than this, UVA really checked all my boxes in terms of distance from home, population size, and level of rigor. After I got back my college acceptance letters, it was an easy decision.

Share with us your thoughts/feelings about diversity at the University of Virginia.

While I do wish that UVA was more diverse, I believe that there truly is a place for everyone here. We have tons of multicultural organizations here on grounds, and although it may take some time, everyone finds a community in which they feel comfortable.

I say I want more diversity, but at the same time, UVA is the most diverse environment I have personally been a part of. I have gotten to learn from so many people about different cultures and lifestyles, and I’m very appreciative of that.

I’m a black student at the University of Virginia. What I found when I went back Sunday

 

And here is more about what the University of Virginia is doing to keep students safe:

Regarding student safety, a good place to start is by remembering to “take three” minutes to review the safety placard posted in each classroom on your first day.  Also, yesterday’s UVA Today article, Seven Resources to Help Students Stay Safe at UVA, catalogs important safety resources.

Timeline of statements: https://alumni.virginia.edu/charlottesville-violence-aug-11-12-2017/

Letter to the Incoming class: https://news.virginia.edu/content/open-letter-class-2021-uva-black-alumni

 

 

From My Perspective

Admittedly, a love for the University of Virginia was somewhat indoctrinated in me as a result of my parents love for their alma-mater; however, as I began to consider UVA beyond the experience of sporting events and alumni receptions, I was most excited by the opportunity to create my own story at the University. In addition to the many traditions, experiences and qualities that make UVA unique, one of the things I have most appreciated about my experience at the University thus far is the academic opportunities and support that exist. Coming to this large Virginia state school from a very small private school in Massachusetts, I was definitely interested in recreating the impactful personal relationships that I benefited from in high school. I worried about how to make myself known in classes of 150 students, how to approach my professors for help and how to create long lasting relationships out of classes that lasted only a semester.

From our first moments on grounds as participants in orientation, our Associate Deans and Program advisors made themselves available as valuable resources as I began to navigate my way through class selection, fulfilling area requirements and determining my major at the University. First semester, I found myself in an African-American Art History course taught by Professor Carmenita Higginbotham. Knowing absolutely nothing about Art History, I considered this class to be a complete gamble. I came to the University with intentions of applying to the Batten School or majoring in Politics given my long lasting interest in social justice and global human rights policies. Professor Higginbotham revealed to us a completely new way of studying the history of African Americans in the US through the consideration of numerous remarkable and engaging paintings, sculptures and photographs that are often lost in history due to context and time period in which they were completed. I was surprised by way in which this course incorporated my interest in social justice given the ability to consider the struggle and triumph of black Americans through its portrayal in artistic expression. This class sparked for me a strong interest in the study of Art History, something that I had never even considered. The following semester, I took another course with Professor Higginbotham; at the completion of that course, I was officially confused.

I entered into panic mode (a first year college student experiencing uncertainty in the future of their academic pursuits #terrifying). One of the greatest sources of support and guidance in this situation came from my Program Advisor, Professor Theresa Davis, also known as Lady T. She encouraged me to explore the ways in which an Art History major incorporates into my larger interests in the study of culture. As I delved deeper into this interest, I began to see the ways in which the study of Art History correlates strongly with same qualities of Politics that I initially sparked my interest. For that reason, I have decided to double major in Art History and Foreign Affairs and minor in Spanish (I am still utilizing the many advising, career office and academic resources that exist to determine a career path with this medley of study but I feel confident that they will cultivate into an interesting profession.)

Lady T has been an integral part of my experience at the University. As an African American student, I felt extremely blessed to have an African American Advisor. Lady T approaches both teaching and advising with a considerable amount of passion and thoughtfulness. She brightens a room and brings positive energy to every situation encouraging participation, risk taking and openness. In addition to interacting with her as my advisor, I had the opportunity to get to know her in a different context given her role as a leadership presence in Black Voices: a gospel choir on grounds and one of the first organizations with which I got involved at the University. Creating a strong personal and spiritual bond with one a professors early on in my experience, allowed me to feel extremely comfortable and supported in my academic and extracurricular pursuits.

Lady T represents one of many influential African-American faculty members at the University. Within the Office of African American Affairs there are a number of deans who go out of their way to form meaningful relationships with students and act as sounding boards and voices of reason in moments of uncertainty and transition. Dean Mason works closely with black students who participate in the Peer Advisor program and Dean Basset, though I have not had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with her has provided me with a number of unique opportunities including a trip to hear Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor speak in Washington DC. Additionally the office of OAAA hosts a number of events including Black Friday (free food for African American students on Friday afternoons!! and ceremonies to welcome first year African American students and honor the accomplishments of students.

Given my experience as a student thus far, I can truly say that the opportunities and resources that exist for all students but in particular black students at the University of Virginia contribute strongly to creating the personal and supportive atmosphere that I initially sought in a college experience and I believe it has contributed greatly to my success and happiness here as a student.gabby stanfield

Gabrielle Stanfield, College of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2019, Foreign Affairs and Art History, ges3dg@virginia.edu

 

My UVA

The majority of current and future college students have probably heard the phrase “college is nothing like high school” countless times, and of course those words of advice are correct!!!

