2021 Graduate Spotlights

May 11, 2021

Liberal arts and interdisciplinary studies major Chanda Uy '21 in front of Hunt Dining Hall

Mary Baldwin University’s Class of 2021 has done more than endured. Through rigorous course schedules, balancing work and studies, and a once-in-a-generation pandemic, they forged remarkable achievements and strong community connections.

Below, meet some of the outstanding students from MBU’s undergraduate and graduate programs who will cross the Commencement stage on May 15 and 16. 

Liberal arts and interdisciplinary studies major Chanda Uy '21 in front of Hunt Dining Hall

Tåsi Ann Ada
Doctor of Physical Therapy Graduate from Guam

During her challenging first year in the doctor of physical therapy program at MBU’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, Ada pursued a certification in strength and conditioning, building upon her undergraduate study of exercise and health sciences. At MBU, she built expertise in women’s health, pursuing certification in the field during weekend workshops while she spent her weekdays in clinical internships. For her doctoral project, she helped investigate implementing curricular content focused on cultural competence within MBU’s and Murphy Deming’s professional programs. After graduation, Ada plans to return to her home in the U.S. Territory of Guam — where she was born and raised — and pursue interests in pelvic floor rehabilitation, orthopedics, and sports performance.

“I hope to use what I’ve learned to enrich my island community through rehabilitation services, program development, community outreach, and research.”

— Tåsi Ann Ada DPT ’21

Kashyra Butler
Marketing and Communication Major from Charlottesville, VA

Kashyra Butler earned her bachelor’s degree in only three years, pursuing her interest in marketing. In May, she will celebrate earning her second degree, having previously graduated from Piedmont Virginia Community College’s culinary arts program. Passionate about hospitality and helping people, she has worked as an event planner and a pastry chef. At MBU, she enjoyed meeting new friends and was part of the Mary Baldwin College for Women, living out the philosophy of women supporting women on campus. After graduation, Butler plans to move to Charleston, SC, and start her own business.

“During my time at MBU, I’ve learned about myself that I’m strong and smarter than I sometimes give myself credit for.”

— Kashyra Butler ’21

Deja Clifton
Social Work Major from Portsmouth, VA

During her four years at Mary Baldwin, Deja Clifton was very involved in student organizations and held leadership roles across campus. She served in Minority Clubs United, which promotes coalition-building and cultural awareness for minority student organizations and students of color, and Kuumba Players, which explores, expresses, and celebrates African American life through theatre. In addition, she was a part of PERSIST in the Office of Inclusive Excellence, a service-learning and leadership program which focuses on path-building from the first year of college to success after graduation. Passing on her knowledge and experience to the next group of MBU student-leaders, she completed an internship in the Office of Student Engagement this year in the area of first-year experience and student support. Clifton’s next chapter will involve working and continuing to pursue her education in social work.

“What made MBU special for me was everyone being so friendly and the close relationships I built with faculty and staff.”

— Deja Clifton ’21

Kristen Dawson
Doctor of Physical Therapy Graduate from Virginia Beach, VA

Kristen Dawson has dedicated a significant amount of time during her doctor of physical therapy (PT) program to engaging with the local community, along with her class at MBU’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences. Before the pandemic, she helped organize the PT program’s annual fall risk assessment in partnership with Augusta Health. She also joined fellow students in one of her PT courses to volunteer with the local neuro-wellness program at the Staunton-Augusta YMCA.  After working with a group of individuals with neurological conditions, she decided to continue volunteering with the organization for additional sessions beyond her class requirements. “This experience not only provided me with hands-on skills directly related to my field of practice as a physical therapist, but also helped me connect with the local community and give back in a unique way,” she said. After earning her doctorate, she plans to continue to grow her passion for helping others through PT and start her career as a physical therapist at Drayer Physical Therapy in Elkton, VA.   

“I came into this graduate program planning to learn the best ways to help my future patients improve their quality of life; however, I did not realize how much of a positive impact each patient would also have on my life.”

— Kristen Dawson DPT ’21 

Brittney Fenner
Psychology Major from Virginia Beach, VA

Part of the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL), Brittney Fenner holds the rank of cadet captain and the position of class congress chair (VWIL senior class president) within the corps. Through connections in the VWIL program, Fenner landed a paid internship with Virginia Delegate Kelly Convirs-Fowler a few summers ago. “Working for her sparked a bigger interest in politics, and taught me that there are people within the government who push for the greater good of their communities,” she said. “We need to invest time and research to support them and grow our sense of awareness.” She has also enjoyed working in downtown Staunton at the Split Banana, and helped organize a gelato fundraiser to support the VWIL corps. After graduation, she will start an internship at Norfolk Naval Shipyard to explore becoming a deployment resiliency counselor, helping sailors adjust to naval ship life.

