*One of a collection of stories written by alumni for the Jepson School's 20th Anniversary

Jepson was and always will be my academic home. I applied to the University of Richmond largely for Jepson, and I have never regretted my decision. In fact, my appreciation for that decision has only grown. My Jepson education enriched my college life, and the Jepson experience continues today. In four years as a corporate paralegal at a large, multinational law firm based here in Richmond, in addition to gaining my first true workplace experience, Jepson’s focus on critical thinking helped me as I learned the importance of knowing which questions to ask and when to ask them.   

I now manage a regional nonprofit capacity-building program called ConnectRichmond at the Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence. This role may be one of those Career Center dream stories because my Jepson internship was at ConnectNetwork, the former parent organization of ConnectRichmond that was housed at Jepson. My internship was an obvious and definite plus during the job interview!

My work at ConnectRichmond is a natural fit with what I learned at Jepson as we work to be a nonprofit and civic hub that provides information sharing tools and resources to empower individuals, advance organizations and strengthen community. The Jepson principles of service to society, social justice and leadership development are lived out every day here. Group dynamics, ethics and situational leadership regularly come into play as we collaborate and partner with various individuals and entities – from committees and boards to other organizations and government agencies – to produce a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. True to most overcommitted Jepsonites, I have also stayed active in the community as a leader in or member of various organizations, including the Maymont Foundation, Richmond Business Council and of course the Jepson Alumni Corps.

In addition to my nonprofit career, two other UR grads and I founded Commonwealth Partnerships Group, a marketing, communications and community relations firm that focuses on the real estate, professional services and nonprofit industries. My interest in real estate and nonprofits is more specifically centered on urban and community development. I was recently asked as part of my professional development plan at work to produce a personal mission statement. Here’s what I came up with: To make our cities and communities socially, economically, and aesthetically constructive, sustainable and equitable. 

Although I did not realize it at the time, my personal mission began its formulation at Jepson, and I will always be grateful to Jepson for its commitment to teaching its students, engaging its alumni and being a community partner in the values of leadership and social justice that directly and tremendously contributed to who I am today.

--Mark Hickman, '07