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College of Humanities & Sciences

Department of African American Studies

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Black History in the Making Awards

The Black History in the Making Awards were founded in 1983 by Dr. Daryl Dance, the distinguished scholar of African American and Caribbean literature, who served as program coordinator during the 1983-84 academic year. Dr. Dance established the Black History in the Making Awards to recognize the achievements of African American students.

In 1983, Dr. Dance invited academic units and organizations to “recognize a student who has made an important contribution.” The nominating units established criteria for selecting recipients. Since 1983, more than 550 students have been recognized by more than 50 departments and organizations. Nominees generally have stellar academic records, a history of community service and intern, professional or work experiences that place them at the forefront of their careers.

In 2019, the department introduced a separate award for junior faculty (particularly term faculty), staff and university and academic professionals. For more information about the selection process and the role departments play in honoring their recipients, please view the section below titled "Selection Process."

Awards Ceremony

Due to the limitations on in-person gatherings, we have decided to honor the recipients virtually in 2021. African American Studies faculty have created a video to honor the 2021 receipients.


Please contact Dae Newman at or (804) 828-1371.

2021 Recipients

Safia A. Abdulahi

Safia A. Abdulahi [View Image]

Safia is a Political Science major with a Civil Rights concentration and an Honors student. At VCU, she has been a member of the Ethiopian Student Union., and a writer for Her Campus online magazine. Her community work has been extensive. She has worked as an intern for US House of Representatives candidate Moran Harper, and as Co-Chair of the Rose City Foundation of Columbus, Ohio, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing assistance to area families in need. In February of 2020, on her own initiative, Safia created a Black Youth Art Festival. She found the venue, the artists/poets to perform, and guest lecturers who spoke about their experiences of being people of color. When people have asked her what the purpose of creating this event was and she often responded that its sole purpose was to allow the creative people of color to connect and network. She believes that the event did just that, and many people continue to contact her to thank her. Her favorite volunteer opportunities consist of working with Habitat for Humanity and local food bank/homeless shelters. She has spent many years working with children and education in general and found it to be very rewarding. Her dream profession is to work with criminal justice reform and social justice reform.

Malik A. Afrifa

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Malik Afrifa is currently a senior majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry on a pre-MD/Ph.D. track. Over the past few years at VCU, he has tried to make a difference or impact on the community. His activities include volunteering within the Richmond community and VCU medical center, including tutoring and mentoring at local schools such as Binford Middle School and Open High School and helping clean up the community through cemetery clean-up, meal distribution, and trash-up. While being at VCU, he has held many leadership roles, including Ram Camp leader, President of the Nation Honor Society, Secretary of the Theta Rho Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., and Community Head of Men of Color. With these roles, he was was able to impact the VCU community on a larger scale which was a great success. Over the next year, he will be applying to MD/Ph.D. programs, with plans to earn his MD in Neurosurgery and Ph.D. in Neuroscience.

Julia A. Anderson

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Julia A. Anderson is a student in the School of World Studies who excels at Spanish and has a strong GPA. Her faculty were pleased to take this opportunity to recognize her accomplishments in Spanish. She is a second-year student majoring in Marketing with a Spanish minor.

Rhode Baptiste

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Rhode Baptiste is a second year MFA student in VCU's School of Arts' Interior Design department. She is also a registered nurse, certified in pediatric nursing. She currently works part time at VCU's Children's Hospital. She obtained my Bachelor's in Nursing at the University of Virginia, and after working for a couple of years, went back to obtain her Master's, also at UVA, in Public Health Nursing Leadership. She is originally from Haiti, but moved to Stamford, CT, just before her 10th birthday. She says, "I have had a passion to advocate for others, especially those in vulnerable populations, for as long as I can remember! The joy I find in caring for others as a nurse, I also find in design. I believe that interior designers have incredible opportunities to better the human condition, by serving as health and wellness advocates for people, through their work. I am thrilled to be pursuing a career in interior design after working in health care. My world keeps expanding! I am grateful for it all, and look forward to the many adventures ahead!"

Roberto Ventura, Chair of the Department of Interior Design, shared the following: "Rhode Baptiste is an amazing person and is effectively translating the values and standards of care that she developed as a nurse into her work as an interior designer. Her strong commitment to her work leads her to the conventions of interior design. Her love and caring for other people leads her to her passion for interior design. Her humor and impishness humanize her every action.

Rhode is always professional and exceeds expectations in her work. She has a very specific design focus on healthcare and she has managed a great balance of still working in healthcare while in school and incorporating those experiences into her school work. Her work shows dedication and professionalism."

Angela Bartee

Angela Bartee, CFRE, was recommended for the Black History in the Making award because her interest in helping others far exceeds her role as Assistant Director of Development for VCU School of Business. She has been a positive, uplifting force for students, staff, alumni/ae, and many others. While Angela's volunteer experience is extensive, it is her professionalism and commitment to education and access that are most admirable. Recently Angela earned the designation of Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), a fantastic accomplishment. Her nominator wrote that it is a privilege to work with and learn from Angela.

Cieara Battle

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Cieara Battle is a first year Graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University, majoring in Social Work with a clinical specialization. By pursuing her Master’s in Social Work, she hopes to become a change agent within her community and be able to help others just like countless people has helped her throughout life. Currently, she is interning at Greater Richmond Fit4Kids. This organization was established to improve children’s health and wellness though physical & healthy eating while exploring the level of stress & trauma our target children and families are experiencing. Within this agency she works directly with the Game On Girl program where she leads a weekly group of middle school girls through interactive and empowered activities that focus on well-being and self-empowerment. Even though Cieara has had some obstacles along the way she always strives to be excellent. She has a passion for uplifting women and children while giving them the needed tools and resources to be able to advocate for themselves. Sisterhood and service is at the core of what motivates Cieara’s success and in April of 2018, she became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. Since, joining this wonderful sorority Cieara has been able to partner and collaborate with countless community agencies to bring awareness to women’s health and childhood obesity and nutrition.

Talia (Lia) Bazemore

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Talia L. Bazemore is the recipient of the W. E. B. Du Bois Award for Excellence in History. This award is granted by faculty nomination and rigorous evaluation by the Scholarships and Awards Committee of the Department of History. Ms. Bazemore ranks among the very best of the previous recipients of this award, several of whom would go onto to Ph.D. programs and law schools at prestigious universities. A History major with a minor in Media Studies, Ms. Bazemore has maintained a 4.0 GPA while enrolling in some of the History Department's most rigorous courses taught by demanding professors. Consistently meeting these challenges, she is considered a fierce researcher and an exceptional, historically-minded scholar, who excels in crafting arguments supported by thorough discovery and analysis of evidence. This combination of talent and determination is greatly enhanced by her impressive writing. Moreover, she displays that rare quality of relentless pursuit of personal and intellectual improvement. Ms. Bazemore is the kind of outstanding student that the History Department would like to see pursue the discipline at the professional level.

JaVonne Bowles

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JaVonne is an adamant believer in the healing powers that each individual possesses. This belief is currently being fulfilled in her work as a Community Advocate with Virginia Community Voice, a local non-profit. Their visions align in serving residents of the commonwealth in making equitable decisions. JaVonne has always believed in taking holistic measures to maintain a sustainable lifestyle. To name a few of her accomplishments in supporting holisticity you can look at her work in teaching the practical skills of hatha yoga and meditation, contributing hours to local community gardens, and helping to establish a non-profit that teaches students interpersonal skills through the game of chess. Her education exhibits how interdisciplinary scholars make the most of their resources available to craft unique solutions to personal and societal issues. A subject that really gets her fired up is healing our nation of systemically racist principles through transformative justice practices that uplift and honor commonly marginalized voices. She finds it nurturing to balance this passion with soulful conversations between herself and allies. Such conversations are often enjoyed over culturally diverse meals and interacting with nature. JaVonne chooses to live her best life by staying purposefully engaged in all ways.

Daisah Boyd

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Daisah Boyd, who is a student double-majoring in Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies and English, brings a serious and studious perspective to her studies while also being committed to her own creativity and personality. Her deep-dive into Black feminist responses to cinema and popular culture are purely enjoyable to read, and Dr. Liz Canfield loved having her in two of her classes in a calendar year. She says, "When I read Daisah’s work, I see a future in her publishing and becoming an important critic."

Tamela Brandenberg

Dr. Carolyn Watts of the Department of Health Administration shared: "Tamela is a young woman on the move. As a second year MHA student in the Department of Health Administration, she has already begun to make her mark in her academic program and the field of health care.

Ms. Brandenberg came to VCU with a BS degree in Community Health Education from San Francisco State University. Her commitment to improving community health was already evident. As an undergraduate, she was an RA for a tobacco control and education project doing field work, and she served as a Peer Health Exchange volunteer. Following graduation, she spent a year in Chiba, Japan, as an English language tutor, then returned to California to spend several years engaged in a variety of health education activities as a program coordinator and research assistant.

Since arriving in Richmond to study health administration, she has served as the program assistant for the regional chapter of the American College of Health Care Executives, and an administrative intern for the VCU Health’s Coordinated Care and Continuum Integration Center. In the Department, Tamela was elected by her peers to be Secretary of the MHA Class of 2022. In the fall of 2020, she was Captain of the VCU national case competition team that took 5th place (out of 37 teams) in the Everett V. Fox Case Competition sponsored by the National Association of Health Services Executives. She was also a contributor to the College of Health Professions Diversity in Curriculum Task Force – all of this while maintaining a 3.77 GPA in a Top 5 nationally ranked MHA program!

