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When Levi Walter was 17, they knew two things: They wanted to move to Richmond and they wanted to become a dentist. “I come from a working-class family where the person who has the most comfort and access is a dentist. I thought that it would be an avenue to security and didn't consider what my own strengths and interests would be,” says Levi. After struggling with biology, Levi realized that they needed to find another course of study. It was a class with Christine Cynn, Ph.D., in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies that changed everything. “My true passion was always helping people. Through a class with Dr. Cynn, I truly began to interrogate what is helpful within the systems that are in play for marginalized people in this country, and what is the impact of ‘help’ when you are within a system of harm.” In 2017, Levi graduated from VCU with a bachelor’s degree in gender, sexuality and women’s studies and psychology.
Levi wasn’t away from GSWS long when they learned of the administrative position in August of 2019. The chance to be back in the department that they knew and loved was a welcome opportunity. “GSWS as a department provided critical language that I needed to understand my identity and my experiences, and I am pretty much where I am because of the love and care of my professors, and now, colleagues,” says Levi. As the only staff member for the department, Levi has to do a little of everything, from answering email and tracking expenditures to updating the website and creating the alumni newsletter. But their favorite part of the position is definitely interacting with the students. “I don't mean to sound cliché, but I love understanding the world from students' perspectives. The more that I age the less that I can rely on my own memory of undergrad, so I truly love meeting students from all across the university and getting to know their passions and ideas,” says Levi.
“GSWS as a department provided critical language that I needed to understand my identity and my experiences. I am pretty much where I am because of the love and care of my professors, and now, colleagues!”
Levi has also become an advocate for their fellow staff members as an integral part the Classified and Academic Professional Staff Council (CAPS). “I began my involvement with CAPS because I didn't have much connection with other staff in CHS at all,” says Levi. “I really wanted to help close some of those gaps in communication with other folks who are sole staff members, but I was also happy to give my perspective as someone coming from GSWS and as a person with lived experience as a young, Black trans person.” Levi encourages all staff members to participate in CAPS, stressing that you don’t need to be a voting member to attend. “We would love to have you, hear your perspectives and offer you any advice when you have questions about new policies or changes. Our executive team (Stephanie, Corey, Shenika and Roy) are truly team players and advocate for staff every moment they can.”
When Levi isn’t working, you can find them in the kitchen. “I love to bake and cook for my family and friends, and it's become something of a small passion project. I think people think you need a lot of money, energy, and time to bake and cook properly, so it's a small goal of mine to convince others differently.”