September 22, 2017

Melissa Yakabouski: ‘Open House’ Party

As a Mary Washington student in the early ’90s, Melissa Yakabouski was leading campus tours and events for the Admissions office. She couldn’t have known then that more than two decades later, she’d be doing the same thing Saturday at this semester’s first Open House. From counselor to director of undergraduate admissions, she’s held an array of responsibilities, even coordinating UMW’s first open houses, called “Super Saturdays.” The one-day events take a year to plan, draw hundreds of guests, and call for plenty of “planning and tweaking,” but Yakabouski’s got it down pat.

Director of Undergraduate Admissions Melissa Yakabouski talks with a student staff member

Director of Undergraduate Admissions Melissa Yakabouski talks with a student staff member

Q: What’s a fun alternate name for your position?
A: Chief Plate Spinner

Q: How long have you worked in UMW Admissions?
A: I’m a Mary Washington grad who never left.  But I’m not one to say, “that’s how we’ve always done it.” We have to be innovative and forward-looking in this competitive landscape.

Q: What do you love most about your job?
A: When students have that a-ha moment and you can see they feel at home here.

Q: You play a major role in deciding who gets accepted to UMW. What are the three top adjectives to describe the type of student you’re looking for?
A: Self-motivated, Academic, Engaged

Q: What do you love most about Open House?
A: Honestly, my favorite part is the end of the day when we know we’ve put on a great event, when families walk away with a high-quality introduction to UMW. I’m very proud of Mary Washington and what we offer. I want to do that justice in how we present ourselves to prospective students and guests.

Q: What’s the most tedious task that goes into planning an Open House?
A: Academic Showcase sign set-up is my least favorite part of the day. My secret talent is setting up and breaking down tables, chairs and signs, all while wearing heels and a suit. Seriously, I have a highly skilled, professional team. Planning and running the day successfully is way more about them than me.

Q: What’s one memorable event from a past Open House?
A: At one event, where I help manage bathroom traffic, I engaged a dad in conversation and indicated I was with Admissions. Later that morning after I was onstage introducing the president and other speakers, he found me and said, “you didn’t tell me you were in charge of Admissions.” Nope, I’m just another Admissions team member on bathroom duty.

Opera Star to Speak About Music and the Mind

Acclaimed soprano opera singer Renée Fleming will speak alongside the National Institutes of Health’s Dr. David Jangraw about music and the mind on Monday, Sept. 25, at the University of Mary Washington. The duo will discuss the therapeutic effects of music on the brain and the role it plays in relation to psychology, from 4 to 5 p.m., in George Washington Hall’s Dodd Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

The talk will be held in conjunction with Fleming’s performance, marking the opening of the 2017-18 UMW Philharmonic Celebrity Series, the following day, Tuesday, Sept. 26. Tickets are still available to “An Evening with Renée Fleming,” which will take place in Dodd.

The annual series features renowned world-class artists who perform with UMW’s Philharmonic orchestra. The orchestra prides itself on bolstering the liberal arts through music and community outreach. This year’s 14th annual series comes with record-breaking funding support from a community of 450 friends.

Soon to retire from the Metropolitan Opera, Fleming is known worldwide and has won four Grammy Awards. She was also honorably awarded the National Medal of the Arts by former President Barack Obama.

For more information, call 540-654-1324 or visit

Pris Sullivan: Please, no rain

Arranged in rows, long linen-covered tables will stretch across the green expanse of Ball Circle for Family Weekend. Industrial-style grills will welcome folks from all over the country to indulge in cookout favorites. Clipboard in hand, Event Coordinator Priscilla Sullivan will consult the checklist: immense expenses, endless meetings, parking, reservations … and reservations … and more reservations. Once the water stations are in place and the funnel cake aroma can be detected a mile away, you might spot Sullivan in her prayer pose begging for clear skies. After all this, she’ll sit back with the rest of the Family Weekend planning committee to watch the events commence.

Q: What is it like planning Family Weekend?

Event planners treat each event like a wedding. You have to prepare for everything. This year we added comedy troupe Capitol Steps to get some laughs. There’s always a lot of meeting with the Family Weekend Committee to reserve locations.

Q: What do you do if there’s a chance for rain?

You fall to your knees and begin promising God all kinds of things to keep the rain away.

Q: Has anything ever happened that made you just want to drop your clipboard and run?

No matter what kind of event, there’s always pressure; we just fake it until we fix it. The worst thing that can happen is RAIN.

Q: What do you like most about Family Weekend?

The best part is seeing all the proud parents – well, depending on the student’s current GPA – and their friends enjoying each other’s company on campus, playing games and picnicking.

Q: What other events do you plan at UMW?

Anything else that springs up for the Events Office to handle, like graduate and undergraduate commencement, holiday events and ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

Jean Elliott: That’s the Ticket

UMW Parking Services Manager Jean Elliott knows how hard it is to find an available space just about anywhere, whether it’s along crowded College Avenue or on the busy streets of her hometown, New York City. She’s the expert who scours campus for parking violations, and while the tickets she and her staff leave on windshields aren’t exactly love notes, Elliot has a big heart. She’s crazy about her dogs, her husband of 37 years and her two children, both Mary Washington grads.

