Student Focuses on Government and Foreign Affairs, French, Russian
-- and Quilting
4, 2001-- When you think "quilting," a
few stereotypes come to mind: grandmotherly types gathered in a
rural church hall, sewing and catching up on the latest gossip.
Sarah Jane Dinan, stereotype-buster. Shes a brilliant young
woman -- one University of Virginia professor called her "the
best student I have ever had" -- with a top-1-percent class
ranking and 10 A-pluses on her record as she pursues a dual degree
in French and government and foreign affairs. She grew up in populous
Northern Virginia, attended a private high school -- and she is
president of the U.Va. Quilting Club.
has been sewing since she was 7, when she "learned from little
old ladies at the Woodlawn Plantation," a historic estate near
her Alexandria home that offered lessons. She sewed and quilted
at home, even as she built a stellar academic record at Georgetown
Visitation School in Washington.
is something concrete I get to do after school work," she said.
"Its so nice to sit down for two hours and make a skirt
-- then its done, and I can wear it."
the needle and thread was mostly a solo pursuit until her third
year at U.Va., when she discovered a group of students with similar
interests, including club founder April Lowenthal, who graduated
in 2000. "I was really surprised that there was anyone interested
in doing that here," she said. "College-age girls are
not known for that."
formed the U.Va. Quilting Club, a University-recognized organization.
The group, which then numbered about 15, gathered regularly at members
apartments and produced several customized
quilts for residents of Emmaus With Child, a local Christian maternity
home for pregnant women in crisis.
just did fantastic work -- they were gorgeous," said Vicki
Lennon, Emmaus With Childs executive director.
of the members had never quilted before, but learned quickly, Dinan
so easy to do," she said. "People learned by the end of
their first time."
much of the core group graduated or drifted away this year, Dinan
knit together a regular group of four or five quilters -- mostly
from the Catholic Student Association, another organization in which
Dinan is active -- for weekly Thursday-night sessions through the
fall. Academic pressures, scheduling difficulties and preparing
for the days after graduation have cut into quilting time in the
spring semester, but club members are working to finish one last
quilt for Emmaus before graduation May 20, Dinan said.
had to work her quilting around her studies, which she pursues with
an unusual passion, according to her adviser, Allen Lynch, an associate
professor of government and foreign affairs and director of the
Center for Russian and
East European Studies.
Dinan consistently performed at the highest level of accomplishment,
whether the assignment was an examination, weekly critiques of the
literature, synthetic discussion of often contradictory material,
or a major research assignment," he wrote from Germany, where
he is teaching this semester. "[She] is driven by a burning
intellectual curiosity and has taken the steps to ensure that her
mind is tested to the limits, through study abroad (in Ireland),
and through ambitious concentrations in French, government and foreign
affairs, and Russian.
these grounds, I have no hesitation in confirming that Sarah Dinan
is the best student that I have known in 12 years of teaching"
at U.Va., Columbia College and New York University, he wrote.
a summer trip to Paris, Dinan will enroll in a masters program
in international affairs at the University of Chicago, where she
has received a full-tuition fellowship. She plans to focus on Russia.
"Im fascinated with Russian politics," she said.
will also continue sewing, she said, perhaps making quilts for future
nieces and nephews.
love to sew everything. I like to do things that are useful -- not
like needlepoint that just hangs on the wall," she said.
Dan Heuchert, (804) 924-7676