Black Women’s Initiative

By: Brandie Quarles – 3rd year Biology Major and AAS Minor

There are plenty of clubs at the University of Virginia catered to the black community. However, at the end of my first semester, even after going to BSA’s activity fair and reading all of the event emails, I still found myself struggling to find a club I truly felt like I could be myself in. That’s when I got an evite to the first ever meeting of the Black Women’s Initiative (BWI), a new organization aimed at creating a safe space where black women could come together and speak about issues that are pertinent to them. I was instantly interested and RSVP’d immediately. Walking in to that first meeting and seeing all of the beautiful, smiling brown faces looking back at me I knew I had found my place.

I have not missed a BWI meeting since that first one my first year. The intellectual, thought-provoking, soul-healing conversation keeps me coming back every time. Now, as a third year, I am one of the leaders of BWI, helping plan the meetings, keeping people informed about the organization, and helping facilitate the conversation during the actual meetings. 10-15 girls come to the meetings regularly, encouraging a sense of community and comfort during the actual meetings. I find that people are more willing to share their personal experiences if they are around people they know. BWI meetings are also established as a no judgment zone and my fellow leaders and I make a strong effort to make everyone feel like their opinions and experiences matter as much as anybody else’s, even if they are different than the majority.

So far this year we have had a meeting about “Finding and Maintaining Your Identity as a Black Woman at The University Of Virginia,” “Black Women in the Workplace,” and “Black Femininity and Sexuality.” The first meeting, while directed mostly at first years, also allowed upperclassmen to reflect on their time at UVa and give advice to the first years. For our second meeting we invited in black female professors, faculty, and grad students to participate in the conversation about what it means to be a black woman in the workplace. Lastly, during our most recent meeting, a discussion about black femininity and sexuality, we had one of the richest conversations we have ever had with people sharing what it meant to them to be black and feminine in a world that tends to distort black femininity.

Being a part of BWI has reminded me that I am not alone in my experiences as a black woman at this predominantly white school, but it has also taught me how diverse the black women at this school are. BWI has really helped me discover who I am as a black woman and I hope it continues to do so for many years to come. I will end this post like we do all of our meetings, with this quote: “I am enough. I am worthy, just as I am. Once I realize my worth it makes space for a greater appreciation of yours.”Brandie Blog post.jpg


EVENT SPOTLIGHT: Preview of Fall Fling and Fall Blast

Hello everyone! My name is Brandie Quarles and I am a third year Biology major and African American Studies minor here at UVA. Fall Fling and Fall Blast are coming up, compelling me to reflect on when I went to Fall Fling my junior year of high school. Fall Fling is an opportunity for prospective black students and their families to explore the university and to find out more about the culture of the campus. Fall Blast is a similar event geared towards Latino students.

Coming in to Fall Fling my junior year of high school, I already knew a little about the university since I had grown up in the Charlottesville area my whole life, but I was curious to learn more about what the black student experience was like. During the morning sessions, I realized that I didn’t know as much about the general student experience as I thought. Those sessions were helpful in terms of the admissions process, making sure I had a good essay, and ultimately when it came down to my decision on whether or not to come to the university. While those sessions were important, the most memorable part of that day was the lunch with current students. My mom and I really enjoyed getting to hear what UVA is really like for black students straight from a current one. That lunch was both inspiring and practical. I remember the student explaining that yes, there is a minority of us here, but that doesn’t stop us from excelling at our academics and still having a strong black culture.

The discussion that I had with that student was so influential to me and my decision to come to the University of Virginia, it has inspired me to volunteer to be one of those lunch buddies every year since I have been here. I really love getting to clear up any misconceptions about the university and to be honest about what our current situation is. While it may discourage some, I hope that some of the students I talk to decide that it is worth it to come to this university and sometimes be the only person of color sitting in a large lecture hall because ultimately black culture here is strong and this university is one of the best there is.

That being said Fall Blast is on Friday, November 13, 2015 and Fall Fling is on Saturday, November 14, 2015, maybe I’ll see you there!

