Universities have a knack for bringing people together, whether it’s to collaborate on a research project, play on a Quidditch team with similarly fanatic Harry Potter fans or pull an all-nighter in the library studying together for an exam. And sometimes, with no advance warning, sparks fly. We hope you’ll enjoy these eight stories from happy couples who first connected at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Jessica Moise (B.S.W.’08/SW) and Jowan Burton (B.S.’06/H&S)
At a Friday night dodgeball game at the Siegel Center in fall 2006, a team of regulars led by then-VCU junior social work major Jessica Moise was joined by a new player, criminal justice major Jowan Burton.
“One of the rules was that you had to sit down if you were hit by the ball. Well, Jowan didn’t sit, he would kneel down,” Jessica recalled. “For some reason this bothered me like crazy because he was breaking the rule. Talking about it now makes me realize how silly it was but at the moment I was annoyed at this new guy messing up the game.”
That chance meeting, Jowan jokes, turned out to be “power struggle No. 1” in what would eventually grow into their relationship.
“Jessica stood out, mainly because she was the ‘medic’ and she was yelling commands at her teammates,” he said. “I joined her team just to enrage her and to disregard her commands.”
Fast forward a few months, and the two met again at a party. And after attending a step show — Jessica is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and Jowan is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. — they became a couple.
“I believe she sang a song during the step show and afterwards she was very concerned if I believed she did well,” Jowan said. “I couldn’t break her heart and tell her no, so I told her that I thought she sounded great … [Later on, we went out with] with a group of friends at what was formerly New York Fried Chicken. After seeing her eating fried chicken late night, I was very impressed and believed she was very down-to-earth and funny.”
This past April, Jowan, a probation officer and high school football coach, took Jessica, who works for child protective services, to Tarra Winery in Loudoun County to ask her to marry him.
“As we were getting ready to leave, Jowan came around the table, got down on one knee and proposed,” she said. “He gave a wonderful speech, which I don’t remember because I was too excited and crying at the same time. After I said yes and stopped crying he proceeded to tell me how he’d made several attempts to propose but I — unknowingly — blocked every attempt.”
“No matter what she tells anyone, I was NOT nervous,” Jowan added. “I was cool as a cucumber … Her not hearing my speech isn’t so bad because that means I get to ignore a few of her speeches.”
The couple visited VCU in the fall for an engagement photo shoot.
“VCU is the place where I forged great relationships with VCU students and within the community of Richmond through working with the Phi Delta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.,” Jowan said. “I received my first promotion at VCU working for Rec Sports, I met my best friends and the woman who I intend to marry at VCU. VCU will always be the place that made Richmond a home away from home for me.”
For Jessica, VCU was where she joined her sorority and made memories living in Johnson Hall, eating at Shafer Court, hanging out in the Fan and playing dodgeball every Friday night.
“I learned a lot about myself, made some amazing friends and met my future husband,” she said. “I can’t wait to say ‘I do’ on March 5.”