What Happens After Graduation? One student's takeaways from AA/AS Alumni Panel

Brandon Thompson – April 8th, 2018

On Friday March 30th, I had the privilege of listening in on a panel of three black alumnae who were involved with the AS program. The panel was mainly a Q&A session where the three women discussed their experiences at UVA and what they do currently. The three women were Elisa Bell, Niya Bates, and Kelsey Watkins. Kelsey is a current UVA Law student. Niya currently works at Monticello as the Public Historian of Slavery and African American Life at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. Elisa is the Marketing Director of Transurban in Washington D.C. 
 
Elisa Bell wanted to experience something different from the vastly majority white neighborhood in NOVA she grew up around. She came to UVA for that experience where she was the President of both her sorority and the Black Student Alliance. Coming out of that, Elisa earned a Masters in Communication from Georgetown and a MBA in Strategic Marketing/Brand Management from Cornell. After graduate school, she began her marketing career at The Clorox Company for three years and SEPHORA for one year. Now, she heads the marketing team as a part of the road construction company Transurban. For her, the main things that college students should focus on is pursuing all avenues for your interests regardless of failure or change, networking as much as possible, and do not feel constrained by any perceived boundary in your way. 
 
Niya Bates grew up in Charlottesville and went to UVA in 2008. She was initially interested in going to the Commerce school, but then explored a few different majors until she landed on African studies. From there, she went on to be a double Hoo by earning a Master’s in Architecture through UVA. During her bridge year, she spent time with Americorps in Charlottesville helping out the elementary school students with their academic performance. Into her main career, Niya has worked as a Research Assistant for UVA, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and The Montpelier Foundation.  Now, ​as the Public Historian at Monticello  she will continue engaging descendants of the enslaved community through encouraging dialog on  race and the legacy of slavery and supporting research on slavery and genealogy in the local  community. One of the main goals for Niya is to leave an indelible impact on her community, which  involves showing an example of what the community is capable of producing and providing access  to necessary resources through partnerships with organizations. “Make more connections outside of  comfort self.”   

Kelsey Watkins is another Charlottesville native who earned a Bachelor’s Degree in History and  African American Studies in 2016. She is now one year away from earning her Doctorate of Law  (J.D.). With education consuming the majority of her time, she has used her summers to gain  tangible experience in law. Some of these internships have included organizations such as the  Federal Trade and Communications Commission, the Miller Center for Public Affairs, and Shearman  & Sterling LLP. In accordance with the other ladies, Kelsey reiterates the need for networks to create  relationships and using your professors and academic advisor as the catalyst to begin networking.  Also, she recommends enhancing your writing skills, widening the scopes of your imagination and  take more risks that can help develop character.