Skip to:Main Content

Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
Washington and Lee University Campus Image

Kara Karcher '11

Hometown: Highlands, N.C.

Major: Politics

Minors: Poverty and Human Capability Studies and Women's and Gender Studies

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • W&L Repertory Dance Company
  • Kappa Kappa Gamma
  • Panhellenic Council (Vice President and Head Recruitment Counselor)
  • Bonner Leader
  • Volunteer Venture (Trip Leader and Student Coordinator)
  • Writing Center tutor

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • Nuevos Horizontes Women's Shelter in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (Volunteer)
  • Office of Senator Kay Hagan in Washington, DC (Intern)
  • House of Ruth Legal Clinic in Baltimore, MD (Legal Advocate)
  • Study Abroad at East China Normal University in Shanghai, China
  • Project Horizon (Volunteer)
  • Mountain View and Natural Bridge Elementary Schools (Tutoring Coordinator)
Favorite W&L Memory: Performing my first piece of choreography with one of my closest friends/fellow dancers at W&L Students CREATE

Favorite Classes: International Development with Professor Dickovick and Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies with Professors Le Blanc and Radulescu

Favorite W&L Event: Christmas Weekend


When I first set foot on W&L's campus over four years ago, I was overwhelmed by the options, both in the classroom and in the community, available to students at such a small campus. I met multiple students with remarkable resumes, many of whom had traveled abroad, engaged in community service endeavors, and managed to pursue amazing academic opportunities on top of it all. I remember thinking to myself, I want that to be me in four years, and knew that in coming to W&L I could make it happen.

And now, nearly four years later, I know that I was right. In my time here as a student, I have had the opportunity to participate in an incredible variety of activities--all of which have in some way informed my interests and helped shape the student and person I am today. From my first year until now, I have completed over 900 hours of community service both in the United States and abroad, performed in a musical, choreographed my own modern dance piece, studied Mandarin Chinese, and led a Girl Scout troop. While this has meant my schedule is usually jam-packed, I wouldn't have it any other way.

My academic endeavors as a student at W&L have been just as varied and rewarding. As I worked to narrow down my interests and choose a major, I found that it was too difficult for me to choose just one, so instead, I ended up combining my eventual major of choice, politics, with two interdisciplinary minors that allowed me to take classes in a variety of different areas, from psychology to philosophy.

Not only has coming to W&L allowed me to immerse myself in a vast range of academic and extracurricular pursuits, but it has enabled me to create those experiences for myself. The opportunities I have found for self-direction at W&L have been just as abundant on-campus as off-campus, and with the help of supportive professors and staff, I have been able to create my own college experience that blends together my academic interests and extracurricular activities with my passion for community involvement.

For example, this past summer with the support of the Bonner Leader program, I was able to create my own summer volunteer project by combining my interest in women's issues, community service and international development into an unforgettable three months working at a Guatemalan women's shelter. Building off of this summer and past volunteer work, I am currently pursuing a community-based research project exploring the effects of domestic violence and other public health issues impacting women in Rockbridge County for my Women's and Gender Studies capstone.

Needless to say, when people ask me, "Why W&L?" I can never settle on one thing that sums up my college experience perfectly. Actually, it is the fact that my college years have not been narrowly defined that I find most valuable. The inspiring professors, rich liberal arts education, and ample opportunities for public service and international engagement I have found have all helped me to create my own unique W&L experience combining in-class study with my hands-on learning outside of the classroom. Although I am just as undecided on the direction of my future career as I was when it came time to choose a major, I know that the skills and passions I have cultivated as a student here at W&L will serve me well no matter where I choose to go in the future.