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Valerie Smith Kirkman

What did you do when you were a student at UVA?

I was in the College second year taking 18 hours in order to satisfy the prerequisites to apply to the School of Nursing. I got in and was delighted to be assigned to Mallet Dorm, where I met my two roommates who are very dear friends to this day. I was a cheerleader my third year and loved the atmosphere in U-Hall during the basketball games. Easters was always a special event, with great bands and lots of frolicking in the mud in Mad Bowl. We also took advantage of the Shenandoah and spent weekends in cabins in the park. Studying was a high priority because I knew I had to learn enough to pass the Nursing Boards after graduation, which were required to get a job. The stacks in Alderman were my favorite place to study. I occasionally worked as an aide in the hospital to get hands-on experience. 

Is there something you learned at UVA that you apply to your life now?

I learned that the more effort you put into an endeavor, the more you get out of it. If you study harder, you get better grades. If you throw yourself into your patient care, their outcome is better and you get more gratification out of it.  This applies to raising a family as well.  

Tell us about a woman/women at UVA who inspires you – now, or during your time on Grounds.

A woman who whom I greatly admire is Dean Dorrie Fontaine, recently retired dean of the Nursing School. During her 12-year tenure, she was a strong proponent of compassionate nursing, mindfulness, and uniting the University with the community.  

In your opinion, what is the legacy of women on UVA?

The legacy of women at the University, I believe, is that they have proven to be strong minded, smart, willing to take chances, and in many cases not afraid to take on incredible challenges and succeed.

If you could impart a piece of advice to a female student on Grounds today, what would you tell her?

Cherish every day, even the rainy ones when you have exams. Your time here will go by fast, so take time to soak up the energy here and thrive.