Mariah Genis, ’16, remembers the exact moment she knew she wanted to go to Richmond.

“I was sitting with my parents on the deck outside Boatwright Library taking in the sights and sounds of campus,” says Genis, who grew up near New York City. She could imagine sitting in that spot as a student gazing at the serene lake at the center of campus, feeling the breeze from the tall pines, watching the ducks waddle past and listening to the chatter of students as they sipped coffee.  

She made her decision even though Richmond was only the first of 17 schools on her list to visit.

“I repeated the same phrase at each school,” says Genis. “I want to go to Richmond.”

Aside from the beautiful scenery, the University’s unique combination of schools factored in to her decision. “My parents had heard about the leadership school from friends,” she says. “And it captured our attention during the tour.”

She plans to go into international conflict resolution and liked the idea of paring leadership studies with a major in religious studies and a minor in Arabic.

“I have always been really interested in leadership, human rights, conflict resolution and global relations,” says Genis. “The idea that I could come here and study leadership as my major, use textbooks written by some of the leading scholars in the field and pair that major with religious studies was really exciting.”

Genis applied to the University early decision but knew she would have to wait until her sophomore year to apply to the Jepson School of Leadership Studies. In the meantime, she enrolled in Leadership and the Social Sciences, an introductory course, to make sure the major would be a good fit.

It turned out to be a perfect fit. The class was taught by Dr. Tony Kong, whose research focuses on negotiation and conflict management, trust and ethics, cross-cultural psychology of leadership and management, and emotion.

“One thing we did in class that really stood out was dance,” says Genis, a cheerleader for the Spiders. “It was part of a lesson on leadership, followership and group dynamics. We danced in groups, took turns being dance leaders and could go to the front of the class and dance by ourselves. It was fun and a little silly, but at the same time, you learn a lot from it.”

She knew she would apply to the Jepson School this year as a sophomore. Then life intervened.

“I got sick and was admitted to the hospital a week and a half before the application was due,” says Genis. “I was worried I wouldn’t be able to apply. Fortunately the professors were great and worked with me.”

She was accepted and one of 71 students formally inducted into the School in November.
“To get that certificate and have it be so official is pretty cool,” says Genis. “I can’t wait to take more classes in the program, officially declare religious studies as a major and enjoy the rest of my time here.”