By UVA Office of Advancement
In fall 2020, Jewel Elliott found herself in a room, alone, doing her best to play the piccolo. She was trying out for the Cavalier Marching Band, using the SmartMusic platform to record her performance for a remote audience. For first-years like Elliott—let’s call them the Covid Cohort—the normal rituals of college, like a live audition for the marching band, were turned into airless, sterile affairs.
“Basically, it was me, in a room by myself, trying to figure out how to play these notes,” she said. “You couldn’t be with people, especially when playing an instrument, because that’s just a bunch of air blowing around. That was kind of interesting.”
What she remembers most about being on Grounds during that time, though, was the temperature. “It was very cold,” she recalled. “We had limits on how many people could be in a room together, and initially you couldn’t be with anyone unless you were roommates. So, it was very cold being outside, getting to meet people, and social distancing.”
Those dark days seem like distant memories now. As she begins her fourth year, Elliott is basking in the full flush of her UVA experience. She’s hasn’t just survived—she’s thrived.
The Cavalier Marching Band—with its regular practice schedule and 12-hour time commitment during game days—takes up a lot of bandwidth. Currently a drill instructor, which entails teaching proper marching form to her section, Elliott has also found time to embrace other aspects of her life at UVA.
At the McIntire School of Commerce, where she’s concentrating in Management, Elliott was supported by the Commerce Cohort, a program that engages and supports high-achieving, high-need UVA first-year students with academic mentorship, career preparation, and personal development.
Funded by alumni and corporate support and managed by McIntire’s Office of Undergraduate Admission, the cohort provides students with increased knowledge of the McIntire experience, along with connections to other first-years and the McIntire community.
Elliott is now a Near Peer Mentor in the program, providing support for new students, as well as a student ambassador, an extension of the admissions team who leads tours and serves as a resource for those who wish to pursue a B.S. in Commerce. She is also involved in the Undergraduate Black Law Student Association (she intends to go to law school after graduation), the Black Commerce Student Network, and the Black Student Association.
But her most solemn responsibility lies in her position as a support officer for the Honor Committee. Each year, the committee reviews more than 150 applications for students who are interested in joining UVA Honor in three areas: advisor, counsel, and educator. Elliott serves in the second group as counsel, where her job consists of investigating thoroughly and impartially reports of alleged honor offenses, and assisting, in a fair and balanced manner, in the presentation of the views of both the accused student and the community throughout the honor process.
That can sound like some heavy stuff, but Elliott maintains a healthy attitude overall. “I just like to be present, if that’s a good way to put it,” she said. “I’m a floater. Somehow, my schedule seems like I’m not busy until someone says ‘Hey, you should show up to my thing.’ And I say, ‘Okay, why not?’”
Finding her place at UVA wasn’t easy, even after the pandemic abated, but Elliott attributes much of her success to the Robert and Louise Parsley Family Meriwether Lewis Bicentennial Scholarship. As a Meriwether Lewis Fellow, Elliott was able to consider applying to the McIntire School. She’s been able to throw herself into the life of the University, and she’s also able to consider going on to law school.
“I know for me, the path I took was ‘How can I focus on the things that can strengthen my skills for going to law school?’” she said. A scholarship relieves the stress of affording an education, she added, but it’s also an investment in the future.
“I would definitely say it helps more than just the present circumstances of the student,” she said. “It’s the future circumstances.”
For someone who describes herself as a “floater,” Elliott’s outlook remains remarkably well-grounded.