By UM News

Champion of Change
By UM News
In a White House ceremony, Ph.D. candidate Valerie Halstead is recognized for her work combating sexual assault on campus.
Vice President Joe Biden recognizes UM nursing student Valerie Halstead
Vice President Joe Biden recognizes UM nursing student
Valerie Halstead.

The White House has honored 10 student leaders, including the School of Nursing and Health Studies’ own Valerie Halstead, for their efforts to change the culture around sexual assault and dating violence on their campuses.

Halstead, a registered nurse who is pursuing her Ph.D. in nursing at UM, was recognized as one of the nation’s “It’s On Us White House Champions of Change” for her work with the University of Miami President’s Campus Coalition on Sexual Violence and Prevention. She was nominated for the award by coalition leaders.

“This honor recognizes not only my work but the work of the campus coalition,” said Halstead, whose dissertation research is exploring how campus health centers can implement best practices when caring for victims of sexual violence. “It empowered me to keep striving to make a difference in students’ lives.”

The April 14 gathering included a roundtable discussion with White House officials and policymakers who wanted to learn about the frontline campus initiatives represented by the students. It was followed by student-led panels on ending the rape culture and on engaging men and communities in this effort. Halstead spoke about the coalition’s efforts to engage students in an ongoing dialogue on sexual assault and about the importance of providing victims with appropriate health care resources.

The event closed with remarks by Vice President Joe Biden, who with President Obama launched the It’s On Us campaign in September 2014 to wake up colleges and universities—and the nation—to the epidemic of sexual violence on their campuses. Halstead had an opportunity to share her thoughts about her work with the vice president, who, as a U.S. senator, sponsored the landmark 1994 Violence Against Women Act.

“He’s very dedicated to this issue and genuinely invested in changing the culture,” Halstead said.

Halstead plans to stay in touch with the other awardees and to collaborate at the national level. “It was inspiring to be a part of the national conversation and to meet others who are passionate about the same challenges,” she said. “The gathering was a huge force for collaboration and change.”