More important than the numbers and list of activities, however, is Ms. Brandenberg’s character and her professionalism, passion, and purpose. She is a strong advocate for programs and services dedicated to reducing health disparities and addressing social determinants of health. She will spend her final year in the MHA program in a 10-month administrative residency at the Houston Methodist health system in Houston, Texas. Her plan after graduation is to focus on improving care coordination and post-acute health care services so patients can be better served outside of the hospital walls – a strategy that will not only lower health care expenditures but also improve outcomes and experience for patients and their families. We have every confidence that Tamela will make a major impact on the communities she serves and on the field of health care more broadly."

Alexia Brown

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Alexia Brown is a Senior at VCUs College of Humanities and Sciences where she is majoring in Urban Psychology, minoring in Sociology. As a native New Yorker, she is intentionally pursuing her passion to position herself to not only “Be the Change” that she wants to see but also to be in the position to “Make the Changes” that need to Be! She is a first generation, post traditional student who is taking her lived experiences and determination to exceed the expectations of the general society. Her resilience in the face of adversity while pursuing her bachelor’s degree has proven to be effective in her continued enthusiasm to promote change and positive outcomes in every interaction with the underserved, underprivileged, and marginalized population. Her ability to achieve high intellectual standards and exceed expectations earned her a space in the Black History in the Making Awards. She was nominated by Dr. Meredith Katz in the Department of Sociology, who has had the honor of expanding her knowledge base as well as sharing lived experiences. Alexia is currently applying for graduate school at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, in the Master of Public Administration Program, with intentions to complete her doctorate in Government Public Policy and Administration also at the Wilder School. She believes that injustice is unjust for all and by applying the wealth of knowledge and skills she has acquired via work experience, community service, and that of higher education, she will be a valuable asset to human kind in exponentially positive ways.


Deja Byrd

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Deja Byrd is a senior double-majoring in Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies and Health, Physical Education, and Exercise Science. She is a sharp, critical thinker. For instance, she excelled at applying feminist ontological and epistemological perspectives to complex social problems, such as sex-positivity, exploitation, and “the sex wars” and a modern-day critique of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s WAP. Specifically, she developed one of the more astute intersectional evaluations, noting how responses to Black women's sexual agency are often met with disgust and derision that stem from the historical legacies of slavery and colonization; and concluding that modern media (social and otherwise) enables the unaddressed white fragility of consumers and the white dominance of systems and institutions.

Demetrius R. Carter

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The Department of Psychology shared: "Demetrius is a Psychology major at VCU with the goal of applying to graduate school. His dedication to his education and future career have been evident through his commitment to going above and beyond the expectations of an undergraduate student. He has demonstrated excellent work ethic as he continued his undergraduate coursework, working full-time, and participating in community engagement opportunities. Throughout this time, he has also made meaningful research contributions in several research labs on campus. Most recently he has conducted research examining determinants of sleep concerns among underserved primary care patients and contributed to a literature review examining health disparities in lung cancer screening. His mentors and colleagues describe him as "self-motivated, collaborative, conscientious, and a consummate team player" who has consistently taken on new challenges and projects to grow as a researcher. Demetrius has built a foundation in excellence as an emerging scholar and we look forward to seeing his future accomplishments, both at VCU and beyond."

Ollie Carter

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Ollie is an extraordinary student—an unusually sensitive reader of texts who brings tremendous insights and understanding to their writing and classroom discussion. Carter asks genuinely new questions about the material they read; the perspective they bring and their theoretical sophistication, bolstered by the graduate certificate from the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, complements strong research skills, an astounding interpretative ability, and an unalloyed passion for the literature. A first-generation graduate student, Ollie graduated from the English Department with a BA and then moved seamlessly into the MA program. Ollie's varied and high-level work--as a tutor for athletics, as an assistant for the East Marshall Street Well Project, and as a teaching assistant in the department--distinguish them and portend even greater achievements in the future.

Faith Cooper

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Faith is in her second year at VCU as an academic advisor in the Department of Biology. Mrs. Cooper has a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Resource Development and a Master of Education degree in College Student Personnel Services. Faith has a passion for advising students in higher education and helping students explore career choices based on their interest values, skills, and abilities, especially transfer students and underrepresented students that are at a disadvantage such as Blacks and Latinos college students. Mrs. Cooper strives to connect and cultivate a professional and personal relationship with each of her students by sharing personal experiences, having an open mind to share commonality and differences with a touch of Detroit sense of humor.

Dr. Nicole A. Corley

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Sarah Kye Price & Beth Angell shared: "Dr. Nicole Corley has been making an impact on the School of Social Work since she arrived at VCU in 2017. Since that time, she has embodied the power of change and made positive and lasting contributions in her teaching, scholarship, and service. On her CV, Dr. Corley lists one of the most compelling professional objectives I have ever encountered, which conveys the heart and soul of how she moves through her faculty life: To grow as a community-led, culturally-focused, scholar-creative who expands the field of study related to Black student achievement, Black mothers, and Black mother-centered households by engaging in thoughtful research that centers and honors their taken-for-granted knowledges and perspectives.

Dr. Corley’s respected role as professor is noteworthy; she teaches courses on social justice and social policy to BSW and MSW students, and qualitative research for our doctoral students. In all her courses, Dr. Corley demonstrates the highest regard for social justice, awareness of academic power dynamics, and the roles of historic and current structures of racism and oppression which are and must continue to be dismantled. She provides her students scholarly, practical, and challenging opportunities to put their learning into practice in their daily lives, learning and professional practice. Scholarship: Dr. Corley is a cutting-edge scholar and qualitative researcher whose current research includes roles as principal investigator for the arts-based Ain't I a Mother?: Using Collage as Method to Explore Black Motherhood which was funded...the sole study funded, I would add...through the QSR-IIQM Research Grant for Early Career Researchers grant. She has found ways to bring Black mothers together in both virtual and physical spaces to explore the use of collage as a liberatory storytelling technique, even during a global pandemic, always keeping the safety of participants and the essence of her research intact. She is also a co-investigator with the Disrupting the Trauma-to-Prison Pipeline for Girls in Virginia: A Multilevel Intervention study, again centering the experiences of Black women and girls in transformative, system-changing ways in her scholarship."

Evan Cox

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The Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies shared: "Evan Cox is a truly brilliant and creative student in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies. Though he can be a little quiet in large discussions, Evan excels as an outspoken, bright, and hilarious student in small groups. Because of his empathetic and passionate nature and his eye towards using digital spaces to progress Black queer and trans futures, Evan has so much promise as a scholar and as a cultural activist and we can't wait to see what he does next!"


Robert “Robb” Lee Crocker, III

Robb is a doctoral student who was nominated for the Black History in the Making award by the students he mentors in the VCU Black Journalists student organization.

Although he was born in New Jersey, he considers home to be Richmond, Va., his adopted home. He grew up in Springfield, Va, just outside of Washington, D.C. After high school, he spent some time living in Charlottesville, Va. Robb attended Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. and received a degree in Mass Communications, with a focus in both print media and broadcast media. While at VCU, he was the editorial page editor for the Commonwealth Times. He received the T. Edward and Polly D. Temple Writing Award, which is given to a rising senior mass communications major chosen by the faculty as the most promising writers in print journalism.

After graduation, Robb put his multimedia skills to work at Within three years, he went from General Assignment Reporter to Editor. In addition, he earned a weekly stint on local sports radio, an election series with the local NPR station and an appearance on MSNBC to discuss a high profile murder in Richmond. He also caught the attention of the Washington Post and spent some time producing , laying out, and editing news for Washington

After his stint at the Post, Robb moved to the magazine industry, covering the crash of the housing market and the emergence of green home building with Hanley Wood, a business-to-business magazine company with over 30 magazines dedicated to the multiple areas of home building. He later attended Rutgers University, where he received a MA in Communication. He returned to Richmond and after a brief stint in the broadcast television industry, he returned to VCU to complete a BA in English with a creative writing minor. He was accepted to VCU’s Media, Art, and Text PhD program in 2019 and he is currently working towards receiving his doctoral degree.

You can learn more about Robb at

Raelyn Davis

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Raelyn Davis is a graduating senior at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a concentration in Civil Rights, and a double minor in Spanish and African-American studies Magna Cum Laude. She is a student in the School of World Studies and was selected for her amazing academic performance and her achievements in Spanish.

From the moment Raelyn arrived at VCU, she made her mark by becoming the President of the Johnson Hall Community Council. This position inspired her to serve as a Resident Assistant for the following two years. While excelling academically, Raelyn was also determined to be socially engaged with her campus community. She became a member of the Black Student Union, Student Government Association, and the VCU Globe Program where she received her certificate in Global Education and Peace Corps Preparation.

During her sophomore year, she continued to challenge herself by competing in the Miss Black and Gold Scholarship Pageant. Running on the campaign of voter education and registration, she was able to successfully register over 300 college students across the state of Virginia to vote. After she won the pageant at VCU, she went on to compete and win at the state level, winning first place and Miss Scholarship. Raelyn later served in the VCU Office of the President as a student worker and interned for Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy who is a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates. The involvement did not stop there as she later became a member of the Activities Programming Board of which she served for two years.

Striving to remain an active citizen, Raelyn has completed over 400 hours of community service. In the Fall of 2020, she was initiated into the Eta Tau Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc, a service-focus sisterhood providing a support system for Black women. Raelyn has a passion for making a positive impact in her community and has chosen to pursue a career in law and government to continue supporting social change. She stands as a leader amongst her peers and continues to work hard while also being a caring confidant to her family and friends.

