Virginia Commonwealth University
Tell us your story.
  • Joanna

    Lifestyle education.

    “Education should turn up your personality.”

    Meet Joanna
  • Daniel

    Curious by design.

    “Now that I have two-year-old twins, life’s taken on quite a different perspective.”

    Meet Daniel
  • Xavier

    Urban renewal.

    “I had to lose myself in the city to find out who I really am.”

    Meet Xavier
Joanna Oremland, Alumni
“Education should turn up your personality.”

– Joanna Oremland, alumni

I opened a DJ lifestyle boutique as a freshman using a business plan I put together in retail management class. In the mornings, I studied fashion merchandising. In the afternoon, I was at my store on Broad Street, tweaking my spring lineup. What started as a class project is my real-life project.

Daniel McGarvey, Ph.D., Professor
“Now that I have two-year-old twins, life’s taken on quite a different perspective.”

– Daniel McGarvey, Ph.D., professor

It’s kind of a curse — being someone who is just sort of naturally curious, restless and hasn’t tried any job where they didn’t get bored after a while. I like to push things as far as they can go. Right now, I’m pushing to teach our science grad students the art of design and communication. That’s something you could only find here.

Xavier Waller, Student
“I had to lose myself in the city to find out who I really am.”

– Xavier Waller, student

I came from a small town, so I used to be intimidated by the city. I wouldn’t have come here if it weren’t for track. But now, it’s like it just amplifies my whole personality. I don’t know where I’ll end up, but now the next step doesn’t scare me.

Faith
“Not only do you learn something new, but you find how to make it better.”

– Faith Ajayi, student and alumni

I wanted to be an obstetrician before I really even knew what that was. In Nigeria, pregnancy procedures used to mean life or death. If you couldn’t deliver the baby, you died. I still remember being amazed holding my aunt’s baby after her C-section. That moment is why I am here and why I’m applying to med school.

Ewing
“When you leave a place for the first time, your whole scope of the world is cracked. It’s bigger than you thought.”

– Ewing White, student

I like the idea of being whoever you want to be. I thought I was going to play football, but then I found theater. I guess that makes sense, because mom is a painter and I have five younger siblings who are all artists, musicians or actors. Look around — at murals on the walls, art hanging in coffee shops, bikes in the street. There’s inspiration everywhere.

Austin
“My community is a bunch of communities smashed together and that’s how I like it.”

– Austin Higgs, student

I’m a first-generation college student who came out to my parents when I was 7. I gave up a full ride to a top private college to transfer here. My first day on campus, I was just amazed by the people I saw walking through Shafer Court. The clothes and colors — I just felt this must be a tolerant place and I knew I’d made the right decision. There’s a mural near campus that says ‘Go for it all’ — that really sums up my story.

Katherine, Student
“It’s the human side that draws me in.”

– Katherine, student

I shadowed an oral surgeon at the VCU School of Dentistry when I was in high school after getting my wisdom teeth pulled. Most kids would have been really turned off, but I found it so comforting to have a doctor explain everything to me. I work in the dental school now so I can become a dental professional and do the same thing for someone else someday.

John Gonzalez del Solar, Alumni
“Experiences are like notes and you build them into chords.”

– John Gonzalez del Solar, alumni

I was a working musician for a decade of my life. But it turned into a grind, so I started working in a music shop in Oahu, where I was stationed after graduation. So much of it was guiding people to find the right instrument and, because of my music performance education, I had a great understanding that others may not have. That was a huge seismic shift for me — realizing that I could use my experience and education to help people. That’s what led me to open my own shop.

Henry Lewis III, Staff
“When I see people go from frustration to success, that’s the most exciting part.”

– Henry Lewis III, staff

I want to see students really figure out if health care is a field they want to get into. I want to be their cheerleader, their guide. I want to make sure they have a love, interest and passion for health care — that they’re making meaningful, informed decisions. I can’t wait to make that impact.

Sophie Cassell, Student
“I had to push myself to where I could succeed.”

– Sophie Cassell, student

Coming to VCU was an uncomfortable stretch for me, but one that I had to make. My father is a United Nations worker in Liberia, helping to rebuild his country. If I’m going to help him, I need to experience the city and be part of an international community. I need to be here.

Nicole Anderson, Student
“At its core, dance is powerful.”

– Nicole Anderson, student

Last summer I volunteered at Beth Shalom and was able to shadow a therapist. I even got to lead some dance therapy sessions. The power of small steps and movements made such a difference in their lives. That’s why I added a psychology minor to my dance and choreography major.

Brian Daugherity, Ph.D., Assistant professor
“This class isn’t just about history, it’s about right now.”

– Brian Daugherity, Ph.D., assistant professor

This is a good place to talk about particularly difficult issues. I’ve got students that represent a wide variety of ethnicities, so when I’m talking about race relations, for instance, we get a really good mix of opinions. It generates strong discussions, because people speak from the heart about their experiences. That’s what brings history to real life.

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