Moving toward a more inclusive
by Andrew Shurtleff
Collins stands in front of Kent-Dabney first-year dorms, where
she was graduate adviser.
By Anne Bromley
Collins, who will receive her masters degree in urban and
environmental planning from the Architecture
School, explores the ways in which architectural spaces reflect
or represent society.
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.
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
werent consulted, she said, and now that part of architectural
history, not to mention the community, is lost.
Thomas Jeffersons university, she asks, Where are
the communal spaces for those other than whites?
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.
she arrived at the University two years ago, she asked where to
find resources for minority graduate students, but there wasnt
a specific place.
decided as long as Im here, I want to make it a better place.
I feel ownership. Im part of the continuum of the legacy
of African Americans at the University of Virginia.
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.
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.
Collins said, she hopes to put her knowledge about affordable
housing and community development to work for a faith-based nonprofit
Next year, she will go to Detroit to focus on ministry in an urban
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.
Its clear this U.Va. graduate has made progress here.