Letting students lead
Q&A with Patricia Lampkin, Vice President for Student Affairs
The U.Va. Difference
Third in an occasional series
Photo by Dan Addison
Q. What sets U.Va. apart from its peers?
AThe undergraduate student experience. When the University was founded, Jefferson had in mind an institution that would develop the head, heart and hands of students — teaching them how to think; nurturing personal traits, such as honor, duty and loyalty; and equipping them with the leadership skills they would need to go out into the world and contribute to society. While society and the University have changed in many ways since then, the core values of this institution and of its founder have endured. We’re not perfect, but we are always consciously working to embody our modern versions of these core values as a University community: academic rigor, honor, diversity, wellness, student self-governance and public service.
Q. What do you hope U.Va. students will learn while they’re here?
AWe want students to challenge themselves academically and in other ways while they’re here, in order to learn who they are within the framework of the institution’s mission and values. We want them to actively engage in their education and in the University community. We want them to take ownership of issues and figure out the answers for themselves. We want them to navigate successfully in an environment of diversity, to listen to others’ views and to express their own. We want them to be educated in the sciences as well as in the humanities. We want them to be proficient with technology and sophisticated in the arts. We want them to grapple with ethical issues and come to their own conclusions. We want them to consider the international ramifications of domestic decisions. We want them to be able to put our core values into play in their lives, now as students and later as alumni.
Everyone in our division works behind the scenes to support the University’s academic enterprise and enhance the student experience in many different ways. Above all, our goal is to create community. We want U.Va. to feel small but offer the resources of a big university. We want this to feel like a small, safe place where students can grow.
Q. How does U.Va. encourage citizenship?
A Student self-governance is a reality here. Whenever possible, students are given the opportunity to direct things — student organizations, conferences, events. U.Va. students have much more authority than at most other schools. They run the Honor Committee, the Judiciary Committee, the Student Council and the Residential Life program. Many of these judicial responsibilities are held by professionals at other insitutions.
By supporting an environment that allows students to make their own choices — and their own mistakes — we try to help students figure out their own paths to reach their potential. We try to foster an interplay among the students, the resources they have available to them and the institution’s core values. In this way, students have multifaceted opportunities to incorporate the University’s values into their own personal value systems while they’re here and to take the values along with them when they leave.
Our system attracts and challenges students who are driven and smart. For example, the chair of the Honor Committee during the 2004-05 academic year was Meghan Sullivan, who last fall was named a 2005 Rhodes Scholar, along with fellow U.Va. student Justin Mutter. Because of the responsibility our students hold here, our alumni do well across the board. Some even have told us they had less responsibility on their first jobs than they had here as students. Many of our alumni go on to positions of leadership in their chosen fields — in business, law, medicine, politics, engineering, education, you name it. Other alumni, because of the value we place on public service and the opportunities provided through Madison House and other organizations, are selected by Teach for America or the Peace Corps upon graduation. This year marked the fifth year in a row that the University ranked first in the nation among mid-sized universities for the number of graduates going on to become Peace Corps volunteers.
Q. Have your professional experiences affected the way you raise your own
AThe students here are highly successful. They’re under a lot of stress. Their families have high hopes for them. And sometimes the students lose perspective. They’ve been pushing themselves all their lives. They need to learn to keep things in perspective. That’s one thing I try to teach my children — Colleen, 16, and Hayes, 15 — to keep things in perspective. I want them to be resourceful, resilient, to have good heads on their shoulders. While I don’t always succeed, I try to let them go even when I want to stay in control and I’ve had to watch them fail and suffer the consequences because I know how important it is. They have to experience it. Safely. Because we can’t protect our children from hardship. I’ve been involved in residence life for 15 years and I’ve been exposed to a lot. As a result, my children have been exposed to a lot. I hope that this exposure has provided them with some perspective on their own lives and decision making. I want to help students figure out what resources they can take advantage of to build themselves up, to learn how to overcome barriers, to find solutions to seemingly insoluble problems. I want the same for my own children.
Q. Are there any themes that run through U.Va. students’ and alumni’s lives?
AIntelligence. Honor. Service. Leadership. Energy.
Photos by Dan Addison
|Student leaders attend a luncheon with President John T. Casteen III (left) and members of the Board of Visitors earlier this month.
A sampling of students illustrates the breadth of experiences available
to undergraduates at the University of Virginia.
Mana Anandsongkit • Class of 2008; Hometown: Bangkok, Thailand; Active in: Leadership Consultants, Sikh Student Association. Major: Economics
“Diversity was how I grew up. I didn’t see it as an issue until coming here. […] Coming here has gotten me in touch with my own culture more than I expected.” Full story.
