Why Did I Choose Batten?

Each year, Batten admits high caliber, diverse students into a community grounded in academic excellence, evidence-based decision making, and the integration of multiple lenses and perspectives, towards the ultimate goal of cultivating ethical and enlightened leaders who are catalysts for positive, lasting change. Alumnus R.J. Rhodes sat down with a fellow BA alum to see why she chose the Batten School, in addition to sharing his own story. You can find Part I of this series here and Part II here

Anna Grace Calhoun 

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Anna Grace Calhoun graduated from Batten in 2023 with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy and Leadership. Not only was she proactive in the classroom, she was also one of the kindest people you would encounter in the Batten community. One of Anna’s most outstanding traits is her resolve to help others whenever and wherever she can; this also happens to be one of the cornerstone principles of Batten’s mission. Anna elaborated on what drew her to Batten: 

“Before I applied to Batten, I was interested in a wide variety of issues that I could see impacting my local and national community, such as climate degradation and economic inequality. I was unsure what field of study would best equip me for doing impactful work in these areas, particularly given that I was not quite ready to commit to specializing in one. However, as I researched the characteristics and histories of a range of societal problems, I was able to see that many of our structural issues trace back to poorly designed or outdated public policies. So, I decided I wanted to study the political process and how to use it as a tool to create effective change.  

I chose Batten over other government-oriented majors because I could tell that it was very focused on teaching the practical ways that government institutions work and helping students develop the portfolio of skills you need to succeed in public service. I knew that I would have the opportunity to eventually focus on a specific policy area, but I would also walk away with a versatile perspective that would allow me to engage with different mechanisms of policy change across subjects. Last, I loved the caring and transparent attitude I encountered when speaking to Batten professors, administrators, alumni, and students.” 

R.J. Rhodes 

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Rodney “R.J.” Rhodes, Jr. was also member of the Batten BA Class of 2023. R.J. was a highly involved student, often playing a mentorship role in the Charlottesville, UVA, and Batten communities. While at Batten, he was a Lead Ambassador who enjoyed helping out with admissions-related events. You could often find R.J. in Garrett Hall—especially when there was free food! Due to his exemplary engagement within and outside the Batten community, R.J. was the recipient of the 2023 Pioneer Award Legacy Award. The final word to close out our series on “Why Did I Choose Batten,” comes from R.J.: 

“I came into UVA thinking I would major in Commerce and then work in the business world. It did not take long for me to realize that line of work would not have fulfilled me. I discovered the Batten School during my first year, and right away, I knew that it was the path I needed to be on. I chose Batten because at the end of the day, I wanted to help people. I wanted to make lasting impacts on people’s lives and be a part of positive difference-making in communities around me. I felt that Batten would give me the best toolkit to be a part of, initiate, or even “pioneer” change in the world around me, and it has done just that. The opportunities, the resources, and the people that Batten has connected me to have changed my life for the better, and this community is one that I will forever hold dear.  

My most cherished engagement at Batten, of the many, is probably my role in establishing the Bridge to Batten program. It is an immersive program for underrepresented, prospective Batten first-year students. The program allows them to explore and engage with Batten while in a cohort to find community. When I first approached Anne, our Director of Undergraduate Admissions, about the idea during my first year in Batten, she was especially receptive and encouraging of me contributing to the project. That one was one of the most important moments of my time in Batten—this acceptance of my idea was a sign that Batten was where I was supposed to be. Our motto at Batten is “Lead from anywhere” and I promise at this school you can do just that!” 

Think Batten might be the place for you? Make an appointment with a member of the undergraduate admissions team or make a plan to attend one of our fall Open Office Hours every Friday from 2-4 PM in Garrett Hall 203 to learn more about our BA program!