Alumnae Profiles – Winter 2017

on February 9 | in Web Only | by

Courtney Legum-Wenk ’03

Courtney Legum-WenkEven after delivering more than 1,000 babies, obstetrician-gynecologist Courtney Legum-Wenk still gets misty-eyed talking about the process of bringing new life into the world. “It never, never gets old,” she says. “Every delivery is such a phenomenal experience.”

Four of those babies were daughters of Hollins alumnae who were all born within a nine-month period over 2015 and 2016. On Legum-Wenk ‘s birthday, March 23, she donned scrubs to assist with the 12:25 p.m. delivery of one of her senior-year roommates, Amanda Mascelli Christopher ’03. Later that day, Legum-Wenk posted on Facebook how honored she felt to share her special day with newly born Virginia, called “Vivi.” “Honor does not even begin to describe the feeling,” she wrote.

Legum-Wenk also delivered the daughters of Miggie Bray Mustian ’01, Savon Shelton Sampson ’04, and Marcail Moran Waskom ’02. Erica Feiste ’03 travels from Chesapeake, Virginia, to see Dr. Legum-Wenk as her gynecologist.

Recently, Legum-Wenk joined Hollins’ pre-med council so she can share the joys of her job and talk to students about how to follow in her footsteps. “The preprofessional councils offer support and advice to students about applying to professional school—medical school in this case,” explains Nikki Johnson Williams ’98, M.A.L.S. ’13, executive director of alumnae relations.

Legum-Wenk, who majored in biology and minored in women’s studies, shadowed an ob-gyn in high school, but by the time the Staunton native found herself at Hollins, she wasn’t convinced a stethoscope was in her future.

“Everyone around me kept telling me I was going to go to medical school,” she recalls. “I knew I wanted to do something with sciences. That’s just how my brain works. But I rebelled a little bit and said, ‘I’m not going to go to medical school because that’s what everyone else wants me to do.’”

But during her junior year, Legum-Wenk spent her free time shadowing a family friend who was an ob-gyn, who traveled to rural Virginia once a month to offer a clinic. “He treated women who drove hundreds of miles to see him,” she recalls. “I saw things I haven’t seen in my own private practice that he did. I was hooked.”

After getting a master’s degree in bioethics at the University of Virginia, she headed to the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg, where she graduated in 2008. After completing her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Memorial Health Medical Center, through Mercer University in Savannah, Georgia, Legum-Wenk began a private practice in Richmond. “It’s a rewarding life,” she says.


Keisha Graziadei-Shup ’09

Keisha Graziadel-ShupGrowing up in Sacramento, California, and later as a student at Hollins, Keisha Graziadei-Shup ’09 gravitated toward people from diverse backgrounds. Her best friend in high school was Hungarian. At Hollins, her closest friend had Dominican and Puerto Rican origins. “My family was mixed too,” says Graziadei-Shup, a second-generation American on her father’s side, who is from Brazil.

Things changed when Graziadei-Shup embarked on post-Hollins life as a young professional in the Roanoke Valley. “Why,” she asked herself one day, “are all my friends white? I know there are more than white people living in this town.” Graziadei-Shup also worried about losing the language skills she’d developed at Hollins as a double major in Spanish and communication studies.

The epiphany spurred Graziadei-Shup to volunteer with Local Colors, a Roanoke nonprofit dedicated to promoting multicultural understanding, as well as the city’s annual multicultural festival. As Graziadei-Shup got to know more Hispanic Roanokers, she realized that there was no publication that “would help connect them with what’s going on in the Latino world.”

LaConexió, a Roanoke-based bilingual community news website, was born. A web design company executive from Graziadei-Shup’s church donated enough money to get a site up and running in English and Spanish. A few months following the April 2015 launch of the first monthly issue of LaConexión, the project was absorbed by Blue Ridge Literacy, a Roanoke nonprofit. That arrangement saved Graziadei-Shup the headache of forming her own organization, as well as providing her with administrative support and bookkeeping help.

Sara Baygents ’16, a Spanish major, spent a semester her senior year interning at the website. “Working at LaConexión definitely helped me to better understand and relate to the Latino immigrant community in the United States,” she says. Baygents puts that experience to work at her current job as an elementary-school paraprofessional who works with immigrant families, and at graduate school at George Mason University, where she’s getting a master’s degree in education and focusing on teaching culturally, linguistically diverse, and exceptional learners.

After Graziadei-Shup launched LaConexión, Roanoke’s Latino community developed more ways to stay connected, including a center for the Hispanic community that offers language classes, workshops, and social gatherings and two Roanoke-based publications covering communities of color. Graziadei-Shup decided that rather than duplicating efforts, she plans to end LaConexión in early 2017 and work to support those endeavors.

“As other agencies in the community have emerged that can fill this gap in new ways, I’m excited to rally behind them and begin exploring new opportunities,” she says.

Profiles by Beth JoJack ’98

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