Samya K. Dyer

Samya K. Dyer [View Image]

Ms. Samya Dyer has worked as a laboratory technician in the Neigh lab in the Anatomy and Neurobiology department for the last four years. Ms. Dyer has distinguished herself as a dedicated teacher, scientist, and valuable team member. Ms. Dyer goes above and beyond her position regularly to improve the quality of the research that is conducted, to facilitate effortless and efficient execution of experiments, and to create a positive learning environment. Where Ms. Dyer has truly shined is in her ability to train and mentor new students in the lab. Ms. Dyer is an expert in many of the tasks essential to our research program and she conveys this same level of expertise, along with considerable patience and kindness, in those she trains. She fosters a collaborative and positive learning environment for all of the students in the lab that has strengthened the overall team-based research that is conducted in the Neigh lab. Her contributions to the lab are reflected in the six manuscripts on which she is an author. This scientific record has strengthened her research position far beyond what is expected from a technician, earning her an invited talk at the inaugural Black In Neuro conference.

Beyond her work as a technician, Ms. Dyer is dedicated to promoting Black representation in science and health fields. As an alum of the Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity (IMSD), Health Education Research Opportunities (HERO), and Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) programs, Ms. Dyer remains an active mentor for underrepresented students in the Center on Health Disparities programs. Ms. Dyer was instrumental in designing an outreach program for elementary age students about the brain and behavior using the video platform FlipGrid. Her success in research paired with her intelligence and commitment to improving health disparities has set her on the path to completing her Master’s degree in Applied Public Health. Ms. Dyer continues to work in the lab while maintaining a 4.0 GPA in her Master’s program – concrete evidence of her acumen in the research and academic fields. Frankly, she is a joy to be around and is extremely deserving of this award.

Nicole Ekanem, Ph.D.

Dr. Ekanem is actively making black history every day and is striving to help other underrepresented groups make their own history through work in science communication and mental health advocacy. Dr. Ekanem is a recent doctoral graduate from VCU's Neuroscience program with work focusing on "Focal augmentation of somatostatin interneuron function and subsequent circuit effects in developmentally malformed, epileptogenic cortex." Nicole is now working to alleviate inequities in STEM education access to underserved and underrepresented minority students as a postdoctoral research fellow with the National Research Council at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. While at VCU Dr. Ekanem founded and developed the Graduate and Professional Student program board, which hosted events to foster interdisciplinary collaboration between students from various schools, organizations, and departments on the MCV campus at VCU with a focus on advocating for underserved ethnic minority, low income/food-insecure, and LGBTQIA+ populations. Nicole was also a contributing writer for the Wellness Center at VCU's Stall Seat Journal. Dr. Ekanem also lectured and served as a teaching assistant during while earning their PhD. Additionally, Nicole is a member of the leadership and coordinator of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Council, a forum for students and staff of minority populations to discuss various aspects of mental health. Dr. Ekanem is also passionate about dissemination of science. During graduate school Nicole worked as a Scientist in Residence and Creative Life Science Content Contributor at the Science Museum of Virginia and Dr. Ekanem is the Executive Producer, Creative Director and Editor of the soon-to-be published "Crossmodal Podcast" that explores the philosophical, artistic, and cultural applications of various scientific topics for a lay-audience.

Taylor Free

Taylor Free [View Image]

Her adviser, Tim Marker, shared: "Taylor is an outstanding student who has been a real pleasure to work with here in the IDS program. Taylor is a passionate and driven student who has always strived for excellence both inside and outside of the classroom. Taylor has built a really great IDS focus area around Fashion Merchandising and Entrepreneurship and has aspirations of running and operating their own business someday and a career in high end fashion. Taylor is a wonderful student who is worthy of recognition for all their hard work and achievements."

Malik Grant

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Malik Grant is a senior in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. Outside of academics, Malik is involved with the Developing Men of Color program at VCU, as well as playing an active role as a tutor (both at Carver Elementary School and his church). Before coming to VCU, Malik completed the Advanced College Academy program, earning a degree in Business Administration (magna cum laude) before finishing high school. After graduation, Malik plans to pursue a career as a pharmacist.

Cathrin Danielle Green

Cathrin Danielle Green is currently a fourth-year clinical psychology doctoral student. She graduated from Howard University in 2016 and completed a post-baccalaureate fellow at the University of Pittsburgh prior to coming to VCU. Cathrin’s research interests are strongly focused on improving the academic success and functioning of youth with ADHD and other comorbid disorders. She also investigates the impact of social determinants of health on treatment for youth with ADHD in an effort to better treatment outcomes of marginalized populations. Cathrin has also devoted much of her time outside of academia to serving the greater Richmond community. She is currently a mentor for Big Brothers/ Big Sisters of America, has co-facilitated mental health talks centered on experiences that impact the well-being of Richmond’s Black communities, and participates in various community service initiatives around the city.

Dr. Joshua Langberg states: “I believe that Cathrin’s record at VCU is nothing short of remarkable. I truly have no idea how she has managed to balance her community-based involvement with her academic responsibilities. She has an incredible publication record and has performed well in her classes and clinically. She is an incredibly strong student and a wonderful person. She is caring and compassionate, and enthusiastic about mentoring and advising the junior students in our lab. Despite her remarkable success, Cathrin is humble, and focused on learning and listening in her interactions with faculty and colleagues.”


Joshua Hale

Joshua Hale is a junior in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. Outside of school, he currently works at Amazon, although his goal after graduation is to work in cybersecurity, data security, or a medical field. Joshua is rightfully proud of his success as a first generation African American male student; his department commends him for his hard work.

Haya Hamid

Haya Hamid [View Image]

Haya was selected by the Department of Biology in recognition of her contributions to their department. The department provided the following statement: "Haya is in her penultimate semester at VCU as a Health Physical Education and Exercise Science major. While she is not a Biology major, our committee feels that her contributions to our department, to the University, and to our community warrant this recognition. Her contributions to our department stem from her work as a Senior Supplemental Instructor through the Campus Learning Center (CLC). She made a strong impression on the professor of the class as well as the students for which she was responsible. To quote one of the BIOL 101 students, “Haya Hamid embodies the attributes of a student leader more than any SI I have had in my classes here at VCU. Her study sessions are robust, engaging, and most importantly - useful. She maintains an air of professionalism the entire time, yet remains friendly and approachable if you should have questions on the material... and I am so grateful for the effort she puts forth in helping us all succeed in BIO 101.” In addition to her work through the CLC, Haya has served as a Math Teacher Assistant at MathTree in Vienna, VA, an Arabic Teaching Assistant through the Sudanese Community Developmental Organization in Falls Church, Va., and Teaching Assistant for Introduction to Leadership Studies at VCU through VCU LEAD. She has served as a Research Assistant at the ASPEN Lab at VCU. Haya is a member of the Division of Student Affairs Committee on Peer Leadership has also co-founded a program called IPSA - International Pre-Health Students Association, whose mission is to aid international students in their quest to pursue their career goals in Health Science, by aiding with finding internships, shadowing opportunities, and volunteer programs. We are truly impressed with her accomplishments and we are happy to nominate her for this award."

Haya says, "I study Health Science with a minor in Psychology and hope to further my career in the fields of public health and higher education as well. My passions include: abstract/surreal art, leadership studies and humanitarian work. In my free time, I skate, ride my bike, read, paint and indulge in outdoor activities. Over the course of semesters at VCU, I have developed a great sense of appreciation for our peer leaders at the university; during my sophomore year I made the ultimate decision to join their field. As a result, my passion for peer leadership grew and achieved becoming a Senior Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader at the Campus Learning Center at VCU. I am a second year VCU LEAD student where I also work as a teaching assistant (TA) with Mrs. Becca Halligan for Intro. to Leadership Studies (UNIV270) and Profiles in Leadership (LDRS200). Like I mentioned, one of my passions is humanitarian work; I define that to be any positive contribution to the greater good as well investing in the future by learning from the past. During my junior year, I channelled that passion by joining the DSA Committee on Peer leadership as the first student to sit through committee meetings and that has been a great learning experience for me. I am also a tri-chair of Black Student Experience Committee under the Black Equity and Inclusion Committees. Currently, I am working on an independent research study on the challenges of peer leadership at VCU in order to gain a better understanding of certain challenges that affect their ability to carry out their jobs in a responsible manner."

For more information about Haya's work, see her portfolio and independent study site

Ashley Harrison

Ashley Harrison [View Image]

Remarks from Nicholas Garcia, Director of Undergraduate Student Services and Advising in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs: "Since joining the Wilder School, Ashley has been a constant beacon of support and encouragement to Wilder School students and her fellow student services staff. Ashley regularly represents the Wilder School to community partners, engaging with them, and partnering with them to find experiential learning opportunities for students. Ashley’s work the Wilder School’s Capitol Semester program has allowed her to act as a mentor to tremendously talented students who work as legislative aids at the General Assembly. This past semester, I had the honor of co-chairing a task force with Ashley focused in improving racial equality in student services in the Wilder School. Ashley’s tireless efforts to promote, improve, and enhance experiential learning for Wilder School students will continue to have a profound impact on students long after they graduate. Ashley has helped place our students into careers with the FBI, Secret Service, CIA, local policing agencies, FEMA, local planning commissions, and countless other government agencies. Now, more than ever, we need dedicated professionals in these fields who will promote racial equity, and Ashley’s mentorship of her students will do just that. Ashley’s impact on her students will act as a shockwave rippling equity, equality, and justice outward across the public affairs field.

