Hurd, leader: Outgoing student BOV'er heads overseas
Hillary Hurd had been the student BOV representative for just a few weeks when the events that became known as UVA June thrust the school, its president and the Board of Visitors into the glare of the international spotlight.
"It was a baptism by fire, for sure," Hurd recalls of the experience.
Living and working in DC last summer, she learned of President Teresa Sullivan's resignation just hours before the news broke publicly, and watched, stunned, as the story made the front page of the Washington Post and the New York Times within days.
A double major in Russian and political science, Hurd had applied to the BOV not really believing she'd be selected, she says, and her "principal motive for applying was to understand more about how the university worked." She was about to get a crash course. As a Jefferson and Echols Scholar, she was accustomed to academic rigor, but the crisis unfolding put her in a situation she'd never experienced.
"I was trying as hard as I could to put as many pieces together as I could," says Richmond-native Hurd.
As reported in the Hook, emails from UVA rector Helen Dragas released through Freedom of Information Act requests showed that early in the crisis, she'd asked Hurd to recruit students who could post positive messages about the BOV on social networking sites. Hurd has denied ever engaging in such an activity, and her successor, Blake Blaze, says her performance during the crisis was inspiring.
"She handled last summer with incredible dexterity," he says.
As her year on the Board of Visitors winds down, Hurd prepares for the next chapter in her life as a Marshall Scholar who'll earn a master's degree in international relations at Cambridge University next year, then move on to earn a second master's at King's College in London the following year in, appropriately, peace and conflict studies. She says she wouldn't trade her year on the BOV– roller-coaster ride though it may have been.
"There are so many issues the board has to deal with," says Hurd. "As the student member, the best thing you can do is focus on those that affect you and other students directly."
So what does the more distant future hold for Hurd?
"I think I'm stuck between two paths," she says. "There's part of me that's always wanted to work for the State Department ever since I saw Nicole Kidman in Translator when I was 14. But I love being a student, and I could also see myself in academia."
One thing's for sure if she picks the latter: She'll know what she's getting into.