Meet the Class of ‘24’s Eden Phillips

Eden Phillips

Eden Phillips graduates this spring with bachelor’s degrees in both psychology and sociology.  A first-generation student from Appalachia, she has used her Distinguished Major Program thesis to examine the experiences of other students like herself.

At first, Phillips didn’t see herself as a researcher.

“Coming to college, I thought I knew what I wanted to do.  I wanted to get a master’s in social work, and I wanted to do counseling,” Phillips said.  “Then I started taking sociology courses, and I realized I loved looking at things through that lens.”

Working with sociologist and Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education, Josipa Roksa, Phillips has had a chance not just to try her hand at research as an undergraduate but to understand what a life as a researcher could mean.

“Her kindness and her empathy have been instrumental in making me want to pursue that kind of career,” Phillips said.

And the work Phillips has done, interviewing students to understand the specific characteristics and needs of other first-generation students, including those from the Appalachian region, has helped her develop resilience and helped students with a unique cultural heritage find one another at UVA.

“It’s an invisible identity in many ways,” Phillips said, but one that’s important to those who bring that heritage with them.”

But Phillips hasn’t just looked back, she’s found opportunities to see the world from vastly different perspectives.  For much of her time at UVA, she has worked as a student intern with the University’s Volunteers with International Students, Staff, & Scholars, or VISAS.  The program gives student volunteers the opportunity to practice English, share culture and build community with members of the University community who come to the United States from other countries.

“It’s where I’ve found community at UVA, where I really started to feel like I belonged, and where I began to find what I’m passionate about,” Phillips said.

Phillips said her work with staff members on the University’s Facilities Management team whose first language isn’t English has been the cornerstone of her UVA experience.

“It’s taught me so much about relationships, and community and culture,” Phillips said.  “My experience there has a lot do with what I’ve experienced at UVA: meeting new people, being open to new ideas and welcoming change and growth. I’ve felt really lucky to be able to dedicate myself to that role.”

Coming from rural Carroll County in Southwest Virginia, Phillips understands the value of community. She has also volunteered with the University’s Rotaract Club, which has given her various opportunities to volunteer in the Charlottesville area.

“It’s been a great way to meet people and to be a part of a larger community,” Phillips said.

After graduation, Phillips will head to Washington, DC, where she has accepted a job as a research assistant at Urban Institute, a non-profit think tank focused on economic and social policy research.


Read more about the A&S Class of '24