Here are some additional comments from her coworkers regarding Ashley’s work:

“I have worked with Ashley for several years since she first came to VCU. In that time I have been able to witness how she interacts with students at VCU, Faculty, and Staff members. Every interaction I have seen has been amazing. Ashley's positive energy, her wit, sense of humor, and charismatic personality goes such a long way in leaving an everlasting impact on the people she interacts with. Ashley creates a welcoming and calming presence and creates a vibe which ensures a positive connection. Ashley is the heart and soul of what VCU employees should embody. Not only is Ashley someone I can count on day to day, she is a friend.”- Mr. Matthew Smith

“It has been my sincerest honor to know and work with Ashley since her own graduate student days where I served as her Practicum site supervisor! Ashley has always been warm, inviting, and deeply student-centric. She always makes time for conversations about students' academic options and best paths moving forward. Particularly with internships, she goes out of her way to make sure the student has a plan and that the plan is practical, efficient, and effective for the student's academic progress and learning outcomes. I am proud to call her a colleague and friend!” – Mrs. Nicolette Zbell

“In addition to Ashley's strong commitment to student success in experiential learning placements, she has exercised a great deal of leadership in modeling for students and colleagues the core value of advocating for students in all that we do. It is clear that Ashley is engaged in authentic and strategic steps towards ensuring all VCU students experience an inclusive and caring environment for learning. Her collegial nature, dedication to the community and diverse populations, caring personality, and considerable professionalism are among her many assets that make her a significant contributor in student success efforts. She brings great enthusiasm and interest to her work with all students.” Mrs. Shajuana Isom-Payne

With all of this said, and having known Ashley for as long as I have, it’s impossible to deny the profound impact she has on her students, and in turn, the world."

Aloni Hill

Aloni Hill [View Image]

Dr. Aloni Hill has been an assistant professor of journalism in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture since the fall semester 2018, teaching audio and video journalism classes in the undergraduate program. Her research interests include celebrity-fan relationships, and multiculturalism in the media. Hill presented her research at the 2016 and 2017 National Communication Association conventions, and recently completed her dissertation on celebrity-fan relationships.

Prior to working at Virginia Commonwealth University, she worked as an assistant professor of mass communications at Virginia Union University for more than five years. Before working in academia, Hill worked as a video editor for WWBT-NBC12 News in Richmond and a multimedia specialist in Richmond and Norfolk.

She earned her Ph.D. from Regent University and her M.A. in Media Management and B.S. in Mass Communications from Norfolk State University. She is a member of professional organizations in her field, including the National Communication Association, National Association of Black Journalists, and the Richmond Association of Black Journalists.

Dr. Hill was nominated for the Black History in the Making award by the VCU Black Journalists student organization. Her nominator says, "Dr. Hill is one of the nicest professors I've ever had! She is determined, sweet, smart, and the advisor for my club (black journalists). She's a doctorate, hbcu graduate and the epitome of a great black woman!"

Chante Holt

Chante Holt standing next to Representative John Lewis [View Image]

Chanté Holt is a senior in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs where she majors in Urban and Regional Studies and Planning with a minor in Psychology. While she originally began her college career in 2005 with a major of Mass Communications, Chanté took a 10-year break beginning in the summer of 2008 to focus on working. The experiences she gained while being in the workforce and living in the City of Richmond inspired her to consider what it means to truly make your neighborhood feel like a community. When she returned in 2018, she decided to change her major to pursue a program that would align with her
desire to make her neighborhood as well as the surrounding areas more equitable for its BIPOC residents. When Chanté graduates in 2022, she will be the first in her family to graduate from a 4-year college. In addition to being enrolled as a part time student, Chanté works full time as an Accounts Representative in the VCU Parking and Transportation Department since April of 2016. In her free time, Chanté enjoys urban gardening, event planning, knitting and creating healthy dishes for friends and family.

Kayauna Hubbard

Kayauna Hubbard [View Image]

Kayauna Hubbard, senior in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, may be a quiet student, but they're described as one of the best writers and poets Dr. Liz Canfield has come across in her years of teaching and advising. Kayauna, who has hopes of becoming a health care provider, also designed an independent study about trans health care to learn more about how best to serve a marginalized population.

Kayauna says, “I am a senior majoring in GSWS with a health and science concentration. I have a passion for understanding the multiplicities of people and helping in the best ways I can. Part of my family motto is “Keep reaching for the stars!” which is exactly what I’m shooting for. My opportunities are endless and I hope my future career can assist me with making sure others know these possibilities as well.”

Ava Hull

Ava Hull [View Image]

From her professor Mariah Crilley: "Ava’s focus area is in “Early Childhood Learning and Human Development,” combining coursework in education, psychology, and sociology. She has studied African American health and history and researched African Americans’ mental health in the current pandemic in UNIV301. She has many interests and loves to learn, but what makes her exceptional is her compassion. At the end of our class last semester, I invited students to express gratitude for one other person in the class. Ava, however, thanked each classmate individually, noting something specific to them. This moment demonstrates what makes Ava “Black History in the Making”: she is insightful, smart, and precise, but she is never exclusive. She is powerfully welcoming, capable of seeing and encouraging others’ to access and share their own insights. She’s inspiring to me and to her classmates."

Ava would like to share a quote from Katt Williams: "Stay in tune with your star player."

Joy Ingram

Joy Ingram [View Image]

Joy is a senior majoring in Communication Arts and among the first FILL Peer Mentors in University College. Joy has made invaluable contributions to the new FILL Peer Mentor Program. She is one of the inaugural editors of the program's e-newsletter, the ReFILL. In this role, Joy has created innovative layouts and graphics and written excellent advice for her peers in Focused Inquiry courses. Joy has collaborated effectively with her colleagues to develop new programming and create models for future peer mentors. In addition to her role with the FILL, Joy has been an intern for Shout Mouse Press and has illustrated a children's book:

Taliah Jackson

Taliah Jackson [View Image]

Taliah Jackson is an undergraduate student in the School of World Studies with an excellent academic record and achievements in Spanish. Several of Taliah's Spanish professors were eager to nominate her for this award.

Dawn Johnson

Dawn Johnson [View Image]

Dawn Johnson is a Doctoral Candidate with the Media Art and Text Department (MATX) at VCU. She is also an adjunct professor for the Department of GSWS Department, where she has taught as both as GTA and adjunct for the last four years. Dawn is a writer, learning professional, feminist pedagogy researcher and from rural Virginia. Dawn will be graduating in May 2021 with a Ph.D from the MATX department. Dawn currently teaches undergrads in an Intro to Gender Studies course, and she teaches Black Feminism and the Internet - a course she designed based on her dissertation.

She has a background in law and policy with a JD from the University of Richmond and a BA in English from UVA. Dawn's areas of interest include black feminist theory, intersectionalilty, social media studies, critical race feminism, and social justice matters.


LauraChioma (Chi) Jones

LauraChioma Jones [View Image]

Chi is a first year Art Foundation Student with a long-range goal of receiving an MA in art therapy. In the immediate future, she is looking forward to an undergraduate degree in Sculpture and Extended media, and is weighing options for several minors. One of her Art Foundation faculty summarized Chi with the following statement:

"Chi has an energy that transcends the remoteness of our zoom screens, radiating an immense passion for creativity that inspires everyone in the room. As an aspiring art therapist, Chi not only has an extensive art practice that exists well beyond AFO assignments into a mature body of work, she also is a member of Student Power and SGA and is active in building up community, resources and support for students all over campus. In class, she forefronts the importance of accessibility and collectivity in both personal artistic research and creating positive class culture through discussion, resources and an overall openness and willingness to share and support others. She embodies the artistic values that as an educator I am trying to impart onto students, such as collaboration, inter/multi - disciplinary-ness, play/exploration, and critical thinking.

Chi's drive and commitment is contagious and I have no doubt that she will go onto do outstanding things in the future and touch many people's lives."

Shawn C.T. Jones

Shawn C.T. Jones [View Image]

Dr. Shawn C.T. Jones is a third-year Assistant Professor in the Counseling Program in the Psychology Department at Virginia Commonwealth University. Prior to relocating to Richmond, Dr. Jones was a National Science Foundation SBE Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education where he worked with Dr. Howard Stevenson. He received his doctorate in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on Children and Families from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was a Child Clinical Psychology Predoctoral intern at UCLA. He also holds a Master of Health Science in Mental Health from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health (2010) and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University (2008).

Dr. Jones endeavors to impact the psychosocial wellbeing of Black youth and their families by: a) exploring mechanisms undergirding culturally-relevant protective and promotive factors; b) translating basic research into interventions that harness the unique strengths of the Black experience; and c) disseminating this research to be consumed, critiqued and enhanced by the communities the work intends to serve. Clinically, Dr. Jones is committed to the provision of culturally-informed child, couple and family therapy and assessment. Finally, Dr. Jones is passionate about eliminating racial health disparities, particularly those related to mental health services, which he sees as obtainable through stigma-reduction and mental health literacy interventions. To that end, Dr. Jones, together with colleague Dr. Riana Anderson, has created a video series and podcast, “Our Mental Health Minute”.

M Kamara

M Kamara [View Image]

The Department of English nominates M Kamara for the 2021 Black History in the Making awards, based on M's outstanding performance in the classroom, which puts her in the top 5% of English majors in her class; her ongoing community-building among English majors and other VCU students through poetry-based events; and her promise for future achievements. English faculty view M as a scholar-artist whose reading of literature "demonstrates wisdom and compassion," according to Dr. Bryant Mangum, and whose poetry, according to Dr. Gregory Donovan, is "sophisticated and artful." The Department of English is grateful to have M as one of our students, and looks forward to what M will accomplish in the larger world.

Oscar Kemp

Oscar Kemp [View Image]

Oscar Kemp is a sophomore studying Social Work with a minor in Public Management. He has been awarded numerous awards and scholarships related to academic success and community service. Awards include the VCU School of Social Work's Frank and Pat Baskin Gift-Giving Award, VCU Sigma Phi Epsilon's Balanced Man Award, and more. In addition to awards and scholarships, he carries out many leadership roles and remains involved in the student community including serving as secretary for the VCU Chapter of the Association of Black Social Workers and Racial Justice Fellow for the School of Social Work. As a Presidential Student Ambassador for the VCU Office of the President, he discusses critical issues in higher education with the President, President’s Office staff, Board of Visitors, administration, and Richmond community leaders to better serve VCU students and the greater Richmond community. All of these accomplishments, awards, and leadership roles encourage him to continue working towards his aspirations and for those around him.

