Vice President Kamala Harris and student Penny Hu at the White House.

Spider students welcomed to the White House

February 20, 2023

Student Experience

This academic year brought two separate invitations to the White House for University of Richmond students.

Penny Hu, president of the Westhampton Government Association, received an invitation in the fall to attend a roundtable discussion on reproductive rights with Vice President Kamala Harris and her senior staff.

Hu, a senior studying computer science and business administration, recently received the Newman Civic Fellowship, awarded to students who demonstrate a capacity for leadership and finding solutions to challenges facing communities throughout the country.   

“I am grateful for the wonderful opportunity to learn from the vice president, fellow activists, and student leaders about how we can work with our communities on the important issue of reproductive healthcare,” Hu said.

Senior Kavon Thompson in front of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House

A few months later senior Kavon Thompson received a similar invitation to attend a Young Men of Color panel at the White House with the vice president. The sociology major, who is minoring in chemistry and women, gender, and sexuality studies, is on a pre-med track as an aspiring anesthesiologist.

“It was really eye-opening for me,” Thompson said of his visit. He was one of 50 men of color between the ages of 18 and 30 to be invited to The White House to discuss economic empowerment, mental health, and the criminal justice system with Harris and her team.  

Thompson is active on campus, acting as a student representative for the Burying Ground Memorialization Committee and for the Board of Trustees’ Advancement committee. He says those roles inspired confidence that served him well at the White House.

“I didn't feel afraid to speak and let my thoughts be heard,” he said. “They picked me to be there. I was just glad to be able to have that experience.”