Spotsylvania, Virginia; School of Social Work
Baldwin takes pride in being an older student on campus. “I’m bringing a little bit of experience to the table,” said the 28-year-old Army veteran.
Baldwin is getting a master’s degree in social work so he can help veterans as well as people in the community.
He chose VCU because the “School of Social Work is extremely well-known at the national level. It’s a powerhouse,” he said. “Plus, VCU has its finger on the pulse of Richmond.”
Baldwin enlisted in the Army at 22 after working in outside sales.
“I was looking for structure and benefits and incentives like the GI Bill,” he said.
He was stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, and served in the Army for five years as a unit supply specialist, attaining the rank of sergeant with the 1st Battalion 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). He provided logistical support for training missions and operations for Special Operations Command Europe.
While stationed in Stuttgart, he received his bachelor’s degree in psychology summa cum laude from the University of Maryland Global Campus as well as a foreign language area studies certificate in German.
He wants to pursue social work because he enjoys “working one on one with people and understanding what they have going on,” he said.
As a student during the pandemic, he wants to make sure he’s being conscientious and putting the health and welfare of others top of mind.
“We are looking out for each other,” he said.
Even though he’s only been on campus a short time, Baldwin has signed up for the Honor Council and Student Conduct Board. He is a member of the M.S.W. Student Association and the Student Veterans Association.
“So far my experience on campus has been fantastic. All the staff and faculty have welcomed me with open arms and open hearts. From the second I started talking to VCU, everyone has always made me feel very welcome,” he said.
— Joan Tupponce
Teresa Orellana [View Image]
Moseley, Virginia; School of Dentistry, Honors College
Orellana has taken a bit of a nontraditional route to VCU.
Her father was in the military, and she moved around growing up. The family settled in Chesterfield County, Virginia, a few years ago, not far from her grandfather’s house. After high school, she attended John Tyler Community College, where she completed her prerequisites in dental hygiene.
Shortly after starting classes at John Tyler, Orellana realized there was no club or organization for students with an interest in dentistry. She founded a dental careers club. Today it has around two-dozen members.
“I saw that there was a need for letting people know what the prerequisites were and for networking,” she said. “A lot of the advising confused the students.”
She started classes this fall at VCU and hopes to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. She still lives at home with her parents and commutes to VCU. The atmosphere on campus and around the university is very different from her quiet life in the rural Moseley community.
“It’s been an adventure being in Richmond, because where I live there is not a lot going on,” Orellana said. “The city is a lot busier than I had ever imagined. But I like it.”
She had thought about moving, but enjoys living in the country and being near her family.
“I know it would be easier to live on campus, but I love my family,” Orellana said. “I love my grandpa and seeing him. He lives in the middle of nowhere, which is only five minutes from my house. I love being out in the middle of nowhere. I would miss that very much.”
Instead of working in a dental clinic after graduation, Orellana has dreams of working with the prison population.
“I want to work in a correctional facility as a dental hygienist,” Orellana said. “I plan to get my master’s in adult education [and] I want to eventually teach dental hygiene or other science courses at a university.”
— James Shea