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Announcing the Class of 2020 Wilder Fellows

Left to right (first row): Whitney Hubbard Brown, Rebekah Cazares, Sarah Delaney, Chelsey DeLeon (second row) Daniel Motta, Amelie Rives, Hillary Small, Alex Valorose, Matthew Whibley
Left to right (first row): Whitney Hubbard Brown, Rebekah Cazares, Sarah Delaney, Chelsey DeLeon (second row) Daniel Motta, Amelie Rives, Hillary Small, Alex Valorose, Matthew Whibley

October 13, 2020

By Briana Williams

The Wilder School is pleased to announce the 2020 cohort of Wilder Graduate Scholars’ Fellowship Program which includes a talented and dynamic class of nine students from diverse backgrounds and programs.

Launched in 2006, the Wilder Fellowship has continued to serve as a valuable connection between state agencies, nonprofit organizations and the school's exceptional master’s students. This year’s cohort represent the school’s public administration and urban and regional planning programs.

“As Dean Gooden envisioned thirteen years ago as the pioneer for this fellowship, the momentum for career advancement and graduate education support continues to be significantly impactful in building our next generation of leaders in public policy.  The Wilder Fellowship has produced over 125 fellowships awarded providing funding for graduate education exceeding $2.5 million,” said Shajuana Isom-Payne, the director of the Office of Student Success, which administers the program. 

“And, for our illustrious Fellows, there have been over 125 graduate degrees supported and granted. Our Fellows consistently boast the tremendous advantages that their fellowship experiences have afforded them.”

Although the delivery of the program will look a bit different in the wake of COVID-19, members of the 2020 cohort will still receive one year of tuition assistance and a generous stipend during the academic year in exchange for 20 hours of professional service with their host non­­profit or government agency. All fellows are working remotely and are attending the professional development series virtually via Zoom. Fellows will be given the opportunity to learn and apply their skills in assisting with special projects and providing program support to organizations that advance the public good.

“Although there were some initial concerns regarding agency sponsorship due to funding limitations or readiness for the virtual work environment, both the agencies and the fellows responded positively to those challenges,” said Isom-Payne.

“This year’s cohort has a 100% continuation sponsorship rate from last year’s cohort and we expanded by bringing on three first year sponsoring agencies,” added Isom-Payne.

“This speaks to the Wilder Fellowship program being a nationally recognized fellowship that provides a world class experience for both the fellow and the sponsoring agency.”

The Wilder Graduate Scholars’ Fellows are supported by the generous contributions of this year’s host agencies which include the Virginia Department of Corrections, Virginia State Board of Elections, PlanRVA, VCU RVA Eviction Lab, HDAdvisors, the Wilder Performance Management Group, Bent Ear Solutions and Virginia Community Capital.

"We are excited to welcome the 2020 Wilder Graduate Scholars Fellows! Their adaptability while maintaining the highest level of excellence in their work is admirable during this unprecedented time,” said Ashley Harrison, assistant director of student success. “I look forward to hearing about their individual contributions to the work of their agencies this academic year." 

The Wilder Graduate Scholar Fellowship program is a nationally recognized and the cornerstone of the Wilder School graduate student experience. The program showcases the exemplary programming of the school’s student services units and the extraordinary student body of our nationally ranked school of public affairs. Nearly 40 different agencies have sponsored fellowships since the program’s inception.

The 2020 Class of Wilder Graduate Scholar Fellows and their host organizations include:

  • Whitney Hubbard Brown of Portsmouth, Va., a first-year master’s student Public Administration, has been appointed to HDAdvisors. Brown holds a B.S. in Science from Penn State University and is passionate about creating a world of critical thinkers and is deeply committed to improving lives through social justice, grassroots organizing, and resource equity for our nation’s most underserved communities. 
  • Rebekah Cazares of Richmond, Va., a second-year master’s student in Urban and Regional Planning, has been appointed to the Virginia Department of Corrections-Strategic Planning Unit. Cazares holds a B.A. in Sociology from Radford University and outside of work and school, enjoys rock climbing.
  • Sarah Delaney of Falmouth, Me., a first-year master’s student in Public Administration, has been appointed to the Wilder Performance Management Group. Delaney holds a B.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing from Colorado College and currently volunteers with ReEstablish Richmond as a Swahili interpreter for refugee families who have recently relocated to the greater Richmond area.
  • Chelsey DeLeon of Virginia Beach, Va., a second-year master’s student in Urban and Regional Planning, has been appointed to the RVA Eviction Lab. DeLeon holds a B.A. in in Historic Preservation from the University of Mary Washington and is the Secretary of the Urban and Regional Planning Student Association (URPSA).
  • Daniel Motta of Orlando, Fl., a second-year master’s student in Urban and Regional Planning, has been appointed to PlanRVA. Motta holds a B.A. in History and Political Science from the University of Central Florida and hopes his work has the opportunity to help shape a better future for the community.
  • Amelie Rives of Keswick, Va., a second-year master’s student in Urban and Regional Planning, has been appointed to Virginia Community Capital. Rives holds a A. Sociology with a minor in Spanish from Roanoke College and was a founding member of an inclusive Women/Trans/Femme cycling team in Roanoke, called Downshift WTF Cycling Team.
  • Hillary Small of Richmond, Va., a second-year master’s student in Public Administration, has been appointed to the Virginia State Board of Elections. Small holds a B.A. in Government & International Politics from George Mason University and enjoys traveling and exploring the outdoors.
  • Alex Valorose of Suffolk, Va., a second-year master’s student in Public Administration, has been appointed to Bent Ear Solutions. Valorose holds a B.A. in Government and English from William and Mary and is also a Girl Scout Gold Award recipient.
  • Matthew Whibley of Arlington, Va., a second-year master’s student in Public Administration, has been appointed to the Virginia Department of Corrections-Operations. Whibley holds a B.A. in Sociology from Virginia Commonwealth University and enjoys spending time with his two dogs Walter and Luanne, and cat Macaroni.

Applications for the 2021-2022 academic year are due March 15, 2021. Questions? Please email wilderfellows@vcu.edu or call the Office of Student Success 804-827-2791.