Faculty Relations and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at UVa

By Diogo Fortes – 1st year Undeclared Major

The transition to college is an awkward period in every first year’s life. You’re put in an environment that is utterly foreign to you, and that is in many ways the polar opposite to high school. You bid farewell not only to the familiarity of the subjects but also to the close relationships between students and teachers in high school. College professors often do not have the opportunity to get to know all of their students, and it’s easy to blend into the crowd and become another name in a sheet of paper. Faculty relations is an important concern for prospective students, as it should be. After all, how approachable and responsive are faculty here at UVa?

Hoping to provide an answer I set out to contact a professor in a department I hadn’t taken classes in, to get their opinion on the matter and get them to provide an overview of what their department might offer to prospective students. I found the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGS) program particularly suitable since it is a field of study very rarely (if at all) offered in high schools, and one many of the readers may be interested or curious about (after all, college is the time to expand your mind). I hence decided to contact Dr. Charlotte Patterson, chair of the WGS department here at UVa; Dr. Patterson is also a professor in the Psychology department, and was kind enough to accept being interview for Hoos Talking.

Dr. Patterson has been involved with the WGS program for many years now, and we got to talk briefly about the department’s history here at the University. The WGS program got started 30 years ago under the name of Women’s Studies, as an interdisciplinary program counting with only one half-time faculty member. In the early 90’s it became known as Studies in Women and Gender and more recently, in recognition of a growing work for diversity, adopted its current name.

Women, Gender and Sexuality is a growing program here at UVa. Since its infancy, Dr. Patterson points out, interest for the major has continually grown. The program enrolled over 1000 students in its classes last year and offers a plethora of extracurricular events both for WGS majors and non-majors. There has been a clear increase in demand, with classes offered often being full and with long wait lists (fret not; classes are offered many times and in ample amount throughout the year). There are now about 75 students majoring in WGS.

You don’t have to be a WGS major to take full advantage of the program, Dr. Patterson adds. One of the programs most outstanding features is its array of events offered to students. The department often organizes movie screenings, panels and speaker events. It department invites eminent social philosophers, feminist writers, awarded filmmakers and celebrities like transgender activist Janet Mock, who attracted more than 200 students to hear her speak last Spring. It organizes events that students express an interest in and ultimately exposes our community here at UVa to new and challenging ideas. As Dr. Patterson concludes, “gathering these viewpoints and integrating them into a solidified, substantiated perspective”, an important part of the college experience for many students. (If you’re still not convinced by that, I forgot to mention that the events offer free food – a commodity no college student in their right mind ever refuses).

Finally, I asked Dr. Patterson how she would describe student-faculty relationships, given her experience teaching at two separate departments. She responded that, in her experience, faculty make a sustained effort to know students, especially those who go to Office Hours. At WGS, the small class sizes offered make it easy for students and faculty to bounce off ideas and really get to know each other both in class and at the multiple events hosted. But while class size is helpful in building that familiarity, that attitude is prevalent amongst most faculty at UVa. When planning the University, Dr. Patterson adds, Thomas Jefferson pictured it as an “academical village”, where students would “live near and run into their professors” regularly. Ultimately, these real relationships would make the learning process easier and classes more interesting.

In my five-week long experience, I can attest that going to Office Hours, asking questions at the end of lecture and being proactive in your relationship to faculty is the way to go. Despite their best effort, faculty will not get to know you if you don’t make a significant effort to get to know them. And that includes not only asking about material covered I class. Ask them about their research, their time at UVa, their professional path; professors are people too (I know, shocking) and most of them enjoy seeing their students succeed and be interested in their area of study. Want to be appreciated as a learner and a human being by faculty? Then learn to appreciate faculty as teachers and people. You’ll be surprised by what you might find.

Review of Spring Fling/Black Alumni Weekend

By Jacob Uskavitch

2nd year – AAS and CHEM Major

Over this past weekend, I further realized the depth of the black community at the University of Virginia. Hosting perspective students during Spring Fling and connecting with graduates at Black Alumni Weekend intertwined the past with the current and future of the student community. While it has been a rough year in regards to everything surrounding grounds, this weekend was well needed in providing discussion and an overall good time with fellow, past, and hopefully future classmates.

For Spring Fling, I volunteered to host two perspective students overnight. I really enjoyed showing these two future hoos around grounds and making sure they had a good time. This was a great opportunity for them to ask questions to current students, to visit classes and dorms, and to figure out what the college experience is like at the University.

