Melinda S. Bertram, Virginia Wesleyan College
Melinda S. Bertram, a senior biology and international studies major at Virginia Wesleyan College, is on a journey to affect human rights through global public health. With a love of science in her back pocket, she has set out to learn as much as she can about conflict in the world and its relationship to the well-being of humans, starting here at home. Issues of peace introduced her to the social justice movement in South Hampton Roads which turned into establishing a sustaining campus volunteer project serving on the soup line with the Catholic Worker every Thursday morning at 5:30 a.m. and inspiring more than 100 other students to join her. This experience morphed into a curiosity about forced prostitution in Nicaragua and three alternative break trips to that country. In between, she took a semester off to serve as a community organizer in Richmond, Va., for Organizing For Action during the 2012 Presidential Campaign. Bringing those skills back to campus she helped lead successful voter registration drives through Marlins Vote. Culminating her journey was a study abroad experience in Jordan, where she visited refugee camps to investigate displacement. Mindy’s potential to improve life for people around the globe is unbounded.
-Willian T. Greer Jr., President
I recently discovered the first paper I wrote as a student at Virginia Wesleyan College. It reads, “My adventure will be one of self-discovery and exploration of the new, ever changing and unknown world. I have four years to follow my curiosity. I want to give my life to others. My adventure here is an important one, but so far that is all the value I can give it.” My passion for human rights, service learning, citizenship and my constant curiosity about our common humanity have been my compass and navigating force in the classroom and beyond. The social justice movement in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area, Nicaragua service trips, Thursday morning soup line, tissues under a microscope, and the unforgettable resilient humans of Jordan have all contributed to, refined and helped me understand in what capacity I will change the world. My adventure has been an important one. It has been defining, impactful and intangibly important. The past four years have allowed me to carve out a path towards working in global public health, organizing tools to advocate for myself and others, and the opportunity to inspire. I’ve been empowered to make a better future, and for that I am truly grateful.
-Melinda S. Bertram