Recent grads reflect VCU’s commitment to equity, inclusion and service
(stories excerpted from VCU News)
Ingrained in VCU’s mission are the core values of service, diversity, equity and inclusion. These values have been reiterated many times through VCU’s strategic plans and they form the basis of the specific charge of the Office of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success (IES).
These values are not just empty words: VCU students have embraced them and their outstanding achievements reflect the positive impacts these students have already had in the world. The recent series of stories in VCU News is a showcase of some of our stand-out graduates that embody the values we work to reinforce.
Luci Harris is graduating from the School of World Studies in the College of Humanities. While she was originally focusing on the intersection of politics and theater in her work and research, a service-learning class changed her trajectory.
“[S]ervice-learning allowed me to work directly with Latino communities in Richmond,” Harris said. “I was able to volunteer at cultural events that highlighted Puerto Rican culture in Richmond.” Harris’s professor, Anita Nadal, encouraged her to pursue opportunities in her own community.”
Harris also earned a Baldacci Student Experiential Learning Fund grant allowing her to work as a legal intern with Ayuda, a nonprofit in Northern Virginia that provides legal, social and language services to help low-income immigrants. All of this experience helped her soliday her decision to pursue law school upon graduation.
Winfred Walker aims to help create a more racially just society through his work in the community and his research. Graduating with double majors in African American studies and psychology, Walker’s research centers on the portrayal of Black characters in comics, and how those portrayals have historically relied on stereotypes and tropes.
His impact will be felt at VCU for years to come thanks to his significant contribution to the work of the Committee on Racial Equity Student Advisory Group, or CORE SAG. The group set out to address systemic oppression and promote equality in VCU’s curriculum by advocating for the creation of a mandatory course on racial literacy. While not mandatory, the course, “Race and Racism in America,” will be offered this spring.
“All of the AFAM professors I’ve had during years here have taught me firsthand the importance of standing up for what you believe in as well as tapping into your own personal power to make a change,” Walker said.
During her time at VCU, Estefania de la Rosa co-founded the UndocuRams student organization to advocate for undocumented students at VCU. As part of her work, she led training for educators and students called UndocuAlly about how K-12 school personnel can support undocumented students and their families. De la Rosa graduated with a master of teaching degree from the Early Elementary Education program in the School of Education and she has been aware during her entire college career that it could be interrupted at any time.
“DACA is something that’s always coming up, always being debated, so it’s something that I’ve had to think about a lot,” de la Rosa said. “When I chose my classes or thought about the profession that I wanted to go into, I’ve always known that it’s possible I wouldn’t be able to finish college — that I’d be stopped because of these outside factors.”
De la Rose said that, with UndocuRams, “we wanted to help create [an] environment at VCU where undocumented students can feel like they can be just as much a part of this community as anyone else. We want a community on campus where everyone feels included.”