Alum Spotlight: Kiana Williams

Former Women’s Center (Iris) intern Kiana Williams graduated in 2015 with a double-major in anthropology and women, gender, and sexuality, with a minor in film studies. For the past two years she has worked with the Virginia College Advising Corps, and this fall she begins a doctoral program in Cultural Anthropology, with a focus on “how neocolonialism influences Filipina identity, especially in context to popular culture, conceptions of beauty, and performativity.” We are so grateful to have worked with Kiana, and can’t wait to see her scholarly work evolve – and change the world for the better.

Tell us about how your cultural background has shaped your academic and professional work:
As a second-generation immigrant from the Philippines, I did not begin to seriously explore my cultural heritage until I transferred to the University of Virginia. I began to notice how much race and class impacted my daily experiences, which propelled me to get more involved in organizations that let me explore these issues. I became a facilitator for the Women’s Asian American Leadership Initiative and a member of the Organization of Young Filipino Americans. While writing for Iris Magazine, I also served as a literary editor for Inkstone Magazine, a student-run publication that focuses on the narratives of Asian American students. My undergraduate research largely focused on issues facing Asian and Asian Americans, and my interest in building on this research at a doctoral level came about quite naturally. The complexities that surround the Philippines as an independent nation in the face of globalization, paired with the tumultuous political climate both there and in America, has propelled me to take action in the best way I know how: forming human connections with others, then translating these experiences into research, in efforts to provide a catalyst for important, much-needed discussions.

I plan to utilize my PhD in Cultural Anthropology to teach and continue conducting research in the Philippines. I very much enjoy the nature of college classroom settings, wherein difficult conversations are broken down by participants from all very different walks of life. More importantly, I wish to increase visibility of women of color in academia. During my undergraduate career, I only had three professors of color, none of which were women. I wish to be a mode of support for other minority college students, especially those who are low-income and first-generation like myself, while simultaneously producing new knowledges concerning the lived experiences of Filipina women.

Tell us about the professional path that’s brought you where you are – completely planned, surprisingly organic or somewhere in between?
My very first internship was through the Women’s Center with Iris Magazine. At the time, I had no idea what I wanted to do! I had just transferred from New York University, and the majority of my credits transferred in as Anthropology courses, a field I knew absolutely nothing about. Since I was already close to enough credits for a minor, I decided to try it out. My positive experiences at the Women’s Center – especially the creative environment and our ability to interview faculty and members of my community –  had a tremendous influence on the rest of my academic career.

By |March 2nd, 2017|Blog|0 Comments|
  • Festival of the Book 2017
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    Festival Brings 5 Days of Author Events and Many Months of Must-Reads

Festival Brings 5 Days of Author Events and Many Months of Must-Reads

The Virginia Festival of the Book is quintessentially Charlottesvillian in the embarrassment of educational and cultural riches it consistently brings us each year. It fits right in with the bustling local food and beverage scene, the stunning beauty of our natural and built environments, and our ample opportunities to take in elite athletics and vibrant arts offerings. But we’re pleased to point out that this celebration of the written word is one blessing we can extend to you wherever you are.


Our picks for this year’s festival are here in date order for you locals along with our insistence that you make time to soak up the abundant insights and inspirations these authors and moderator will be serving up in person. And we’re equally excited to share the heart of the festival – its books – with all of you regardless of where in the country or world your favorite comfy chair is situated. With the festival’s tradition of convening more than 400 authors and moderators for over 250 programs, the options can be overwhelming so our staff has crafted a short list of some of the events we find most intriguing this year.


Happy listening and reading! And special thanks to Abby Palko, Wynne Stuart, Mary Esselman, Claire Kaplan and Alison Kuhn for their contributions to our list.


Wednesday, March 22

Frances Curtis Barnhart (The Beauty of Impermanence) and Beatrix Ost (More than Everything and The Philosopher’s Style) share the stories of their lives and their art.


Authors Marie Benedict (The Other Einstein), Carrie Brown (The Stargazer’s Sister), and Stephen O’Connor (Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings) share their novels featuring characters with intimate connections to historic figures.


Our own Abby Palko has in past years taught a course called Jane’s Heirs, in which students read Jane Eyre and a variety of 20th and 21st century adaptations. She describes Patricia Park’s Re Jane as a very smart, modern retelling of Brontë’s novel transposed to the contemporary U.S. with a lesbian protagonist. At this event, Park and rare book curator Barbara Heritage will discuss the enduring influence of Charlotte Brontë’s nineteenth-century novel. The discussion will be held in the Dome Room of the renovated Rotunda, and will conclude with a book signing and an opportunity to examine and handle some of the rare artifacts displayed in the accompanying exhibition, “Shaping Eyre: Charlotte Brontë’s Classic Novel in 200 Objects.”


