With quiet power, humility, and tenacity, Jaronda Miller-Bryant has been changing UVA for the better. As the Women’s Center’s Program Director of Global Outreach and Engaged Scholarship, and Associate Program Director of the Young Women Leaders Program, Jaronda helps students look within, reach out, and stand tall. We are lucky and proud to present this glimpse into Jaronda’s life and work. (Trigger warning for LeBron James fans, just FYI.)
Tell us about your path to UVA, to where you are now and the work you’re currently doing for the Women’s Center.
When I discovered the Women’s Center, I was teaching Sociology at Savannah State University and operating a nonprofit organization I helped establish, the Women’s Work Foundation. I was living in my hometown in rural Georgia, and my family and I decided that we needed an environment with more professional opportunities. Plus, I had been in Ludowici for six years and needed a change of pace and scenery. I knew I wanted to continue to work in a college setting, and I also knew I wanted to continue my passion for non-profit work with a focus on empowering women and social justice. What I was achieving separately with Women’s Work Foundation and Savannah State University, I was able to bring together in my position at the Women’s Center.
Through the Women’s Center, I get to pair young minds and passions with opportunities to do social justice work. I particularly enjoy the global aspect of our engaged scholarship program, which allows me to introduce students in the Women, Girls and Global Justice program to amazing connections with the real world not only here on Grounds, but in the Charlottesville community and across the globe. I also get to teach “Front Lines of Social Change.” I wear a number of hats at the Women’s Center, but I love that I never do the same thing day to day. I am constantly meeting new people, cultivating new and standing relationships, and building networks. As my best friend and husband would say “I’m living the dream!”
Whose work (musical, artistic, professional, or personal) inspires you to work harder or think differently?
Quite honestly, anybody who has been part of a movement inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing. Given the times we are living in, anyone who has the courage to stand up for what is right and speak out when there are wrongs being done to fellow human beings is a hero to me. No matter how large their impact, I applaud them! Civil rights leaders, the parents of Travyon Martin, Mothers of the Movement, Jesse Williams, bloggers who are unabridged and unapologetic but also fair and conscious, the protest organizers, and of course those people who create those memes!… all of them! On a more personal note, my children motivate me to never settle for less than THEY deserve. They deserve to live in a world where they are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.
What’s something you learned in school/college that turned out to be useful later, in some way you didn’t expect?
I was trained as a counselor at the University of North Carolina/Greensboro, and I would say I learned to appreciate silence, on my part, when listening to others process their own thoughts. I decided not to make a professional career in counseling, but I still manage to use a lot of the skills I learned in my Master’s program.
Who would you most like to meet (living or dead) for coffee?
Barack Obama, hands down.
Who would you most like to meet (living or dead) for an after-work drink?
Michelle Obama, I’d love to pick her brain on being flawless.
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Jerrika Hinton, the actress who plays Stephanie Edwards on Grey’s Anatomy. She’s a solid actress, and she reminds me of myself. Or Lesedi — she’s a singer but I think she could pull it off.
What’s your most unpopular opinion?
I can’t see how LeBron James is considered the best athlete in basketball.
What’s something you do that you know you do differently from most people?
Sometimes I eat cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Learn more about Jaronda’s work here at the Women’s Center on our Faculty & Staff bios page.
Interested in working with Women’s Center staff members like Jaronda? UVA undergraduate students can apply in the spring semester to participate in our internship program the following academic year. The application period for Women’s Center internships opens in late January or early February each year and closes on March 1st.