Becca Black • Class of 2006; Hometown: Culpeper, Va.; Active in: Madison House Hoos Against Hunger and Homelessness; Major: Religious Studies
“In Culpeper, the poverty is not seen. But I’ve had my eyes opened to hunger, homelessness and poverty. I used to think of homelessness as the guy on the street asking for spare change. But the average homeless person is a child or a single mom with children.” Full story.
Aaron Blake • Class of 2007; Hometown: Richmond, Va.; Active in: Black Student Alliance, Minority Rights Coalition, University Board of Elections, United Sisters, Big Sisters, International TA Program; Major: Foreign Affairs
“I will never forget my first lighting of the Lawn. I walked there, had a snowball fight and lost my keys. My feet were soaking wet. But to stand there in the company of my U.Va. colleagues, not worrying about racial incidents, just proud to be a Wahoo, arm in arm singing ‘The Good Old Song’ in front of the Rotunda — it was just the most powerful experience.”
Ross Kimbel • Class of 2006; Hometown: Atlanta, Ga.; Active in: Inter-Fraternity Council, Phi Delta Theta; Major: Biology with a specialization in Environmental Conservation
“We’ve got a huge group of people in the IFC. I thought, why not do something constructive and huge?” He came up with the idea for a “Crimson War,” a blood drive in a friendly competition with the University of Maryland to culminate on the day that U.Va. faced U.Md. on the gridiron. The blood drive set a Virginia Blood Services record. Full story.
Rodrigo Lopez • Class of 2006; Hometown: Riobamba, Ecuador; Active in: Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Pi Tau Sigma, Washington Internship Program, Latino Student Union, Major: Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Engineering Business
“Anybody who does this [public policy internship in Washington] is not going into traditional engineering. The program changes how you view your profession and your options after graduation. It shows you so many options.” Full story
Kerry Maher • Class of 2007; Hometown: Welland, Ontario, Canada; Active in: Women’s Varsity Rowing (co-captain), Day in the Life, Student Athlete Mentoring Program, Athletes in Action, FORCE (Fighting, Overcoming and Responding to Cancer Everywhere); Major: Music
“No matter how I perform — academically or athletically — it’s not going to change how others perceive me or who I am as a person. I’ve dealt with a ton of injuries and have always come out on the better side of them. I’ve learned that you can’t let failure define who you are nor can you be afraid of it.” Full story
Lucia Molina • Class of 2007; Hometown: Fairfax, Va.; Active in: Latino Students Union, Casa Bolivar, University Salsa Club, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (president), Washington Internship Program; Major: Biomedical Engineering with a possible minor in Systems Engineering
“The most important lesson I’ve learned here is to make sure you know what you want to get out of an experience. […] You should not just be running around all the time but spending your time on things that will make a difference.” Full story
Gabriel Silver • Class of 2007; Hometown: Ivy, Va.; Active in: Madison House Housing Improvement; Major: Echols Scholar, Environmental Thought and Practice, pre-med
“I like that in neighborhoods where we do work, the residents get to see U.Va. students not being stereotypical U.Va. students but doing something constructive. It’s a good way for people in the community to see us in a different light.” Full story
Christina Valencia • Class of 2006; Hometown: Great Falls, Va.; Active in: InterSorority Council, Sigma Kappa, Asian Student Union, Young Women Leaders Program, Fourth-Year Class Trustee; Major: Double major in American Politics and Sociology with a minor in Religious Studies
“Sexual assault is an issue that I’ve been working on. Especially between fraternities and sororities there’s been tension. But this year, the IFC and the ISC formed a joint committee against sexual assault. We worked together to develop a protocol for talks between sororities and fraternities.”
Matt Ward • Class of 2006; Hometown: Oakton, Va. Active in: Men’s Lacrosse Team (captain), which won the 2006 NCAA championship on May 29. Major: Commerce with a concentration in Marketing
“U.Va. is in a league of its own in terms of its commitment to both sports and academics. Getting a great education is very important to me.” Full story
Grace Yun • Class of 2006; Hometown: McLean, Va.; Active in: Peer Advising and Family Network for Asian and Asian-American students, Korean Students Association, SEED (Students Empowering and Educating through Diversity); Major: Psychology with a minor in Studio Art/Printmaking
“U.Va. has changed me into a totally different person. I’m more confident about going out there into the world. More outgoing. My time here has touched all aspects of my life — mentally, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually.” Full story