2020 Grads Launch Next Chapter

Meet some of the talented and tenacious members of the Mary Baldwin University Class of 2020, who will launch their next chapters as they have their Mary Baldwin careers, with determination, creativity, and excellence.

Francesca Bergeret Grad Photo

Francesca Bergeret, economics and political science double major

As president of the MBU chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society, Francesca Bergeret ’20 spearheaded organizing and hosting bipartisan debate watch parties for the campus community throughout the year.

With themes like “puppies and politics,” “ice cream and issues,” and “donuts and debate” for each party, she made politics fun and accessible for all interest levels.

“I think she is an exemplary model of how to be civically engaged in a hyper-partisan world and how to foster dialogue in a non-controversial environment,” said Laura Van Assendelft, professor of political science.

Originally from Las Vegas, Bergert will attend law school at Case Western Reserve University with scholarship support as a Hugo Grotius International Law fellow. She also received academic scholarship support during her time at Mary Baldwin.

“Moving forward, my goal is as it has always been — to help as many people as possible,” she said. “This means representing underserved communities and those without agency as well as continuing to promote civic engagement, tolerance, and ultimately acceptance.”

JaNell Chavis Grad Photograph

JaNell Chavis, bachelor of arts/master of arts in teaching

JaNell Chavis BA ’19, MAT ’20 finished her undergraduate degree in liberal arts and educational studies in just three years, having received the President’s Scholarship and MBU grant each year, and then continued at Mary Baldwin to earn a master of arts in teaching and complete a graduate assistantship in the Office of Residence Life and Housing.

“JaNell is one of those highly memorable and impactful future educators, and I am so grateful that she has chosen the vocation of teaching,” said Rachel Potter, dean of the College of Education.

Next fall, Chavis will start her career as a kindergarten teacher at Falling Creek Elementary School in Chesterfield County.

“At MBU, my friends turned into my sisters, and the professors and advisors who have guided me throughout these four years have become lifelong mentors.”

Kaylin Coe Grad Photo

Kaylin Coe, criminal justice and sociology double major

The most meaningful aspect of MBU for Kaylin Coe ’20 was forming strong bonds and friendships, both inside and outside the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL) where she served as first captain (the commanding officer) during her senior year.

“Having a tight-knit community, where I knew I was always supported and could receive advice whenever I needed it, was an amazing feeling,” she said.

Her studies were supported by the President’s Scholarship, as well as the Brenda Bryant Scholarship, Global Honors Scholars Scholarship, Developing Leaders Scholarship, and several additional awards specific to VWIL.

Originally from Kissimmee, Florida, she will pursue a master’s of science in criminology with an emphasis in crime, law, and justice from the University of Cincinnati after graduation. She then hopes to enter a federal law enforcement agency to study criminal behavior in the area of domestic terrorism.

“A mature and positive person, Kaylin Coe has been both an outstanding student in academic terms and an exemplary student leader and engaged community member,” said Roderic Owen, professor of philosophy.

Alexandra Curcio Grad Photo

Alexandra Curcio, health sciences major

Part of the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted, Alexandra Curcio ’20 is MBU’s youngest graduate this year at 16. Being at the university during her teenage years made it doubly influential for her, as she found both academic opportunity and her first real jobs in the financial aid and admissions offices and as a tutor.

“I was just a sprout when I showed up at Mary Baldwin, and through ups and downs, hardships and victories, Mary Baldwin allowed me to grow and truly flourish in ways I could never have imagined, she said.”

Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Curcio now lives in Lynchburg where her family runs a restaurant. She plans to work there immediately after graduation and then hopes to pursue a master’s degree in public health and a career in epidemiology.

“I attended Mary Baldwin on a President’s Scholarship and an MBU Grant, with a great financial aid package as well, which was super-helpful for me and my family,” she said. “I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity MBU gave me.”

Bethany Taylor Grad Photo

Bethany Taylor, chemistry

During her time at MBU, Bethany Taylor has traveled across the Pacific Ocean frequently, going between Staunton and Cardiff, Wales, where her family moved right before she started college. Her favorite MBU memories are from move-in days and Junior Dads and Family Ball that she shared with her grandparents while her parents were overseas. MBU professors like her advisor Peter Ruiz Haas, professor of chemistry, also helped provide support and advice.

“I began my thesis the summer before my junior year, and Dr. Ruiz-Haas was just as excited about every step as I was,” she said. “I never felt like a burden when I wandered into his office at random hours to ask a ‘quick question’ and often received more help than he probably had time to offer me. Dr. Ruiz-Haas gave me so much confidence in my abilities as a young chemist, and that’s priceless.”

A talented chemist, teaching assistant, and tutor, Taylor received the President’s Scholarship to attend Mary Baldwin. In recognition of her achievements, she was recently awarded the 2020 Undergraduate Award for Excellence in Chemistry by a First Generation College Student from Iota Sigma Pi, the National Honorary Society for Women in Chemistry.

Taylor is looking for a chemistry lab or teaching position after graduation, and eventually plans to get her master’s in analytical chemistry.