POLI Alumni Spotlight: Sheila Bynum-Coleman

Sheila Bynum-Coleman, B.S. Political Science ‘10, has an unwavering optimism that fuels all of her many successful pursuits. A longtime civic and community activist, Shelia is taking her passion and positivity to the streets as she campaigns to win a seat as the Virginia 62nd house district representative.

Sheila’s unquenchable work ethic was a characteristic she developed as a student in the Department of Political Science at Virginia Commonwealth University. A single mother of three young children while seeking her bachelor’s degree, she dedicated herself to her studies and graduated in May of 2010. She remembers the department as a very nurturing environment where the professors were compassionate about personal struggles while still challenging in the classroom. “VCU accepted me for who I was as a single mother. The professors empower, motivate and test potential of their students. They were so instrumental in my success and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”

After completing her undergraduate studies, Shelia recognized the potential opportunity in the foreclosure real estate market. Shortly following graduation she founded J.C. Bynum Construction, LLC, a small business managing maintenance for foreclosed homes. Acting as a substitute teacher during the school day, Shelia spent her evenings and weekend as the business’ first and only employee, painting, cleaning and scheduling maintenance for homes that sat vacant awaiting foreclosure sale. In 2011, as the business grew with the oversight of additional properties, Sheila and her new husband rapidly expanded operations to include properties in 15 states, helping to return hundreds of vacant homes back to the market and into thriving residential communities.

Throughout her studies and during the beginnings of her business, two of Sheila’s children faced chronic lung and heart illnesses that proved challenging. Sheila became involved in a new world of advocacy as she navigated their medical care and sought the requisite attention from their public school system. At one point, she contacted her delegate about potential enhancement to the curriculum for children with learning disabilities and was met with frustration. Never deterred, Shelia was inspired to campaign for the local delegate seat as a result. As she diligently canvases her district leading into the November 3rd election, she is taking careful inventory of the many concerns of the citizens and voters she hopes to represent. “There are so many issues that needed addressing and our current legislators have gotten so far away from the will of the people. It is my civic responsibility to run for the seat and advocate on their behalf.” Though her opponent has held the seat for 20 years, she is encouraged by party, association and other civic group endorsements. And she’s making history too—Sheila is the first woman and first African American to be on the ballot in Virginia’s 62nd district history.

As she enters the final weeks of the campaign, Sheila is proud of what she’s accomplished and looks forward to what lies ahead. Displaying her VCU Ram pride, she is assured that her education has positioned her well for what the future holds. “The culture and mentality is so different at VCU. It’s a school where they accept you whoever you are and I know I wouldn’t be the business woman I am and I wouldn’t be able to fight this fight without the training and education I received at VCU.”

To learn more about Sheila’s campaign, visit this link.

Written by Caitlin Hanbury, VCU College of Humanities and Sciences