Meet Steph Cull

A few years ago, Steph Cull walked into a Reynolds Community College office to ask a question about the possibility of enrolling. They walked out fully enrolled with an application for financial aid completed, and ready to start classes in a few short weeks.

That day not only began Steph’s journey at Reynolds, but set them on a path to higher education, personal achievements, and a sense of belonging. As someone who was first-generation, disabled, non-traditional, and queer, this wasn’t without considerable effort.

In a way it was their coming-of-age story. Those first steps into Reynolds, a welcoming, safe, and nurturing environment, gave Steph what they needed to bloom.

Steph Cull with long blue hair and blue checked jacket smiles at the camera in front of green VCU exterior
Being disabled and legally blind, Steph wasn’t sure about going to college or that they would be a success as an adult learner. They credit Reynolds with giving them confidence and showing them how to advocate for themselves, with needs like larger print materials or extra time to take tests. Steph says, “Reynolds was just such an exceptional place that helped me grow as a person with disabilities, as a student, and even now as a researcher. Skills that I use today in my life today, I learned at Reynolds.”

With encouragement, it wasn’t long before Steph found their place at Reynolds and established themselves in roles of leadership. Their achievements as an honor student at Reynolds were remarkable. Among them, JSR Lead, PTK, All-Academic Team Scholarship, Vice President of the Spectrum Club, Honors Steering Committee, the Food Pantry Implementation Team, and they were presented with the Honors Designated Scholar medallion.

“I went from being a very quiet nobody, who went in and went home — to being somebody who everybody on campus knew.” Steph credits the people at Reynolds who supported and helped them along the way.

“The confidence I got, the study skills, how to be a good student, how to be a good student leader, how to be engaged and involved … All are skills that I did not come into Reynolds with, but that Reynolds gave me!”

Steph graduated from Reynolds with a dual degree: an AA in Social Science and an AA in Science. Their next step was Virginia Commonwealth University.

At Reynolds, one formative class for Steph was a social problems class that focused on societal issues, looking at them through a sociological lens. As an LGBTQ+ person with disabilities, Steph had experienced many of these same inequalities, so their passion in this area was unequivocal. This class sparked something in Steph that would eventually draw them further into Sociology, solidifying this as their field of study.

As an undergrad at VCU, Steph went on to receive B.S. degrees in both psychology and sociology as well as a minor in LGBT and Queer studies. They were accepted into the health psychology Ph.D. program at VCU focusing on the queer community and expanding the research knowledge base within this area.

Steph says, “Reynolds did so much to help prepare me for VCU. I came to Reynolds very insecure. I wasn't the student who spoke up in class. I wasn't involved in anything.” Steph left with two degrees, a graduate of the honors program, and vice president of two organizations.

They have been a part of multiple research projects, including the Guided Research Experiences & Applied Training program (GREAT) summer research fellowship and the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) research fellowship. Steph is hoping to expand their research in the health psychology program to explore minority resiliency and LGBTQIA+ individuals with disabilities, carving out a specialized niche for themselves towards a career in research and academia.

Steph’s advice to people who are considering Reynolds is, “It's an exceptional school to get started on your career. Whatever your next step is going to be, Reynolds is going to help you along the way.” The support and all the organizations and clubs play a pivotal role in the confidence they built. Steph goes on to say, “Take advantage of every opportunity because Reynolds has so many student organizations, clubs, and events. Don't be the student who goes to class and goes home and that's it. Take advantage of everything!”

Steph found their footing at Reynolds which has led down a unique path. Their passion and goals for their research centered around LGBTQ+ mental health and substance use, comes from a place of personal experience. But it’s also Steph’s hope to make the way easier for those like them.

Steph’s end goal is a career as a college professor and researcher that we’re sure they’ll achieve.