May 16-22 2003
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IN THIS ISSUE
Bond, Morse, Terry win 2003 Sullivan Awards
Advocate for diversity leads by example
Finals factoids
Music major creates programs for local schools

Tragedy spurs Muslim student’s effort to bring understanding

Finding history among the trees
Community through architecture
Moving toward a more inclusive environment
Jobe leads with faith, activism
Exploring vast worlds with Harrison Awards
Harvey blends work, study with passion for civic participation
Designing women sow success
Merging technology, music and art
From one-room school to athletic field
Persistence pays for Ukrainian student
Swimmer sets her eyes on Olympic event
Firefighting ideal job for Jefferson Scholar
Pruett’s ready to deploy, but not to leave her kids
Cancer survivor helps others
Moving toward a more inclusive environment
Brandi Collins stands in front of Kent-Dabney first-year dorms, where she was graduate adviser.
Photo by Andrew Shurtleff
Brandi Collins stands in front of Kent-Dabney first-year dorms, where she was graduate adviser.

By Anne Bromley

Brandi Collins, who will receive her master’s degree in urban and environmental planning from the Architecture School, explores the ways in which architectural spaces reflect or represent society.

“It makes a difference in how cities are shaped and how structures are laid out ... and who gets to decide,” said Collins, who grew up in Hampton and Washington.

In Charlottesville, when urban renewal ideas caught hold in the 1950s, the thriving African-American neighborhood and businesses in the area known as Vinegar Hill were destroyed. “African Americans weren’t consulted,” she said, and now that part of architectural history, not to mention the community, is lost.

About Thomas Jefferson’s university, she asks, “Where are the communal spaces for those other than whites?”

For minority students who are constantly being made aware that they are in the minority, it would help to have a dedicated and welcoming place where they know they are not the odd person out, said Collins, a graduate adviser for the Kent-Dabney first-year dorms. She envisions a center that would bring minority student organizations under one roof and provide recreation, social and study spaces.

When she arrived at the University two years ago, she asked where to find resources for minority graduate students, but there wasn’t a specific place.

“I decided as long as I’m here, I want to make it a better place. I feel ownership. I’m part of the continuum of the legacy of African Americans at the University of Virginia.”

Last year, Collins helped jump-start the Black Graduate and Professional Student Organization and served as president. The group met with Gene Block, vice president and provost, to discuss goals for improving the recruitment and retention of minority graduate students.

She also is a member of a task force convened by Senior Vice President William W. Harmon that is working on this effort. Students recently met to discuss what barriers exist for minority graduate students, and identified among them the lack of faculty mentoring and inadequate financial support. To offset the former, the black graduate students’ group is starting a peer-mentoring program next year to help new graduate students get acclimated and not feel isolated.

Eventually, Collins said, she hopes to put her knowledge about affordable housing and community development to work for a faith-based nonprofit organization.
Next year, she will go to Detroit to focus on ministry in an urban
setting.

Her optimism comes through on her answering machine message, where she says, “The thought for today is, God is not seeking perfection, He is seeking progress.”
It’s clear this U.Va. graduate has made progress here.

 


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