W&L Alumni Magazine - Fall 2023

Page 9


Step Away from Your Screen Katie Yurechko ’24, president of the Nabors Service League, blends her studies in computer science, philosophy, and poverty and human capability to make technology more equitable—and to connect communities.

Katie Yurechko ’24

I DELETED MY SOCIAL media at the age of 16. Today, informed by my history with addictive and exploitative social media algorithms, I am passionate about eradicating algorithmic injustice. This led me to major in computer science and philosophy, with a minor in poverty and human capability studies. I believe that to address the harms propagated by technologies, we must analyze them from interdisciplinary lenses. Last summer, I conducted research at Carnegie Mellon University. Interviewing TikTok creators with marginalized identities, I helped show how they felt forced to erase their identity-based language by, for example,

changing “lesbian” to “le$bean” to avoid algorithmic suppression of their content. After talking with people exhausted by fighting invisible algorithmic harms, my colleagues (Carnegie Mellon professor Daniel Klug and Gordon College student Ella Steen) and I published an academic paper and presented it this spring at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Web Conference in Austin, Texas. Uplifting technologically silenced voices brought me to reflect on my experiences with the Shepherd Program. As president of the Nabors Service League, co-president of Volunteer Venture, vice president of the Campus Kitchen, and a Bonner Scholar at the Community Foundation for

Rockbridge, Bath and Alleghany (CFRBA), I have striven to weave together the worlds of computing and social justice. I have interned at the Campus Kitchen, reorganizing its online file storage to improve the volunteer experience. I redesigned CFRBA’s website to better connect donors with community-led initiatives. And I spearheaded Tech Equity thematic programming for Nabors and worked with co-leaders to combat technological injustices amongst students and faculty. I hope to pursue a Ph.D. in social or societal computing. Until then, I am eager to continue stepping outside of often-isolating screens and engaging with others in the Rockbridge community.

GRACE AND GOOD HUMOR: JIM FARRAR ’74 ON FARRIS HOTCHKISS ’58 Straight out of central casting, Farris Hotchkiss ’58 arrived on W&L’s doorstep in 1966. He was an early example of something President Robert E. R. Huntley ’50, ’57L called “The Guardian Angel Theory of History.” When circumstances required, a guardian angel delivered to the university’s doorstep that which was required to carry the institution to new heights. Farris remains one of the best examples. President Huntley got it right when, in 1968, he named Farris director of development. Farris barely had time to find his office before he was faced with a

fundraiser’s most daunting challenge: raising a lot of money—in a short period of time—from a constituency that did not have a good understanding of institutional need. Circumstances were dire; W&L periodically had to take out loans to pay salaries until it deposited tuition revenue. From that challenging start in 1968 to his retirement in December 2001, Farris and his team steadily managed the growth of what would become a nationally known, award-winning advancement program that other institutions admired and sought to emulate. Farris was its heartbeat.

His personal values and W&L’s institutional values of honor, civility, scholarship and community aligned perfectly, and he immediately became one of the chief transmitters of those values. I attribute much of Farris’ success to his character, personality, and the way he led his life. He was a kind and thoughtful man, interested in others, unfailingly polite, and utterly devoted to his family, church, university and community. Farris modeled a life of service and commitment with grace, good humor and a twinkle in his eye. My wife, Kitty, and I are forever grateful that Farris (and Dick Sessoms) hired


me in 1986. I admired his style and always felt that life slowed down a bit when I spent time with him. I came away from our meetings and conversations inspired and determined to be a better person.

Jim Farrar ’74 Farris Hotchkiss ’58, former vice president of university relations and secretary of the university, died on June 21, 2023. See p. 43 for his obituary. His friend and colleague Jim Farrar ’74, former secretary of the university and senior advisor to the president, retired in 2021 after 35 years.

Farris Hotchkiss ’58 MAGAZINE.WLU.EDU 7

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