Phyllis King-Carr

Phyllis King Carr [View Image]

Comments from Claire Luce, one of Phyllis's instructors: "This is the third semester that I have had the pleasure of teaching Phyllis King Carr, the first semester was as an undergraduate and the past two have been in the online MSW program. Phyllis always produces top quality work and gives thoughtful contributions to classroom discussions. While her work itself is extraordinary, I also know that Phyllis manages to produce it while acting as a caregiver for her parents and a child with special needs. Phyllis is a non-traditional student, who has returned to school because of her passion for social work and social justice. In order to prepare this nomination, I reviewed her progress during her time at VCU, and it is clear that she is not only the bright, caring, and diligent student I have grown to know and admire, but she is extremely resilient. Every single semester, her grades have improved to her most recent semester GPA of a 4.0. She has flourished academically under the extremely difficult circumstances that 2020 brought us all, and I can imagine no one better suited to receive an award honoring Black History in the Making."

Mackenzie L. LaBar

Mackenzie LaBar [View Image]

Mackenzie L. LaBar is a Political Science major with a Media Studies minor in his senior year at VCU. Already a prolific journalist, he has written for the Commonwealth Times, and been part of the editorial team at Adventureinblack, a website dedicated to helping help black travelers find their comfort and place in luxury and travel. Currently, he is the district representative of Mandate Democracy, a 5013c non-profit devoted to aims such as spreading technology-based voting, and awareness to climate change and combatting gridlocked government. He feels that the most rewarding part of his time working with Mandate Democracy has been helping to change the course of America's currently conflicted democratic system and helping to bring a more free and ethically-driven American civil society, along with meeting amazing folks who share the same goal as he does. He was a member of the Black Student Union during 2018 and 2019, and is now a member of the Pre-Law Society. He also has a podcast, Electric Contemplation, available on Spotify and Apple.

He also aspires to run for public office, and wants to enact positive changes in our communities and our governments in order to improve our country’s justice system as well as enhance our overall collective freedoms and democracy.

Taylor M. Maloney

Taylor M. Maloney [View Image]

A Political Science major with a minor in Africana Studies, Taylor has been deeply involved in student government in their time as VCU. They now serves as President of VCU’s Student Government Association. Taylor is also Special Events Coordinator for the Academic Programming Board, and Chair of the Student Affairs Committee of University Council. Outside of VCU, Taylor has been a student organizer for the Virginia Student Power Network, and a community outreach intern for the Katal center for Justice and Equality, and established Gabe’s Book Club, based in radical, place-based pedagogy. They were awarded a scholarship for their poetry by the Elie Wiesel Holocaust Commission in 2018. Their community involvement includes work with the Richmond Community Bail Fund and Mutual Aid Distribution RVA. They have also worked as a Legislative Aide for Virginia State senator Mamie Locke. They currently serves on the Programing Committee for Black History Month.

Dr. Kimberly A. Matthews

Kimberly A. Matthews [View Image]

Dr. Kimberly A. Matthews, Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and primary instructor for the VCU LEAD program, is highly deserving of this honor. While excelling as a professor and mentor for her students, Dr. Matthews has also displayed an admirable commitment to the preservation of African American history through her scholarship. A native Richmonder, Dr. Matthews has published two books chronicling the fight for equality by Black Richmonders: Images of America: The Richmond 34 and the Civil Rights Movement, released in 2020; and Images of Modern America: The Richmond Crusade for Voters, released in 2017. She has also published a children’s book called Forever Friends that demonstrates how friendship and connection can be found across differences in race, background, and walks of life. Her work encourages us to see the vital importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Dr. Matthews is a dedicated teacher, researcher, and change maker, an asset to VCU and the Richmond community.

Madeline McDuffy

Madeline McDuffy [View Image]

Madeline McDuffy is a fourth year student in the Department of African American Studies at VCU. She is working with an organization CORE SAG (Committee of Racial Equity, Student Advisory Group) to address systematic oppression through a mandatory course at VCU and create a more inclusive environment. She also volunteers with higher achievement to educate and encourage academic growth to young students in Richmond. She is currently doing an internship with Southerners on New Ground, and starting this year she will be taking over as the head of media for the Virginia COVID-19 coalition which is trying to release inmates that don’t pose an imminent threat of bodily harm to others.

Aja McNeal

Aja McNeal [View Image]

Aja McNeal is a sophomore in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. Aja is dedicated to volunteer work in her community (both in Richmond and her home county of Fairfax). She is a part of VCU's Living Learning Community "LEAD", has helped to distribute medical supplies to third world countries, provided health screenings to the public, and more. Further, she plays an active role as a role model for young boys and girls, often through mentorship within the community. As she says, "The future lies in the hands of my generation, and with proper guidance and knowledge we can achieve anything."

Joseph Mitchell

Joseph Mitchell [View Image]

Joseph Mitchell is a senior double-majoring in Political Science and African American Studies anticipating graduation in Spring 2021. Through his experiences working for the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, the Office of U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, and as a Governor’s Fellow in the Office of Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam, Joseph has sought to increase civic engagement and social awareness in students of color across the Commonwealth. On-campus, Joseph has been committed to leadership and outreach.

In addition to achieving the Dean’s List, he has served in multiple offices and student leadership positions. He has worked for the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs and has also served as an Undergraduate Student Representative for the College of Humanities and Sciences Inclusion, Diversity, Equity Committee, Public Relations Chair and Vice-President of the Black Student Union, Coordinator of Communications for the Activities Programming Board, and as a resident assistant. He has created and facilitated numerous events for students and conferences that focused on the intersections of identities and the history of oppression. He has led numerous community service projects and initiatives, including a clothing drive that raised over 2,000 articles of clothing donated to a local nonprofit. He is passionate about servant leadership and community engagement and strives to give back to his community however he can.


Dynique Moore

Dynique Moore [View Image]

Dynique Moore is a graduating senior majoring in Graphic Design here at VCU. As a first generation student, Dynique has harnessed her privilege of education to incorporate her identity into her work. She has utilized her talents to promote Black power and inclusion through her artwork. She channels her Black influences, such as Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and Jean Micheal Basquiat, into everything she does. She has an unwavering passion for fashion, styling herself to greatness. During her time on campus, Dynique has made herself indispensable; serving as the Art and Design Head for Amnesty International, a mentor in the Queen in You program, and the Editor for Circle Kitwanis International. Her involvement does not stop there: She currently sits as the Historian for the Eta Tau chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and continues her desire to serve by volunteering all around the greater Richmond area. Dynique prides herself in her unapologetic identity and has distinguished herself as a mentor and guide to her peers and is committed to bringing a smart, informed and empowered voice to her design work.Her department believes she will continue to be an inspiration to those around her and those who follow her. She currently has a perfect 4.0 GPA in her major and a 3.875 overall. Her actions will always stand in compliance with her mission and purpose in life to elevate the community that elevated her.

She IS Black and proud.

Her department believes she will continue to be an inspiration to those around her. She has distinguished herself as a mentor and guide to her peers and is committed to bringing a smart, informed and empowered voice to her design work. She shows great initiative, works hard, and strives to seek opportunities for building connections and service opportunities both within and outside VCU.

madison moore

madison moore [View Image]

madison moore is an artist-scholar, DJ and assistant professor of Queer Studies in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. madison is the author of Fabulous: The Rise of the Beautiful Eccentric (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018), a cultural analysis of fabulousness. madison has lectured at the Yale School of Drama, the Barbican, the Perth Festival, The School of Life Melbourne, Columbia College Chicago, Performance Space Sydney, American Realness and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. madison is currently writing a book about ephemeral traces, rave scenes and queer of color undergrounds.

Nana Nanda

Nanda Nana [View Image]

The Department of Biology shared: "Nanda is completing his 3rd year at VCU as a pre-med student majoring in Biology. Nanda has performed quite well in his coursework at VCU indicating his academic talent is quite strong. He has also distinguished himself from his peers by his strong involvement at VCU and his community. Nanda has been a part of VCU LEAD since 2018, has served as the Vice-President of the Student Medical Leadership Program, the secretary of Black Men in Medicine, and the CEO of Anon-Advice Inc. He has been active in the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, the Black Student Union, and the African Student Union. In the community, he has served as a medical assistant at Manassas Medical Clinic, a volunteer for Binford Middle School, a participant in the Student Medical Leadership Program at UVA, and a volunteer for the Sacred Heart Food Pantry. Nanda continues to represent our department and VCU with excellence."

Adebayo Ogungbade

Adebayo Ogungbade [View Image]

Bayo Ogungbade is a model of student leadership and academic achievement. Realizing his future lies in church leadership, Bayo approached the Interdisciplinary Studies Program in the fall of 2018 to build a major combining Religious Studies, Communications, and Management classes into a field titled “Pastoral Studies.” In addition to creating his own path, though, Bayo wanted to make sure that option was open to others. He suggested and helped to found the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies Student Association (BISSA), which encourages fellow students to create unique pathways, and builds camaraderie and community in the program. As president of the BISSA for the past two years, Bayo has helped to create a series of workshops titled “Mindfulness in the Midst of Racism,” which seek to help students channel their energies into productive, transformative practices that actively fight institutional and structural forms of racism. His enthusiasm for helping and supporting his peers has kept him incredibly busy, but has not stood in the way of his coursework, where Bayo consistently achieves high marks. He will graduate in May and move on to study at the Union Presbyterian Seminary here in Richmond, where he has already been awarded full tuition and a living stipend.

