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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
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Casidhe Horan '09

Hometown: Richmond, VA

Major: Economics with a concentration in poverty and human capability studies

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • Varsity Basketball (co-captain 2008-09)
  • Chi Omega
  • Bonner Leader
  • CCPR intern
  • Peer Counselor
  • Resident Assistant for First Year
  • Students Shepherd Program
  • Student-Faculty Advisory Committee
  • R.E. Lee Research Scholar for Summer 2008

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • Summer 2007: Shepherd Alliance intern at the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation in Boston, MA
  • Spring 2006: Education 280: Poverty and Education to me to the coal-mining towns of McDowell County, WV and the inner-city charter schools of Washington, D.C.)

Favorite W&L Memory: Anytime I’m talking and laughing with my friends.

Favorite Class: Economics of Social Issues, Econometrics

Favorite Campus Landmark: I love the Colonnade at night, and Doremus Gymnasium (I love old gyms).

Learning for the purpose of empowering those around you is a philosophy that has become deeply ingrained in me during my time at W&L, permeating all aspects of my experience. As a member of both the Peer Counseling and Residential Life programs, I've learned how to effectively help a friend in need. On the basketball court, my job as a point guard has always been to learn how I can make my teammates better. But perhaps most importantly, the Shepherd Program has helped me translate the philosophy into my academic life by introducing me to the practice of community-based research.

Since sophomore year, I have served as the intern for W&L’s community-based research program, Campus-Community Partnerships for Research (CCPR), which coordinates W&L students and faculty who use their research skills collaboratively with Lexington and Rockbridge County leaders to help non-profits meet their informational needs. For example, if a local non-profit wants a needs assessment, CCPR will find a faculty member and students who can produce such a report for the organization. As the CCPR intern, I have learned how the research, writing, and analytical skills we develop in the classroom can be used to aid and empower nonprofits to better serve the disadvantaged in our community.

My work with CCPR has even inspired me to try my own community-based research projects. In 2007, the Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee, a campus organization that prepares meals for the clients of several Rockbridge non-profits using Dining Services’ excess food, wanted to initiate a work-release program in partnership with the Natural Bridge Juvenile Correctional Center. I worked with two other students to research the effectiveness of work-release programs for juvenile offenders and calculate the social return on investment as we co-wrote a grant proposal for the joint venture.

We submitted the proposal to JP Morgan’s Good Venture Competition, where undergraduates compete on behalf of a non-profit of their choice for a grant of $25,000. As one of nine finalists selected from an international pool of 101 applicants, we presented our case to a panel of JP Morgan executives at the New York City headquarters. Although we did not win the $25,000 prize in New York, we did continue the fundraising process back in Lexington. We presented our work at W&L alumni events in the spring, and University Development worked with the Campus Kitchen to find other sources of funding. Thanks to those efforts, the Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee should have its first work-release employee in the 2008-2009 school year.

My involvement with community-based research and my work for the Campus Kitchen constantly remind me that service and learning need not remain separate. When the two come together to elevate others, the rewards are truly gratifying and unique. Luckily, I attend a school where I get to reap such rewards in all areas of my life–whether it's a successful grant proposal, helping a freshman overcome a bout of homesickness, or dishing a great assist in a basketball game.