Alumna Shares Her Journey From Poverty to Family Law on ‘Inside UVA’

December 1, 2021 By Jane Kelly, Jane Kelly,

Audio: Inside UVA Episode 7: Natalia Wilson(22:29)


“I was so taken with your life story that I asked you to participate in this podcast.”

With those words, University of Virginia President Jim Ryan opened episode seven of his program, “Inside UVA.” Designed to highlight the inner workings of UVA, this week’s episode is a first, in that it features an alumna. Previous episodes have featured members of Ryan’s administration and the student chair of the Honor Committee.

Ryan first met Natalia Wilson, a 2002 graduate and family lawyer, at a football game earlier this fall. Wilson, who is a member of UVA’s Greater Washington Regional Alumni Board, was in Charlottesville for one of the group’s first in-person events since the onset of the coronavirus.

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Wilson is a Virginia Beach native and one of six children. As she was applying to college, her mother was temporarily raising her children alone as her husband, a Panamanian, was out of the country.

It was a deeply emotional time for Wilson’s family, made even more painful after one of her siblings died. “She was born with cerebral palsy. And my senior year, we had a number of immigration challenges. … And my dad wasn’t in the home, so my mom was navigating everything to raise a young family, six small children and one [she] just lost,” Wilson told Ryan.

Money was tight and her mother worried how the family would pay college tuition. “When I completed the application for schools and got accepted to UVA, my mom’s biggest concern was ‘How are we going to pay for this?’

“And when I called to the University to say, ‘How am I going to pay for this? My mom is telling me I can’t go,’ someone answered my call. They told me that I could come and meet with someone in the financial aid office and that I would be OK. And I said, ‘Well, you’ve got to explain this to my mom,’” Wilson laughed.

After trying her hand at immigration law, inspired by her father’s travails, Wilson today practices family law and also teaches at American University’s Washington College of Law, where she earned her degree.

You can learn more about her journey by tuning into this week’s episode of “Inside UVA” and catch up on previous shows, which can be found on most podcast apps, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts

Media Contact

Jane Kelly

University News Senior Associate Office of University Communications