Laura Dick ’13 left high school with the credentials of a scholar and her choice of colleges. She was looking to study international development, maybe at Swarthmore or Haverford College. Then the St. Louis native heard of Mary Washington and its Alvey Scholarship for out-of-state students. Its full tuition, fees, room, and board turned her head.
“It wasn’t just about awareness – it was about engaging with the world.” – Laura Dick
Dick visited campus and met Christine Exley ’09, who was also passionate about development. Exley was a Washington Scholar, the in-state equivalent of an Alvey. She had studied with Shawn Humphrey, associate professor of economics, and was about to graduate in math and economics.
While Exley was an undergrad, she and Humphrey had started La Ceiba microfinance institution and the $2 Challenge. Exley showed Dick around the economics department and introduced her to the faculty. “She really loved the school,” Dick said of Exley, who now is finishing a Ph.D. at Stanford. “And she really sold Dr. H.”
Exley hadn’t merely studied development with Humphrey, Dick said. “It was the actual doing thing, not just talking about it but doing something,” Dick said.
Mary Washington awarded her the Irene Piscopo Rodgers ’59 Alvey Scholarship, and the deal was sealed. “Part of it was a financial consideration,” Dick said, “and part of it was that Mary Washington just felt more right.”
Dick majored in economics and anthropology; she helped continue the work of Humphrey, Exley, and other students. “At Mary Washington, with La Ceiba and the $2 Challenge and all of the organizations I got involved in, it wasn’t just about awareness − it was about engaging with the world,” Dick said. “And that was what I really wanted.”
Dick’s undergraduate studies of gender and land rights prepared her to work for the USAID LAND Project in Kigali, Rwanda, where until recently she researched women’s rights and how they affected women’s access to land.
Soon, Dick will start a Ph.D. program in agricultural economics with a focus on development at the University of California at Davis. She hopes to help aid organizations and governments better serve the poor.
“I want to do research, but I don’t want to have it just spin off into the void of academics,” Dick said. “I want it to actually help people’s lives.”