2019 Honors Program Cohort

Kevin Baker

Kevin BakerKevin is a second-year student double-majoring in Media Studies and the Honors program in the Politics Department. His interests lie in the intersections between those departments, specifically looking at how social media (especially Twitter) has affected our political discourse around electoral politics. Kevin’s parents nurtured his interest for politics from an early age (he’s already thanked them, don’t worry). He volunteered with the Newseum’s Education Department in Washington, D.C. for seven years, and still remembers being at the front of the chamber for debates about immigration on the Senate floor.
This past summer, Kevin embodied the words of his favorite quote from Tip O’Neill and interned with his County Councilwoman in Howard County, Maryland, where “all politics is local.” Kevin learned the necessity of local elected officials while working on everything from sidewalk repairs to tax repeals.
At UVA, Kevin teaches with the Charlottesville Debate League and competes for Virginia Mock Trial, where he served as a captain this past year.
Kevin hopes to work in Maryland politics after receiving his undergraduate degree before attending law school to practice as a trial attorney.

Kathon Betterton

Kathon BettertonKathon BettertonI am a second year majoring in Politics Honors and History. I am broadly interested in the rise of economic inequality in the United States and its effects on political liberty. My other academic interests include the Jacksonian revolution and populism’s effect on slavery, Antebellum America, and the history of slavery in the United States and its current reverberations on society. Moreover, I am interested in humanitarian crises especially the genocide of the Rohingya currently happening in Myanmar. I am a first-generation college student from Franklin County, Virginia and became fascinated with politics after reading Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow my senior year of high school. Growing up in an extremely rural area, I am interested in the intersection of class and political power in American society.

In my free time, I play club rugby at the University and work as a lifeguard. Off grounds, I spend my summers working at an outdoors summer camp in Southwest Virginia. I love spending time with children and having the opportunity to be a positive role model. My short term goal is to attend law school, with a focus on constitutional law. My long term goal is to bring my experience back home with me and make positive changes for my community, who I owe a great deal for my success.

James Burger

James BurgerI am deeply invested in exploring the evolution of minority discrimination within contemporary and historical American politics and policy. Specifically, I am interested in exploring queer political economy, the development of same-sex nuclear families, and LGBTQ housing security. I believe the intersection between social justice issues and economics presents a valuable opportunity to elevate marginalized voices in discussions surrounding policy reform.

Outside of the classroom, I am a member of the Virginia Gentlemen A cappella group; this organization allows me to pursue my love for music with a group of my best friends. In addition, I have the pleasure of volunteering at the UVA LGBTQ Center.

As someone who grew up in Charlottesville and is now a student at the University of Virginia, I have come to love this vibrant, resilient city. Charlottesville has experienced a tumultuous past couple of years that have called our community to confront forces of nationalism and white supremacy. Watching this city slowly heal and evaluate its complex history has inspired my interest in studying the inequality and violence very much alive in America today. After graduation I hope to attend law school - a pursuit which will allow me to one day combat the inequalities that exist in America’s legal and political institutions.

Brinsley Eriksen

Brinsley EriksenBrinsley Eriksen is a third year from The Woodlands, Texas, and is double majoring in Politics Honors and the History Distinguished Major program.  She is broadly interested in international relations and comparative politics; specifically, her interests include international law, nationalism, human rights, cross-cultural interactions in policy and theory.

Her interest in politics began as a 4th grade Page for the Texas Senate and grew from campaign volunteering and leading “election breakdowns” with her peers.  She has also studied international affairs and security through the Yale Young Global Scholars program, where she presented research on the crystallization of customary international law.  Outside of the classroom, Brinsley is the Publisher on the Operations Board for the Virginia Review of Politics, volunteers with Madison House’s AHIP program and Charlottesville SPCA, and is a member of the American Parliamentary Debate Association.  As an alumna of the first cohort of UVA’s London First program, she is the President of the Global Citizenship Initiative, which she founded with her peers to foster greater interest in global thought on grounds.

In the future she plans to graduate or law school and hopes to work for the US State Department.

William Krag

William KragWilliam Krag is a third-year from Midland Park, NJ. He is double majoring in the Politics Honors Program and in Economics. His academic interests center on American foreign policy, international political economy, and political theory with particular focus on U.S.-China relations, the politics of oil, and democratic theory.  He spent last summer studying international economics at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia and traveling throughout Central Europe.

At the University, William is a member of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, where he currently serves as the Probationary Chair. In his second year, he co-founded UVa’s branch of 180 Degrees Consulting, for which he serves as Consulting Director. As a member of the organization, he has consulted for non-profits in the Charlottesville community to provide operational and strategic advice. Additionally, he teaches high school debate at Albemarle High School through the Charlottesville Debate League. He also particularly enjoys skiing, especially with his family in New Hampshire.

He hopes to pursue a career in business or law before entering public service.

Meagan O'Rourke

Meagan O'RourkeEver since I started reporting for my high school newspaper, I fell in love with journalism and the intricacies of the First Amendment. Growing up in the Philadelphia area, I had the opportunity to report on the 2016 Democratic National Convention and local issues like the opioid epidemic in my area. Now, as a student of international relations, I want to explore how freedom of speech operates on an international scale and how it either promotes or violates human rights. Specifically, I am interested in how to prevent journalists from being targeted by political entities.

Outside of studying politics, I am the editor of the Cavalier Daily’s online magazine, abcdmag.com, which features long-form articles about issues facing the University and the surrounding community. I was a photographer and features reporter for the Cavalier Daily previously. I have also had the opportunity to learn about and serve Charlottesville through Alpha Phi Omega, the University’s co-ed community service fraternity. Last summer, I interned at the International Labor Rights Forum(ILRF) in Washington D.C. as a communications assistant for their campaign to promote female workers’ safety in the apparel industry in Southeast Asia. Through ILRF, I learned how powerful freedom of speech can be in leveraging labor rights through publicity campaigns by NGO’s, yet it is a rare and precious tool for the workers attempting to organize without persecution.

In the future, I hope to either pursue a career in political journalism or in foreign service.