Where are they now?
We’re catching up with Women’s Center alumnae to see where life took them after their time here.
Read the latest and greatest from Preethi Varma!
When did you attend U.Va.? What did you study?
I graduated in 2014 and have a Bachelors degree from the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and also doubled in Women, Gender, and Sexuality (WGS) in the College. It was a great experience and I’m using things I’ve learned from both majors in my work today!
What work did you do with the Women’s Center?
I worked as a Young Women Leaders Program (YWLP) Intern and an International Initiatives (now known as Women, Girls, and Global Justice) Intern. Also, I was involved with YWLP for three years as a 7th grade mentor and as a Group Facilitator. As an International Initiatives Intern, I focused on bringing a nonprofit to Charlottesville which is now Asha for Education at the University of Virginia. Through YWLP, I learned a lot about adolescent behavior and worked on parent communication throughout the program.
What are you doing now?
Currently, I work in Chicago at Urban Initiatives. Urban Initiatives is a sports-based youth development program working in 46 Chicago Public Schools. I am a Program Manager for the Take the Lead 5th-8th grade leadership development program geared toward social-emotional learning, high school readiness, and violence prevention. We do this through soccer and other fun games!
What was your very first job and what’s something you learned from it?
Right after graduation, I taught middle school special education on Chicago’s west side through Teach For America. It was a very challenging, and eye-opening experience. I have always been interested in working in underserved communities through education policy, however I now want to continue that work through a different role which I think is more impactful. I am leaning more towards the public health side of education and would like to continue to work in the nonprofit sector.
What’s something you learned in school/college that turned out to be useful later, in some way you didn’t expect?
As a Program Manager, I do various things such as developing the program, overseeing daily program implementation at 13 different schools, and then tracking and using data to improve the Take the Lead Program for the future. AND, I get to play soccer with kids! There is a lot to balance day-to-day, however I’ve learned that all aspects are so crucial in the success of the program. Throughout my time at U.Va. and Chicago, I learned that all these aspects are very important and I can’t focus on one thing over the other in a program. I learned to truly value data and evaluation and I didn’t realize I’d be using data on a daily basis. That Research Methods and Data Analysis class during my third year in college has proven to be helpful!
What was your favorite memory from working with the Women’s Center?
Honestly, working with the Women’s Center staff and interns on a daily basis was a great experience. You felt at home right when you walked in the Women’s Center! In college, the Young Women Leaders Program was a big part of my life. I think one of my favorite times was meeting the new group of Big and Little Sisters at the beginning of each year!
What do you miss most about Charlottesville?
I really do miss Grounds and the beauty of Charlottesville. Living in a big city is such a great experience, but sometimes I would like to drive up Skyline and hike the mountains. I can’t really do that here in Chicago.
What’s something you know you do differently than everyone else?
I believe I organize my time and tasks very differently. I am very meticulous and break down tasks to the last detail and often plan things by the hour. I do a lot of planning.