skip to main content
A-Z Index Directory Calendar Libraries Webmail
Advocating for Opportunity

"It is important to me to be excellent. You have a short time to do what you want to do."

Cynthia Cheatham '07 Society for Neuroscience Washington, D.C.

Cynthia Cheatham '07 has a background that might seem disjointed — undergrad major in politics and Spanish, master's degree in Latin American studies, and jobs and internships with public housing, a major labor union, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and a nonprofit scientific association.

However, everything she has done contains a thread of commonality. "I have always been focused on underrepresented communities," she said. At the AFL-CIO, for instance, she worked on human rights and women's issues and, during the 2012 election cycle, on voting rights.

She now works full time for the Society for Neuroscience as manager of professional development, a job that allows her to oversee a scholars program and a training program to provide career development to underrepresented groups and researchers in Latin America.

The Neuroscience Scholars Program is a multi-year fellowship for underrepresented and diverse graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in neuroscience. Funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the program is designed to increase the likelihood that trainees from diverse backgrounds who enter the neuroscience field continue to advance successfully in their careers.

Another grant has allowed the society to establish a year-long, online training program for young scientists from Latin America and the Caribbean. Fifteen of the participants are selected each year to attend a three-week course in a Latin American country.

The society also offers Neuronline, an online community that "creates and provides trainees with opportunities to advance and learn what others in the field are doing and what skills they will need for advancement," Cheatham said. The site includes webinars, articles, videos and discussion forums.

Each year at the society's annual meeting, which attracts thousands of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system, she organizes events for a diverse group of researchers from countries around the world who are underrepresented due to disability, gender or ethnic background "to create a community" for them where they can learn from each other and discover how to take advantage of services offered by the society. They might present posters, attend roundtable discussions to hear seasoned professionals discuss their careers, or network at a social event, Cheatham said.

Cheatham is responsible for creating a variety of videos series and webinars that teach such things as mentoring, how to publish a paper (critical for promotion for university faculty), why being a researcher is important, and generally how to advance in one's career.

Cheatham "went the social sciences route" at Washington and Lee, but is not surprised to have ended up at an organization devoted to the sciences. "A liberal arts education opens doors for you," she said.

She first worked for the society from 2007-09 in an entry level position where she helped develop programming for the annual meeting. She then left to earn a master's degree at Georgetown University and returned in 2013 for six months as a consultant.

Those months were devoted to working under a federal grant to assist academic departments in making sure their recruitment and retention policies were inclusive for women and underrepresented minorities. She visited New York City and managed the creation of a website with presentations, articles, and a video series on the topic.

She became a full time employee in August 2013. She came back to the society because "I knew the work they had done — the members work to treat diseases and disorders that impact people's lives. That was important to me." She had already worked with diverse communities and knew that continuing that work with the society "was a fit — it actually made sense."

Her current job involves some travel, including conferences throughout the country and the society's annual meeting, and she hopes to attend the 2016 Latin American training program in Uruguay.

Originally from Washington, D.C., Cheatham came to W&L with a scholarship. She said many faculty members inspired and mentored her while she was a student, including Ellen Mayock, Ernest Williams II Professor of Spanish. In her conversational Spanish class, Cheatham was able to work with the Rockbridge County Red Cross, translating disaster materials and teaching a workshop

In politics, Eduardo Valequez taught her to be a critical thinker and writer. She learned "to take a problem, dissect it and talk about it." Tyler Dickovick, associate professor of politics, "taught a course that led me to graduate school," she said.

Cheatham also participated in the Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability. Through the program, she obtained a summer internship in D.C., working in a public housing complex. Part of her time was spent surveying neighborhoods for graffiti, and reporting sightings to appropriate city departments for clean-up. She also spent two summers working on juvenile justice issues for the city.

At W&L, she was an R.A. her sophomore and senior years, taking on co-responsibility for the student residence life program her senior year. She credits those experiences for teaching her management skills. She also was a member of the Joyful Noise gospel choir and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., where she performed a variety of community service activities.

