2020 Honors Program Cohort
Sam Brewbaker is a third-year from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and is majoring in Politics Honors, with minors in Economics and English. His academic interests include religious political theory, the rise and continuity of right-wing nationalist movements worldwide, and authoritarianism. He is particularly interested in right-wing nationalist movements in India and the United States, and their recent growth.
At the University, Sam is a member of the University Guides Service, where he gives admissions tours to prospective students and historical tours to local visitors. He is active within his fraternity, previously serving as the organization’s recruitment chair, and also serves as an active member of Reformed University Fellowship on grounds. Additionally, Sam is an avid golfer.
After college, Sam hopes to pursue a career in business before attending law school. After law school, Sam hopes to enter the public sector.
Jenny Glazier is a rising third year from Richmond, Virginia majoring in the Politics Honors program with a minor in Spanish. Her interests lie largely in asylum law, Constitutional law, and immigration policy. From a young age, Jenny became fascinated with politics. In high school, she began volunteering at a Latinx community center, an experience that sparked her interest in asylum policy, and her work at an immigration law firm in her senior year solidified this passion of working with under-privileged communities. Through her research in the Batten School, focusing on Central American asylum-seekers affected by the Remain-in-Mexico policy and the role of emigration on home country democratization, she has explored the different ways in which policy interacts with individual migration decisions.
At UVA, Jenny has further enjoyed studying free speech protections, the role of federalism in the courts, and trends of executive power. Currently, Jenny serves as President of Moot Court and is a regular member of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society. In her free time, she loves to go hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains with friends.
After graduation, Jenny hopes to pursue a law degree and spend time working both at home and abroad.
Hailing from Edina, Minnesota, Ben Gustafson first developed an interest in politics listening to tales about his grandfather’s days as a Minnesota State Senator. In high school, Ben became even more fascinated by politics after his world history teacher inspired him to start reading The Economist magazine. Since then, Ben has become particularly interested in international relations theory, macro-history, and philosophy.
Ben’s interest in international relations led him to study peacebuilding and armed conflict in Bogotá, Colombia, during the summer after his first-year. The following summer, Ben served as both an editor and researcher for Professor Larry Sabato’s upcoming book on corruption within the American intelligence community during the Cold War.
Outside of the classroom, Ben coordinates a meal delivery service for the Charlottesville nonprofit International Neighbors and serves as a co-leader of Effective Altruism at UVA. In his free time, Ben enjoys hiking, running, and cheering on UVA sports. Ben hopes to pursue a career that allows him to write, teach, and learn.
I am a third-year from Richmond, Virginia majoring in Politics Honors and minoring in Chinese. My interest in politics was first sparked by a high school debate program called We the People. Here, I had the opportunity to dive deep into Constitutional Law and develop a passion not only for theory and debate, but also for the protection of civil liberties. I am fascinated by free expression rights and the unique extent to which they are protected in American society, as well as privacy rights in an increasingly digital world. I enjoy studying both the theoretical and historical foundations of fundamental rights such as these as well as their practical implications, particularly in the realm of criminal justice.
Outside of the classroom, I’ve had the opportunity to join the Virginia Holistic Justice Initiative, a nonprofit in Richmond seeking to end the incarceration of nonviolent individuals. My involvement with VHJI has pushed me to reexamine conventional ideas of crime and punishment and consider a holistic approach that instead targets the root causes of crime. At UVA, I am a part of Moot Court where I get to study constitutional law further and travel to compete in tournaments with a tight-knit group of like minded students. In addition, I am a member of Kappa Delta sorority, a supportive and confident group of women, and the University Salsa Club where I get to pursue my love of dance in a fun and creative way.
In the future, I hope to attend law school and pursue a career defending civil liberties.
Sarita Mehta is a third year from Austin, Texas double majoring in the Politics Honors Program and Economics. Her interests broadly concern the politics of migration, with a particular focus on exploring the intersection of social psychology and concepts such as xenophobia, nativism, and populism. She is also passionate about studying theoretical and practical aspects of burden-sharing and accountability among nations. Her passion for international politics was solidified after working in Marrakech, Morocco promoting sustainable development and women’s economic empowerment, via grant writing and grassroots engagement. This summer she interned in Congress, working closely with the House Foreign Affairs Committee, allowing her to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of federal politics. She currently works for the Indian American Impact Fund, an organization that promotes and supports Indian American political platforms and campaigns.
At the University, Sarita is a researcher at the BASH Lab, and has authored papers concerning race, intersectionality, and social relations. She is a member of the Honor Committee, an editor for the Virginia Review of Politics, a writer for the Arts & Entertainment column of the Cavalier Daily, and has served on the First Year Judiciary Committee, among other involvements. Outside of this, Sarita is a big fan of stand-up comedy and a die-hard NYT Crossword enthusiast. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in law and public service.