“It was the community that made it worth it to go to MBU for college. Without that connection and social networking, it would not have been the same for me.”

Brittney Fenner ’21

Danielle Hale
Doctor of Occupational Therapy Graduate from Herndon, VA

Last summer, Danielle Hale was expecting to complete her level-two fieldwork on the path to earning her doctor of occupational therapy (OT) at MBU’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences. Because of COVID restrictions, however, the fieldwork was cancelled. In a quick and resilient pivot, Hale instead took on her 12-week doctoral capstone experience six months ahead of time, working with the Brain Injury Association of Virginia. “As part of my experience, I focused on advocating for individuals who sustain a brain injury secondary to domestic violence,” she said. To help support staff in domestic violence organizations around the state, Hale created a guide to screen for potential brain injury, and she facilitated a video series on the connection between brain injury and domestic violence that has been viewed over 4,000 times. After graduation, Hale will focus on studying for and taking her board exam, looking for a position in the Northern Virginia area, and exploring different settings in the OT profession. 

“Ultimately, no matter which setting I end up in, I hope to work with and for my clients to enable their ability to engage in activities that are meaningful to them. We all deserve to do things we love and enjoy, and if I can help facilitate that for others then I feel like I will have made a great impact.”

Danielle Hale OTD ’21 

Eleanor Hilgart
Double Major in Applied Mathematics and Biology from Charlottesville, VA

Eleanor Hilgart has devoted much of her scholarship at MBU to the intersection of mathematics and biomedical science, while also earning a minor in music. She completed two theses for each of her majors: analyzing the intersection of mathematical modeling and tissue engineering for her Capstone Festival-nominated mathematics project, and designing and carrying out hands-on research in regenerative medicine for her biology thesis. Last year, Hilgart was awarded the Alice McCaa Class of 1976 Award for Excellence in Laboratory, Research, and Academic Accomplishments in Biology. She also was involved in student organizations at MBU, including serving as a Math Club officer, a student senator, and an Honor Council representative. After graduation, Hilgart will pursue a PhD in biomedical engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, researching epigenetic mechanisms driving wound healing. “I am so excited to be attending this top program,” she said, “and am grateful to my MBU advisors and professors who helped me build a strong foundation in my fields of study.” 

“I have fond memories of our Math Club homework and pizza nights, pre-COVID, when we were able to meet in person. We had a great time working on our math homework together every week.”

— Eleanor Hilgart ’21

Jolene A. Kidd
Master of Business Administration Graduate from Charlottesville, VA

Jolene Kidd joined the master of business administration (MBA) program as an alumna of Mary Baldwin, having earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration cum laude in 2008. As a business manager in the Pharmacology Department at the University of Virginia, she found that MBU’s online MBA provided meaningful content that was immediately applicable to her job. The program’s focus on the triple bottom line perspective — which considers people, planet, and profit — especially resonated with her. “In the program, I had so many thoughtful discussions with a diverse set of peers and faculty,” she said. “Through these discussions, I’ve obtained new perspectives on every aspect of big and small businesses alike.” Kidd’s MBA apex project was a business proposal for InTuneNation, an app designed to help singers in community choirs practice effectively at home. After graduating with her MBA, she is planning to spend time with her husband, work in her gardens, and get back to piano lessons after taking a hiatus while in school.

“I felt a disconnect between ‘business as usual’ and my desire to contribute something that would make the world a better place. I found this connection in MBU’s MBA program and was able to use this knowledge to create InTuneNation, an app that helps develop people and their communities through song.”

Jolene Kidd ’08 MBA ’21

Rachel Krosky
History Major from Philadelphia, PA

Earning her honor’s degree in history and serving as an officer in the Baldwin Honor Scholars Society are highlights for Rachel Krosky when she thinks about her time at Mary Baldwin as part of the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted (PEG). She will graduate at the age of 18 as the first PEG legacy student to attend the university. Her mother, Paula Krosky, also graduated at 18 in 1992. Being included in the Capstone Festival is also top on Rachel Krosky’s list of proud moments. Her paper, “Three Easy Ways to Prevent or Cure the Black Death that Plague Doctors Don’t Want You to Know About,” explored how and why ideas from Early Modern medicine still exist in contemporary society. She also founded the Self Defense Club at MBU, and served as a lead tutor in the writing center. After graduation, she plans to attend a graduate program in archaeology and hopes to serve in the Peace Corps.   

