Erin Shaw ’19 was once content to keep to herself. Then she came to the University of Mary Washington, where a club meeting ultimately connected her with people from all walks of life.
Soon, she was on the executive board of People for the Rights of Individuals of Sexual and Gender Minorities (PRISM), advocating for equality for all and partnering with organizations across campus.
That work has earned Shaw the 2018-2019 Mary Washington Citizenship Award for Diversity Leadership.
“Erin has worked tirelessly to address issues and empower individuals to become agents of positive social change,” said Marion Sanford, director of the James Farmer Multicultural Center. “She has consistently displayed steadfast commitment, dedication and passion to educating and enhancing awareness and appreciation for all aspects of diversity, equity, civility and inclusion for the campus community.”
The President’s Community Advisory Committee on Diversity presents the award annually to a rising senior enrolled in the University. The recipient serves as an ambassador for diversity, a peer mentor to underrepresented students, and a voice for underrepresented populations to the faculty and staff.
Shaw, a native of Ashburn, Virginia, was just looking for a way to meet people and get involved at UMW when she attended a PRISM meeting during her freshman year. When the group needed someone to handle its social media accounts, she volunteered. She eventually became president, organizing large-scale events including Gender and Sexual Minorities and Allies Celebration Week and Day of Silence, which brings attention to the bullying and harassment of the LGBT+ community.
She’s worked as a student trainer with University’s Safe Zone program and served as an officer in Psi Chi, the honor society for psychology. She has interned with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Virginia branch.
Through PRISM, Shaw has joined efforts with the James Farmer Multicultural Center, working with the Black Student Association, Asian Student Association and Women of Color to promote diversity and acceptance at UMW.
If not for that, “I never would have had the opportunity to meet people who are not like me,” Shaw said.
Shaw’s involvement has also set her on a new course. She once wanted to go into clinical psychology and become a therapist. Now she plans to go to graduate school for social work after finishing her senior year at UMW.
Until then, she plans to continue her advocacy on campus.
“I like connecting with people that have different experiences and finding the similarities,” Shaw said. “I learn more and more we’re all looking for the same things in life.”