Bonner Scholars Program
Access to Education
Opportunity to Serve
Bonner Scholars Program
Access to Education
Opportunity to Serve
Class of 2016
Class of 2016
Four years ago, when Regina Cavada, ’16, left San Diego for Richmond and began her freshman year at the University of Richmond, her path seemed obvious.
“I was really interested in international issues,” she says, “I knew that was where I wanted to be.”
Cavada naturally chose an international studies major and spent her freshman year studying Arabic. She complemented her interests by partnering with World Pediatric Project as a Bonner Scholar — a program that pairs students with local organizations for four years of sustained community engagement and social justice education.
However, once sophomore year began, Cavada’s experiences in the city of Richmond were starting to shift the course of her college career to something a bit more local. As a member of the Urban AmericasSophomore Scholars in Residence (SSIR) course with Amy Howard, director of the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), Cavada and her classmates analyzed the politics and policies of the city of Richmond with a critical lens.
“That was the first time I ever realized that there was this need for justice within American politics as well,” she says. For her SSIR capstone project, Cavada focused on food access and sustainability projects in partnership with the William Byrd Community House. Designing this complex community-based initiative sparked Cavada’s interest in community health and food access issues, and also helped her to see the city of Richmond from a new perspective.
”Through my work with the CCE, I’ve learned about these systemic issues — like segregation and poverty — that are happening so close to me, right here in Richmond,” she says. “So seeing this tiny piece of America close up, that is what influenced me to shift my focus to American policies and politics.”
What did that look like? Cavada switched her major to political science major. She explored food access issues as a policy research intern for the Bonner Foundation, and worked as a food and nutrition fellow on an urban farm in Richmond.
Cavada also took a position as a student coordinator for UR Downtown where she planned events and worked with community partners with the goal of exposing more UR students to the opportunities offered by the city. While at UR Downtown, Cavada’s supervisor heard about an opportunity for Cavada to incorporate her interest in community health with a city project.
The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club raised money, including a grant from the Richmond City Health Department, to renovate their space and create a community kitchen to serve the Richmond population. Cavada was brought on to think through the needs of the community kitchen by creating jobs descriptions, helping to conceptualize the space, and investigating strategic partnerships and programming.
Even after four years of partnering with local nonprofits and city institutions, Cavada still struggled when there wasn’t always a tangible end result to her work. However, her new role as a Bonner Scholar intern is bringing her experience full circle.
“Now, as a senior, I get to watch the freshmen go through this process all over again, getting exposed to these issues for the first time,” she says. “Looking back at my reflections and my growth, I can see so clearly this work as a Bonner Scholar really matters. The exposure to this conversation and dialogue Bonner offers changed the way I think.”
Class of 2017
Class of 2017
Imagine awakening just before dawn to the sounds of roosters crowing and waves breaking on the shore just outside your cottage. Coffee mug in hand, you stroll out your front door onto a pristine, sandy beach to watch a magnificent South Pacific sunrise.
A dream vacation? Not exactly. For Emily Onufer, '17, such was the start of a typical day this past summer when she interned with the environmental nongovernment organization Te Ipukarea Society (TIS) on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.
A Bonner Scholar majoring in environmental studies and minoring in anthropology, Onufer used funding from her Bonner summer of service and a Burhans Civic Fellowship to pursue an internship that connected with her fields of study.
Onufer became interested in nature and the environment at a young age. Her mother, an environmental educator, brought exotic pets to the family home in Washingtonville, N.Y.
“At one point we had 28 pets, including leopard geckos, an iguana that walked on a leash, a California king snake, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, a Pueblan milk snake, and a blue-tongued skink,” Onufer said. “I was not a popular sleep-over house.
“I came to college sure I wanted to be an environmental lawyer. My biggest interest is in international climate-change agreements and the effects of global decision-making on the planet’s environment.”
Through her coursework, Onufer started making connections between environmental and social-justice issues related to indigenous peoples. In particular, the School of Professional and Continuing Studiescourse Global Impact of Climate Change, taught by Dr. David Kitchen in fall 2014, piqued Onufer’s curiosity about the intersection of these issues.
