Alumni Spotlight: Jonathan Zur, '03

Jonathan spent a lot of his undergraduate time honing his passion for inclusion and diversity and often finding himself volunteering his time with the Northside Family YMCA, National Conference for Community and Justice, Virginia Holocaust Museum, and Hope in the Cities/Initiatives of Change. Jonathan used his undergraduate experiences and life long passions to get himself to where he is now working as the President & CEO at Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities.

What inspired you to pursue your career in social justice?

I have always had a passion for inclusion and justice. My paternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors, so I had learned about the horrors of injustice from a very young age. As a high school student, I had the opportunity to participate in many community offerings, including a weeklong summer leadership retreat called “Anytown” that helped to broaden my understanding of the experiences of others and find my voice to advocate. I became an active volunteer from that point forward (including my time at the University of Richmond), facilitating dialogues, planning programs, and building partnerships. I did not know that my passion would turn into a professional role, but I have been very fortunate to do just that. After graduating from UR, I directed A More Perfect Union, an interfaith movement in the Richmond region addressing emerging forms of bias after September 11, 2001. I then worked for a nonprofit organization in New Jersey for a few years before returning to Richmond. Since 2009, I have the honor of serving as President & CEO of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities.

What community engagement work did you do as a UR student?

I was fortunate to be a Bonner Scholar at UR, which was a wonderful way to learn about and connect with the Richmond region. During my four years at UR, I volunteered at the Northside Family YMCA and National Conference for Community and Justice as my formal Bonner sites, and I also occasionally volunteered with the Virginia Holocaust Museum and Hope in the Cities/Initiatives of Change. As a Leadership Studies major, I also was deeply enriched by community-based learning opportunities through my academic coursework. It was challenging and exciting to be able to study nonprofit organizations, learn about specific community needs, and meet nonprofit and community leaders.

What advice would you give to UR students pursuing this field?

My best advice is to get involved! Show up, observe, learn, volunteer, and network as much as you can. The exposure that I had as a result of my coursework and volunteer work were quite helpful after graduating and beginning my professional career. I already knew people in the community, I had a sense of some of the issues, and I was aware of many of the nonprofit organizations in the Richmond region. That doesn’t mean I knew it all, and so that advice doesn’t stop when you graduate. I continue to evolve in my role and seek out opportunities to further learn and develop. But the foundation I received at the University of Richmond surely set me up for success, and I am grateful to the faculty and staff members who mentored and guided me during my undergraduate years.