“One of my favorite memories from Mary Baldwin is participating in the course Local Color: Racial Legacies of MBU. I loved being able to talk to some of the first Black students and professors and hearing about how Mary Baldwin has changed over the years.” 

— Rachel Krosky ’21

Colette Levens
Applied Mathematics Major from Lake Orion, Michigan 

While pursuing her bachelor of science as part of MBU’s Program for the Exceptionally Gifted, Colette Levens became fascinated with astrophysics and finding clues about how planets are formed. She completed research for her honors thesis on modeling the infrared spectrum of the dust disks orbiting the white dwarfs G29-38, GD56, and GD 362. Last summer, she presented her initial work on G29-38 to the Virginia Initiative on Cosmic Origins and the Chalmers Initiative on Cosmic Origins as an undergraduate research fellow at the University of Virginia. Levens also served as co-president of Baldwin Honors Scholars and ran cross country for two years, achieving an MBU top-ten record time. For her next chapter, she has been accepted at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom for a PhD in atmospheric, oceanic, and planetary physics.

“The relationships I have developed with my friends and my professors have made MBU a very special experience. I wouldn’t trade anything for my time here at MBU.”

— Colette Levens ’21

Elyse Levens
Applied Mathematics Major from Lake Orion, Michigan

Part of the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted at MBU, Elyse Levens served in leadership roles in the Baldwin Honor Scholars (BHS), including as co-president this academic year. Through an MBU-University of Virginia agreement, Levens was able to pursue an internship working on multiple projects at the Deppmann Lab, a neurobiology research group, starting in January 2019. “That experience is what made me realize my passion for research,” she said. “The result will be three co-authored papers that should be published in the near future.” Levens also took inspiration from her two-year internship to design her honors thesis project on a biological method of analysis called mass cytometry and the mathematical clustering methods underlying it. At MBU’s annual Capstone Festival, Levens received two top honors for her research. After graduation, she will pursue a PhD in engineering science with a specialization in biomedical engineering at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.

“Attending MBU was the best decision for my education that I could have made at the age of 14. The small, tight-knit community has allowed me to explore myself as a student, researcher, peer, and friend.”

— Elyse Levens ’21

Cory Martin
Health Sciences Major from Colorado Springs, CO

Recently tapped to join the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, Cory Martin is most proud of her senior project at MBU, which was nominated for MBU’s annual Capstone Festival. Her project “The Effects of Carbohydrate Intake on Insulin Resistance and Offspring Viability in Fruit Flies”  used fruit flies as an experimental model to analyse how carbohydrate intake affects fertility for women with polycystic ovary syndrome and insulin resistance. Interested in the field of women’s health, Martin promotes the importance of cervical and breast cancer screenings in her position at the University of Virginia Health System’s Cancer Center. As an Every Woman’s Life community health worker, she connects women who don’t have health insurance with free cancer screenings.    

“After graduation, I plan to pursue a career in healthcare, be a mother, and look for opportunities to serve the women and children in my community.”

— Cory Martin ’21

Gabrielle Rose Marzani, MD
Master of Business Administration Graduate from Charlottesville, VA

Earning her master of business administration (MBA) this year from MBU, Gabrielle Rose Marzani, MD, works at UVA Health and the UVA School of Medicine. An HIV psychiatrist and assistant dean for admissions, she also focuses on special projects for the chief medical officer, especially related to opioids. The MBA program has given Marzani insight into the triple bottom line of sustainability — focusing on people, planet, and profits —   and has reinforced the importance of using the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion in decision-making. “These are all tools that can be brought into entrepreneurial thinking and program development for patients, families and healthcare providers,” she said. “This is the essence of what we want to be — imaginative, inclusive and exceptional in the care of patients and the community.”   

“The project I’m most proud of from my time at MBU is my apex project, called “90 days with UVA”. It both addresses the opioid crisis as well as using best practices and a holistic approach to pain management for patients.”  