Hugh Byrne (The Here-and-Now Habit: How Mindfulness Can Help You Break Unhealthy Habits Once and for All) and Emily Esfahani Smith (The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters) offer powerful practices for incorporating mindfulness and meaning into our lives.

Tips for a fun and healthy spring break

Spring break and vacations are a time to relax, rejuvenate, travel, and enjoy time with family and friends. Being safe during this time will ensure that you do have fun and that you bring back good memories of your experience. Here are some tips to make sure that your travel experience is great!

Travel Safety Tips

  • Travel with someone you know and trust, and preferably with a group.
  • Even if you are with a group, you do not have to go along with something if it does not feel safe to you. Follow your own instincts. Listen to your gut.
  • Part of the fun of traveling is to meet new people. At the same time, this can be done in a way that does not cause problems. Don’t go off alone with someone you have just met. Also don’t allow a member of your group to leave alone with someone they do not know.
  • Don’t give out information about your hotel room or let someone you just met into your room. Agree to meet people in public places like restaurants and not isolated locations.
  • Lock your hotel/motel room door (keep your keycard in a safe place) and when someone knocks, always look through the peephole before opening the door.

These may sound like common sense ideas, but it is easy to forget when you’re caught up in the excitement of travel, new experiences, and you are out of your familiar environment.

By |February 28th, 2017|Blog, Counseling|1 Comment|

The Palko POV: We Move, Therefore We Are

We Move, Therefore We Are

Story by Abby Palko

Abby QuoteIn the days and weeks following the women’s marches, #whyIMarch proliferated around social media as women felt compelled to explain their individual reasons for supporting the marches. Inherent in these reflective pieces was a sense that life in 2017 still poses gendered challenges to women. My educational and professional background has prepared me to see these moments in which we all (re)awaken to this reality coming so I’m often spared the shock felt by many. But in looking back on February’s events here at UVA and in Charlottesville, I did find that I was surprised by a common theme in remarks I crafted for two different events at which I recently spoke: the movement of the body in and through the public sphere.

At first glance, these two events had little to nothing in common. First, I offered the opening remarks at UVA’s National Girls and Women in Sports Day, at which we honored the athletic achievements of Leah Smith, UVA’s gold-medal winning Olympic swimmer. A couple of weeks later, I spoke at Charlottesville’s first annual One Billion Rising event. One Billion Rising, an off-shoot of the V-Day campaign associated with the Vagina Monologues, is an awareness campaign designed to draw attention to the fact that one in three women and girls experience sexual assault and personal violence. While both focused on women and girls, the former event was a celebration of progress and the latter a reckoning of how far we still have to go.

At One Billion Rising, I reflected on Emma Goldman’s insistence that her personal dedication to political activism in service of social justice did not have to preclude having fun. Her biographer, Alix Kates Shulman, shares Emma’s story from her early years as an activist of being pulled aside at a dance by a young man anxious to impress upon her that “it did not behoove an agitator to dance” because her “frivolity would only hurt the Cause.” Emma Goldman was not impressed:

“I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from conventions and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it.”

And Emma danced.

By |February 28th, 2017|Blog|0 Comments|

Student Spotlight: Nick Rupert

Get to know Men’s Leadership Project Big Brother, Nick Rupert!

Year: Second Year
Major: Pre-Comm, and Music
Hometown: Clifton, VA

1. Why are you passionate about your program at the Women’s Center?

The Men’s Leadership Project (MLP) gives me hope for the future. As a big brother in MLP I get to work with my little brother and the other seventh graders in MLP in order for all of us to grow and become better leaders. A lot of these kids have never had a consistent male role model in their lives and it’s been such a rewarding experience being there for them throughout the year. I’ve honestly had so much fun teaching them about life, and learning alongside them as the year has progressed. Throughout the year we cover topics ranging from bullying, to sportsmanship, to what it means to be a man, and we even do some community service. I highly recommend applying for the Men’s Leadership Project if you’re looking to give back to the community, and develop a mentoring relationship that is extremely fulfilling.

2. What made you choose UVA over other schools you applied to?

I came here for the food.

Just kidding. UVA was close enough to home that I could go home whenever I wanted to, but far away enough that my parents weren’t going to visit every weekend. I knew that I would receive a high quality education here regardless of what I studied, and on top of that I think that Charlottesville is absolutely beautiful. I wanted to study music and business, and UVA just so happened to have an excellent music department, and a renowned undergraduate business program. I love it here.

3. What has surprised you about UVA?

I’m kind of surprised I haven’t been ousted yet for not being preppy. I don’t own anything that’s vineyard vines, or a pair of sperrys. I also don’t know how to tie a bow tie ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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|