From Black Voices having their alumni sing at their concert to mingling with brothers who were initiated into the Iota Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. decades ago, graduates are very involved in the university community and are heavily active in the organizations they were once members as u11038805_10206286233659857_2597341008819131865_ondergraduates. Reaching out to graduates is a common thing when it comes to finding research or job opportunities during the summer or after graduation. Our community fosters that connection.

As this was my first time hosting for Spring Fling and attending Black Alumni Weekend, I look forward to the next time participating in these events.

Food Spotlight: Al Carbon

by Claudia Castaneda

Al Carbon is a restaurant located 5 min driving distance away from the UVa campus. As a Peruvian myself, I am always looking for places to eat some Hispanic food. The place sells a range of food from rotisserie chicken, guacamole, fried plantains, churros, tacos, corn etc. The place is run by a Mexican family, so you can be assured it is more authentic than the generic Mexican restaurant down the street. The chicken is savory and delectable and the plantains are to die for. The best part is finishing the juicy meal with freshly made churros. They have a machine that makes the dough and fries them on the spot. Here is the website!

Make sure to visit when you come to UVa!

Faculty Relations

By Lauryn Washington

At the University of Virginia, the faculty especially the minority faculty are very welcoming and willing to help you in various ways. Building rapport with faculty members is a positive network to have. Faculty can open many doors for you and help you explore your mind further intellectually.

The faculty here at UVA are very engaged with students by attending discussion panels surrounding issues on Grounds and guide students on post graduate career paths. Personally, faculty have helped me work through academic concerns and possible post graduate plans, the faculty at UVA really care about the students’ well-being. The great part about our professors is that you do not have to be in a class with them to drop by their office and discuss anything you want. The faculty challenge you, suggest great classes to take, and support you greatly.

A concern some people may have in the sciences or classes with big lectures is how do I foster a relationship with my professor when there are so many people in the class? Well I would say one of the keys to building a relationship with a professor in that situation is to make sure you stop by office hours every other week, e-mail if you have questions, and make your face known so that the professor will remember you and be more than helpful when you have any issues. I would also be sure to build relationships with more than one faculty member because you can never have too many relationships with faculty. Professors that know you on a personal and academic level will be able to write you letters of recommendation, help you find possible internships, or refer you to someone they know who are in the same field that you want to work in. The faculty here at UVA can offer you many things and you can also offer them one with new perspectives on student life or in academia.

On Leaving Home

By Kayla Vincent

Leaving home and starting anew at college can leave people with mixed emotions.  Some students might ask themselves, “Will I fit in and find new friends? Will I really miss home like people say that I will?  How will I do laundry without my mom’s guidance? Will college really feel like…”home”?  

These and other questions were among those I asked myself before starting my First Year at U. Va.  Luckily, I have been able to answer those questions in my few months here at the University.  Most of college worries center around the theme of home.  Home is much more than a geographic location, – it’s a feeling.  Making the adjustment of leaving your hometown for college can feel like total displacement, but that feeling is resolved much sooner than you would think.  The key is finding your niche at college, which can take time, but it always happens.  You can also cultivate the feeling of home with the friends you create!  I personally, have found my home with my friends at the University.  We gather together and study, go to social events, and even cook family dinners together on the weekends.

Your cultural home can also be cultivated through different organizations here on Grounds.  There are hundreds of organizations at U. Va, that add to the cultural fiber of community here.  Many students question if they will be at home here, simply because they miss a familiar cultural community at home.  Organizations such as B.E.A.T.S. (Black Expression Awareness and Thought Society) engage the community through artistic expression of the minority perspective.  Other organizations include, but are not limited to: Fashion For a Cause, HooRaas at U. Va, Black Voices Gospel Choir, Student Organization of Caribbean Awareness (SOCA), and Latino Student Alliance (LSA).

Home is not always transferrable but it can be found in college, and most importantly, your home is waiting for you at Virginia.  To answer those opening questions, you will find your niche and find friends that support and challenge you. You will most likely miss home and home-cooked meals especially, but the phone can be a great tool of adjustment.  Laundry will be a fun experience of learning that will be catalyzed by the eventual need for clean clothes.  Lastly, college will feel like the home you always wanted, because after all, home is where the heart is.