— Dr. Gabrielle Rose Marzani MBA ’21

Felicia Maziarz
Studio Art Major from Exton, PA

Part of the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted (PEG), Felicia Maziarz channeled her passion and creativity into film-making at MBU. She started making films when she was 10 years old and, now 17, has completed more than ten short film projects. Last year, Maziarz received MBU’s Advisory Board of Visitors Capstone Senior Project Fellowship to fund her studio art senior project. The result was a 2021 Capstone Festival-award-winning short film and installation There’s an Armadillo in My Living Room, an immersive experience using imagery and tropes commonly found in westerns. “I decided to create a western short film based only on my passing knowledge, as well as an installation using the imagery of the west fused with domestic objects,” she wrote in her project description. In addition to her studies, Maziarz was involved in the PEG community and served as a peer residential advisor. With acceptances from two film-directing master of fine arts programs, Maziarz is taking a gap year after graduating from MBU to get some job experience and take a break from education.

“What I am going to miss the most about MBU are the friends and connections I’ve made here, as well as the beautiful streets of Staunton.”

Felicia Maziarz ’21

Abygail Merlino
Master of Fine Arts Graduate from Albuquerque, NM

Part of MBU’s Shakespeare and Performance (S&P) graduate program, Abygail Merlino is graduating with a master of fine arts this year, after previously earning her master of letters (MLitt) in S&P. For her MLitt thesis, Merlino explored Hamlet fandom in Generation Z and argued that young people are utilizing their love for the character to create content that helps them navigate personal struggles and themes of identity and mental health. Merlino credits the S&P program for training as a well-rounded and self-sufficient performer and will soon start a job with Staunton’s American Shakespeare Center for their summer season. “I have never had the opportunity to act professionally, and I feel very blessed to be given that opportunity right out of school,” she said. 

“I’m excited to take the wonderful tools that the Shakespeare and Performance program helped me cultivate and use them in a professional performance environment.” 

— Abygail Merlino MFA ’21

Crystal Okenkpu
Doctor of Physical Therapy Graduate from Houston, Texas

While earning her doctor of physical therapy from MBU’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, Houston native Crystal Okenkpu brought a keen sense of course content together with compassion for others, especially through challenging clinical placements. She devoted many of her weekends while in the middle of clinical internships to attending certification workshops on women’s health. Her doctoral research project investigated the relationship between student perceptions concerning cultural competence and the curricula in Murphy Deming’s physical therapy, occupational therapy, and physician assistant programs. Through this research, Okenkpu aimed to improve the understanding of the changes in multicultural awareness, knowledge, and skills that are attributable to cultural competence education within graduate healthcare programs. After graduation, she plans to pursue her specialty in a women’s health and pelvic health residency program. 

“What I’m going to miss the most about Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences after graduation are all my amazing professors who have been outstanding leaders.”

— Crystal Okenkpu DPT ’21

Stephanie Palacios-Carachure
Business Economics Major from Danville, VA

Stephanie Palacios-Carachure gained significant academic and professional experience during her undergraduate studies as a business economics major and Spanish language and Hispanic cultures minor. Serving as business manager at campus coffee shop The Squirrel’s Corner in Grafton Library since her first year, she helped shape the strategy for their expansion to a second location in Pearce Science Center. Her Capstone Festival-nominated project, “Strategic Planning for Squirrel’s Corner Coffee Shop & Pearce Coffee Bar,” analyzed and identified recommendations for improved marketing, product expansion, and management for the two student-managed businesses on the main campus. Palacios-Carachure also served as president for MBU’s chapter of the Sigma Beta Delta Business Honor Society, and volunteered in Staunton helping community members prepare their taxes. After graduation, she plans to return home and work in her community before potentially pursuing graduate school for a master’s in interpretation and translation.

“I am proud of the connections and close relationships I was able to make at MBU, and I have learned how to appreciate the importance of the small moments in life while on campus.”

— Stephanie Palacios-Carachure ’21

Deonna Perry
Social Work Major from Hampton, VA

Earning her bachelor of social work this year, Deonna Perry recently completed her senior field practicum with the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services Board. She worked in the organization’s residential adult services program, assisting adults living with mental illness with their treatment plans and community resources. Perry received the Jane Addams Social Work Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the social work department. Serving as the 2020-21 Student Government Association president and the 2019-21 Ubuntu Mentorship Program student coordinator, Perry also received this year’s President’s Award for demonstrating excellence in campus leadership. She will also be recognized as an Ajani graduate for her commitment to inclusive excellence at Mary Baldwin. After graduation, she will work at the Hallmark Youthcare Center in Richmond as a full-time residential counselor. 

“From my MBU experience, I’m proud that I was not afraid to challenge myself to be a well-rounded leader inside and outside of the classroom, aiding in my professional development.”

