L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs



PSRW 2021: Student & Alumni Spotlights

Aaron Berryhill, Marcus Grant, Bonnie G. Mani, Ph.D., Felix Sarfo-Kantanka, Sarah Scarbrough, Ph.D., Mariah Williams (left to right)
Aaron Berryhill, Marcus Grant, Bonnie G. Mani, Ph.D., Felix Sarfo-Kantanka, Sarah Scarbrough, Ph.D., Mariah Williams (left to right)

May 6, 2021

The Wilder School is proud to feature a current student and five alumni during Public Service Recognition Week who have made outstanding achievements in the realm of public service and policy.

Aaron Berryhill, a current Master of Urban and Regional Planning student, was formerly a math teacher and boys’ soccer coach for Richmond Public Schools. His experience educating students motivated him to want to gain different perspectives and study urban planning.“As a lifelong learner, I hope to pursue a career in public service where I can not only contribute my skills for the greater good, but also continue to build on my curiosity and passion for learning that my time at VCU has helped instill in me,” he says. In looking to the future, Aaron mentioned, “I hope to continue working in local government where I have the opportunity to continue to help adopt climate change mitigation and adoption strategies in various communities around Virginia and the country.” Aaron is passionate about solving environmental issues and enhancing solar energy. Support our school and students like him get the best education to pursue public service.

Many of our alumni are in careers dedicated to public service. Learn more about the following notable alumni, representing all five of our current academic programs:

Marcus Grant (B.S.’15/GPA; M.A.’17/GPA) earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and Master of Arts degree in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness from the Wilder School. He reflects on public service, “Attending and receiving two degrees from the Wilder School not only helped mould me into the professional I am today, it has brought me a complete all around appreciation of the Public Service sector. I believe that public service is essential to the overall development of society and I am grateful to be able to play my role as a Recovery Disaster Grants Administrator for the Commonwealth!” He is a Grants Administrator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

Bonnie G. Mani, Ph.D., (M.P.A.’80/GPA; Ph.D.’87/GPA) is the first female graduate of the Wilder School’s doctoral program in public policy and administration. She served nearly twenty years in the human capital development function in the federal Internal Revenue Service agency. She retired after twenty-six years as a faculty member at East Carolina University, and was the first female full professor in the 40-year history of ECU's Department of Political Science. Dr. Mani received numerous awards during her public administration and academic careers. Now, she and her therapy dog Sophia work as volunteers in schools and libraries where they help first and second graders learn how to read. 

Felix Sarfo-Kantanka, Jr. (M.P.A.'01/GPA) is currently an External Affairs Manager in State and Local Affairs for Dominion Energy, serving the Central and Western Virginia regions.  He previously served as the Deputy Secretary of Administration under Gov. Terry McAuliffe, special assistant to Gov. Tim Kaine for policy, and legislative assistant to former House Minority Leader Franklin P. Hall of Richmond. He believes public service is important because of great opportunity to serve, and his Wilder School degree in Public Administration shaped his mindset on supporting the local community.

Sarah Scarbrough, Ph.D., (M.S.’07/GPA; Cert.’07/GPA; Ph.D.’12/GPA) is the founder and director of the REAL LIFE, which seeks to help individuals overcome obstacles and hurdles faced by individuals after the end of their incarceration. Her vision was to more comprehensively serve those in adverse situations through REAL LIFE and the corresponding Community Center, 9 recovery houses, jail programs and expectant mother program. Prior to REAL LIFE, she was the Program Director in the Richmond City Justice Center jail for 5 years. Additionally, Dr. Scarbrough earned the Edward H. Peeples Jr. Award for Social Justice and Equality from VCU Alumni in 2018. 

Mariah Williams (M.U.R.P.’18/GPA) believes that her degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the Wilder School has been crucial to her work as a planner and advocate in the housing industry. The degree signifies not just a commitment to learning about the issues, but a commitment to working with communities to be a part of the solutions. To her, that’s what public service is and why it’s so important –  engaging, bringing people together, and doing the work. Mariah is the Director of Research and Policy for Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME).

Please join them and make a gift to support our school today.