2018 Honors Program Cohort

Vilas Annavarapu

Vilas AnnavarapuI am broadly interested in ways to decrease inequality, whether it be in school systems or advocating for human rights both locally and internationally. I am curious to also study the ways in which government can more meaningfully represent the interests of citizens. Pertinent experience
  • Youth Issues Adviser for State Senator Brian Townsend (Delaware, 11th District)
  • Program Director, Wilson Journal of International Affairs
  • Legal Aid and Justice Center, Research Adviser – coordinate a team of three students to work on gentrification in Charlottesville
  • Senior Resident of Brown Residential College
I first developed a love for politics when my dad dragged me to a campaign rally for then presidential candidate Joe Biden. I was in fourth grade with little knowledge about politics besides the constant hum of CNN in my family's living room. I brought a poster I made for class a year ago about the three stages of government to show Senator Biden. He laughed, pointing to an image he happened to be in and kindly wrote "Vilas, you will be in this picture one day." It was a kind gesture that for a young kid, that really helped develop an interest in a field often not accessible to people of my skin color. I started asking my dad more questions about what he watched and cultivated a love for public service. Special skills/superpowers: Experience with Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint :P Goals for your future: I want to one day run for national office and serve in the United States Senate. Attorney General of the United States is my dream job. instagram and twitter: @vilasaraptor www.voicesatuva.com

Caitlin Elizabeth Kwalwasser

Caitlin KwalwasserMy focus is on the interaction of politics and religion, specifically in the case of Islam. I seek to understand how the political realm interacts with societies that have highly developed religious bases. Further, my goal is to understand how interactions between politics and religion are connected and where tension and conflict occur in order to try and mitigate religion-related political violence.

I have worked closely with the International Relations Organization at UVA to host policy simulations for both high school students and members of the Charlottesville Community. We have covered topics ranging from the Yemen Civil War to the Israeli/ Palestinian Conflict. I have been passionate about issues of international security since I was a child. I was living in New York at the time of the September 11 attacks. It was my first day of pre-school and the beginning of my education. While the day itself is fuzzy in my memory, the impacts are crystal clear. My father proceeded to be deployed twice and my family was relocated to Virginia. The  very structure of my life was changed because of this and my father chose to relocate us from New York to Virginia both because of his work and with the hope that I would someday attend the University of Virginia. My goal is to approach complex issues of politics and religion abroad with empathy and understanding for both sides in order to make our international community a safer place. I specifically want to understand how Islam interacts with political power in the Middle East and in other Islamic countries around the world.

Hyokyung (Jenny) Lim

Jenny LimA second-year from Richmond, Virginia, Jenny Lim is a Politics Honors and Economics double-major with a minor in Spanish. Her academic interests include the progression of American federalism, the interpretations of the Constitution and the judicial power as related to federalism, as well as American democratic capitalism. Additionally, she is intrigued by the role of political psychology in US-North Korea relations and behavioral economics. Previously, she worked with a South Korean-based NGO, coauthoring a report on child labor in North Korea for the UN Human Rights Council. On Grounds, she serves on the Outreach Committee of Liberty in North Korea and volunteers with the Latinx and Migrant Aid program (Madison House) and Language Consultant program (VISAS). In addition, she works as a research assistant at the Tim Wilson Social Psychology Lab, investigating the interactional relationship between varying levels of meaningfulness and enjoyment in daily activities. For the rest of her time at UVA, she hopes to explore the intersection of economics and psychology while further cultivating her understanding of politics through the Politics Honors program. After graduation, she aspires to attend law school, concentrating on constitutional law.

Emma Westerhof

Emma Westerhof-Shultz

Emma Westerhof is a third year from the metro D.C. area. She is double majoring in the Politics Honors program and Spanish. Her academic interests include environmental political theory, climate ethics, environmental justice, human rights, feminist theory and postcolonial studies.

In previous summers, Emma was the project intern for AASCU’s American Democracy Project and AAC&U’s Bringing Theory to Practice national initiative. Outside of class, Emma works as the Media, Outreach and Recruitment intern for Volunteers with International Students, Scholars and Staff (VISAS). She serves as a Spanish tutor at Casa Bolívar and as a Classroom Moderator for the ESL 911 course “Classroom Communication: Teaching & Preparing for the Job Market,” which helps international teaching assistants in-training improve their oral English and learn more about American culture and classroom dynamics. Off Grounds, Emma has volunteered with several nonprofits in the Charlottesville area dedicated to helping immigrants navigate U.S. immigration, legal, healthcare and educational systems with a focus on the Hispanic community.

During her remaining time at UVa, Emma is invested in exploring the ethical, political and legal dilemmas surrounding the issue of climate refugees or environmental migrants, as well as potential responses at national, international or global levels. She also hopes to study how climate action can become a positive catalyst for political and social change by altering our collective sense of what is possible beyond just surviving or enduring environmental disasters. In the future, Emma plans to attend graduate school or law school, with a focus on environmental law.

Jackson Gillespie Wilkins

Jack WilkinsI am mainly interested in American Politics and Political Theory. I am particularly interested in root factors of contemporary political polarization, how individuals from opposed political ideologies can effectively communicate and build consensus, the determinants of populist-nationalist support, and how democratic theory sheds light on populist-nationalism.

Growing up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi as a Democrat, I gained an early belief that dialogue and humanization can help drastically in having productive political conversations. In 2017, I founded an organization called Converge which facilitates these productive conversations between UVA students with opposite viewpoints.

Superpower: Can make coffee disappear.

I hope to attend law school and practice civil rights or constitutional law before entering public service in some capacity.

Eileen Ying

Eileen YingEileen Ying is a second-year from Clarksville, Maryland majoring in the Politics Honors program and English. Her academic interests include political agency and public space at the municipal level; racial and gender dynamics in activist organizations; and literature, film, and other cultural work as forms of political expression. She is particularly invested in the history of Asian American radicalism in the 1960s and 70s, and plans to teach a seminar on the subject in the spring of 2019. Outside of class, she acts as Managing Editor of the Virginia Review of Politics and serves on the Advocacy Committee of the Minority Rights Coalition. In addition, she works as an undergraduate research assistant for Professor Denise Walsh, studying backlash to the political participation of women and gender justice advocates. Eileen has volunteered with several local campaigns and community action groups, and hopes to continue both her intellectual and activist pursuits after she graduates.

Raiya Al-Nsour

Raiya Al-NsourRaiya Al-Nsour is a third-year in the Politics Honors program. Her academic interests include post-colonial theory, feminist thought and theory, migration and displacement, and politics of the Middle East and North Africa. Previously, she served as Vice Chair of Women and Gender Affairs for Student Council and Vice Chair of Advocacy for the Minority Rights Coalition.

Currently, she serves as a Representative for the College of Arts and Sciences for Student Council. This upcoming year, having secured a grant from the Bicentennial Fund, Raiya and a small group of other UVA students are spearheading the UVA Student Organizing Conference, which hopes to build student power among Virginia colleges and universities.

Last summer, she served as an intern with Another Kind of Girl Collective, a non-profit based in Amman, Jordan, which focuses on empowerment through artistic media. During her time there, she worked with Syrian girls living as refugees in the Za'atari Refugee Camp and Irbid. This summer, Raiya will be interning with the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a law degree as well as a Masters of Public Policy.

In the future, Raiya hopes to practice civil rights law with a focus on voting rights and racial profiling.