Three Wilder School alumni honored with 10 Under 10 Awards
VCU Alumni’s 10 Under 10 awards program recognizes the noteworthy and distinctive achievements made by alumni who earned their first VCU degree (undergraduate, graduate or professional certificate) within the past 10 years.
Assistant professor of environmental policy, Loyola University Chicago School of Environmental Sustainability
When Gilbert Michaud was applying to doctoral programs in public policy and administration, he thought he would stay in New England, where he had grown up and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. A 16-hour drive to Richmond and a lunch meeting at the Village Cafe changed his mind.
The meeting was with Damian Pitt, Ph.D., associate professor at the Wilder School; Michaud quickly realized he wanted to follow in Pitt’s footsteps and conduct a community-engaged scholarship focused on clean energy.
“Working with Dr. Pitt really set forth my career niche of doing applied and engaged research with practitioners,” Michaud says. “Over the years, I’ve continued to work with government officials, electric utilities, the solar and wind industry, and clean energy nonprofits.”
As an assistant professor at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Environmental Sustainability, Michaud teaches law and policy courses, mentors students and leads applied research projects. For the past several years, he has worked on economic and workforce impact studies for proposed large-scale clean energy projects across the Midwest.
As part of this research, Michaud regularly meets with community members. “I often attend and speak at local hearings for solar energy projects. It’s fascinating to engage with public officials and landowners and learn about their interests and potential concerns regarding renewable energy. It’s fun to go into these communities and help get projects approved and built,” he says.
More recently, Michaud has worked on clean energy initiatives internationally. Within the past year, he has traveled to Barbados, Columbia and France to speak with government officials and industry leaders about innovative programs to deploy clean energy.
Educating people around the world and helping facilitate clean energy projects energizes Michaud. “It’s amazing to be part of these teams that are doing research on renewable energy projects, see them get approved, see shovels in the ground and see them connected to the grid and generating clean electricity,” he says. “I like to think I’m actually making a difference in these communities.”
Community pharmacist and clinical outreach coordinator, Giant Pharmacy
For Arzu Moosvi, Pharm.D. (B.S.’15, Cert.’20, Pharm.D.’20), a sense of accomplishment comes not from degrees earned or awards won but from learning from her colleagues and clients each day.
It comes from the daily work of getting to know her patients and their needs. Moosvi, a community pharmacist and clinical outreach coordinator in northern Virginia, builds long-term relationships with patients “where I see them in different points of their life and come to understand them better,” Moosvi says. “My goal is to dive deep into their lives and understand more fully how I can make a difference.”
That focus on gradual progress also underlies Moosvi’s work in Pakistan, her family’s country of origin. She has worked there with various organizations to help improve the Pakistani healthcare system. “Some people in certain areas of Pakistan don’t have the same accessibility we do to health care, and they pass away at early ages. That drives me to ask how I can help,” she says.
In 2016, Moosvi volunteered with one of Pakistan’s largest hospital systems, counseling patients about medications. From 2020-21, she served as a pharmacist in Karachi with doctHERS, a network of female clinicians providing access to better health care.
Moosvi recognizes that to make a difference in Pakistan, she needs to first understand the country’s infrastructure and challenges. “An American can walk into any country and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to help you,’” she says. “But how can you help someone if you don’t know them?” Helping an individual, a community or even a country requires empathy and compassion, she observes.
Whether trying to make change in another country’s health care system or helping her U.S. clients live their healthiest lives, Moozvi focuses on the small steps that can build to something bigger. “Those miniscule changes can have big impacts,” she says.
Activist and human rights lawyer
When Axana Soltan, J.D. (B.S.’17), was 15 years old, she started an NGO that has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. She helped provide access to medical care, education and advocacy to low-income children in Richmond as well as internationally. “Early on, I recognized that injustice and poverty exist even in a civilized country like the U.S.,” she says.
Her motivation stemmed from her experience as a refugee. Her family fled Afghanistan under the Taliban in 1999 to escape the harsh regime, which was especially oppressive for women. The family lived in refugee camps in Central Asia for 10 years before immigrating to Richmond in 2009. “Being a refugee has turned me into a global citizen,” Soltan says. “It has taught me the value of keen observation, the surprising strength of a single voice and the lasting importance of advocacy.”
As a human-rights lawyer, Soltan continues to advocate on behalf of women, children and members of other marginalized populations. Soltan earned her Juris Doctor with the highest distinction from the University of the District of Columbia School of Law, where she served on the U.S. Supreme Court Youth Appellate Litigation Clinic and Civil Rights Legislation Clinic. She proceeded to study her LL.M at the George Washington University School of Law, where she was selected as a GW Law Merit-Based Scholar and serves as a guiding editor member of The George Washington International Law Review. Soltan is currently training in negotiation, litigation and arbitration at Harvard Law School.
For more than a decade, Soltan has used her passion, education and skills to promote human rights around the world. She brought literacy programs to more than 6,000 Afghan women when she founded a library in the country and pioneered the invention of the first solar-powered interactive audio instruction program that uses photovoltaic technology to deliver STEM education globally.
Soltan continues to serve people across the world and in Richmond. When COVID-19 spread widely, Soltan and her family developed a one-piece face mask with a head covering for immunocompromised individuals, particularly those who had lost their hair during chemotherapy. They donated more than 2,200 masks to cancer centers and individual cancer patients.
In her 2017 Wilder School Commencement address, she invited students to join her in creating “a world that places human needs and human rights above all,” and she continues to inspire with her commitment to human rights and selfless acts of service.