Alum Spotlight: Anthony Buenafe
1. When did you attend UVA and what did you study?
I graduated in Spring 2008 with a B.A. in Anthropology and Psychology. I kept going and earned my M.S.Ed. in Education Policy in 2010 at UPenn.
2. How were you involved with the women's center? What do you think was the biggest takeaway from your experience
I was a part of the founding cohort of the Men's Leadership Project (MLP). My fellow MLP brothers and I would meet regularly to discuss men's issues and to mentor our "Little Brothers" at Walker Elementary School. To this day, I credit MLP with helping me expand my understanding and respect for masculinity as a spectrum. I don't remember every detail, but I remember the feeling of a ”safe space,” challenging each other to talk honestly about tough, taboo topics, and coming out on the other side all the better for it. These days, I miss the camaraderie and the talks I shared with my fellow MLP brothers. Amid the "real world" hustle and bustle of 9-5, raising a family, paying a mortgage, etc., I haven't found anything quite like MLP - a group of guys to push each other to become better men, fathers, husbands, etc. I know it's out there, I'm just not there yet.
3. Tell me about the most memorable conversation you had during MLP, whether it was with your Little or another Big Brother.
I remember talking to my Little Brother about his football idol, Tiki Barber… a lot. One night we were getting dinner at Newcomb Hall and we talked about how Tiki seemed like a good guy – never getting into trouble, hard working, and generally a good character. Tiki had also written a children’s book and was at our very own Student Bookstore for a book signing that night! When we arrived at the Bookstore to line up to meet Tiki, we learned that we needed to buy his book (at full price, which I couldn’t afford)… and the line stretched out the door. My Little was devastated. When I saw the look of disappointment on my Little Brother’s face, I thought to myself “what would MY dad do in this situation?” So I ended up walking us up past the line so we could at least get a closer view of Tiki and I positioned us about ten feet away from him. To my surprise, my Little softly blurted out, “Hi Tiki…” and Tiki stopped signing for a moment to return the greeting with a “Hi!”, a friendly smile, and wave of his hand. My Little actually fell backwards and I caught him before he hit the floor. We both agreed it was a really cool moment and a smile still comes to my face thinking about it.
4. What are you doing now? what do you enjoy most?
My greatest joy was marrying my best friend in 2013 and starting a family together. I also have a full-time job as a management consultant in service of our federal government. I honestly had no idea where my career would take me after my first job in AmeriCorps, but I ended up exactly where I wanted to be. Every day, I'm in the position to make a difference and serve the greater good - how sweet it is.
Advice to current undergrads - don't think that you've sold out or that you're not an idealist if you wear a suit and tie! What matters is what you do and how you deliver.
5. Something you learned in college that turned out to be useful later; in a way you didn't expect?
When you study something like Anthropology or Psychology, you get into a lot conversations like this:
Them: What's your major?
You: Anthropology and Psychology.
Them: Oh…. what are you going to do with that when you graduate?
Do you want to know how I used to respond to that line of questioning?
Me: Good question… I think I'll be a good dad one day.
Them: [blank stare]
I joked with a lot of people that way, but honestly, I thought of my UVA education as part of my way (not my end-all, be-all) towards becoming well-rounded in life, and not just in the workplace. I'm grateful that I have a worthwhile career, but I'm even more grateful that I pursued a trajectory that helps me be a better overall family man. Don't get me wrong - I'm not winning father-of-the-year, but it's been immensely helpful to me to think like a psychologist and anthropologist.
6. Who is someone you credit as a significant mentor? What is the most important thing you learned from them?
It goes without saying - my own father (and my father-in-law), but today I'd like to go a different route with this answer. During 15 of my more impressionable formative years, I worked with a guy who ran the local food bank. Let's call him Mr. H, because he wouldn't want the attention. At the food bank, Mr. H spent every Saturday morning making sure that 50 families received their much needed food for the week and he happily tended to every detail from sweeping the floor, loading crates, and even hauling out the trash. For 15 years, I watched him treat every family in need with fairness, dignity, and respect. Little did I know, but Mr. H happened to be a high-powered, hot shot Senior Executive in the federal government who could have spent his free time rubbing elbows with Washington's elite. Instead, he spent his time helping others. It was years before I learned that he was a big deal in DC, because he was just a relatable guy – down-to-earth, humble, and dedicated to serving others. So, Mr. H - if you're reading this, thank you for showing me what REAL service looks like and a thing or two about reliability, dedication, and humility. Guys like my Dad, my father-in-law, and Mr. H set a high bar for me to reach one day.
7. What do you miss most about Charlottesville?
Trees. When you're surrounded by concrete and asphalt, you begin to realize how beautiful Charlottesville is.
8. What advice would you give your former college self?
Become vegan sooner – I think that switching to a plant-based diet has added years to my life. Read more from Anthony: "Am I a Better Man Because of UVA?"