Am I a Better Man Because of UVA?

Story by Anthony Buenafe

Ten years ago, I was part of the inaugural Men’s Leadership Project at UVA. I didn’t realize it at the time, but joining MLP was one of the best decisions I made in college.

My name is Anthony Buenafe, proud member of the Class of 2008. I studied liberal arts and in hindsight, I probably spent far too much time involved with the student leadership scene and not enough time at Clemons or Alderman Library. However, if I had to go back and do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. The experiences and lessons that I learned through student leadership were priceless – perhaps most importantly what I learned through the Men’s Leadership Project (MLP).

For those who don’t know – MLP is a group of UVA men (the “Big Brothers”) who meet weekly to discuss men’s issues and to mentor/interact with “Little Brothers” at Walker Elementary School. As a result of MLP, I expanded my understanding of masculinity across its spectrum (not buying into the narrow stereotypes of masculinity found in popular culture) and I gained a finer appreciation of how manhood is taught and learned. I may not remember every detail from MLP, but I’ll never forget that it was a “safe space,” where men helped each other to discuss and deepen their understanding of the tough, taboo topics that we are traditionally too scared to face.

In recent years, I found myself thinking about MLP and pushing myself to be a better man whenever I reached a new milestone. When I became a husband in 2013, I knew that I wanted to be the best husband I could be (and generally a good friend, ally, and advocate for my wife in any way she needed). When I became a father in 2015, I knew that I wanted to model healthy modes of masculinity to my son, in the hope that he becomes a better man and greater champion for women and men than I ever was (or will be).

Anthony Buenafe at UVAThen a few months ago, when my wife told me we were going to have a baby girl, I felt a wave of pride, joy, and mixed emotions. I felt fear of raising a daughter in a world where “girls at the age of six in the United States already see themselves as sexual objects.” I felt renewed outrage for all the injustices protested at the Women’s March on January 21st. I felt despair that change is not happening fast enough to end sexual violence on college campuses. I felt shame that we do not have enough men working for change on behalf of our wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, aunts, etc. Those feelings have called me to action; let’s help our boys become the good men of tomorrow, so our girls will know a better world as the women of tomorrow.

Staff Spotlight: Jaronda Miller-Bryant

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.

By |February 27th, 2017|Blog|1 Comment|

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.

Student Spotlight: Nicole Baker

Get to know YWLP Big, Nicole Baker!

Year: First Year
Major: I plan to major in Communications Disorders
Hometown: Woodstock, Va

1. Why are you passionate about your program at the Women’s Center?
I am involved in the YWLP program at UVA where I am a Big sister to a middle school girl. This program is important to me because it helps to begin empowering young girls, teaching them leadership skills, respect, and self development at a crucial point in adolescent development. I love helping and watching the girls grow in their confidence!

2. What made you choose UVA over other schools you applied to?
I chose UVA because it has a welcoming and diverse community, endless opportunities to get involved in clubs and service, strong academic programs, and absolutely beautiful grounds. I loved the history and tradition behind the school, and saw myself building a new community of my own in Charlottesville by filling my life with all the amazing opportunities available to me.

3. What has surprised you about UVA?
UVA is such an accepting place that seems to care about every member of its community. I was greatly surprised at how quickly I was able to adjust to such a large University in such a short amount of time. I knew very quickly after arriving that I would find a home at UVA due to the amazing people I have met here thus far.

Alum Spotlight: Tamara Wilkerson

We knew she was a star well before Forbes hailed Tamara Wilkerson as one of the magazine’s “30 Under 30” in Education for 2017, but what a thrill to see her recognized for her leadership as Executive Director of the African American Teaching Fellows. A former Women’s Center intern, Tamara graduated in 2012 from UVA’s Curry School of Education with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education and is currently at work on her dissertation for an Ed.d in Leadership from Morgan State. We’re honored to shine our “spotlight” on her.

1. The work/life pathway to where you are now, was that totally planned? Organic? Some combination?
It was definitely a combination. I knew in school that I wanted to someday be a CEO (of what, I wasn’t quite sure!) so I always took advantage of leadership roles. From being an intern at the Women’s Center, being a Resident Advisor, and even a Peer Advisor – I always wanted to grow as a leader. However, I never knew that I would end up in the nonprofit sector – so that was a surprise! It just fell into my lap and worked out for me.

2. Looking back, what advice would you give your former, Women’s Center intern-self?
I was very self-conscious and didn’t trust my own abilities. I would tell her that she is enough, and capable of achieving each and every dream she has!

3. Describe your dream vacation.
Valencia, Spain! I studied there when I was at UVA and I have been dying to go back. I’d love to be there, relaxing on the beach.

4. Who’s going to play you in the movie of your life?
Even though she looks nothing like me, I absolutely love Taraji P. Henson. I’d pick her just because she’s a great actress.

By |February 20th, 2017|Blog|0 Comments|

Staff Spotlight: Alison Kuhn

Get to know our very own Communications Coordinator, Alison Kuhn!

1. Tell us about your path to UVA, to where you are now and the work you’re currently doing for the Women’s Center.

I’m the youngest of five by a fair bit. My Mom’s favorite story is when she took my brother and me to the doctor for our annual school shots — I was going into kindergarten, and my oldest brother was going to JMU. So through my siblings, I got to see a few different colleges starting when I was pretty little. I had visited my sister a few times while she was at UVA (which I now realize was an absurdly nice thing to do – who invites an 11 year old to come hang out with them at college?) and those experiences really stuck with me. I always admired my sister and wanted to follow in her footsteps, so UVA was always on my list. But when it actually came time for me to really look into schools, it became more apparent that it was a good choice for me, beyond my little sister inclinations.

