Moving to Charlottesville: Batten Edition

One of the first questions I am asked by my new classmates is why I chose the Batten School for graduate school. After receiving a call from Jeff Chidester (Batten’s Executive Director of External Affairs and member of the Admissions team), I knew UVA was the place for me. I remember sitting at my desk in Illinois, looking at my phone thinking “Who do I even know in Virginia?” as my caller ID displayed Charlottesville across my screen. Funny enough, I almost did not pick up the phone! Thankfully I did, and Jeff let me know I had been accepted into the program. As a first-generation college student, each graduate school acceptance felt like opening presents on Christmas morning. This acceptance was different; it was personable and special. I felt like more than just a number or a checkbox for the University. This feeling of inclusion I experienced through that phone call has continued throughout my first month attending the Batten School.  

In early August, I packed up my car with the help of my parents, and we drove four hours from Philadelphia to Charlottesville. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was unable to visit UVA before deciding to attend Batten. Talk about taking a leap of faith. Coming from a small, private University of less than 3000 students, driving onto UVA Grounds (or campus) was intimidating to say the least. As I saw with my own eyes for the first time just how large UVA was, I could not imagine finding a community somewhere so large. At my undergraduate University, I had the safety of knowing most of my classmates, but with UVA’s graduate and undergraduate student body totaling over 24,000, I knew here that would not be the case. It would be up to me to create a meaningful community in Charlottesville with the help of Batten. 

I decided to apply for University housing, which streamlined the moving process and paired me with another graduate student. I was thankful that on-Grounds housing took the guesswork of finding housing in a city I did not know and would ensure that I would be within walking distance to the central campus. So far, I have enjoyed living so close to the soccer field and basketball arena, where I have been able to attend UVA sporting events and experience school spirit for the first time in such a way (Go Hoos!).

Students at football game

After spending the past year and a half socially distant from my peers, the Complete Immersion Batten Orientation (CIBO) was the first time I had been in a group of people greater than thirty. Batten faculty, staff and second-year students made the experience immersive while still maintaining public health measures in order to keep our community safe. We began the week with a full cohort team-building exercise at a ropes course where we were challenged to solve difficult situations and work cohesively with our new peers. I found this experience to be a time of irreplaceable bonding with my cohort, and I joke often with my peers about the rain downpour we experienced that day, running out of the woods soaking wet with 100 strangers. As official CIBO programming began, we were introduced to various Batten faculty who led us in a series of policy workshops stemming from racial injustice to ethical leadership. Through these sessions, we began to uncover the experiences of our cohort and learn from those around us with differing life experiences.

Students smiling in group

As CIBO came to a close, I felt a sense of confidence that I would be able to tackle the challenges ahead of me in the semester, and the next two years. With the support of Batten faculty and staff, I feel equipped to handle challenging coursework and seek out help when I need extra help. If nothing else, CIBO made our cohort aware of the vast opportunities and resources available to us at Batten to ensure our success.

Ellie Murphy