March 27, 2015

Lifted Learning

Omar Aminzay is tackling his MBA at the University of Mary Washington in the same way that he approaches lifting 525 pounds, one day at a time.

The first-generation American, whose parents emigrated from Afghanistan in the 1970s as refugees, has mapped out his life for the next decade. He aims to compete in his next powerlifting competition within the next 10 months; advance to a middle management position within five years; become a chief financial officer within 10 years.  He’ll accomplish these goals one day at a time.

Money Magazine Ranks UMW for Best Graduation Rates

The University of Mary Washington has been ranked among the nation’s top 25 public colleges with the best record of graduating students on time by Money Magazine.

PhotographerGraduating 66 percent of its student population in four years, UMW ranked 18th on the magazine’s list. UMW was the third of four Virginia institutions included in the list. The University of Virginia, College of William and Mary and James Madison University also were ranked.

According to Money Magazine, the average public college student takes 4.6 years to earn a degree. Just one third of public college students actually earn their bachelor’s degree in four years, cited by the U.S. Department of Education.

The result is an estimated extra $12,000 for the average public college student’s additional semester, based on College Board data.

Earlier this year, UMW was ranked in Money Magazine’s first Best Colleges Rankings. UMW was listed seventh among Virginia public schools and 107th overall among more than 1,500 four-year colleges and universities. Money looks at educational quality, affordability and career outcomes to create its list.

To see the full list of public colleges where students graduate the fastest, visit

UMW to Host 25th Annual Multicultural Fair, April 11

Every April the University of Mary Washington comes alive with a celebration of culture, diversity and spring at the Annual Multicultural Fair.

At the center of the outdoor fair is UMW’s own Eagle Bhangra, a student dance group that promotes diversity on campus by sharing folk Punjabi dances native to the Punjab region of Pakistan and India. They’ve become an iconic sight as they move barefoot down the bricks of Campus Walk in their brightly colored costumes, spreading energy and smiles as they go.

“We hope to inspire our viewers to dance and to give them joy,” said Eagle Bhangra Captain Maria Joranko, a senior double studio art and art history major.

Eagle Bhangra performs at a previous Multicultural Fair

Eagle Bhangra performs at a previous Multicultural Fair

Eagle Bhangra is one of more than 30 music and dance groups participating in 25th annual fair on Saturday, April 11 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event draws thousands to the Fredericksburg campus annually.

The fair, organized by the James Farmer Multicultural Center, is dedicated to showcasing as many cultures and cultural expressions as possible through a variety ethic performances, international foods and craft vendors. The fair also features kid-friendly crafts, activities and performances.

“We want the spirit of the Multicultural Fair to be very positive,” said Greta Franklin, associate director of the James Farmer Multicultural Center.  “It’s a fun, celebratory atmosphere. Anybody can come to the fair and have a great time.”

The fair’s theme of “differences enrich us all” demonstrates UMW’s commitment to multicultural awareness, and offers the chance to learn about new cultures and experiences, including Bhangra.

“We hope that people take away a sense of excitement and a desire to learn a little more about Indian culture,” said Joranko. “We are glad to expose them to this dance form that they may never have heard of.”

In addition, more than 50 vendors will sell an array of jewelry, pottery, instruments and traditional clothing representing various cultures and food trucks from different cuisines.

The fair has grown tremendously since its premier in 1990. With more than 4,000 attendees each year, the fair is one of the largest events on UMW’s campus.

The Multicultural Fair will be held rain or shine and is free and open to the public. For more information, visit or contact the James Farmer Multicultural Center at (540) 654-1044.


UMW Hosts Second Annual Athletic Gala

The University of Mary Washington will hold its second annual athletics gala on Thursday, May 21, to benefit UMW Athletics.

2015 Athletics Gala Logo, navy backgroundThe gala, hosted by NFL Hall-of-Famer and former Washington Redskins football player Darrell Green, will be held at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center beginning with a cocktail hour and silent auction at 6 p.m. A dinner and guest speakers will follow at 7 p.m. Tickets are $130 per seat, or $1,000 for a table of 10. A portion of ticket purchases are tax deductible.

