In 1986, only 36 African-Americans were part of Washington University’s freshmen class. Recognizing the need for a more diverse student body, Chancellor William Danforth asked his special assistant, James McLeod, to address the challenge of minority recruitment.
Just one year later, the newly-instituted John B. Ervin Scholars Program for Black Americans, named in honor of the university’s first African-American dean, welcomed 11 Ervin Scholars.
Thirty years on, more than 600 Ervin Scholars have graduated from Washington University in St. Louis. The program’s success can be attributed to its emphasis on guiding each individual throughout the four years, and fostering core values of scholarship, leadership, service, and diversity.
To mark its 30th anniversary, Ervin alumni and their families will gather on campus for a weekend celebration which will begin with “Measuring the Impact and Influence of Ervin Scholars,” a panel discussion featuring four graduates who will share how their college experiences helped shape who they have become and the careers they have chosen.
These alumni represent the influence and impact of the Ervin Scholars Program and the legacies of Dr. John B. Ervin and Dean James E. McLeod. They are:
Fernando Cutz (AB ’10) is director for South America at the White House National Security Council. Previously, Cutz served as special assistant to the Administrator for National Security Affairs at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
As a student, Cutz majored in political science and international and area studies and minored in psychology, and served as president of his senior class as well as co-founded WU/FUSED, a student organization devoted to fostering diversity.
Morgan DeBaun (AB ’12) left her newly-acquired position with the financial software giant, Intuit, to create Blavity in 2014, a virtual gathering place for Black millennials to share their thoughts, stories and experiences. Blavity is now a successful business attracting more than seven million visitors a month. Her co-founders include Ervin alumni Jeff Nelson (EN 2010) and Aaron Samuels (BU 2011).
DeBaun completed a major in political science and two minors in commercial entrepreneurship and educational studies, and served as president of Student Union.
Dr. ShaAvhree Buckman Garner (AB ’92, MD ’99, PhD ’99) is director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research’s (CDER) Office of Translational Sciences (OTS) in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Prior to this position, she served as deputy director for OTS. Buckman Garner earned not only her bachelor’s degree from WU, but also her Ph.D. and M.D.
During her undergraduate years, Buckman majored in Spanish and biochemistry, and volunteered with the Salvation Army Hope Center through the Campus Y.
Jason Green (AB ’03) became an entrepreneur in 2013 by co-founding SkillSmart, a software company that helps employers find individuals with specific skill sets. Six years earlier, Green directed presidential candidate Barack Obama’s “Get Out the Vote” grass roots voter drive, and then served President Obama as Deputy Associate General Counsel.
Green studied political science, finance, and international business, and served as president of his senior class.