It was on a bench in front of Boatwright Memorial Library, overlooking the lake at the University of Richmond (UR), where Virginia Eta Erin Dunstan sat when she made the decision: this is where she would attend college. Erin’s first semester in college was the hardest — walking onto the swimming and diving team, not earning strong grades and not feeling connected to the institution — she really needed to find a way to figure everything out. Erin is a student-athlete studying Leadership Studies in the prestigious Jepson School of Leadership and on the UR Swimming and Diving team. But it was joining Pi Beta Phi and the opportunities that came along with it that made the University feel more like home.
The University of Richmond is unique because it has a Coordinate College System. This means students belong to one of the two colleges: Richmond College for men or Westhampton College for women. Each college has its own style in achieving the common goals of UR including separate gender-specific deans staffs that support its students and separate student government boards to represent their student bodies. Westhampton College Government Association (WCGA) holds joint meetings with Richmond College Student Government Association (RCSGA) and the two boards work together to advocate for the entire University population.
One of the areas the Pi Phis are known for leading on campus is the WCGA. Virginia Etas are very involved; Mia Hagerty is currently WCGA President and Julia Rivara is Chair of the Student Senate (as well as current Pi Phi Chapter President). The example shown by these women encouraged Erin to serve in a position, and she is currently senior class Senator charged with representing the class of 2017 in issues on campus. Erin is grateful to have found people who are passionate about the same things that she loves.
This is the not the first group of Pi Phis to have made an impact at the institution. Erin has an extra special connection she was thrilled to tell me about: Maryland Alpha May Lansfield Keller, past Grand President of Pi Beta Phi, was the first Dean of Westhampton College in 1914. Dean Keller spent the next 32 years leading the college and developing hundreds of outstanding character before retiring in June 1946. How incredible that today’s Pi Phi women are following in the footsteps of this amazing Pi Phi leader.
In fact, in November, Erin was honored as the top student-athlete in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies for the work she has done and the impact she has made at the university. “It is interesting being both an athlete and a sorority woman, and I know by doing both I am defying the norm,” says Erin. “But there is no other way I could become who I am.”