UMW Parking Services Manager Jean Elliott

UMW Parking Services Manager Jean Elliott. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Q: What did you do before you came to Fredericksburg?

I worked in production management for 20-plus years at a cast iron foundry and an electromechanical cable manufacturing plant in Culpeper. When I saw an ad for the UMW parking manager position, I applied. It was my way of coming to UMW for myself instead of for the kids.

Q: What are some perks of working in parking management?

It’s diverse. We handle much more than just parking citations and reservations. Every day is different.

Q: What’s your typical workday like?

Expect the unexpected. We deal with students, faculty, staff and visitors so we get a range of reactions. Some days we work with departments to plan events and make sure signs direct people to where they need to go. Overall, we work hard to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

Q: Ever had a day that made you want to pack up and go home?

Every day is different. It’s an opportunity to solve problems and help people.

Q: What’s the best thing about your job?

I love coming in every day … it’s a beautiful place to work. I’ve met so many interesting people on campus, and I feel good when I can help with their questions.

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Dave Fleming: Move-In Magic

The first of a weekly series of candid Q&A’s with the people who make Mary Washington shine.

This time of year, papers pile up on Dave Fleming’s desk. His inbox takes on a life of its own. Even his pulse starts to rev up a little. That’s because, for Fleming, UMW’s assistant dean for residence life and housing, Move-In Day (which took place yesterday, with hundreds of new students settling in to residence halls across campus) might just be the best day … ever. And, after helping students haul fridges and fans, mirrors and movie collections into their new college digs for the past 16 years, he’s seen it all. Or has he?

David fleming

Dave Fleming on move-in day.

Q: What’s the most memorable item you’ve ever seen a student bring to campus?

A full-size arcade game – Mission Command, I believe.

Q: What are the three words that best describe the spirit of Move-In Day?

Frenetic (it’s controlled chaos), inviting, hopeful

Q: Including this year’s, how many college move-in days have you been involved in?

16! Two as an RA, two as a graduate student and the rest as a professional.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge – and reward – of managing the daily life of thousands of college students?

Challenge: Each student comes to campus with individual needs. How their identities mesh with the community is complex. We rely on our student staff to have a finger on the pulse of their floors and communicate to us what they learn.

Reward: Witnessing the way one conversation, resolution or quick response can affect a student. I often say to RAs that if we made a positive impact on one person, it was worth our time and investment.

Q: What do you love most about your job?

Two days in Residence Life and Housing are never the same. I’m a problem solver, and there are always opportunities to examine a problem and develop solutions. Making a positive impact on students is the icing on the cake.

Q: Why is UMW Move-In Day one of your favorite days of the year?

It’s the range of emotions during the day, the anticipation and excitement in the air. Students are excited and nervous for a new beginning, while their families reflect on the work they’ve done to get their student to this point. I often see the last hug before Mom and Dad leave campus. It’s a heartfelt moment that I’m honored to witness.

Q: What’s special about move-in at Mary Washington?

Move-In Day at UMW embodies the spirit of being part of the Eagle Family. Upper-class students, faculty, staff and administrators join in welcoming new students and their families. A highlight is seeing President and Mrs. Paino in Move-In T-shirts, greeting new students and accepting selfie requests. It really speaks volumes about the kind of university Mary Wash is.

Calling All Authors: Virginia Festival of the Book

The Virginia Festival of the Book, a program of the Center for the Book at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, seeks applications for the 24th annual Virginia Festival of the Book, which will be held in Charlottesville and Albemarle counties from Wednesday, March 21, through Sunday, March 25, 2018.  [Read more…]

Harris Talks Monroe on C-SPAN

A presentation by James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library Director Scott Harris is scheduled to air on C-SPAN3 on Saturday, June 10, at 5:15 p.m., and on Sunday, June 11, at 6:35 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. [Read more…]

Summer Fire System Testing

Campus Fire Safety will be conducting its semi-annual fire system testing this summer. The full schedule is available below.

If you have conflicts with the schedule, please contact Briant Atkins, campus fire safety officer, at 540-654-2108 or calendar for summer fire system testing

Calendar for june summer fire system testing




Rycroft Publishes Economics Book

UMW Professor of Economics Robert Rycroft’s edited book The American Middle Class: An Economic Encyclopedia of Progress and Poverty was recently published and will soon be available through Amazon. The text asks the question: What is the “American Dream.” The author’s answer might surprise you.

Networking and a Movie on Jan. 26

Join the University of Mary Washington’s Leadership Colloquium @ UMW Team for a networking event on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017.

Participants will meet at the Park Lane Tavern of Fredericksburg at Spotsylvania Towne Centre at 5:30 p.m. for appetizers, a cash bar and plenty of networking. Then head over to Paragon Village 12 to purchase tickets to Hidden Figures. This film tells the incredible story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, all brilliant African-American women who crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big. The trio, who worked at NASA, was the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. The historic achievement restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race and galvanized the world.

The cost for networking is $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Participants may purchase movie tickets individually on-site. Pre-register at

For more information about the Leadership Colloquium @ UMW Team, visit