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Sam Atkeson

Year: 2014
Hometown: Falls Church, VA
Major: Spanish, Political and Social Thought

What are some of your intellectual interests?

I’m studying Spanish and Political and Social Thought. My interests include a mix of foreign affairs, anthropology, public policy and history, with a general focus on Latin America.

What is the most surprising thing you've learned about/experienced at U.Va.?

One of the most surprising things I've found at UVA is how many people I recognize when I'm walking around grounds. Whether I'm walking down the lawn on my way to class, or studying at the library, I'm always running in to people I know. It definitely helps to make an undergraduate population of 14,000 feel like a smaller, close-knit community.

Where are your closest friends from?

My closest friends are from all over the place. Some of my really great friends are from Virginia, but I also have a lot of out of state friends who come from as close as Maryland and as far as California.

What is your favorite memory of U.Va.?

One of my favorite memories was my first Lighting of the Lawn this past December. Before students leave for winter break each year, there is a ceremony on the lawn with singing groups performing holiday songs and a member of the faculty who reads a poem recounting things that have happened over the course of the year at UVA. It was an awesome night with people coming dressed in holiday-themed clothing, ice sculptures lining the lawn, and residents serving hot cocoa from their lawn rooms.

Who is your favorite professor?

One of my favorite professors has been professor Haines, who teaches History of US-Latin American Affairs. Hanes spent years in the CIA and brings a really interesting perspective--and lots of first-hand experience--to the study of foreign affairs. He also teaches an extremely popular class on espionage, which I hope to take at some point before I graduate.

What has been your favorite class so far?

My favorite class so far has been an anthropology class that I decided to take on a complete whim--professor Hantman's Native American Art: The Astor Collection. The first portion of the semester was an overview of Native American art, discussing works from various regions and issues such as authenticity and representation. In the second half of the semester, we took this knowledge into the field, so to speak, and studied the Astor collection of Native American art that we have here in the University's collections. The course was both fascinating and informative, but more than that, it covered a diverse range of topics completely new and different from anything I had studied before.

In what activities are you involved?

As a tour guide in the University Guide Service I give admission and historical tours throughout the school year to a variety of prospective students and tourists visiting UVA. I'm also involved in the ESOL tutoring program through Madison House (UVA's volunteering hub), working with refugee students from all over the world who are placed in Charlottesville by the International Rescue Committee. As a part of the Student Council I serve on the Public Affairs committee and as a Representative of the College. This semester I joined a Sustained Dialogue group, which meets once a week and discusses social issues in relation to student life at UVA.

Something that I think is unique about UVA is that we have a $750,000 budget for student activities each year. This gives students the opportunity to get the funding and resources to carry out essentially whatever it is they want to do on grounds. In the spirit of student self-governance, it's a budget that is completely allocated to the students, by the students.

What are your favorite things to do in Charlottesville?

One of my favorite things to do in Charlottesville is to climb humpback rock. It's about a 6 mile hike up to a scenic overlook of all of Charlottesville. I would recommend hiking in the morning--the sunrise, along with the trees and the Blue Ridge Mountains, is an incredible sight.

Why U.Va.?

Growing up in Northern Virginia you hear about UVA's great reputation all the time, so I always knew it was a school I was interested in applying to. When I first came to visit it was things like the rotunda, the lawn, and the rich history here that got me hooked. I could see myself in the shoes of the people I saw walking to class or hanging out on the lawn, and I knew from that first visit that UVA was a place that I could one day call my home. I wasn't admitted straight out of high school, but decided to transfer after my first year and it was the best decision I ever made. What I love most about UVA is the ability to get the best aspects of both smaller and larger schools. For me, that means getting a great liberal arts education within a small program of 18 students, while having access to things like D1 football games and the over 700 clubs and organizations we have on grounds. 

Where can you get the best food in Charlottesville? Can you eat out on a student's budget?

One of my favorite restaurants in Charlottesville is Bellair. Unfortunately it's a little bit farther from grounds than the corner, but it is definitely worth the 5 minutes it takes to drive there. From the outside it looks like an ordinary gas station, but inside are some of the most incredible sandwiches you will find in the Charlottesville area.

I would say that it isn't too difficult to be on a small budget at UVA. For me, the biggest temptation is eating out all the time at the restaurants on the Corner. While they are pretty cheap, I try to make my way over to the grocery store Barracks shopping center to buy food and cook for myself as much as possible. It's cheaper, and very accessible using the University Transit System here on grounds (free for students).