Erin Sorady, '19

February 28, 2019
Student charts path to servant leadership

At first glance, majoring in leadership studies and anthropology and joining the University of Richmond chapter of Delta Delta Delta Sorority might seem unrelated. But for Erin Sorady, ’19, these pursuits worked together to facilitate her interest in health care.

This interest dates to 2013, she said, when she began volunteering in high school at the Ronald McDonald House near her hometown of Troy, N.Y. She continued her ties with the Ronald McDonald House—this time in Richmond, Va.—after matriculating at University of Richmond.

Her volunteer experience drew her to Tri-Delta Sorority, Sorady said.

“I joined Tri-Delta because of its commitment to fundraising and awareness raising for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, our national philanthropy,” she said.

Meanwhile, she became fascinated with anthropology after taking two anthropology classes her first year.

“I decided to pair an anthropology major with a leadership studies major, because leadership is applicable to everything,” Sorady said.

In her junior year, she took two classes in medical anthropology, a subject she wanted to explore further through her Jepson School of Leadership Studies internship. Then she made an important connection through her sorority.

“I was attending the Tri-Delta Collegiate Leadership Conference in my role as philanthropy chair of my sorority when I met my future boss at St. Jude,” she said. “St. Jude sets aside three internship spots for Tri-Delts each year, and I was lucky enough to get one of these spots for summer 2018.”

With the financial support of the Jepson School’s Robert L. Burrus Jr. Fellowship, Sorady undertook her Jepson internship as a youth development intern for American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude. She assisted with planning two conferences, partner management, and volunteer engagement—activities she was well prepared to handle, thanks to her leadership studies coursework, she said.

“In my Behavioral Economics class with Dr. Harwell, I learned about the art of giving, why people give, and how to increase giving,” Sorady said. “It was the perfect background for my internship.

“ALSAC CEO Rick Shadyac held a lot of town hall meetings, including a few particularly for interns. I had just finished my Theories and Models of Leadership class, and here I was listening to the CEO talk about how he wanted ALSAC leaders to embody servant leadership—something he did himself.”

During her internship, St. Jude launched St. Jude Global, an initiative to improve access to care for children with cancer and life-threatening diseases around the world. Sorady said she hopes to work for St. Jude Global one day.

“I could imagine working as a medical anthropologist, addressing the issue of treatment abandonment in different countries,” Sorady said.

Back on campus for her senior year, she’s researching how servant leadership has permeated the culture at ALSAC and St. Jude. Leadership studies assistant professor Haley Harwell is serving as her faculty mentor. Sorady is also engaged in a collaborative research project with anthropology associate professor Jennifer Nourse to assist a local nonprofit focused on women’s reproductive health.

And she’s applied to a master’s of science program in medical anthropology at Oxford University. If accepted, she hopes a Jepson scholarship would fund her studies.

“My majors complement each other,” Sorady said. “My leadership studies classes introduced me to a new, productive way of thinking about social justice issues. My anthropology classes taught me how to attack these issues in the most culturally sensitive way, while also sparking my interest in health care."

Photo: Dr. Haley Harwell and Erin Sorady