I didn’t know much about the Women’s Center and everything it offered until one night when I was looking for internships on Grounds and found the Center’s site….an hour and a half before the internship application was due. So I stumbled into the Women’s Center, to say the least. I interned as a writer for Iris in 2014, worked as Assistant Editor for Iris in 2015, and started working as the Communications Coordinator full-time a few months after graduating in 2015.

2. Who would you most like to meet (living or dead) for coffee?

Jessica Valenti! I’ve always really loved her writing – she was one of the first feminist writers I read. I recently read her memoir and would love to grab coffee with her to talk about it.

3. Who would you most like to meet (living or dead) for an after-work drink?

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. I fell in love with Abbi and Ilana the first time I watched Broad City. They are beyond hilarious and I WISH I could go to happy hour with them.

By |February 9th, 2017|Blog|0 Comments|

Student Spotlight: Golda Houndoh

Get to know YWLP Big Sister, Golda Houndoh!

Name: Golda Houndoh
Major: Hopefully Global Development Studies and Anthropology
Hometown: Born in Togo, West Africa but Hometown is Leesburg, Virginia

1. Why are you passionate about your program at the Women’s Center?
I’m passionate about the YWLP program at the Women’s Center because my Little Sister has already showed me so much in the most subtle ways and I feel so lucky to have her and YWLP in my life.

2. What made you choose UVA over other schools you applied to?
I felt like I was at home the second I stepped on grounds– the people, the programs, etc. It was actually my tour guide who sealed the deal, he was walking around and saying hi to all his friends and they were all so diverse and cool and (seemed) accomplished and I kind of decided that I wanted to be like them.

3. What has surprised you about UVA?
The thing thats surprised me the most at this wonderful university is the diversity within the people. I know you kind of expect to meet a lot of new people that you’re not quite used to at college but the passion that i’ve seen in people for such a broad range of things has been amazing and rewarding and inspiring.

Student Spotlight: Catherine Toro

Get to know YWLP intern, Catherine Toro!

Year: 3rd
Major: Psychology and African American Studies, (AAS undeclared)
Hometown: Baltimore, MD

1. Why are you passionate about your program at the Women’s Center?
I didn’t really know what mentorship meant until I came to college. My first year here I went out of my way to become friends with people who inspired me, but also people I could relate to and go to for advice. In myself, I quickly saw how having role models so close to you, mentors that could relate to what I knew and where I came from, empowered me inside and outside the classroom. The Young Women Leadership Program (YWLP) does exactly that, matching young girls with UVA women so as to affirm their own ability and value, to empower.

2. What made you choose UVA over other schools you applied to?
Honestly, I chose UVa because I thought it was a great school academically and at the time I thought I wanted to be a doctor (lol). Although I am no longer pre-med, I have grown a lot at this university and have learned to appreciate the space that I occupy here.

3. What has surprised you about UVA?
When I first came here, part of me was afraid of the Southern culture, something I hadn’t really encountered before. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to speak Spanish or find people of color in my classes. I know that might seem extreme but I was coming from a very diverse area in Baltimore and I had no idea what to expect from Charlottesville. So, what surprised me is how quickly I was able to find a community that I identified with at UVA. As soon as I got here I was welcomed into the IRC and joined LSA and met such a diverse group of people that I had never anticipated would exist at UVA. And these communities made me feel like I could genuinely call this place home.

4. What’s something you know you do differently than most people?
I drink a lot of coffee, especially in the evenings. My parents are both from places where coffee is just a big part of the culture. My mom is from Ethiopia and when we went to visit family, I was part of a coffee ceremony for the first time. My aunt burned some incense and we watched as she carefully prepared the coffee and poured us some in these really small cups. Hands down, the best coffee I’ve ever had. And with my dad’s family in Puerto Rico, we drink coffee with every meal. Especially after dinner. I don’t really know why, but it just what we do. My friends think it’s weird that I drink coffee at night, even if I don’t have to stay up late. I just really like coffee and it reminds me of my family.

Support and Resources for an Inclusive University Community

At the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center, we stand with students, faculty and staff in expressing support to the members of UVA’s international community who are so essential to the vitality of our University. An environment that welcomes and supports people of different backgrounds, beliefs, ages, identities, ethnicities and worldviews best accomplishes the goals of a modern public institution of higher education. The Women’s Center works to promote this environment at UVA by actively engaging in discussions about social change and bias, challenging our assumptions, and perhaps most importantly, by supporting the many students whose leadership among their peers is essential to bringing about a truly inclusive University community.

As always, we encourage students in need of support during challenging times to inquire for information about additional support services by phone at 434-982-2361 or in person in Emmet House on McCormick Road. We are open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You can find our front door just off of Bonnycastle Drive. When demand for our services exceeds what we are able to offer, we work to connect students to other resources on Grounds and in the Charlottesville community.

We encourage you to read this statement from President Sullivan on January 29, 2017 and continue to follow news from the President’s office during this time.

By |January 30th, 2017|Blog|0 Comments|

Apply now! Join one of our mentoring teams in 2017-18

Through our Young Women Leaders Program and Men’s Leadership Project, we give students the chance to give back to the community they call home during their years at UVA. These community-based mentoring programs pair undergraduate men and women with middle schoolers from the Charlottesville area. Pairing course work with group meetings, as well as one-on-one activities with their littles, our Big Brothers and Big Sisters grow as leaders while helping their littles realize their own leadership potential.