Green came in the spring of 2013 as the special assistant for student–athlete development and public relations. He has worked as both an adviser and mentor for UMW student athletes since his arrival. Green will be joined by special guests Alfred Morris and Ryan Kerrigan of the Washington Redskins.

UMW’s Athletic Department hopes to raise $50,000 this year. Last year, the inaugural gala raised $45,000. Funds raised through the gala will help improve athletic recruitment, facilities, support and programming.

“The significant proceeds from the gala allows UMW to improve the overall student-athlete experience,” said Philip Pierce, director of athletic development and promotions. “As a Division III school, UMW receives only a small portion of the NCAA’s budget, meaning that private support is crucial for our regional and national success.”

The University of Mary Washington Dining Services by Sodexo is the gala’s exclusive title sponsor. The Eagles’ Athletic Department is still looking for four other patrons.

To purchase tickets or for more information, visit, or contact Pierce at (540) 654-1153 or

UMW Fear 2 Freedom Assists Sexual Assault Victims

In recognition of National Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Month, the University of Mary Washington will host Fear 2 Freedom on Wednesday, April 1.

Fear 2 Freedom Bear and Storybook

Fear 2 Freedom Bear and Storybook

UMW’s Talley Center for Counseling Services works with Fear 2 Freedom to provide after-care kits for those affected by rape, child abuse, domestic violence and sex-trafficking. Kits prepared by participants during the event will be donated to local hospitals, Safe Harbor and the Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault. The event also will feature three speakers: UMW President Richard V. Hurley, Psychology Professor Chris Kilmartin and Fear 2 Freedom Founder Rosemary Trible.

Fear 2 Freedom is a global nonprofit dedicated to redeeming and restoring the lives of those wounded by sexual assault. The organization partners with universities, hospitals and communities to raise awareness of sexual abuse and assemble after-care kits for victims.

Trible, who also is the organization’s president, has dedicated her life to helping those wounded by abuse. In her book Fear to Freedom, she shares her own healing journey after being raped at gunpoint in 1975.

The idea of creating an after-care kit rose out of a conversation with Jean Cheek, the coordinator of the Forensic Nurse Examiner Team at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, who explained the process for treating victims of abuse.

“Women and children who come for treatment and the PERK exam have their clothes kept for evidence,” said Cheek. “Those abused desperately want to take a shower and often victims have to leave in paper scrubs or hospital gowns. This only adds to their shame and trauma.”

The kits are a tangible way to help victims of abuse and support the hospitals. Each kit includes a t-shirt, sweatpants, underwear, Freedom bear and storybook, and essential toiletries.

For more information about the event, contact Dei Bayer at the Talley Center for Counseling Services at or (540) 654-1053.

UMW Political Science Professor Featured on With Good Reason

University of Mary Washington Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Emile Lester will be featured on the With Good Reason public radio program, March 28 to April 3.


Associate Professor Emile Lester

The show, “Secrecy in the ‘Sunshine Era,’” will include a segment regarding new history textbooks approved by the Board of Education in Texas that a commission of experts have claimed were pushing a specific ideology. Lester was one of three faculty scholars asked by a Texas watchdog agency to review the textbooks.  He discovered that the textbooks were not only misleading, but were false. The show also will feature professors from Virginia Commonwealth University and the College of William and Mary.

With Good Reason is a program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. The show airs weekly in Fredericksburg on Sundays from 1-2 p.m. on Radio IQ 88.3 Digital. To listen from outside of the Fredericksburg area, a complete list of air times and links to corresponding radio stations can be found at  Audio files of the full program and its companion news feature will be available online March 28 at

An expert in church and state issues, Lester specializes in three key areas: controversies surrounding the teaching of religion in schools, research on tolerance of vulnerable minority groups and liberal and conservative political philosophy.