Deonna Perry ’21 

Sommer Petrecca
Autism Studies & Applied Behavior Analysis Major from Baltimore, MD 

Sommer Petrecca is one of the first students ever to graduate with a major in Autism Studies and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) from Mary Baldwin, which she has pursued through MBU Online. Her senior project studied the effectiveness of token economies on behavior change for individuals with developmental disabilities. She created a hands-on, interactive, and engaging seven-part training module for current and aspiring teachers, Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs), speech therapists, and parents of children with developmental disabilities to teach how to effectively design, create, and implement individualized token reinforcement systems. Credentialed as an RBT herself, Petrecca completed her practicum experience working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders at an ABA therapy center. She will continue at Mary Baldwin to earn her master of science in ABA through the BA/MS dual degree option after she graduates in May, as well as continue her work as an RBT.

“One of my favorite and most memorable courses that I took at MBU was a writing course, focused on the history of Australia. This was an interesting class and a very different experience for me in comparison to the psychology and education-based classes that I am used to.”

— Sommer Petrecca ’21

Kirsten Pickford
Master of Education Graduate from Staunton, VA

This May, Kirsten Pickford will be one of the first to graduate from MBU’s Master of Education (MEd) program in authentic learning and leadership. Pickford also earned her teacher’s license through MBU’s Post-Baccalaureate Teacher Licensure Program, and teaches sixth grade science at Shelburne Middle School in Staunton. “As an educator, I feel that we have a responsibility to learn as much as we can so that we can grow alongside our students,” she said. For her MEd, Pickford researched horticulture therapy and the benefits of reintroducing students to nature. From this research, she developed an after-school horticulture program that she hopes to implement and manage for students in the next school year. “My hope is that it brings a sense of place, belonging, and curiosity to students,” she said. After graduation, she will prepare for her third year of teaching and serving as a sixth grade team leader. 

“In MBU’s MEd program, I have learned to share my own thoughts and ideas with others while being understanding of other points of view. In a divided world, a little bit of empathy can go a long way.”

Kirsten Pickford MEd ’21

Darin Poulsen
Master of Physician Assistant Graduate Originally from Northern Utah

Graduating with his master’s in physician assistant (PA) from MBU’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, Darin Poulsen is most proud of being selected as a student delegate to the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) house of delegates for the 2020 national conference. In the lead up to the convention, he participated in monthly teleconferences with other student representatives from around the country to debate resolutions that they would support on the convention floor. Unfortunately, COVID-19 meant the convention was cancelled, but the experience lit a spark to advance the PA profession that Poulsen hopes to carry into his future career. After graduation, he plans to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam and pursue job opportunities locally. “I’m hoping to stay in the area,” he said. “My little family has grown to love it here in the Shenandoah Valley, and we think it is a great place to call home.” 

“My experience has been special first and foremost because of my PA classmates and the opportunity to get to know 25 other incredible individuals, being together for 50+ hours per week for our didactic year. Additionally, I think we’ve got a great faculty and administration who are genuinely invested in our being successful healthcare practitioners.” 

— Darin Poulsen ’21

Michelle Roberts
Social Work Major from Harrisonburg, VA

When thinking about her time at MBU, the achievement that makes Michelle Roberts most proud was part of her internship in the social work program. To help serve her community in Harrisonburg, she opened a residential program to aid women struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues during their recovery process. “I am excited that I’ve been given that opportunity,” she said. “I turned 20 while in a 90-day residential program. Through my journey in school and sobriety, I will be turning 30 running the Gemeinschaft Women’s Home 90-Day Residential Program.” To honor the significance of her project, she received MBU’s Mary Ellen Richmond Outstanding Field Award in Social Work. While Roberts has a passion for supporting her clients, she also advocates for reflection and self-care practices for herself and her fellow social work practitioners. After graduation, she plans to continue growing the women’s residential program at the Gemeinschaft Home, including offering more groups, programming, and resources, and increasing the number of beds offered in the house.

“During my first semester at Mary Baldwin, I took a class on mindfulness. It set me on a path of being intentional in everything I do and making sure to practice self-care. Most importantly, I learned that nothing and no one will get between me and my dreams, including myself.”

— Michelle Roberts ’21

Amanda M. Rogus
Master of Fine Arts Graduate from Pittsburgh, PA

Receiving her second degree from MBU, Amanda M. Rogus will earn her master of fine arts (MFA) this year in Shakespeare and Performance, after receiving her master of letters (MLitt) in 2019. As part of her thesis writing for both degrees, Rogus earned a spot at two prestigious rare books programs at both the Folger Shakespeare Library and the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School. She also made a mark in her field by being the first woman paleographer to complete a true transcription of Henslowe’s Diary, a theatre history archive written in early modern secretary hand. Rogus earned a fully funded doctoral spot in the University of Washington’s Theatre History and Criticism PhD program, including a provost scholarship to support international research for her dissertation.