Alex Williams is a rising third year from Fairfax, Virginia. He first became interested in politics in 2004, when on election day, his preschool teacher convinced him and his peers that they all wanted to see President Bush win re-election—a desire Alex’s father was quick to disagree with. Alex has since been fascinated by the obsession, and polarization, the American Presidency instigates.
Alex also has a profound interest in social contract theory and constitutional law, and desires to further research how classical theories of the social contract exclude minoritized groups. He believes understanding how these exclusionary connotations have been institutionalized within law and government is vastly important, as it provides a framework for aligning contemporary political theory with the inclusionary principles of justice we hold today.
During his time at UVA, Alex has been an undergraduate researcher for both the Corcoran Department of History as well as the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics, conducting research on antiliberal movements across the globe with the former, and investigating institutional response to COVID-19 for the latter. He teaches English to Spanish speaking members of the Charlottesville community through Madison House’s ‘Migrant Camps’ program. In his free time, you can frequently find Alex on the tennis courts or exploring Charlottesville’s extensive food scene.
Alex hopes to further his academic and career interests by attending law school after graduation.
2019 Honors Program Cohort
Kevin 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.
I 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.
I 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 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 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.
Ever 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.
2018 Honors Program Cohort]
I 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
My 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
A 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 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
I 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 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 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.
2017 Honors Program Cohort
A fourth-year in the Politics Honors program, Daniel Ajootian is also a double major in the English Distinguished Majors Program and a History minor. His work concentrates on nineteenth-century political history and thought. Emphases include empire, race, democratic theory, and Alexis de Tocqueville. He has worked as a research assistant in the Corcoran Department of History and has served as President of the English Students Association. This past summer, he worked on the Krish for Maryland gubernatorial campaign as deputy communications director. He currently interns with the Miller Center as one of five students in the new Student Leaders Program and is editor-in-chief of the Seriatim Journal of American Politics. He hopes to be a writer.
Additionally, Daniel really enjoys hearing about what people are reading! He recommends How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee.
Grant Oken is a fourth-year from Tampa, Florida majoring in Politics Honors and Philosophy. His academic interests include liberal political theory and its critics, reproductive rights, and the relationship between constitutional orders and terrorism. He is currently writing his Honors thesis on the Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre.
Outside of class he is a member of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society and the University Judiciary Committee. He spent the summer of 2017 working in the US Senate, and the summer of 2018 working at Audax Private Equity.
In the future, he hopes to practice law.
Remy Oliver is a fourth-year in the Politics Honors program. His interests include the politics of the Middle East and North Africa; factionalism within, and the demise of, the democratic state; and the politics of currency. He participated in the UVA at Oxford program, spending weekends traveling Europe, with his last winter break spent in Vietnam and Cambodia. He is a member of the Marching Cavaliers and the Hereford Student Senate. He is an avid member of the numismatic community with an interest in both U.S. and foreign coinage. In his free time writes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He is contemplating Master’s Degree programs, with the objective of serving in the US Intelligence or Law Enforcement Community.
Ankita is a fourth-year student from Monroe Township, New Jersey. She is a Politics Honors major and a history minor, with particular attention to foreign affairs. She is primarily interested in issues of diplomacy and development. Her other academic interests include issues of human rights, conflict resolution and stabilization, and migration. At the University, Ankita serves as the Vice Chair for Hearings for the Honor Committee, a Resident Advisor, and a Research Assistant on a migration project in the Politics Department. She is also part of the Miller Center’s Student Leaders program. Within the past year, Ankita has interned for the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C, and the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, Virginia. Ankita hopes to continue her study of international relations in graduate school and ultimately pursue a career in diplomacy or policy analysis.
Hailing from Northern Virginia, Ben Tobin is interested in the roles of perception, public opinion, and human nature in political decision-making as well as communications policy. Outside of the classroom, he serves as the Managing Editor for The Cavalier Daily and as a teacher of public forum debate for middle school students through Charlottesville Debate League. He is all too used to heartbreak as a Dallas Cowboys fan, but listening to Broadway showtunes helps to cheer him up. In the future, he wants to be a journalist and possibly go to law school.
Eric Xu is an incoming 4th year in the Honors Politics program. His academic interests include U.S.-China relations, global environmental policy, the societal impact of capitalism, and social media activism. In addition, he is fascinated by 2nd generation multi-ethnic political socialization, as well as incentive creation and molding in emerging bureaucracies. On-Grounds, Eric is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Virginia Review of Politics, an omni-partisan political review, as well as the former Editor-in-Chief of the Wilson Journal of International Affairs. He is also the President of the Raven Society and the Captain of the UVA Academic Competition Club.
Eric’s research areas while at UVA have included the impact of Brexit on Chinese international student migration to the U.K., climate change and its effects on Central/South American migration into the United States, and contemporary Chinese political society. He hopes to write his thesis on contemporary Chinese environmental social media movements and their effects on government action at both a local and federal level. After graduation, Eric plans on working in business before either returning to academia or pursuing ESG-related initiatives in the business world.