It’s a mild spring evening when students in Dr. Lauranett Lee's class Leaders in Public Places step off shuttles in front of UR Downtown. The leadership studies students have been working in groups to curate walking tours of the city of Richmond, and tonight, they’re ready to showcase their work.

“I think that this project opened my eyes to how much Richmond has to offer as a city,” says junior Julie Ball, a native of Chicago, Ill.

The class produced two walking tours designed to introduce new University of Richmond students to the city. Lee randomly divided the students into two groups to create the tours. After that, it was up to the students to pull off the final project.

“Rather than giving them a tour of selected sites in Richmond, I wanted them to learn about Richmond by visiting and selecting sites they thought would be of interest to incoming students,” says Lee.

The first tour included stops at Richmond’s City Hall and the Virginia State Capitol as well as The National, a popular concert venue, and the murals along Richmond’s Riverfront Canal Walk.

“Collectively, we decided that so many of us during our time on campus had thorough experiences in museum-going, food and dining, and festival attendance, but we lacked the interaction to the historical development of the city,” says Reece Syal, ’18.

Syal explains that the overarching theme of his group's tour was “facets, layers, and change.”

“In our delivery of the tour, the physical transition of walking literally down from capitol hill through the financial district and into the more hip, nightlife-based Shockoe Bottom area drove home the point of cultural changes throughout the city,” says Syal.

The second group created a food tour, focusing on both Richmond’s burgeoning restaurant industry and also the city’s cultural influences. The group, which created an Instagram account  picturing food at each of the stops, talked about leadership within the restaurant industry and how the industry can be viewed as representative of Richmond’s changing culture.

The tours emphasized not only how Richmond has changed and but also how leadership manifests itself throughout the city. For Ball, this included taking a closer look at the parts of Richmond's history that have been ignored or excluded.

“Leadership is all over the city and happening every day, but it is not always highlighted or talked about, or more importantly, put into physical form,” says Ball. “This form of ‘invisible’ leadership is what drives the city and is what is redefining its character to make Richmond ‘cool’ and attractive.”

Lee hopes the experience of creating the tours inspires the students in her class to look more closely at their communities wherever they may be.

“I hope this experience will enable them to work dynamically as individuals within groups; explore their own communities with fresh insights and appreciate history from various perspectives,” says Lee.

The Beauty Between the Sites: The Old and the New