Meet the class of 2023

New Rams talk about their first weeks on campus. Main takeaway? The future is bright.

The 2019-20 school year is off to a strong start, and Virginia Commonwealth University welcomed more than 6,000 new students to campus. Each student has a unique story to tell and future to build, but to get a sense of the newest batch of Rams, VCU News sat down to get to know eight first-year students. In talking to them, an underlying theme came through: These students are determined to use their passions and interests to make the world, and even VCU, a better place.

(Here we feature the students from the College of Humanites and Sciences, but feel free to view the complete feature to meet all eight students.)

Oscar Kemp

Oscar Kemp

Hometown: Danville, Virginia

School: College of Humanities and Sciences and School of Social Work

What do you plan to study and why?

I’m interested in studying sociology because as a younger version of myself I lived in a low-income community. But within that low-income community there was a lot of different races, people from different backgrounds, and it was shocking to see how we interacted with each other. And sociology is the study of how groups of people interact with each other, so that’s what pulled me toward that. … For social work, my mother was part of a low-income family, so she had a social worker. I went into the office one day and it was really cool to see how you as one person can really help a family. And not just one, but different families throughout your day.

Why did you decide to come to VCU?

I decided to come to VCU because I knew that what I wanted to do wouldn’t be looked down on. When you tell someone, “Oh I want to be a social worker,” they’re like, “Why don’t you want to be a doctor?” So here it’s a lot of openness and open-mindedness to what you want to do with your major. There’s a lot of diversity. I feel like here you can actually be yourself.

What is the best piece of advice you received as you start college?

It’s OK to not be successful. It’s OK to fail. That’s where the learning happens is in your failure. My mother gave me that advice.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of starting college early. As a first-gen student, that’s a huge step … you don’t know a lot about college, but you decided to jump in early. So I’m most proud of taking my summer courses and obtaining a 4.0 GPA. I got A’s in both of them, and they were hard.

What are you looking forward to most at VCU?

I’m looking forward to being part of the different student resources that they have here. I just got a work-study [job] at the Career Center. I’m really excited to be a part of different organizations. I want to be part of pro-black orgs but I also want to be a part of the Student Media Center. I want to do podcasts. I want to help the students any way I can and also just make a more inclusive community. Because, yes, we are an inclusive school but it can always be better.

Devante Spellman

Devante Spellman

Hometown: Norfolk, Virginia,

School: Honors College and School of World Studies, College of Humanities and Sciences

Why did you choose VCU?

The diversity of the campus and the classrooms is one of the main reasons. …Where I grew up – Norfolk – there’s a naval base so it’s very diverse. And I’ve always been in that background – diversity and inclusion – so I wanted that when I went to college, too.

What do you plan to study and why?

From a young age I’ve always been into international studies. I went to an international studies school for middle school, the Academy of International Studies at Rosemont. In high school I got in the model UN and that was a driving factor for me in choosing this as an educational path.

What are you most proud of?

During the Summer Scholars program, I was awarded “Most Active in the Program” and I won a computer from RamTech. But I had a friend [from the program] whose computer was slower, and I had just bought mine, so I decided to give it to her.

What are you looking forward to most about college?

Meeting new people, because I’ve always been the kind of person who doesn’t make friends unless we’re forced to interact with each other. But being in the You First program here, I’ve broken out of my shell and started talking to people first, and that’s how I’ve made a lot of connections that I feel like are going to last these four years.

What will be most challenging about college?

Financial things. I don’t have a lot of income. My single mother doesn’t have a lot of money. But I feel like in the Honors College there are a lot of scholarship opportunities and there are people here that can help me handle financials.

Are there any student orgs/extracurriculars you’re interested in?

I want to join the Model UN. I’m in the You First program right now, which is for first-generation college students. And then when I first got here, I heard about STAT – Students Today Alumni Tomorrow. I really want to join that and get involved with that.

Sharmeen Sattar

Sharmeen Sattar

Hometown: Glen Allen, Virginia

School: Honors College and College of Humanities and Sciences

What are you studying?

Biology. I’m on the pre-medicine track.

Why did you decide to come to VCU?

The main thing was the diversity. I wanted to pick a school where I would feel welcome and I could be myself.

What led you to biology and medicine?

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a doctor, so the idea was already in my mind. I have a couple of cousins who are doctors. And it was my mom’s dream. I took a couple of medical-related classes [in high school] — a nurse aide class and an EMT class — and I learned I’m really passionate about human health and helping people in that way.

What’s the best piece of advice you received as you start college?

College is a chance to reinvent yourself and I have definitely tried to make a big change — being more outgoing and getting help from people if I need it.

What are you most proud of?

Being here. I’m a first-gen student so being able to be in college and having the opportunity to make my dreams come true.

What are you looking forward to most?

One of the things I’m most excited to join is the Muslim Students Association. And also United2Heal — they gather medical supplies to send to countries that need them most. Really, I just want to meet people from all around the world and learn about them, see what other cultures are like.

How has VCU been so far?

Before you come here, you are stressed about how different college will be, but once you get here, you adjust quickly and you become more confident. [Convocation] was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the class picture, the cheers and the energy.

Diana Holman

Diana Holman

Hometown: Fort Meade, Maryland

School: College of Humanities and Sciences

Why did you choose VCU?

I chose it because it was one of the top forensic schools. As well as the campus is very pretty. I didn’t know this when I was first applying, but I actually really like how urban it is. It’s very open, and I like that a lot.

What do you plan to study and why?

I came here wanting to do forensic science because I wanted to be a crime scene analyst. Then when I did Summer Scholars, I just woke up one morning and [realized] I wanted to do more social work. So I’m now a double major in criminal justice and psychology. … [I want to do] something that has to do more with kids who grew up in the same situation that I did. We struggled, but there was still a way to end up on top. … I’m thinking maybe something like juvenile corrections. … A lot of people say that they want to support kids and show them another path but they’re never showing the path. … I could help somebody come from a foster care system or maybe they didn’t even make it into foster care, maybe they’re just running around.

Were you in foster care?

I actually never made it in there. … I came home from cheer practice and found [my mom and grandma had been arrested]. So I ended up taking a bag and jumping around [between] friends’ [houses]. … I lived in a small town [in Indiana] so everyone knew what happened, everyone knew who I was. … I’m kind of thankful for the path that I ended up [on] rather than the foster care path, because I feel like I wouldn’t have ended up where I was with the people that I was with. [Note: Diana was adopted by a military family and moved to Fort Meade during her freshman year of high school.]

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the maturity and independence that I have. … A lot of people joke in all the friend groups that I’m in, I’m the mother. I have all the answers. Everybody always comes to me if there’s an issue.

What are you looking forward to the most about college?

Developing into the person that I’m meant to be. I want to make a real change within the world, and I feel like college is the best first step.

Original post by VCU News (8/30/19)

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