Zuby Okafor

Zuby Okafor [View Image]

Mr. Zuby Okafor is currently a Master’s student in the Anatomy and Neurobiology department who is conducting his thesis work in the Neigh lab. In just six months Mr. Okafor has distinguished himself as a dedicated scientist and valuable team member. Mr. Okafor exemplifies superior commitment, intelligent engagement, and a promising future. As a researcher Mr. Okafor’s work ethic has stood out as a core pillar of his personality. He goes above and beyond on preparation and execution of experiments to assure that the science he is conducting is of the highest quality. What sets him apart from other trainees of his level is that Mr. Okafor conducts much of this outstanding work independently. He shows intrinsic motivation to execute his responsibilities while increasing his own knowledge surrounding new topics. Mr. Okafor will be attending medical school in the fall and many of these traits will lend themselves to shaping him as a superior physician. His interests tend towards understanding psychiatric disease, a topic his thesis work is centered around, and he has shown a keen intelligence in understanding the physiological mechanisms that drive psychiatric conditions. He maintained a 3.7 GPA throughout his Master’s coursework and scored in the 89th percentile for the MCAT. His hard work has thus far paid off as he has been accepted to every medical school that he has interviewed at. As a person, Mr. Okafor is extremely kind and caring. He is dedicated to his family and his community – particularly children. Mr. Okafor extends the same traits he displays academically to the community. He has volunteered for a number of different organizations that support learning and health in underrepresented communities. He worked to design reading programs and learning experiences through the Gus Bus organization for children throughout the community and as a tutor for ESL elementary students. His summer employment was for pre-K age children designing reading, learning, and nutrition programs. Additionally, he has engaged in community service through the alternative spring break programs where he helped clean-up and rebuild lower-income housing and gardens in Chicago, IL. As a teacher he maintains a calm and earnest environment that promotes learning for those he is training. Mr. Okafor’s kindness, dedication, service, talent, and intelligence have already established him as a wonderful scientists and person that is looking ahead to a bright future as a physician.

Lonette Ott

Lonette Ott [View Image]

Lonette Ott was named to the Dean's List in 2020. She says, "My name is Lonette Ott, and I am a Fall 2020 Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) graduate, who was part of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government & Public Affairs earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice. Both with honors. As a non-traditional student, I went to school full-time, worked part-time during my senior year, and volunteered with a local Bereavement Ministry (Richmond, Virginia). I have a passion for learning, mentoring others, and serving my country. My values are rooted in my faith, which has enhanced and shaped any skills, attributes, and personal and professional behaviors I have tried to demonstrate in my life. Dedication, focus, and integrity are key components that compel me to take every opportunity presented to me and pay it forward.

As a veteran of the United States Army, I gained skills, achievements, certifications, and education as an 82nd Airborne Paratrooper, a unit armorer, medic, and nurse. As a student at VCU, I was able to share life lessons with fellow students and faculty in class and out of class, as well as glean from them. From Spring of 2018 to the Fall of 2020, I was a member of Eta Lambda Sigma, the nation’s first Professional Homeland Security Fraternity. I served on the Professional Development Committee, the Recruitment Committee, volunteered with a Richmond City neighborhood cleanup effort during the 2020 riots in the city, and participated in the 2019 ATF/HIS Intelligence Analysis Competition Team.

My goal is to keep our nation and its citizens safe. Moreover, I am ever grateful for the professors and other faculty who poured into my life while attending VCU, that I believe will help me fulfil my dreams and purpose. Thank you."

Deijah Patterson

Deijah Patterson [View Image]

Deijah Patterson, senior in Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies, is a thoughtful, passionate student, determined to learn and to make broad, systematic changes. In Dr. Chris Cynn's Feminist Social Theory course, she was sharply attentive to histories of radical Black feminism and how they can advance ongoing and future liberatory struggles.

Apphia Peters

Apphia Peters [View Image]

The Department of Interior Design shared the following: "Apphia Peters is outstanding in her design work and is very dedicated and thoughtful in her approach. She was selected to have her project sent to Steelcase to represent our program in their NEXT competition for design students.

Ms. Peters has also served her department and her peers as our department's first ever undergraduate Revit tutor, offering guidance, problem solving, and coaching to our students as they learn how to three-dimensionally visualize their design projects. Her success this year has inspired us to expand the program next year."



Donald Petties

Don Petties [View Image]

Don Petties leads with his enthusiasm. He succeeds with persistence and passion for design. He is to be commended for his loyalty and devotion to his colleagues.
Mr. Petties has been a constant presence in his studio, and has also served the greater VCU community by serving as a Residential Assistant on campus.

Angelique Potter

"Angelique Potter is a bright and energetic student with roots in the Caribbean. As the child of a single mother, Angelique has much strength from her family background, which sometimes causes pressure. When Angelique is well, her academic work is strong and sharp, and she is quick to make connections and participate in the classroom. As a first-generation college student, the compounding factors of home and family pressures and navigating the academic world alone make Angelique’s tenacity to come back strong, fight to have the right to continue on, and do extraordinary work. Because of her resilience and curiosity, Angelique is a role model for other students who struggle to allow their shine through amid compounded realities." - Dr. Matilde Moros

Laerissa Reveil

Laerissia Reveil [View Image]

Laerissa Reveil is a second year master’s student in the Department of Forensic Science pursuing a concentration in Forensic Chemistry/Drugs &Toxicology. She is currently a Graduate Research Technician in the Lab for Forensic Toxicology Research, where she serves as the chemical hygiene and safety officer, trains new students, and maintains instrumentation. Her research project is evaluating the impact of complex chemical profiles of e-liquids on the drug concentration in the aerosol from an e-cigarette. Laerissa was the recipient of the Dr. Teri Stockham Scholarship in Forensic Toxicology. She has volunteered in the community engagement activities by bringing forensic science labs to middle school students and provided logistical support to the Silent No More Symposium, which addressed substance use disorders and preventing fatal overdoses.

Jy'Kira Riley

Jy'Kira Riley [View Image]

Jy’Kira Riley, born and raised on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, is a hardworking and committed third-year student double majoring in Psychology and Political Science with a concentration in Civil Rights and minoring in Spanish. In the Fall semester of 2020, Jy’Kira completed a virtual internship at Hyder Immigration Law here in Richmond, Virginia. Her academic achievements include, but are not limited to, being on the Dean's List, having a 3.5 GPA, and being recognized as a University Student Scholar at VCU. She is an active member within the VCU, Greater Richmond, and Eastern Shore of Virginia communities. She has been volunteering and serving these communities for a total of six years now. In the Richmond community, she has volunteered at SOAR 365 which strives to create life-fulfilling opportunities for individuals with disabilities. During her time home on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, she spends time volunteering with Red Door Empowerment which strives to give back to the community through life changing experiences. She is a second-year participant in VCU's LEAD Living Learning Program. She is also a founder, and member, of Minorities in Law at VCU which strives to promote interest in the legal field among underrepresented populations here in the VCU community. As she finishes her time at VCU, Jy’Kira plans to continue challenging herself to excel in her studies and be an impact on and off Virginia Commonwealth University’s campus. After graduation, Jy’Kira plans to later attend law school with longing dreams of becoming an attorney.

Stephanie Rizzi

Stephanie Rizzi [View Image]

Stephanie Rizzi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Focused Inquiry. She is also a VCU alumna, having earned both her B.A. and M.A. at VCU. Ms. Rizzi is an extraordinarily dedicated, highly effective, and learning-centered teacher. Her focus on the creation of a welcoming, collaborative learning community in her classes and her robust student support are hallmarks of her teaching. Her students and her colleagues describe her as very approachable, supportive, fully invested in her students’ success, and deeply engaged in shared learning and civic engagement. In addition to her work in the classroom, Ms. Rizzi has given countless hours to supporting our community, and Richmond is undoubtedly a better place because of her. She's both worked and volunteered in Richmond Public Schools and advocated tirelessly and bravely for Richmond children. She was recently elected to the Richmond City School Board for the 5th District, one of the most challenging and time-consuming paths anyone can pursue for community service. Stephanie has a long history of community leadership as a past president of the Randolph Community Group and as an advocate with the Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project. Again and again, Stephanie has shown up and spoken out for the people of Richmond, and she is a leader and an advocate for the kind of community we all hope to live in.

Starr Robinson

Starr Robinson [View Image]

Starr graduated in December of 2020, has previously worked with OSS on student events to speak about the internships (Virginia Department of Veteran Services and the VA Capitol Semester). She is an exceptional student, having graduated Magna Cum Laude. Starr is also active in the Richmond community, having worked with a variety of mutual aid organizations to provide support to students and community members during the COVID-19 pandemic. During her time in undergrad, she was a lead organizer with Student Power Network at VCU, a student-led advocacy group focused on making VCU more equitable and accessible for all. She has also worked with the Virginia Student Power Network on various campaigns, including No Policing Mental Health which aimed to remove police from the wellness check process. With the help of fellow student organizers, she advocated for the separation of the mental health crisis dispatch line. With this achievement, students would no longer have to call VCU police to speak to a mental health clinician when in crisis. She was even quoted in Teen Vogue about her work with the VCU Student Power Network this Summer.

Starr has a passion for student organizing and hopes that one day our campus will be centered in communities of care, rather than the over-policing of students and community members. She hopes to continue to uplift community organizers and student activists throughout her career. And when Starr isn't working hard in school and in the community, she enjoys reading murder mysteries and hanging around with her cat, Scout.

Maya Rogers

Maya Rogers [View Image]

Maya Rogers is a graduate student working towards the Masters of Public Administration and the Certificate of Public Management. She graduated from VCU's School of Business in December 2019 with a Bachelor's of Science in Accounting. She currently work for VCU in the Athletics Department as the Athletic Facilities Business Manager. May is proud to be a part of the newly instated Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee for her department where she sits on two subcommittees - Staff Experience and the Program, Education, & Advocacy Sub Committees. She enjoys the work she is doing and the exciting opportunities that VCU can offer to her.

