Stephanie grew up in a military family – her father dedicated his life to serving in the U.S. Army. A self-proclaimed “rolling stone,” Stephanie and her family never lived anywhere longer than two and half years. She grew up in diverse communities, many of which were economically disadvantaged – it was these early experiences and life-long friendships that helped shape a keen sense of social justice and desire for equality.
Stephanie graduated from C.D. Hylton High School, an English as a Second Language (ESL) public magnet school in Prince William County. Stephanie applied to many Virginia state schools, but when she visited Richmond for a VCU campus tour there was no need to look any further. She fell in love for many of the same reasons people find themselves awed by Richmond, the beautiful architecture, the James River. and most important to her, the rich diversity of both the student population and the community. Stephanie started her undergraduate degree in 2005 and made the choice early on to plant permanent roots in Richmond, feeling that she had finally found her hometown.
Stephanie was highly active throughout her tenure at VCU, serving first as Academic Affairs Chair and then Senate Chair for the Student Government Association, where she worked on the VCU Go Green Initiative, oversaw a $1.4 million student activity fund which supported student organizations, advocated for traditionally underfunded departments and served as the student liaison on neighborhood civic associations.
Stephanie’s love for community pushed her to engage with local area non-profits throughout Richmond. She worked with Urban League of Richmond to conduct public health fairs, volunteered as an after-school mentor for St. Andrew’s Elementary School, organized resource-drives for Safe Harbor, a shelter for survivors of Domestic Violence and also held a part-time job through the University’s Academic Learning Center as a student tutor for Psychology and Biology 101 courses. Stephanie graduated with a double major in Psychology and Gender Studies with an African American Studies minor.
After graduating in 2010, Stephanie worked as a Director of Student Services at an adult career technical institute that primarily served low-income adult learners, many of which had graduated from Richmond Public Schools and lived in the surrounding 5th, 8th and 9th district neighborhoods. She had over 550 students on her caseload, 52 identified as homeless, over 100 who had felonies on their record and many more who struggled with a myriad of challenges that at times seemed insurmountable to overcome.
"It was in these two years that Stephanie recognized that her deepest passion was listening to people, hearing their problems and working with them to solve it."
Stephanie started peer mentoring programs, resource drives for those in need, started a GRTC free bus pass program, support groups for domestic violence survivors and ex-offenders as well as working with Richmond and Southside Plaza Department of Social Services to help students navigate the system.
It was in these two years that Stephanie recognized that her deepest passion was listening to people, hearing their problems and working with them to solve it. Working in social services led Stephanie to met many people who had a life-long lasting impact on her life, to include the mother of her Godson who is her constant source of pride, love and motivation. It was also here that one of her biggest heartbreaks came to bear, she lost a student with whom she was very close with. Alverna Darden passed away due to a preventable disease because she did not have healthcare coverage. Alverna’s spirit and story would have a profound impact on Stephanie’s future endeavors.
After this tragedy, Stephanie recognized that there was significant work to do and decided to devote her life to creating systemic change through policy and legislation. She had been enrolled at VCU to complete a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) degree, but decided to re-focus her lens from a clinical degree to a concentration in Social Work Administration and Policy Practice.
After finishing her Masters, Stephanie’s first job was working for the Virginia Department of Social Services. There she worked to improve programs in Child Welfare and social benefit programs. She was then hired by the Special Appointee on Health and Human Resource Integration to help with implementing parts of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. She gained a deep knowledge of the Medicaid program and how to increase access for more individuals, which she kept as a personal goal to see across the finish line for Alverna and all those who faced the same obstacles to healthcare.
Stephanie took her next role in 2015, representing the Medicaid health plans, which oversees the healthcare of over 1.3 million Virginians. She helped to protect Obamacare and fought ardently for Medicaid Expansion alongside now-Senators Tim Kaine, Mark Warner, and Governors Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam. Medicaid Expansion has brought healthcare to over 350,000 Virginians across the Commonwealth.
Stephanie also helped lead the advocacy charge on the creation of a brand-new Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services benefit for those struggling with substance and opioid problems. The ARTS program serves over 20,000 lives today and has been a life-saving benefit that has increased access to addiction treatment across Virginia. Stephanie pushed for the inclusion of Permanent Supportive Housing and Employment Support Services in the Medicaid benefit and partnered with many other stakeholders to bring attention to critical population health issues that impact our underserved communities.
Stephanie went on to work for GoodNeighbor, one of Virginia's largest providers of mental health and disability services – particularly in disadvantaged communities. She continues to be a strong advocate at the state and community level and works to increase access to mental health and supports for individuals with disabilities.
Stephanie has built many years of relationships within the community and at the state level and looks forward to bringing her passion and problem solving focused approach to help Richmond and its citizens continue to grow.
Stephanie lives with her husband, U.S. Army Captain Dustin Dunbar, her beloved Labrador, Charles and rescued cat, Monte in Woodland Heights. In her spare time Stephanie enjoys spending time with her Godson, attending community events, walking the city and river trails and supporting local businesses.