Sesha Joi Moon, Ph.D., establishes landmark endowed scholarship to unlock the potential of the next generation of leaders
by Rachel Zeeve
Sesha Joi Moon, Ph.D. (B.A.’05;M.S.’08; Cert’09) is building a lasting legacy in Richmond and beyond through her tireless commitment to fostering diversity, equity and inclusion. Inspired by her family’s past, she’s expanding critical learning opportunities for future generations through the new Dr. Sesha Joi Moon Endowed Scholarship.
This scholarship offers vital financial support to undergraduate and graduate students with demonstrated need from both the Wilder School and the College of Humanities & Sciences Department of African American Studies. Recipients are dedicated to contributing to the advancement of marginalized students.
Reflecting on the past and looking to the future
A recent trip to Georgia helped set the incredible gift in motion. “We stopped in multiple places where my mom's side of the family is from,” said Moon. “When we arrived there, our family home was still there over a hundred years later. Some people might think it looks like a shack, but I felt like I was looking at a mansion. It was not only still standing a hundred years later, but it was on Jaudon Street, which is our family name.”
“I hope that this scholarship inspires other funds. Knowing that I am one of the only black women at VCU with a fund named after them, I hope that this inspires others to not only give, but also for VCU to act — to find an effective and accessible way to activate marginalized alumni." – Sesha Joi Moon
The trip illuminated new insights about her family history. “I was asking how my great grandfather got to Richmond, and they were saying he would bring family members out of Georgia to go to Virginia State University or Virginia Union University. I thought, ‘wow, I couldn't have had VCU without VSU and VUU.’”
As she reflected on her family’s roots, a growing desire to give back came to fruition. “When I had over $200,000 in student debt forgiven after a decade of public service, I felt that it is my responsibility that I pay that forward,” said Moon. “That’s why me and my family were very intentional about creating scholarships at VCU, VUU and VSU — to honor the legacy of my family while also honoring the legacy of the next generation. It’s this intersection of past and present, and trying to help whoever needs it next.”
Building on the legacy
Moon serves as chief diversity officer at the U.S. House of Representatives and as executive director of The JXN Project, an initiative launched by Moon and her sister, Enjoli J. Moon. Together, they are seeking to understand the role of the Jackson Ward neighborhood of Richmond in shaping the Black American experience.
The Wilder School helped Moon along her professional journey. “It is a space that is named after someone who helped to advance Black American history, so to be able to say that you are a graduate of that school is already a badge of honor in itself,” she said. “Moreover, my time at the Wilder School was a period when I could see people that looked like me. Seeing Dean Gooden’s well-deserved career accomplishments was very important to me. The Wilder School has gone on to support other women that look like me in notable positions within the school. It has also emerged on a national stage as a highly-respected institution that truly prepared me for government.”
As the youngest Black, queer woman to establish an endowment in the Wilder School as well as the creator of the second endowment in the Department of African American Studies in VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences, Moon is setting a crucial precedent in higher education.
“I hope that this scholarship inspires other funds,” she said. “Knowing that I am one of the only black women at VCU with a fund named after them, I hope that this inspires others to not only give, but also for VCU to act — to find an effective and accessible way to activate marginalized alumni. Hopefully, this inspired a broader conversation.”
In just its first weeks, the scholarship has already mobilized a wave of community support. “I want to thank anybody that was in a position to make the financial sacrifice to contribute,” said Moon.
“When I think about the future of this fund, I think about how everything in Richmond is named after somebody. I never really understood the concept of legacy until recently. That's why I really wanted to work with VCU to find a named endowment option that could live in perpetuity. For me, it's knowing that we are holding space for black women, black, queer women and marginalized communities. We will live on when we are no longer here. I was here. I hope that people continue to pour into this fund so that it can create a level of liberation in the next iteration of graduates.”