“As I study for and consider medical school, I do not want to be someone who lives for success, salary and self. I know the Jepson School of Leadership Studies will continue to help me grasp the joy of giving, of serving, of servant leadership.” — Kerrissa Richards, ’11.

Second-year student Kerrissa Richards felt compelled to apply for the Jepson School of Leadership Studies when she realized that her passion for science could be translated into service. “To me,” she said, “science is service.”

Richards has been able to exercise this belief in her academics, where she is a double major in biology and leadership studies, and has a pre-med concentration. Even as she was applying to become a student at the University of Richmond, she was writing her college essay about her hope to one day integrate these two subjects.

“As I study science for the purpose of attending medical school,” she said, “I have learned something important about science. Science is not just a subject, but is a means by which others can be served.”

Richards has felt this conviction ever since she was 13, when she had the opportunity to serve on a missions trip to El Salvador. She saw a lack of basic health care infrastructure in the country, and felt called to the medical field.

She was not only accepted to the university, but earned a Boatwright Scholarship, a merit-based scholarship that covers full tuition and is awarded to 25 incoming students each year.

When Richards began a summer job as a Jepson student assistant in the department of community programs and alumni relations, she realized the opportunities she would have to serve if she became a member of the Jepson School, she said. She was handling alumni databasing and saw the unique and diverse opportunities Jepson alumni had pursued.

Richards was accepted to the Jepson class of 2011 and immediately sought out ways she could use her knowledge of science in her leadership projects. “In all of my interactions with the Jepson School of Leadership Studies,” she said, “I have been encouraged to do something to make a difference.”

In “Foundations of Leadership Studies,” students were assigned to come up with a project concerning a social issue in the city of Richmond. Richards’s group decided to study the social implications of providing children with cochlear implants. This project included a stint at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV), where Richards was able to observe the four-hour surgery required to install a cochlear implant. In “Justice and Civil Society,” Richards was again able to integrate science with leadership by volunteering with children who were patients at MCV. “I really like how leadership and science can be oriented in a service project,” she said.

But Richards has another passion she uses for service: music. Though her voice is her primary instrument, she also plays the harp and piano.

“There is nothing more fun for me than singing,” she said. “There is nothing I would rather be doing. It’s wonderful for me to go to a college where I can do that and still pursue different areas of study.” On campus, she sings for Schola Cantorum and Jazz Combo, takes voice lessons, and performs the National Anthem at some university basketball games.

Richards’s faith drives her passion to serve. She is active in Intervarsity, where she leads a Bible study group, and serves at her home church, KingWay Community Church, where she is part of the worship team and is a youth group leader for high school students. Richards is also vice president of Spiders for Life, a non-partisan pro-life group on campus.

“Through service work and through my faith I have learned that the happiest people are those who are constantly giving — either to others or for the good of society, and expecting nothing in return,” she said.

Having been home-schooled before college, Richards said she learned how to manage her time early, and therefore has been able to continue balancing her various passions throughout her university experience.

After college Richards hopes to pursue her M.D., she said, and would like to continue a lifetime of service by practicing medicine in the United States and traveling on medical mission trips around the world.

“My goal is to leave college with the education, tools and ability to make a difference in society,” she said. “But my bigger goal is to use the passion God has given me for service to others as I combine my friendships, my love for music, and my enthusiasm in science.”