Lauren Cochran (CLAS '22) is a double major in Public Policy and Leadership and African-American & African Studies on the pre-law track. Her various involvements on Grounds exemplify civic engagement and public service. In addition to serving as a Peer Advisor and Tri-Chair of Selections for the Office of African-American Affairs Peer Advising Program, Lauren is a Fellow of the Meriwether Lewis Institute for Citizen Leadership, a University Judiciary Committee counselor, Student Advisor on the UVA Democracy Initiative Student Advisory Board, and the Director of Undergraduate Relations for Black Student Leaders in Public Policy. She is also an Affiliate of the Undergraduate Black Law Student Association, Rotunda Student Ambassador, and a former Summer Orientation Leader. Lauren seeks to attend law school to become a Civil Rights and Trial Attorney and to develop congressional policy.
What led you to your interest in public service?
I have always been interested in uplifting underserved communities since high school. I developed my passion for public service when I volunteered at the Rappahannock Regional Boys and Girls Club in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 2016. I fostered genuine relationships with not only the staff members, but also with the children who called me "Ms. Lauren" and wanted to learn from me. When I entered the club, I felt a deep sense of admiration for the staff members who empower underprivileged children to live up to their fullest potential, and I wanted to do the same through mentorship.
Lauren actively engaging with incoming first-year students a part of the UVA community as a 2019 Summer Orientation Leader.
What has been the most rewarding aspect that comes with your community involvements?
I enjoy seeing people achieve their goals, and develop a willingness to serve. Former Office of African-American Affairs Dean Patrice Grimes instilled in me the importance of "lifting as you climb," and giving back to the community in which helped to shape you. Therefore, when I see others that I have personally affected through mentorship succeed, I feel a sense of connection and gratitude because I played an integral role in their success.
How has the virtual transition affected your involvements? Has your definition of service remained the same?
So far, the virtual transition has not drastically impacted my involvements and interaction with the community. Many of my involvements with organizations such as the University Judiciary Committee (UJC) have continued to serve the community through virtual means. My definition of service has remained the same: Serve with an impact-driven mindset to motivate and inspire others to lead within their communities.
How would you encourage others to get involved?
I would empower others around me to find their "why" and serve with purpose. Once a person understands their why, and aligns their goals with something that they are equally passionate about, positive outcomes will follow. The same principle applies when engaging in public service. All of my involvements have a component of mentorship and a dedication to uplift others, which are some of my personal values.
What has been the greatest class you have taken at UVA?
I am currently taking HIUS: 3671, African-American Freedom Struggle c.1945-Present, and I absolutely love the course. Professor Kevin Gaines teaches the course, and he is a Julian Bond Professor of Civil Rights and Social Justice, who considers himself to be a product of the Civil Rights Movement. He teaches the class with incredible thoughtfulness, rigor, and passion. His class consists of works from Maya Angelou, Derrick Bell, and James Baldwin to name a few. I find myself immersed in the expansive history of the movement, and I am excited to learn about the influence of Pan-Africanism and the Cold War on modern day freedom struggles.
What is your favorite UVA tradition?
Lauren and other Peer Advisors in the Office of African American Affairs (OAAA) Peer Advisor Program, which serves the needs of incoming Black students through academic, psychological, and social support.
Lighting of the Lawn is one of my favorite UVA traditions because I enjoy taking in the ambiance and beauty of the lighting with my closest friends. The event itself brings different facets of the UVA community together, and I appreciate the sense of camaraderie among fellow Hoos. Additionally, last year, my friends and I went to Professor Sabato's Pavilion and enjoyed a festive holiday performance by the Virginia Gentlemen!
If you could do one thing to make the world a better place, what would it be?
I would continue to advocate on behalf of those whose voices are not frequently heard. I would create a platform for change through empowering marginalized communities to engage with democracy, and speak their truth. Through my future career as a Civil Rights and Trial Attorney, I intend to lift as I climb, and hold spaces for intellectual collaboration to solve complex social issues such as housing discrimination.