May 5, 2009 — Two events Evelyn Hall attended during her first year at the University of Virginia showed her a way to combine academic interests and community involvement.
"I was touched by Pancakes for Parkinson's' ability to bring the University and Charlottesville community together in the fight against disease, and moved by Take Back the Night's potential for healing," she said.
Pancakes for Parkinson's is an annual fall event where students serve free pancakes and collect donations for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Take Back the Night also brings together U.Va. students and local residents in a march and rally against sexual violence.
The daughter of U.Va. alumni from Kalamazoo, Mich., Hall said, "While I was thrilled to be following in their footsteps, I was firm in my desire to carve my own path."
Her own path has included serving as co-chairwoman of the Parkinson's group and Take Back the Night, joining the Sexual Assault Peer Advocacy outreach group and the Survivor Support Network and interning at the U.Va. Women's Center.
Hall also forged a path from Charlottesville to South Africa and back. A Lawn resident and human biology major, she lauds the University for its support of undergraduate research, which enabled her to investigate the impact of anti-sexual violence outreach programs in South Africa.
Robert J. Swap, a professor of environmental sciences, worked with Hall on her South Africa project. "She is a very diligent and conscientious worker, and she is aware of the bigger picture. … She represents what is great about this University – she has taken her experiences and wants to share them in a socially responsible way elsewhere."
"Being in South Africa," Hall said, "was instrumental to my understanding of sexual violence, international women's health and development work, and solidified for me that this is what I want to do as a career."
After graduation, she will go to Nicaragua this summer, funded by a Davis Projects for Peace prize, where she and co-winner Courtney Mallow plan to develop business, health and gender-equality training for a women's microcredit institution. They want to promote economic, emotional and physical peace by empowering and educating women.
When she returns, Hall plans to earn a medical degree and a master's in public health to pursue a career in international women's health, believing that through culturally sensitive learning she can identify universal concepts and practices she can apply to medical school and beyond.