Erica C. (Clarke) Tachoir graduated from Virginia Wesleyan in 2005 with a degree in communication and long list of experience and leadership accolades on her resume. As an undergraduate, the Chesapeake, Virginia native worked as an editor and reporter for the College’s student-led newspaper, The Marlin Chronicle, she helped found Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority on campus, she was involved in the Circle K community service organization, she worked as a resident assistant, and she received the Outstanding Student Volunteer and Galileo Leadership Award in 2004. She went on to pursue her master’s degree and a Ph.D., and today she works as director of career services and instructor of communication at The Pennsylvania State University, Greater Allegheny Campus. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, Evan, and enjoys music, travel, writing, movies and college basketball.
How did your time at Virginia Wesleyan University shape the person you are today?
VWU is the reason that I am where I am today. My undergraduate education and experiences shaped my ability to earn full rides for both my master’s and Ph.D. programs. I am thankful for a university that taught me to be a strong researcher, writer and to never shy away from forming and expressing my own opinions on any subject matter. I am grateful to have earned such a well-rounded experience that I feel is only available at small, liberal arts institutions.
What are some of your favorite memories of professors, mentors or friends at VWU?
I remember always being early to [Professor of History] Dr. Clay Drees’ history classes because I never wanted to miss a moment of his lecture; the many nights staying up late editing articles for The Marlin Chronicle and still managing to get up early to get to class; how [Associate Professor of Communication] Dr. Stu Minnis helped me develop a great love for classic and international film, how [Professor of Communication] Dr. Kathy Merlock-Jackosn never let me be satisfied with my writing, how [Director of Community Service] Diane Hotaling taught me to become a consummate leader and supervisor (skills I still use today with students); and how Miss Polly [in VWU Dining Services] always had a smile for me EVERY TIME I stepped foot in the dining hall!
How do you describe the Virginia Wesleyan experience to friends and colleagues?
I describe it as the hardest and best experience I ever had. I overcame a lot of obstacles as a student at Wesleyan but every sacrifice and personal issue was worth where I am today. I always talk about how every university could learn from the liberal arts educational experience—VWU is a leader in education and I consistently tell that to anyone who will listen.
Share your thoughts about one or more of the following: the value of a liberal arts education, the “small college difference,” unique opportunities you had at VWU (internships, community service, study abroad, etc.).
You can’t place a value on an education that helps shape you emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I didn’t just get an education—I learned who I am, what my life purpose is and how I was able to achieve that. [Professor Emeritus of Journalism and Communication] Dr. Bill Ruehlmann is the reason that I applied to my master’s program. The staff of the College helped me pay for the GRE. My professors wrote amazing letters of recommendation and then continued to mentor me well into my graduate education. VWU has been a family to me for so many years and they will always hold a special place in my heart. One day, I hope to share my experience with my kids!
Anything else about your time at VWU you would like to share?
The only thing I would love to share is some advice with current students: Don’t take this experience for granted. No one owes you anything but an opportunity. It is up to you to capitalize on your time as a Marlin! Grow, change, and experience the world. Push yourself. Don’t just “get by!” Be the CHANGE you wish to see in the world!