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The devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010 destroyed 70 percent of the country’s schools.

While people from around the world have contributed to disaster relief funds, University of Virginia rising second-year student Ania Turnier, a native of Haiti, hopes to make a long-term impact by starting a student organization to improve the education of Haitian children.

“We’ve been suffering in terms of development for a long time,” Turnier said. “Now Haiti needs more help than ever.” (Read More)


lauraNelson_112Laura Nelson, a fourth-year political and social thought major in the University of Virginia’s College of Arts & Sciences, has been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship.

She was one of 32 students nationwide to win a scholarship, and the 47th student from the University so honored since the Rhodes program was created in 1902. The scholarships, valued at between $50,000 to $175,000, fully fund two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England, and may allow funding in some instances for four years.

“This is a total surprise,” said Nelson, 22, of Westwood, Mass. “I didn’t really expect it to happen and I think I am still in a state of shock. I’ve always had a dream of studying literature at Oxford. I am beyond thrilled to meet my future classmates and dive into life at Oxford.” (Read More)

Rhodes Scholar


Dan Michaelson has left his mark on the University of Virginia.

Michaelson, 21, of Alexandria, is graduating May 23 from UVA’s School of Engineering and Applied Science with a bachelor of science in engineering science. He is one of the driving forces behind two of the University’s most successful sustainability projects in recent years: the Observatory Hill food-waste composting program and Hereford College’s organic garden.

The compost program sends about 2½ tons of food waste a week from Observatory Hill Dining Hall to Panorama Farms in Earlysville, where it is composted. The program received a silver medal in the 2010 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards, which recognize significant environmental contributions from business, industry, government and individuals. (Read More)


julieSchiff_112As a member of the Jewish Social Justice Council, University of Virginia degree candidate Julie Schiff visited nursing homes, served in soup kitchens, helped build houses and participated in “Sleepout for the Homeless.”

The latter event annually brings together members of the University and local communities from all religions and backgrounds to camp on Grounds for a week, not only to increase awareness of homelessness in Charlottesville, but also to raise money. Over the past two years, the sleepout has generated more than $10,000 for local organizations that aid the homeless.

“While the sleepout’s fundraising component is certainly important, as money has the power to bring about immediate and far-reaching change, the awareness element is what really makes the event so worthwhile,” Schiff said. “By the end of the sleepout’s seven days, participants have a much greater understanding of homelessness, in general, as well as a much better working knowledge of what they can do as community members to address such an issue, which is prevalent in Charlottesville’s own backyard.” (Read More)


rahulGorawara_112It’s probably premature to declare any 21-year-old a polymath. But Rahul Gorawara is at least a budding polymath, having earned degrees from the University of Virginia in engineering, public policy and economics in four years by taking roughly double the typical class load, thereby demonstrating one quality common to polymaths – the ability to learn and accomplish far more than most people in a given amount of time.

A Jefferson and Rodman scholar, Gorawara earned his bachelor of science in engineering degree with highest distinction, with a triple major in electrical engineering, computer engineering and economics, in just three years.

He earned a 3.9 grade-point average while passing an average of 28 credits per semester, for a total of 168 credits (120 credits are required for a bachelor’s degree) – the highest per-term average and the second-highest number of total credits amassed by any UVA undergraduate degree-earning student since 1985 (the first year of electronic records), University Registrar Carol Stanley said.

With his B.S. behind him, Gorawara then spent a fourth year earning a master’s degree from the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, while completing enough accounting and business classes at the McIntire School of Commerce (24 credits total) to allow him to take the certified public accountant exam in his home state of Illinois.

Altogether, Gorawara earned 211 credits during his four years (not including the 62 he received for Advanced Placement classes and tests taken before college). (Read More)


courtneyMallow_112benChrisinger_112This year’s University of Virginia Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award recipients – undergraduates Courtney Mallow and Ben Chrisinger, and head swimming and diving coach Mark Bernardino – have contributed to the University community through tireless dedication, compassion for others and tremendous creativity. They will receive their awards at Valedictory Exercises on May 22.

Each year, the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation sponsors the presentation of awards at 54 colleges in the southeastern United States to individuals who have served others, their institutions and their wider communities.

Created in 1925, the awards are given to distinguished fourth-year students and members of the University community in memory of the award’s namesake, a New York lawyer, businessman and philanthropist. The awards are intended to perpetuate the excellence of character and humanitarian service he epitomized.(Read More)


meghan_homeBox“I don’t think it is exactly what we do that sets us apart. It is how we do it. I think these student-initiated projects and research opportunities are exciting, because they show UVA students forming and living their dreams. These four years of college aren’t a waiting period for lives and careers to begin. They are the beginning. For many of us they are the first big break.

And these breaks don’t happen only in academic contexts. An aspiring politician can learn what it’s like to handle a huge budget and staff. The University has students mounting serious campaigns for influential positions. The Honor and Judiciary committees oversee serious disciplinary matters on Grounds. These are real governments. Studying politics is one thing. But any of the students who have run for office, sat on committees or deliberated on juries will tell you that actually being a decision-maker, wrestling with these issues, seeing the results of your work … this is a much different experience.”

Rhodes Scholar

BENJAMIN_HOMEBOX“Following the Hurricane Katrina disaster, I knew that I wanted to do something to help, but I wasn’t sure how best to go about it. As a politics major, I wanted to better understand what really happened and how government at all levels managed to fail in a major U.S. city. Television reports can only tell you so much. I also wanted the chance to take abstract concepts from the classroom and make them real, and you can only do this by immersing yourself in the situation.

I signed up for a course listing for the 2006 January Term that involved studying the political and structural implications of Katrina, including a week of hands-on work in New Orleans. Working out of our base in a local high school gym, 24 students, joined by Pat Lampkin and Nicole Hurd, set out each day to work in devastated neighborhoods, attempting to recover personal possessions and mementos of people connected to that local school. Sifting through these homes, helping with demolition, and saving what we could, brought home the highly personal impact of Katrina beyond anything I could glean through study from a distance. We are often taught to think in terms of standard rules and guidelines to apply in a given case, but this experience made me question many of the tools we apply in decision-making. It remains one of the most significant experiences I have enjoyed at UVA”


KRYSTAL_HOMEBOX“A wonderful aspect of the student experience at UVA is having the ability to take an idea, grow it through collaboration with other students, and then receive the support and backing of administrators and faculty to bring it to life. Project R.I.S.E. started as an idea that fellow second-year Reggie White and I had in spring 2006 for a peer counseling program designed to help de-stigmatize the idea of counseling among African-American students at the University and provide a peer-based resource and referral system. We saw many friends go through emotional struggles and realized that we weren’t equipped to be an effective sounding board when they came to us for help. We vetted the idea and received valuable feedback from our peers and from administrators in the offices of African-American Affairs, the Dean of Students, and Counseling and Psychological Services. On January 22, we launched the Project R.I.S.E. (Resolving Issues through Support and Education) peer counseling pilot program to the African-American community at UVA, and we hope to ultimately expand it to other minority groups. Everyone in Student Affairs was willing to extend a hand to help us get started, and Project R.I.S.E. would not have gotten off the ground without their strong support. It was a real blessing.”