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Meet Scholarship Winner Torrian Baskerville

Sep 28, 2021

Thirty-five-year-old Torrian Baskerville of Washington, D.C. is the winner of a UWW Scholarship to support his studies for fall 2021. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, Torrian serves as Manager for Prevention working in the area of capacity building assistance for the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD). With a major in interdisciplinary studies and a concentration in social justice in health care management, this public health advocate is poised to become a First Generation college graduate. His plans after earning his UMass Amherst degree? Law school. 

Every adult student has a story. What’s your story?

Born the youngest of four to a single mother in the inner city means life was not easy. However, it nurtured the resilient individual I am today. Having attempted and dropped out of college four times, I find myself here at UMass Amherst's UWW Interdisciplinary Studies program determined to make this fifth time the charm. 

I found my way to a career in public health, specifically LGBTQ sexual health and HIV prevention, shortly after dropping out the last time. Ten years later, after hitting a couple of ceilings due to not having a degree and being clear about my place in the world, now feels like the right time. Delayed doesn't mean denied. 

What's your profession?

I am a manager on the prevention team at NASTAD. I lead the capacity building assistance work relative to HIV stigma, social determinants of health, cultural responsiveness, and gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men—and I provide technical assistance to community-based organizations in the South.

What does winning this scholarship mean to you?

Winning this scholarship means, on the surface, that I can breathe a little bit as it relates to paying for school. However, on a deeper level, winning this scholarship means the UWW Interdisciplinary Studies Scholarship Committee decided to invest in me, which is affirming and pushes me to continue. 

What is the best part about being a UWW Interdisciplinary Studies student?

When I think about the UWW Interdisciplinary Studies program, I think about equity. I think about how someone like myself with a very diverse and non-traditional path who's done a lot in my career can leverage that diversity and get credit for it; that is how we continue to build equity for people like me. Additionally, the ability to intentionally construct one's degree map is excellent—I get to study what I have an interest in, and not only as a means of fulfilling a course requirement. 

How do you balance work, school, and other responsibilities?

Aside from weekly check-ins with my therapist, I have to utilize a to-do list to keep track of all that needs to get done. I also provide myself with grace because I am imperfect; therefore, I will sometimes forget some things. I work hard to ensure that I do not forget the same area(s) consecutively. 

What are your plans for the future—professionally and personally?

After graduating from UMass Amherst, I plan to attend law school to focus my studies on health law. 


*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the person being featured and do not necessarily reflect those of the University.