Sarah Elaine Hart: Scholarship Director, Volunteer

Sarah Elaine Hart
  • Class of: Col ’10
  • Current City: Charlottesville, VA
  • Current Job: Director of the Walentas Scholars Program at the Jefferson Scholars Foundation
  • Bodo’s Order: It depends on the day and on who I’m with, but I’m an everything bagel type with plain cream cheese. I also love the cinnamon sugar butter, and the NoBull veggie burger at lunch time

Tell us about your current life (family, home, job).

My husband and I have been back in Charlottesville for several years. We both graduated in 2010, with him graduating again from Darden in 2016. I recently started a new job at the Jefferson Scholars Foundation developing a merit scholarship program for first-generation students. I’m excited to be in this new work and back working in the University setting. I have a continued connection to UVA through co-chairing my 10th Reunion, being on the Madison House alumni council, and being on a regional selection committee for the Jefferson Scholars program.

Tell us your UVA story.

I’m from Virginia and went on a UVA tour in my junior year of high school. I wasn’t particularly interested in attending at first; I was looking for a different setting and only thought of UVA in terms of people I already knew. I was a Jefferson Scholarship recipient and that was a deciding factor, but not for the reasons people might think. Getting to be financially independent was huge, but what really changed my perspective on UVA was the people.

I really felt cared for during the selection weekend and throughout my interactions on Grounds with students. I was drawn to them because they were intellectual but also interested in such a wide range of things—it made me feel like it was okay to be nerdy. The people I met were who I wanted to be surrounded by—I picked UVA because I wanted to pick my neighbors.

What’s your favorite UVA memory?

In the winter of my fourth year, there were two massive snowstorms, with one of them canceling class. I was living with some of my best friends at the time (and they still are now!) and we made our own sleds using storage container lids to join the people sledding down the Rotunda steps. It was a rare time where everyone at UVA slowed down together.

What was your journey after leaving UVA?

I worked for the Jefferson Scholarship Foundation for a few years, then moved to DC, then went to graduate school for my master’s in counseling and education. My fiancé at the time (now husband) was looking at business school, and he ultimately choose Darden. We thought we’d only be back for the two years needed for his degree, but we stayed because we loved the new side of Charlottesville that we saw.

What makes you say Wahoowa?

Definitely UVA basketball! And whenever I see anyone wearing anything UVA-related when I’m not in Charlottesville, I say it. I’ve also made lifelong friends after graduation through Post-Grad Trustees, Young Alumni Reunions (YAR) and Reunions, which is a gift that the Alumni Association continues to give me. Every time there’s a gathering, I know I can connect with someone because we share that ongoing connection to our school.

What does being a UVA alum mean to you?

It means being ambassadors of the University. UVA has been part of my personal and career journeys, so I feel a lot of gratitude for it. It’s not a perfect place—nowhere is—but I feel proud and grateful when I think of the experiences I had. My years at UVA weren’t just a distinct chapter—they’ve had ripple effects in my life ever since graduation.

What’s the biggest way you hope alumni can impact UVA?

I think that alumni, just like students, play an important part in ensuring that UVA is a living, breathing entity that remains a top-tier public institution, both in Virginia and in the nation. Alumni can contribute to the University in whatever way they can, whether that’s coming back for Reunions, donating or volunteering. The sense of community that UVA encompasses hasn’t lessened over the years—it’s just widened.