Three times a week, Victoria Lyon, ’13, leads up to 30 undergraduates through Zumba, a one-hour dance-fitness class. Smiling and sweaty, they relieve the stress that builds up during the week, but Lyon knows there’s more to it — she’s helping people take control of their lives and wellness.

Since she began teaching group fitness classes at UR’s Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness a year ago, Lyon has made a name for herself as the campus Zumba master (she is the center’s only student employee who is licensed as a Zumba instructor) and has started to lay the foundation of a career in wellness.

Ultimately, she would like to work for an organization in the public health sector, helping people work on fitness goals and strategies for healthy lifestyles.

A key part of this, Lyon says, is being an effective teacher by not just showing people what to do, but doing it in a way that sticks with them. She has been honing her communication and persuasion skills in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies. She is designing her own concentration in wellness — with courses on leadership, nutrition, and science — to create an interdisciplinary experience around her passion.

Her career path is unique, but Lyon doesn’t feel out of place among the future business and political leaders around her at Jepson. “A lot of the leadership studies classes are about learning how to communicate effectively,” she says. “Public health is all about education: How do you get people to take the lessons you give them and make them a reality?”

It was leadership studies that brought Lyon to Richmond in the first place. She was looking for an atypical undergraduate program, and while other universities she considered offered courses in leadership, the fact that Richmond had a school dedicated to the study of leadership appealed to her.

In her first year, she joined Ready for Moore, a living-learning community for women that focuses on leadership studies. Now, as a sophomore, she’s a member of Leadership and the Common Good.

This class has connected Lyon to wellness issues in the real world through its focus on modern approaches to individual and collective well-being. She and her classmates recently traveled to Spain and Denmark to see firsthand how these societies determine and pursue the common good.

Lyon will join another group abroad in May as part of the chaplaincy’s Pilgrimage: Israel program. Ten University of Richmond students of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths are meeting throughout the spring semester to discuss their religions. They will then travel to Israel for 10 days to visit holy sites that are meaningful to all three faiths.

“I know a lot about Israel, but I got that from a Reform Jewish background,” says Lyon.

“I know a bit about Islam and Christianity, but I don’t know a lot about why Israel is important to them. So I’m really looking forward to seeing why Israel means so much to other people.”

The participants will form an interfaith council back at Richmond. “I really like learning about what religion means to college students,” she says. “[The council] will be a place where students can talk about religious diversity and challenges.”

Lyon will bring her experiences from the Middle East and Europe back to campus through the council, to her teaching, and into her leadership classes, where she’ll continue her study of what makes an effective leader.

“It’s not about finding the right answer,” she says. “It’s about challenging yourself to understand what’s going on in the world.”