“My ultimate goal is to teach at the college level, but I want to make an impact by teaching not only course content but also life lessons. To me, teaching is a vocation and an honor, and I hope to never lose that spirit or attitude.”

— Amanda M. Rogus MFA ’21

Kylie Stottlemyer
Criminal Justice Major from Maurertown, VA

Kylie Stottlemyer achieved the distinction of being the first-ever criminal justice major to graduate with an honors degree at MBU. Her senior thesis won a top honors award at the Capstone Festival this year and presented the results of her partnership with a small Shenandoah Valley police department to investigate the complex relationship among law enforcement, the community, and victims. Though her thesis is complete, she continues to work with the department to create better training opportunities for their officers. Stottlemyer also serves as a court and community collaboration coordinator for survivors of domestic and sexual violence at Response, Inc. Stottlemyer served in leadership roles for nine student organizations on campus, including the SGA Executive Committee, and received the President’s Award in 2020 for excellence in leadership. Stottlemyer is also the first person in her family to earn a college degree. “Being able to continue my education after high school was a goal that I set out to achieve, and I can proudly say that I have now accomplished it with the guidance of my faith, my family, and my friends,” she said. After graduation, she will begin a master’s program in homeland security and emergency preparedness at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“I will forever cherish the friendships and partnerships created here at MBU, and I will hold them close as I continue on in this journey of life.” 

— Kylie Stottlemyer ’21

Shay’De Tyler
Criminal Justice Major from Newport News, VA

Part of the Mary Baldwin College for Women, Shay’De Tyler has been a dedicated mentor and big sibling during her time at MBU, supporting and connecting with younger students about college life and studies. “I am completely biased, but I think I had the best littles,” she said. “They were all really fun to be around, and I learned a lot about them and myself.” The first person in her family to graduate from college, Tyler also served as a peer advisor for two years, working with first-year students who are also first generation. She is also passionate about music and singing and will earn a minor in music in addition to her major in criminal justice. Tyler is also a member of the Mary Baldwin University Choir and served as vice president during her junior year. After graduation, she plans to attend the criminal justice master’s program at Norfolk State University.  

“My favorite memory is probably my friends and I watching movies in the Hilltop lounge while we worked on thesis and seminar work. Usually we’d bake cookies or brownies to snack on while we worked.”

— Shay’De Tyler ’21

Chanda Uy
Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies Major Originally from Battambang, Cambodia

With a concentration in elementary education for her liberal arts and interdisciplinary studies major, Chanda Uy has her sights set on inspiring the next generation. A cadet in the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL), Uy credits the program for enriching her college experience in many ways. “Being a cadet in the corps has made me feel supported and accounted for,” she said. “VWIL has taught me to always choose to do the right thing.” She also served as a resident advisor at MBU, which built skills in problem solving, conflict resolution and time management that will serve her well in her future career. As an officer for the Green Team — a student organization focused on environmental issues — she’s helped keep programming going strong during the pandemic with socially distant events like mask-decorating and farmer’s market trips every weekend to support local small businesses. 

“I am glad to be a part of the close-knit, supportive community at the university. MBU displays diversity, inclusiveness, and acceptance, and has truly made me feel comfortable and proud to be who I am.”

— Chanda Uy ’21

Adrieanna Vest-Turner
Health Sciences Major from Nelson County, VA

Adrieanna Vest-Turner came to MBU with a goal of getting a head-start on her career. This May, she is graduating in just three years with her bachelor of science in health sciences and celebrating her acceptance into the master of public health program at the University of Lynchburg. Vest-Turner has also been named an Ajani graduate for her contributions to inclusive communities at MBU, including as editor for the Libations literary magazine. Serving as a caregiver for an 11-year-old with special needs has given her an additional sense of purpose over the past academic year. “Because of him I am able to do what I love most, which is to care for people and their health,” she said. After graduate school, Vest-Turner plans to become a public health analyst and certified health education specialist.

“I will cherish each lesson learned through the Office of Inclusive Excellence and Ida B. Wells Society as they have molded me into the woman I am today. I was given many opportunities to learn about my culture, sisterhood, and what it means to be a true leader.” 

— Adrieanna Vest-Turner ’21

Congratulations to all members of the Class of 2021 from the MBU family.