As busy as her life is now, Cheatham continues to serve W&L as a member of the Alumni Board. "I work as a liaison with the Alumni Affairs office on multi-cultural issues," she said, and she serves on the Careers and Networking committee. Her board participation also has allowed her to work with the D.C. alumni chapter on diversity issues.

Cheatham's life and career are guided by one thought: "It is important to me to be excellent," she said. "You have a short time to do what you want to do." She wants to be the one who creates places where people can be themselves.

- by Linda Evans

A Life of Consequence

By combining the benefits of a liberal arts foundation with emerging technologies and interdisciplinary perspectives, our students head into life after college equipped with the habits of mind, strength of character and essential knowledge needed to pursue lives of consequence.

In Action People and Programs

W&L's motto, "not unmindful of the future," underlies the University's commitment to providing a liberal arts education that is vital and relevant in the 21st century. By combining the benefits of a liberal arts foundation with emerging technologies and interdisciplinary perspectives, our students head into life after college equipped with the habits of mind, strength of character and essential knowledge needed to pursue lives of consequence.

For over 250 years, Washington and Lee graduates have been making landmark contributions to the world. Its alumni are leaders in business, journalism, medicine and many other fields. The number who have held top posts in government--27 U.S. senators, 67 U.S. representatives, 31 state governors and four Supreme Court justices--is testament to the University's commitment to fostering the ideals of visionary leadership.

And our graduates maintain a lifelong connection to the University. Through W&L's strong alumni network, composed of over 25,000 graduates in 81 chapters worldwide, current students experience the benefits of this tight-knit community in the form of financial support, meaningful internships and career mentors.

As President Kenneth P. Ruscio stated in his 2009 convocation address, "What has distinguished us, I firmly believe, is not a rhetorical commitment to character, but a deeply effective history of students becoming aware of their responsibilities to others, and later leading lives of service that bring distinction to themselves and to this University."

Related Stories

At a Glance Facts and Figures

W&L alumni include 31 governors, 26 senators, 67 congressmen and 4 supreme court justices.
34 W&L students worked in service-related Shepherd Internships during summer 2014
95% of W&L graduates who apply to law school are accepted. For medical school, the acceptance rate is 92%.
13 W&L graduates joined the Teach for America corps in 2014, making the university one of the top 20 small colleges and universities sending graduates into teaching service for the second straight year.
Roughly 25,000 alumni are part of the W&L network, with 81 chapters all around the world.

Visit, Interview, Apply See Yourself Here

Ready to learn more? Come visit us in Lexington for a campus tour and class visit, or connect with one of our admissions counselors in a city near you. We look forward to meeting you.

Visit Tours and Interviews

Step One:

Schedule your visit with a campus tour and/or info session online.

Step Two:

Call our office to schedule your interview and/or class visit (for high school seniors only). We will coordinate your interview and class visit with your already scheduled visit. (540) 458-8710.

Can't make it to Lexington?

There are various ways in which you can still connect with Washington and Lee University and the Office of Admissions:

Apply Now

Apply Quick Guide

  • Early Decision is a binding commitment; enrollment is required if you are accepted.
    • ED-1: Nov. 1
    • ED-2: Jan. 1
  • Regular Decision is for students who want to maximize options.
    • Deadline: Jan. 1
  • Johnson Scholarship (additional essay required, instructions on the W&L Writing Supplement to the Common Application.)
    • Deadline: Dec. 1
Application Materials:

Financial Aid and Scholarships

We seek to ensure that the cost of attending W&L does not prevent outstanding students from choosing to enroll. A generous need-based aid program and merit-based scholarships can make that investment more manageable than you may think. Visit Financial Aid for more information.

The Johnson Scholarship Program awards over 40 full tuition, room and board scholarships annually. Read More

Admitted students who meet financial aid deadlines and are found to have need will have their full need met with grant funds and a work-study job -- no loans.

The W&L Promise guarantees free tuition to any undergraduate student admitted to Washington and Lee with a family income below $100,000. Learn More

Net Price Calculator


Washington and Lee University provides a liberal arts education that develops students' capacity to think freely, critically, and humanely and to conduct themselves with honor, integrity, and civility. Graduates will be prepared for life-long learning, personal achievement, responsible leadership, service to others, and engaged citizenship in a global and diverse society.