Michelle Obama explains why you should go to college, with a little help from VCU alumni

Mahlon Andrew Raoufi, Jay Pharoah and Morgan Meadows.
Mahlon Andrew Raoufi, Jay Pharoah and Morgan Meadows.

There was an unofficial Virginia Commonwealth University reunion of sorts in October when three former students converged at the White House to film a special video with first lady Michelle Obama.

VCU School of the Arts Department of Theatre graduates Morgan Meadows and Mahlon Andrew Raoufi joined Saturday Night Live star Jay Pharoah—himself a former VCU student—to film CollegeHumor.com’s “Go to College” music video, which encourages people to do just that. The video—part of Obama’s “Better Make Room” campaign—posted earlier this month.

While Meadows and Raoufi both had a blast filming inside and out of the White House, they didn’t actually have the chance to meet the first lady.

“I saw the back of her head,” Raoufi said. “Still great.” White House security thought it best for the young actors to stay in another room while the first lady filmed her scenes.

“As soon as I was offered the job I never for one moment expected us to meet her because I imagined they were going to keep her very separate from everybody else,” Meadows said. “Even watching her work in such close proximity and being able to be on screen with her was super cool. But I never got to shake her hand.”

They may not have gotten to meet Mrs. Obama, or the president for that matter, but they did get the next best thing: meeting and working with Pharoah, one of the world’s best Barack Obama impersonators.

The video came at an advantageous time for Raoufi, who learned about the video four days before production from yet another Theatre VCU graduate, Lauren Davis, who works for CollegeHumor.

We, as students in the School of the Arts, are prepared to become professionals. 

“It really comes down to who you know,” he said. “As an artist that’s trying to make it into entertainment, it might seem like you’re not getting anything. I was struggling before I got this job … because I hadn’t acted in a while. It comes down to who you know and just be patient, because you never know what’s going to come your way. And when it does come, you have to really execute and act. That’s what makes it exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time.”

Having so many former VCU students involved in the project made Meadows proud.

“It’s really a testament to how incredible VCU is, and especially its School of the Arts,” she said. “We, as students in the School of the Arts, are prepared to become professionals. Do we hone and work on our craft? Are we encouraged to bend over backwards to try new things to be as versatile as we can? Absolutely. They prepare us to walk on the set—with clientele as high profile as the first lady — and strut our stuff, which is awesome.”


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College is awesome. If you don’t believe us just ask the First Lady of the United States and SNL’s Jay Pharoah.