Claire Mooney

Fourth Year

Anthropology DMP, Urban Planning minor

I am so grateful to have been on the Echols Advisory Committee for the last year. I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work with such a dedicated team of professors, alumni, and fellow students. The biggest lesson I have learned from the committee is how to make value-based decisions. I believe I echo the experiences of other committee members when I say that some of our most meticulous, if not tedious, discussions surrounded the rewording of the Echols mission statement. It was crucial to allot a significant amount of time and thought to this task, because every committee recommendation must link back to furthering the Echols mission. Having this foundation to steadfastly work towards was both inspiring and incredibly daunting.

Throughout my time on the committee, I was reminded of the numerous ways the Echols Scholars program has altered my life: it brought me to the University of Virginia, it saw an academic curiosity in me which I could not quite see in myself, it introduced me to my dearest friends. I was also able to witness the effect the program has had on alumni and my peers. We all felt a deep responsibility to current and future students to maintain and improve the wonderful aspects of the program – the strength of the community and academic empowerment. However, it was equally, if not more important, to be analytical about the program’s shortcomings – for example, the need for greater racial and socioeconomic diversity, and possible tensions between Echols and non-Echols students. I am not so naive as to presume we were able to solve every issue within the program, but I have complete faith in the program’s mission. If we continually make decisions about the program which affirm this mission, the Echols program will continue to shape the University of Virginia and beyond for the better.