“It was super interesting to have 20-year-olds in class with 65-year-olds discussing climate change,” Onufer said. “That class got me interested in groups of people who have very little impact on global climate change themselves but will potentially lose their lifestyles and homes because of climate change.”
Inspired, Onufer embarked on a far-ranging search for an internship that would give her first-hand experience working with indigenous people on climate change. She found the TIS internship in the Cook Islands, where she could research environmental issues in the context of the Maori, the islands’ indigenous Polynesian people who comprise roughly 90 percent of the nation’s approximately 13,000 people.
“Rarotonga, a relatively low-lying island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, will become one of the first islands severely affected by sea-level rise as a result of global climate change,” Onufer said.
Onufer worries what the Maori will do when rising seas make the Cook Islands uninhabitable. “For the Maori, moving is not thought of,” she said. “The land is their home.”
Although rising sea levels related to climate change is a hot topic among environmental donors and at many international conferences, it is not the most pressing environmental issue for Cook Islanders, Onufer said.
Onufer recalled a school principal asking how farm run-off and trash were affecting pollution levels in Rarotonga’s lagoon. Later the same day, she witnessed a young child playing in a pile of ashes from burned trash. “I wondered how many chemicals he was exposed to,” Onufer said.
Back on campus, Onufer continues to explore the effects of the environment on people’s lives. She’s been conducting interviews for a forthcoming environmental exhibition at UR Downtown, a collaboration with the Southern Environmental Law Center. Set to open in September, the exhibition will envision the future of transportation and the environment in Greater Richmond communities.
Last semester Onufer wrote a paper about the legal status of climate-change refugees for International Environmental Law, a course taught by law professor Noah Sachs and cross-listed for both undergraduates and law students. “There are no protections for refugees who have to leave their homes for climate change,” Onufer said.
“I want to make environmental policy accessible to people who feel they don’t have the background knowledge or expertise to get involved on their own.”
Class of 2014
Class of 2014
Concrete-tiled floors work in a pinch for the makeshift dance studio. Each week, excited children file into a spare room with cinderblock walls to practice tap, step, and hip-hop routines.
It started with a bunch of dance shoes waiting for a teacher. Three years ago came Rachel Brown, ’14.
Brown was a pioneer at the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club in Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood. When she first visited, the site wasn’t even a partner with the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement. But Brown saw the potential to build and grow the after-school dance offerings as part of her four-year commitment to civic engagement in the city as a Bonner Scholar.
“I had to go there for a solid year before they knew I was there to stay,” Brown says. “I’ll come in sometimes not having slept the night before, not really ready to deal with all of it, but as soon as I walk in I’m reminded why I am there.”
At the site, Brown and the students who have followed her help with homework, supervise library hours and gym, and lead discussion groups. And then there’s the hip-hop.
“It just kept going back to that — using hip-hop as a tool for social change,” says Brown. “It wasn’t my intention at first. I’m really in love with the culture. I know there’s a lot of power in it. A lot of conversations we started in the mentoring program would go back to artists or people in the mainstream.”
That natural flow to hip-hop fits well with Brown’s dance minor and arts management concentration. She also designed an interdisciplinary major in social entrepreneurship and has created a business plan for an idea that combines her vision into something she calls Hip Hope. Ultimately she wants to create opportunities for youth through hip-hop and pursue her own passion for performance.
“She’s an amazing dancer all the way around,” says Isaiah Bailey, ’13, her former co-teacher. “I’m just someone who has an interest in it. But I saw the dance class as a way to open up other opportunities.
“I was able to talk about gang life and the different types of groups that are going to be out there recruiting people in different points of their life,” he says. “Being able to teach children about the importance of associating yourself with the right kinds of people and the dangers of associating yourself with groups they might want to avoid.”
One of the biggest challenges for the dance program has been the tiled flooring. It’s harder to teach techniques on the wrong kind of floor, but last spring saw new movement in solving the problem.
Both Bailey and Brown received awards that they’ve dedicated to helping install new floors, mirrors, bars, and a sound system that doesn’t depend on portable speakers and iPhones. Bailey’s came in the form of the Debbie Barkley Spirit Award he received from the Office of the Chaplaincy. It comes with a $500 donation to a chosen charity. And Brown submitted a proposal for a Coca Cola and Family Dollar competition for Boys and Girls Clubs across the country.