Gladys A. Shaw

Gladys A. Shaw [View Image]

Ms. Gladys A Shaw exemplifies the qualities of a pioneering and intelligent scientist and works tirelessly to promote Black representation in neuroscience and beyond. As a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience, Ms. Shaw has cultivated a strong record of scientific success through five first author publications and five secondary author contributions in both reviews and research articles. Through her dissertation work, Ms. Shaw has developed a strong research portfolio with a diverse skill set that will allow her to succeed in any chosen field. One of Ms. Shaw’s strengths is her ability to communicate her science across diverse platforms – a skill that has been awarded multiple times. Following her award-winning poster presentation at the 2019 meeting, she was the only graduate student, among postdocs and junior faculty, invited to present her work on “Sex, Stress, and Inflammation: Metabolic Mediators in the Brain” at the national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle, WA; work that was subsequently published in Science magazine. Ms. won the extremely competitive VCU 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition where students have just three minutes to present their entire doctoral portfolio to a layperson audience. As the winner, Ms. Shaw will go on to compete at the national level representing the VCU graduate school.

Along with her research and coursework, Ms. Shaw is a strong advocate for Black representation in science. Ms. Shaw is an active mentor of diverse trainees within the VCU Center on Health Disparities ranging from undergraduates, postgrads, and junior grad students. Since her time as an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary she has made efforts to promote science careers to children from underrepresented communities. She has designed and given talks about science topics to a variety of K-12 groups in the Richmond and DC metro areas. Combining her science and her outreach, she was an invited speaker for the inaugural Black In Neuro conference in 2020 where she presented her work on neurometabolism and adolescent trauma. In December of 2020 Ms. Shaw was invited by the prestigious American College of Neuropsychopharmacology to serve as a student representative in their “Working Toward Inclusive Excellence” program. That Ms. Shaw has dedicated so much of her time to promoting Black representation in neuroscience while maintaining uncompromised science highlights how well-deserving she is of this award.

Overall, Gladys is a productive scientist and great communicator of science as a whole, and it is expected that she will improve scientific communication to other professionals both inside and outside of basic science.

“It has been a privilege to work with and mentor Ms. Shaw for the last four years and I look forward to seeing what her future brings.”- Dr. Molly Hyer



Blake Sneed

Blake Sneed [View Image]

Blake Sneed is an undergraduate student in the Department of Interior Design. Department Chair Roberto Ventura says, "Blake Sneed is an excellent human being, a budding interior design and a design warrior. She is persistent in her search for honesty and excellence in design and in her life. Ms. Sneed has been a great contributor to the department, in our office and model shop, and has done so with impressive engagement and self-motivation."

E'Lora Spencer

E'Lora Spencer [View Image]

E'Lora Spencer graduated with a 3.767 with dual degrees in Spanish and INTL: International Social Justice Studies last semester. She studied abroad in Spain, Morocco, and Australia. As Allison McLarin said, "She was an exceptional student (and person!)." Anita Nadal "had the privilege and honor of working with her over the summer". She did an internship with the Virginia Poverty Law Center. She has applied for a Fulbright Scholarship for the Human Rights program at the London School of Economics.

Diamond Stevenson

Diamond Stevenson [View Image]

Diamond Stevenson says, “I am so beyond thankful to have been nominated as a recipient for the Black History in the Making award!

My college experience has been nothing short of a challenge. I started this journey at an HBCU, North Carolina A&T, and was unclear of what the future held. Between changing my major after the first semester, to receiving academic probation, to withdrawing and relocating to a community college while working and helping my family, to experiencing the loss of someone very close to me, immediately followed by the unfolding of a global pandemic- I was arbitrarily close to giving up.
But a spark embedded within me told me that I should keep going- that there’s still work to be done and more of a story to tell.

The moment I transferred to VCU last fall semester, I hit the ground running. I focused and applied myself in all of my classes, working my way up to a 3.7 GPA. During this time, I simultaneously grew and maintained my own handmade jewelry business- a creative hobby that I picked up during the transitional period I spent at home.

I learned so much valuable knowledge about myself alongside my academics. A favorite class in particular was my Podcasting While Black class, in which I learned the technical aspects of podcasting, along with research methods, excerpts from major figures in black history, and valuable knowledge of Richmond’s history. This class gave me firsthand experience with interviewing professionals such as the Chief Scientist of the Science Museum of Virginia and the directors of the RVA Eviction Lab. I am inspired to create and expand my own podcast and share my voice on important topics related to psychology, The Black Experience, science & spirituality.

I am thankful that someone saw my resiliency, passion for knowledge, and determination to achieve my goals during my short period here at VCU. I dream of working in the field of psychology as a counselor, and especially focus my work on providing mental health, wellness & healing tools for communities that need it the most- the black community, minorities, and lower income families. I plan to use my voice and my platform to share crucial topics and research that must be heard! I dream of continually expanding my jewelry collection and growing my business over the years. Each day I strive towards turning these dreams into reality.”


Janice Stith-Wiggins

Janice Stith Wiggins [View Image]

Chaplain Janice Stith-Wiggins is a MS student in Patient Counseling and a Chaplain Resident in the VCU Medical Center. She came to VCU with leadership skills developed in the community. She is now preparing for a career in professional healthcare chaplaincy in our program. She is a kind and compassionate person who cares for patients, their families and our healthcare team members with love. This is especially needed during a time when COVID-19 has decimated families and has put tremendous stress on healthcare workers. Her ready smile and willingness to go the extra mile is making a big difference. Janice received her Master of Divinity degree in 2016 from The Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia. She received the November 2020 Team Member Tulip Award, and The 2021 Black History in the Making Award. Janice is a member of St. Paul's Baptist church where she serves as an Associate Minister and Small Group Coordinator. She enjoys missions, fishing, and spending time with family.

Samuel Taylor

Samuel Taylor [View Image]

From Martha Harper, Sam's adviser: "Sam Taylor makes his own way. One of those rare freshman, he identified the opportunity immediately to self-design his own degree. Sam knew what he wanted, what it looks like, and figured out how to get it. As his advisor, Sam pretty much tells me what he is doing next, and I just advocate for him and write his overrides. He understands the value of what he is doing, is quite selective in what he chooses to do. He puts 100% into every class. His Human Centered Design focus consists of coursework from a variety of disciplines including Da Vinci Innovation classes, Fashion, Kinetic Imaging, Graphic Design and Human Centered Design. Sam, with his quiet, confident, and always easy going personality, seems to knock down barriers wherever he goes. Sam always brings more to the table then he takes and his professors know that. They push him to his limits and Sam appreciates that in return. In his senior semester, Sam is in a practicum, and two different internships along with his senior capstone class. Sam will be working in Product Design for a New York firm, while exercising his community aspirations and creative skills supporting a new initiative, designed by Sam himself, called Open Call for local artists to submit work to the Anderson Gallery. Sam will then set up virtual and other platforms to showcase their work through the Anderson. The Interdisciplinary Studies Program is better for having Sam Taylor in our Class of 2021."

Nathan Teklemariam

Nathan Teklemariam [View Image]

Nathan Teklemariam is a doctoral candidate in Public Policy & Administration at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. He will defend his dissertation titled “Interventions to Slums and Informal Settlements: The Case of the Integrated Housing Development Program in Addis Ababa Ethiopia” in May 2021. Since starting his Ph.D. program, Nathan has engaged in research that examines urban planning issues from the lens of inclusion, diversity, and equity both at the national and international scale. He is a recipient of both the 2018 American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) Founders’ Fellow and International Young Scholars Awards. He was also selected as a 2018 Equity & Inclusion Fellowship awardee by the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (APPAM). Nathan has independently taught three courses in the Urban and Regional Studies and Planning program and served as a Teaching Assistant on several others. In addition to his academic work, Teklemariam continues to work on projects that address community planning, health, and social inequities in the city, with organizations such as Venture Richmond, Storefront for Community Design, Six Points Innovation Center, and the Mayor’s Healthy Richmond Campaign. Nathan received his Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning at VCU in 2013 and his BA in International Relations and Political Science from Marymount Manhattan College in 2011.

Jahbari Tesfaye

Jahbari Tesfaye [View Image]

Jahbari Tesfaye, senior in Gender Sexuality and Women’s Studies, is a wonderfully creative and thoughtful student who has a positive and memorable impact on his classmates and his professors. Described as a rock star role model to other students, Jahbari’s quiet confidence, ability to handle multiple stressful situations with grace, and his complete and total kindness toward others will most definitely help him to make history!

Jerica Thompson

Jerica Thompson is a First Generation traditional student here at Virginia Commonwealth University. Jerica is currently a Social Work major with a minor in Psychology with a 3.6 GPA. She has been involved in many organizations while attending VCU. She is currently the Vice President of the Bachelor's of Social Work Student Association and a first generation mentor in VCU's You First program. Jerica expresses her spirituality on campus as a member of the Black Awakening Choir and Anointed to Dance. Professionally, Jerica has worked with many members of the Richmond community in the field through her previous internship with Atlantic Outreach Group. While there she was able to connect Richmond residents with important resources related to transportation, housing, financial literacy, crisis intervention, and accessibility to food. Presently, Jerica is interning at HOPE for obesity where she is assisting children and families with their goals to health and weight loss through behavioral health resources.

Jerica plans to get her Masters in Clinical Social Work and gain experience working in a health care setting as her passion is to help minority patients obtain resources, learn to effectively communicate with healthcare professionals and grow in self advocacy to ensure best outcomes for all patients. Jerica's long term goals are to get a Masters in Health Administration or Public Health and possibly work in healthcare administration.