For some of us, college is our first chance to act as independent adults and establish ourselves in the real world beyond the confines of our high school campuses. Some people’s method of attaining a fulfilling experience at college is different from others, but all in all, we find a way to make the college experience work for our individual tastes and interests.

As a first semester student here at UVA, I was slightly overwhelmed by the number of new choices I felt as though I had to make for my future and by the vast variety of opportunities offered to me at UVA. I had to learn (rather quickly) that yes, UVA is a difficult institution academically speaking, and there will be times – unlike in high school – where I would not achieve the same level of academic success as I once did. And it is not because I am not smart or any less deserving to be here than others, but simply because that is the level of rigor UVA holds itself to in order to challenge students to become better academically, better learners, and overall better people.

UVA has its fair share of difficulties and shortcomings (as does any other college institution), but I can say that UVA has one of the most tightly-knit communities made from people of various backgrounds that I have ever seen. I have made friends simply from striking up random conversations on topics a lot of UVA residents are openly willing to discuss and talk about in a safe environment. I am now able to openly support many groups and speak up against injustices that I was hesitant to talk about before out of fear of backlash. In all, I try to not let a few bad apples ruin my experience of  UVA’s progressive culture and amazing support system.

It has taken a couple of weeks to come to this conclusion, but I finally feel as though UVA is genuinely where I belong and I would not trade such a feeling for anything in the world (with a few exceptions like world peace and an end to world hunger among other global changes…. but you get the point)!

Good Luck Hoos!!

Mya Singleton, College of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2020, Pre-Medicine, mcs9eu@virginia.edu

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Reflection on Diversity & Culture on Grounds

Four years ago, I received my acceptance letter to attend the University of Virginia. It was the middle of January and I just returned inside with my envelope in hand. Standing in our hallway, I opened and read “Congratulations on your acceptance into…”. “Mom!” “What is it?”, she says as she walks from the kitchen. “I just got into UVA!” ‘Til this day, I can still remember the warmth of that embrace hugging my mom in joy. Fast forward to now, the only thing I regret in regards to UVA was not accepting earlier.

My reasoning on coming is rather simple. The colleges I was considering were similarly academically rigorous with good reputations. The deciding factor was campus climate. It was late in my high school’s spring break, and yet it was snowing for my Days on the Lawn visit. However, the current students were merrily going to class amidst freezing temperatures. This sold Grounds to me. During orientation, I met Dean Bassett and Dean Grimes working the booth for the Office of African American Affairs’s (OAAA) Peer Advisor Program. They confirmed that UVA was the place for me.

Being a predominantly white institution, the University is a possibility of what minority students will face entering the post-college world. From the black student community, there can be instances that indicate UVA is not the place for us. These instances include racial slurs uttered on Rugby Road and written on first-year dorm walls, being viewed as suspects by our peers and profiled by Alcohol and Beverage Control agents, and being one of a few black students in a sea of large lecture hall whiteness. Being a Chemistry and African-American & African Studies double major, this disparity in class profiles was personally apparent. My day could go from CHEM 402, learning intro chemistry and not knowing the other few black students, to New Cabell 485, discussing the global effects of blackness with a mostly black class.

However disheartening this may seem, this particular issue can be solved rather quickly, and was solved for me. The understanding that working together will help us succeed overcomes slightly knowing each other. Black pre-medical students aren’t required to be in my CHEM major specific classes. Last semester, I barely knew one of the other black students in my Biochemistry lecture, but by the second class we exchanged contact information and knew that we could reach out to each other in understanding the material. Despite being a medium-to-large sized school, the University really becomes quite small. I can walk around Grounds and always small talk with at least one familiar face going to class, the dining hall, or library. This tightly-knit community has become my home in Charlottesville.

Without the Peer Advisor Program, my post would not be the one you are reading right now. A Resident Advisor in my first-year dorm was a peer advisor, and I owe it to that big brother relationship, walking me to OAAA, and now my best friend for my adjustment to Grounds. From there, I branched out leading the return of Black Ball, working with the Black Male Initiative, and joining the Iota Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. From these involvements, my acquired leadership skills have prepared me for my career while gaining lifelong friends.

If we are going to improve the diversity and culture at UVa, it really starts with the Class of 2021. We recognize the small percentage of current black students, but we also need to counteract prospective black students turning down their admittance. Reach out to me or any other student you know here. Gain a fuller perspective of the University from learning about the lived experiences of others. These four years really do go by swiftly. Cherish those precious moments. Have the struggles challenge you to improve, and you will find your place at UVA. When you do, live it to the fullest.

Jacob Uskavitch, College of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2017, African American Studies and Chemistry Major (Pre-Medicine concentration), jru2hb@virginia.edu

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