Brown’s proposal was one of 30 finalists out of 500 submissions for the grand prize of a $10,000 Pay It Forward grant. But the notification that she was a finalist landed in her junk mail folder and she found out only four days before a two-week public voting period ended. Even with a tight deadline, she was able to rally support and marshal enough votes to receive one of the $5,000 runner-up grants.
“I’m excited to build up the dance studio,” Brown says. “It’s not as safe a facility now to dance tap and hip-hop. It’s slippery and students spin and fall easily. The right floor will help with that.”
Brown hopes to get the new studio installed during her senior year.
“It would be a good first step,” she says. “The legacy I want to leave is a dance studio.”
Class of 2017
Class of 2017
Students listened to election returns and debated the pros and cons of Democratic and Republican candidates during the on-campus Super Tuesday viewing party on March 1, 2016. Sporting an “I voted” sticker, Brenden Carol, ’17, moved among them, pleased with the turnout for an event he organized in his role as a student coordinator of politics and elections for the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement (CCE).
“Trump dominated students’ discussion during the viewing party,” Carol said. “None of the students in either political party was happy about his front-runner status.”
Despite the prevailing angst, Carol delighted in seeing students take an interest in politics. He hopes to increase political activism on campus.
Carol came to University of Richmond with politics on the brain.
“My parents met while they were both working on Capitol Hill,” Carol said. “Family dinner conversations were political, and we always had signs for candidates in our front yard.”
As a teen, Carol heard Barack Obama speak during the presidential primaries, attended the 2012 Democratic National Convention in his hometown of Charlotte, N.C., and interned as a congressional aide.
At University of Richmond, Carol is majoring in philosophy, politics, economics and law (PPEL) and political science.
He fulfills his Bonner Scholars service requirement as a CCE student coordinator, promoting voter registration, organizing campus political events and programs, and updating the student-run RVAGOV website with relevant information about city of Richmond politics.
The CCE awarded Carol two consecutive Burhans Civic Fellowships to pursue his political interests through academically grounded summer internships.
In summer 2014, Carol supported voter-registration drives and voter-rights outreach during his internship with Ignite NC, a nonpartisan voting-rights nonprofit. Carol’s faculty mentor, assistant professor of political science Ernest McGowen, helped Carol contextualize his experience with readings on grassroots movements.
“This is the first time I’ve worked with a grassroots movement,” Carol wrote of his internship. “This experience has taught me the power of micro-politics. One cannot imagine the power of the local board of elections until you are there discussing the effects of the board’s decision with them.”
Carol undertook his second Burhans Civic Fellowship in summer 2015 as an intern with the Washington, D.C.-based Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), a nonprofit dedicated to making Congress more responsive to its constituents. Carol and other CMF staff instructed constituents and professional lobbyists on advocacy best practices. Political science professor Sandra Joireman served as his faculty mentor during this fellowship.
“My CMF internship showed me politicians really do care what their constituents say,” Carol said. “Elected officials have to be responsive when their constituents contact them.
“Politics is a two-way sport. Voting is the equivalent of sitting on the bench. If you want to get playing time, you have to get involved.”
Not content with learning only about American politics, Carol interned with a member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) during his study-abroad semester at the University of Edinburgh Institute of Governance in fall 2015.
“My MSP, Stewart Maxwell, asked me to review a law about the public-smoking ban,” Carol said. “The ban didn’t apply to smoking in stairwells. I looked at the law and at the amendment process and was surprised by how simple it was to make an amendment.
“My research on the smoking ban was a small thing, but I will be partially responsible for changing a law likely to go into effect in Scotland this April.”
This summer, with funding from an Arts and Sciences Summer Research Fellowship, Carol will explore with Dr. McGowen how congressional representation would change under a proportional system. Ultimately, Carol hopes to pursue a graduate degree in law or public policy as an entrée to the world of politics.
“Many forms of civic engagement are only necessary because of the faults in our political system,” Carol said. “Volunteering helps one or two people. Changing legislation helps many more.
“You can clean up a lake, but if you can’t stop the polluter, you’ll have to keep cleaning up the lake.”