From the start of his time at the University of Virginia in 2012, Daniel Judge knew he wanted to be involved in student governance.
Though the Berryville native had been skeptical about enrolling in the same college as his older sister, his impression of the abundance of opportunities to dive into student life at U.Va. helped him decide that the Grounds might just be big enough for the two of them.
“The size of my town is smaller than [last year’s] incoming class at U.Va., so it was a shock coming here and seeing how much you could do, how many people you could meet and how strange it was not knowing people,” he said. “So I knew I wanted to get involved.”
Now a third-year student, Judge recently was selected as the non-voting student representative of the University’s Board of Visitors for the 2015-16 academic term.
A double major in political philosophy, policy and law and philosophy, with a minor in religious studies, Judge joined Student Council during his first semester by serving on the Academic Affairs Committee, which he now co-chairs. He is also an active member of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society; a mentor in ULINK, an academic peer advising program for undergraduate students; the student liaison to the SIS Advisory Board; a research assistant at the School of Law; and is involved in Cru Christian Fellowship.
In his work on the Academic Affairs Committee, Judge has been responsible for addressing the academic and educational concerns of students and for offering University leaders a student perspective on academic policies. The committee takes up issues that students don’t always think about, he said, but can really make a big impact; one of their current tasks, for example, is working with administrators to help give nursing students better access to Spanish classes.
Though he’d never imagined he’d one day fill the student BOV spot, he’d been interested in the position since his first year, when then-student representative Blake Blaze visited Student Council to talk about his role on the board.
“This week when people at home heard that I got the student BOV position, they told me, ‘Congratulations! I didn’t realize you were trying to work for the tourism industry!’” Judge laughed. “When I came here I guess I had the same perspective. But [Blaze’s talk] put it on my radar, and then I was really impressed with how engaged Meg [Gould] was in the position this past year. I saw how she fueled lots of discussions to the board about things like student safety last semester. She handled it all really well, and got me interested in applying for the position.”
Judge’s one-year appointment starts June 1. His role will be to engage students and administrators from every part of the University – including graduate schools and the University of Virginia’s College at Wise – to examine trends and issues in student life and see how it can be improved. The student representative does not have a vote, but his or her voice plays an integral part in helping the board assess the University’s strategic direction.
At the forefront of Judge’s priorities is to continue the progress made regarding student safety at U.Va. He also plans to advocate for more collaboration in schools and departments across Grounds with regard to both education and research, and would like to to bring more students in front of the board to talk about issues that matter to them.
“No matter how well I relate information, there’s always something that’s lost in that chain, which is why I think the best way to represent is to help give students the opportunity to represent themselves,” he said, noting the way that firsthand student perspectives impacted last December’s emergency board meeting to address the University’s sexual assault policies.
To represent the student body well, he said, will require a broad approach – and to represent well, he’s prepared to take on some major legwork.
“I want to talk to leaders of student groups I know, and then have them refer me to other groups they know, and just talk to as many groups and individuals as possible,” Judge said. “It’s not enough to just go to the more high-profile student organizations, like [the Honor Committee]; you need to go to all these groups. It’ll be a slow process, but in a lot of ways I think it’s the best way to reach the full breadth of the school.”
He also plans to hold meetings in first-year dorms, with graduate students, and to hold weekly office hours, where he will be available to talk to any U.Va. student who wants to meet with him.
“It’s cool because I really like being engaged in the community – it’s something my parents did, grandparents did, and my sister has always done,” he said. “I didn’t imagine I’d have the opportunity to get engaged in this way, but it’s exciting to sit down on all the issues that I’ve cared about for a long time and see that I can really represent the student voice, and my own voice.”