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Large U.Va. community continues to live in Charlottesville

Local alumni discuss why they chose to stay

Nearly 10 percent of University alumni live in Charlottesville after graduating, according to LinkedIn data.

Everette Fortner, University associate vice president of career and professional development, said many students may be returning to Charlottesville because of positive experiences at the University.

“Anecdotally many students want to stay in Charlottesville after graduation because their experience has been quite positive,” Fortner said in an email statement. “Of the 116,152 U.Va. alumni and students who are on LinkedIn, 12,929 state they are in Charlottesville. It’s hard to pull current students out of that, but I think the 10 percent number is pretty accurate.”

Additionally, Fortner said the “growing entrepreneurial eco system [sic] that the city and University provide” encourages alumni to start businesses.

John Elder, CEO of Elder Research Inc., is one alumnus who decided to stay in the city.

Elder attended Rice University for his undergraduate and master’s degrees in electrical engineering and lived in Charlottesville prior to attending the University for a doctorate in systems engineering.

“I was actually a townie when I went back to grad school,” Elder said. “I had five years between my masters and starting my Ph.D. at U.Va. so it was the obvious choice to just go down the street to this wonderful University right in town.”

Elder said he was not excited about living in Charlottesville when he first arrived, but his opinion changed over time.

“After about a month in Charlottesville, I was like, ‘This is an awesome city and I love the cultural food scene and the countryside is so beautiful,’” Elder said. “It’s just a lot to love here, and the University of Virginia was a big part of that.”

Elder currently works in data science, a field which makes predictions based on measurable data for a variety of subjects, such as studying financial transactions or the marketing of a product.

The Darden School — where he has been a guest lecturer and has taught several courses — has given Elder an honorary appointment.

Alumnus Toan Nguyen, owner of C’Ville Coffee, also decided to live in Charlottesville after earning degrees from the Architecture School and Darden School and traveling around the world.

Nguyen first came to the area when his wife went to the Law School. After they lived in Houston and San Francisco, they moved back to Charlottesville and Nguyen earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture and his master’s at the University. The Nguyen family moved to Connecticut and Paris, and eventually settled down in Charlottesville.

“After you live in a big city you appreciate how amazing Charlottesville is,” Nguyen said. “Paris and San Francisco are amazing, but to start a family, to have a family, Charlottesville is the best place to raise children.”

Nguyen, who has a daughter who graduated from the University, said he had a positive experience while at school.

“I loved the Architecture School. It was an amazing education, and then the Darden business school is incredible and taught me so much and I love the bond that you make with all the people down there and the faculty,” he said.

Oscar Chow, who majored in economics at the University, is a digital marketing analyst in town. Chow said he wanted to explore aspects of the city he wasn’t able to as an undergraduate student.

“I just really like Charlottesville as a town. There were a lot of things as a student that I felt I wasn’t able to do,” Chow said. “You have exploring the Pantops and the Downtown Mall, places like that where I’m around a lot. I wanted to experience it more.”

Chow said his experience with diverse groups of contracted independent organizations was a memorable part of his University experience.

“I think U.Va allowed me to explore many different things, not just academically,” Chow said. “I think what really highlights that are the diverse CIOs we have I couldn’t imagine being a part of all of them, but I had a great experience with all sorts of different multicultural events.”

Fourth-year College student Lyons Sanchezconcha said he is thinking about living in Charlottesville after graduation.

“As a transfer student I only got two years here so it would be nice to get to stay a little longer,” Sanchezconcha said.

Sanchezconcha said he isn’t ready to move on.

“My experience with U.Va was awesome, and I learned that there is a lot to see here in Charlottesville and a lot to experience, so I guess I’m kind of not done with it yet,” Sanchezconcha said.


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