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Alumni Profile

All-star volunteer praises his time at AU

By Carla Gochicoa CAS/BA ’09

Shawn Richardson attends a volunteer event at AU.

Shawn Richardson, SOC/MA '08, grew up on the island of St. Thomas, the youngest of five children. He was a first-generation college student and the first of his family to attend a master’s program. He has always had an urge to study and succeed. This has been a driving force in his life, and when it came time to think about graduate school, he knew it was incredibly important that he make the most of the experience. 

“AU was my number one choice for grad school,” he says.  “The. Number. One. School.” He was especially excited by the level of attention that students receive in the program, “I reached out to director of the program, Leonard Steinhorn. His class was amazing such a great resource. When I got to AU we had a weekly conversation in his office about the program. When I was applying to the program, I wrote him a letter during the admissions process and told him this is where I wanted to be. I was told ‘Students like you with passion and drive is what we need at this school.’” 

One of the things that Shawn really wanted to do was study abroad, something he had missed out on during his undergraduate years. This was not something that was customarily offered by American University in his chosen graduate program.  Shawn says, “I worked out permissions since that’s not what the program was meant for but I was told. ‘if this is what you want we’ll make it happen.’ I had an international internship for three months in London. It was amazing, best time of my life.” Since then, Shawn has become an avid supporter of study abroad experiences. He has also become an avid supporter of American University. 

Shawn currently serves as an All-American Weekend committee member and Pride reunion co-chair. For Shawn, volunteering for AU began when a friend “dragged” him to a Black Alumni Alliance happy hour about a year after he graduated. Since then he has participated in many volunteer roles, including as a member of the Black Alumni Alliance, as a co-chair for CELEBRATE, and as chair of the Multicultural Alumni Reunion. Of his volunteer experiences, Shawn says, “I have made friends. You build a family in some sense.” He continues to be extremely active and “to spread the word of AU and hope people will come to events and volunteer themselves.” He quips, “I have to preach the gospel to them. I am a walking advertisement for AU and alumni events!"