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Service Is Bottom Line For Business Student

May 9, 2002-- Gordon Braxton is not your typical business student.

"I don’t view business as an end in itself, but as a mechanism for social change," he said.

Braxton, 22, a graduating fourth-year student from Stafford, Va., has concentrated on marketing at the McIntire School of Commerce. He has enjoyed the challenge of a rigorous education in business. And he expects to work for profit-making ventures at some point in his career.

But it’s not where his heart lies.

Braxton is planning a career in social work, and his face lights up when he talks about the service projects he’s done at U.Va.

A member of Brothers United Celebrating Knowledge and Success, Braxton was the only first-year student to serve on the organization’s first executive board. He has stayed active in the group, which helps bridge the digital divide by offering free computer tutoring to African-American youth in Charlottesville.

Braxton also serves with the nationally recognized peer-advisers program at the Office of African American Affairs. "I realized that I didn’t get where I am solely on my own merit," Braxton said. "A lot of people helped me, and I wanted to return the favor."

Another activity that has clearly engaged Braxton’s head and heart is his work for One in Four. Established at U.Va. four years ago, the group educates men about sexual violence against women and works to reduce it on college campuses.

Braxton speaks to men’s groups around Grounds about the extent of the problem and ways they can help. (One in four refers to the number of college women who have experienced a rape or an attempted rape between the ages of 14 and 22.)

"There’s a lot you can do to help end men’s violence against women," he said. "You can be effective in your everyday interactions with people."

Everyday conversations about race are another of Braxton’s interests. He conceived the idea for "Reflections on Complexions" four years ago, modeled after then-President Clinton’s talks about race held around the country. BUCKS embraced Braxton’s idea and has helped sponsor it every year.

Braxton’s empathy may stem in part from a frightening personal experience. The summer before he matriculated at U.Va., he fell into a coma for several weeks. Doctors were never able to identify the source, and Braxton just as mysteriously recovered. He had to rebuild atrophied muscles and relearn how to write and talk. Since then, he’s been grateful for the little things in life.

"Spending a month on life support made me treat every day like a gift," he said.

Braxton’s contributions in community service at U.Va. were recognized recently with an Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.

Unlike many of his McIntire classmates, Braxton hasn’t yet secured a full-time job and plans to spend more time looking after graduation. At the top of his list would be a job with a non-profit group, especially one that addresses issues of gender and violence or urban education.

"You have to make a difference where you can, because you can," he said.

Contact: Charlotte Crystal, (434) 924-6858

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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