Friday, April 26, 2019

Her Future’s So Bright She's Gotta Wear Shades
Honors Student Stephanie Cull

Things are going great, and they're only getting better
I'm doing all right, getting good grades
The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades
Lyrics: Patrick Lee MacDonald

It’s hard to imagine anyone more upbeat, positive, and involved than Reynolds Honors student Stephanie Cull. But, being an Honors student is just a start.

Stephanie’s calendar includes JSR Leads, PTK – she is the outgoing PTK Vice President and a recipient of the All-Academic Team Scholarship, she’s VP of the Spectrum Club, she’s on the Honors Steering Committee, and she’s on the Food Pantry Implementation Team. This spring she traveled with several other Reynolds Honors students to the Virginias Collegiate Honors Council Conference and gave her first presentation to a large audience in an academic setting. And, if that isn’t enough, she was one of five Honors students recently presented with the Honors Designated Scholar medallion (and yes, it’s literally heavy metal).

“Probably not,” she says when asked if her life has always been an involvement whirlwind. “It’s really only the past two years since I came to Reynolds that I’ve been so engaged. Reynolds has really changed me. Saved my life. I’ve taken advantage of all the opportunities the College offered and it’s been great. Everything has changed for me.”

Stephanie continues, “As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten a greater appreciation of life and its special gifts, not gifts like the Honors medallion although it’s very special and I am so proud to have it, I mean life’s simple gifts like a sunset or being with friends. I’ve always been one of those eternal optimists, but more so now than ever.” Given the challenges Stephanie has faced, she’s needed every ounce of optimism she could muster to keep moving forward, much less achieve all she has achieved. But, she keeps her focus forward, and as the song goes, the future’s so bright she’s gotta wear shades.

Consider this. “I came in to the downtown campus one day just to ask a question,” Stephanie says. “All I wanted to know was if it was possible for me to enroll. That day, when I walked out the door I was enrolled, had applied for financial aid, and would be starting classes in a few weeks. I needed help, and the Reynolds staff got me through the process each step of the way. From there, other students and faculty encouraged me to get involved. I went to a JSR Leadership Retreat just to check it out. That was the catalyst that began my student leadership addiction. I was elected VP of Spectrum that same fall, and VP of PTK the following spring.”

Graduation is around the corner for Stephanie and overshadowing the push of exams she is waiting, like many students, to hear about acceptance to her college of choice. “I only applied to VCU and VCU Honors College. VCU is my home. I grew up there. My Mom has worked there for 36 years. She used to take me to work with her when I was a toddler and I played in the halls. She worked in the warehouse then. Imagine this, now she is the Director of Budgets and Finance for Health Sciences in the Dean’s Office. She is just incredible.” Not too hard to see where Stephanie gets her drive and dedication.

Stephanie will take her commencement walk to pick up a dual degree: an AA in Social Science and an AA in Science. So, what’s her favorite subject? “That’s a hard one. I’ve got two . . . makes sense with my degrees. My “go to” is Geology. I’ve loved rocks since I was a kid. I never thought there would be a class to study them. Dr. Layou calls it “nerding out” when the Geology students get together to talk rocks with her. She is so excited and passionate about her work it really rubs off on you. But, I also loved Honors Sociology. Dr. D’Andrea is fantastic, and we got to do actual research like the campus study that revealed student food insecurity, and led to the opening of the Food Pantries. Taking an active part in a solution to a problem is so incredibly rewarding.”

After such a busy year, what about summer? “It’s been a really hard year, but very, very good. I’m ready to kick my feet up and relax for a few weeks. I’ll be hanging out with my seven-year old grand-nephew, going to the pool a lot, and doing what kids like to do first. I’ll also be volunteering with the Food Pantry team. I’d really like to find a part-time job, preferably here at Reynolds, and have been asking around.”

Stephanie, you’re gonna need those shades for all that pool-time you’ll be putting in this summer . . . and you’re gonna need them for your next whirlwind round of classes, studying, and involvement coming in the fall. Best of luck to you and all the other Reynolds 2019 graduates.