Ruth Tiguh

Ruth Tiguh [View Image]

Jillian Carpenter, MSW shared: "Over the past year, I have witnessed Ruth’s personal and professional growth through field education. Ruth has demonstrated the ability to ask difficult questions, examine the complexities of systems, and to build her self-awareness. She is an excellent student with a contagious enthusiasm for learning. Ruth shows up to all of our optional meetings because she wants to absorb information and collaborate with her peers. Because of Ruth’s extraordinary work ethic and her commitment to racial and social justice, I encouraged her to apply for the VCU School of Social Work’s Racial Justice Student Fellowship. Ruth was selected, out of a very competitive pool of students, to serve as a student representative on the Racial Justice Task Force. I know she has been a tremendous asset to the team. Ruth is leading our School of Social Work through a much needed transformation and I am proud of her commitment, vulnerability, and leadership. I want to share feedback from Ruth’s field instructors during the Spring and Fall 2020 semesters. Her final field evaluations included the following feedback:

“Ruth’s performance demonstrated maturity and a level of inquiry that allowed her to navigate her assignments with energy and persistence. Ruth was organized and demonstrated excellent interaction with agency partners and collaborators she was required to contact while completing her administrative assignments. She used supervision to clarify her questions and explore her social work values.”

“Ruth has shown significant growth in professionalism during her first semester in field as she has closed gaps within her ability to manage her time effectively, accurately complete assigned tasks, as well as juggle several tasks at one time. Ruth always presents with eagerness to learn and a positive attitude. Ruth has demonstrated increased knowledge in understanding agency policies and protocol, providing clinical assessment of clients, as well as engaging with parents and guardians. Ruth has been great at being transparent and communicating her needs during supervision. Ruth has demonstrated leadership ability, as she took the lead in facilitating a grief related intervention during her peer group this semester.”

In closing, it is my privilege to nominate Ruth Tiguh for the Black History in the Making. She is a strong critical thinker with the desire to make an impact in all facets of her life. Ruth brings an unparalleled energy to the classroom and field agency. I feel lucky to learn from her each semester."

Alex Wagaman, PhD shared: "Ruth was an excellent student in my macro human behavior in the social environment class. She did a semester long project on hair discrimination which resulted in an excellent program strategy for empowering Black girls. Ruth is an active member of the BSW Student Association, taking on a leadership role in the organization focused on outreach. Ruth is aiming to pursue her MSW after graduation, with aspirations to work with Black youth. Ruth is a BSW representative on the School of Social Work Racial Justice Task Force."

Levi R. Walter

Levi Walter [View Image]

Levi R. Walter (they/them/theirs) is the Administrative Coordinator for the department, coming to this position having completed both the B.A. and post-baccalaureate programs offered in GSWS. Levi currently serves on the CHS CAPS Council and is the staff representative for the Graduate Academic Committee (GAC). Levi is also the coordinator of the department's Student Advisory Board (SAB) and creates the content for the GSWS Student Newsletter.

Valerie Washington

Valerie Washington [View Image]

Valerie Washington is in her second semester in the Wilder's school's Masters of Urban and Regional Planning program. Valerie is committed to fighting for change in her local community. When she is not in class, she actively advocates for individuals experiencing homelessness, affordable housing, and expungement of felony convictions-- all issues that disproportionately affect people of color. She also teaches adult education classes for folks who want to advance their career opportunities but need a high school equivalency test or GED. Last year, she registered over 40 first time voters who later participated in the 2020 presidential election. She is currently an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc and Virginia Organizing. She currently lives in Central Virginia with her son Malcolm and her dog Coco.

Rasean West

Rasean West [View Image]

From Martha Harper, Rasean's adviser: "When Rasean first appeared in my office he was at a real crossroads. His love of sports inspired him to choose HPEX as a freshman but when he really analyzed what he loved about sports, it wasn’t the body of the athlete. It was social, it was marketing, it was management and he especially identified with Black athletes and struggles. I noticed that Rasean had an A in one of his AFAM courses and we explored the possibility that he may be more of a humanities guy at heart. Rasean agreed that he did want to further explore AFAM, but he was also quick to stand up for loving management and organizational approaches to problem solving. In fact he thought he might have a knack for Real Estate. Together we both got excited about the possibilities. What an impact could a guy like Rasean make on the history of systemic racism and redlining in this country by knowing and understanding real estate with a great future in community development and other creative human-centered endeavors. Since Rasean declared two minors African American Studies and Real Estate for his Interdisciplinary focus, his major GPA has skyrocketed with a 3.5 and graduating this Spring. When I asked him about his engagement for this nomination, he said, “ well, not much over the last few years and especially during this pandemic I haven’t really done anything notable concerning my major. I’ve been focused mostly on my job, studying, working on my speech impediment, and finding myself.” I said, "What?! that sounded like a lot to me!" He developed his inner academic, humanitarian and determination to overcome barriers! Rasean has a host of progressively responsible work experience, mostly in the service industry that he thinks supplement his very unique major and will carry him to new heights when he can add Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies to his resume this Spring."

Taneasha White

From Dr. Liz Canfield, Taneasha's professor: "Taneasha is the most amazing student I've had! She is in our graduate certificate program and while I've known her for years, she has truly come into her own in the past few years. Taneasha is an excellent student, but perhaps more importantly, she is an important activist and writer. Taneasha has worked with reproductive rights for years, both as a paid activist and on her own time. Taneasha's work in the community stretches much farther (even though her work on reproductive rights is enough for one person) into community building, work with southern LGBTQIA+ people, and writing. Taneasha is an amazing writer, publishing articles about race/racism, the body, and sex/sexuality. Her latest writing endeavor is a book of autobiographical essays that explores these subjects and so much more. She is on the LGBTQIA+ Interdisciplinary Core for the iCubed program, and with this scholar-activism project, Taneasha plans to do a publication for scholarly and creative work around LGBTQ+ people who are from multiply marginalized communities. Finally, if that wasn't enough, Taneasha has opened a new co-working space called The Collab Spot ( When not working on her grad classes or her many activist projects, Taneasha can be found relaxing with a book, her partner, and her cat, Chimichurri."

Ahouefa Yemey

Ahouefa Yemey [View Image]

Ahouefa Yemey is a Senior Majoring in Sociology. She is a transfer student from Virginia Western Community College. She enrolled in the Trio Pathways Program, where she soon began her assistance to the program as a work-study. In her second year, she was a School Ambassador, held assistance in the CCAP retention program, and trained to be a "Youth Animator" after school for her community. At the end of her school career at Virginia Western, she was nominated and selected to be the student speaker at her Commencement.

After graduating, Ahouefa transferred to Virginia Commonwealth University. She continued her passion for Sociology and Dance; her two passions intertwine into her ultimate goal of becoming a Dance Therapist, where she can do both things while giving an affordable service to people in need. While attending Virginia Commonwealth University, she attended the annual "First Gen" Conference held at the University of Virginia. She later had the opportunity to be a part of the first student-led" First Gen" conference held on campus. Here she was part of a great team that led a discussion based on Identity and Intersectionality. Ahouefa’s interests are focused on the Liberation and Revolution of Black Feminist. Her Senior thesis was a group collaboration on the super women complex and how it affected the power dynamics between black women in college. The research included discussions and interviews of black college women and the mental, physical, emotional obstacles and disadvantages they endure while in college and after.

Even though her ultimate goal is to become a dance therapist, Ahouefa appreciates and enjoys the journey to get there. She wishes to continue her post-graduates' studies after a gap year and attend Howard University, where she can major in sociology/criminology and later a PH. D in Medical Sociology.

Brooke Young

Brooke Young [View Image]

Brooke Young is currently a second-year 4.0 student in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, majoring in Mass Communication with a concentration in Public relations with a minor in Spanish. She is a three-time Dean’s List awardee and continues to excel in her studies. From her childhood of moving from place to place as a Military child, Brooke has always found joy in interacting, adapting, and learning with different people and communities. In addition to her studies, Brooke works as a public relations assistant at the Metropolitan Business League, a nonprofit that creates business connections in central Virginia. In her current role, Brooke is learning the necessary skills of customer service, media relations, and writing that will help her exceed as a future public relations professional. Her love for communication and helping others makes her a great fit for the public relations field. After graduation, her experiences with Adobe creative suites for graphic design, Spanish as a second language, and general public relation skills, will help Brooke land a position where she can help develop a company’s social media footprint and public relations functions. As well as becoming a public relations practitioner, Brooke hopes to continue to volunteer and work in her community.


Jordan Young

Jordan Young [View Image]

Jordan is completing her 3rd year at VCU as a pre-med student majoring in Biology while minoring in Chemistry. In Jordan's nearly three years at VCU, she has proved to be a highly academically talented student with a razor-sharp focus on becoming a physician while giving back to her community and so we highlight some of her achievements. Jordan has served as a Resident Assistant at VCU, a Mentor for VCU Acceleration, a pipeline program through the Office of Health Sciences Diversity that she also was a member, a Presidential Student Ambassador and a Student Ambassador for VCU's Office of Admissions, the Vice President of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars at VCU, and has been active in Black Women in STEM, Sisters with Stethoscopes, Women of Worth, and the Honors College all at VCU. She has served as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in the Joung Lab. a volunteer at the Goochland Free Clinic, a Mentor at George Washington Carver Elementary School, and a volunteer for Global Brigades Medical/Dental in Panama. She has also served as a volunteer in the STICU and the Inpatient Pediatrics Child Life. Finally, in the Summer of 2019 she was accepted to participate in the ACSEP TIER I Summer Program at Howard University. We are greatly impressed with Jordan's accomplishments thus far and we are excited to see what Jordan achieves in her last year at VCU.

Former Recipients

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