Lester is the author of Teaching About Religions: A Democratic Approach for Public Schools, which has been featured on the Washington Post’s book review website. His research on religious education has been featured by The New York Times, C-SPAN, USA Today, National Public Radio and Voice of America, in addition to With Good Reason and New York City talk radio.

In his previous teaching position at the College of William and Mary, Lester was named one of the best professors at the college by the 2005 Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s College Guide.

Lester received a bachelor’s degree in government from George Washington University, a master’s degree in political theory from the London School of Economics and a doctorate in government and foreign affairs from the University of Virginia.

Melchers Museum Staff Receive Preservation Award

Three members of the staff at the Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont have been honored by the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation for their work in preserving the Fannie Roots House.

Fannie Roots House

Fannie Roots House

Director David Berreth, Preservation Manager Beate Jensen and Building and Grounds Assistant David Ludeker received the foundation’s E. Boyd Graves Award for Preservation Excellence. The announcement was made at a recent foundation award ceremony.

The historic Fannie Roots House, adjacent to the Gari Melchers museum, belonged to Fannie Roots, an African American civil rights activist and Stafford County citizen. The home was purchased by her family in 1912. The family, including Fannie as a teenager, did occasional work for the Melchers family. Fannie lived in the home until her death in 2004.

The restoration project was started in 2009 by UMW students and members of the community and included stabilization and weather proofing. More extensive work including roof replacement and chimney restoration was completed in 2013 with grants from the Duff McDuff Green Jr. Fund of the Community Foundation of the Rappahannock Region, The Marietta M. and Samuel T. Morgan Jr. Foundation, the Dr. H. Stewart Jones Trust and the Fredericksburg Savings Charitable Foundation.

The next phase of the restoration will focus on renovating the house’s interior to allow more in-depth historical interpretation for the public.

For more information on the Fannie Roots house and restoration project, contact Beate Jensen at (540) 654-1839.

Open-Door Policy

The door in Ana Chichester’s Combs Hall office is always open.

In fact, her University of Mary Washington students know better than anyone that the professor of Modern Languages and Literatures is always willing and able to help with questions and concerns.

UMW Exceeds Founder’s Day Challenge

The University of Mary Washington raised nearly $130,000, exceeding a six-week Founder’s Day Challenge in celebration of the 107th anniversary on Saturday, March 14.

From Left: UMW Vice President Torre Meringolo and President Richard Hurley

From Left: UMW Vice President Salvatore Meringolo and President Richard Hurley

The challenge aimed to raise $107,000 for the Fund for Mary Washington, the unrestricted gifts fund for the university, by the founding anniversary. The final sum of $127,653 includes gifts to the Fund for Mary Washington from February 1 through March 14 and counts towards the $50-million Mary Washington First Campaign.

“The tremendous response to this challenge is a great testament to the loyalty and pride of the Mary Washington community,” said UMW President Richard V. Hurley.

The Fund for Mary Washington is the single largest source of UMW’s unrestricted private support, allowing UMW to support students, programs and other needs not covered by the state’s operating budget. Discretion for use of the funds is handled by the president and other designated decision-makers. The Fund is just one of seven donation areas within UMW’s $50 million Mary Washington First Campaign. With the support of alumni, students, staff, faculty, parents and community members, UMW aims to reach its campaign goal in 2016.

UMW was established as the State Normal School for Women at Fredericksburg on March 14, 1908, with the assistance of C. O’Conor Goolrick.

For more information about the founding of UMW or the challenge, please visit

State Superintendent, Ambassador to Speak at UMW Commencement Ceremonies

Virginia’s chief education officer and a distinguished U.S. diplomat will speak at the 2015 commencement ceremonies for the University of Mary Washington Friday, May 8 and Saturday, May 9.

Steven R. Staples, superintendent of public instruction for the Virginia Department of Education, will give the graduate address on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in George Washington Hall’s Dodd Auditorium. Pamela Bridgewater, a Foreign Service officer who served as U.S. Ambassador in three countries, will speak at the undergraduate ceremony on Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m. on Ball Circle.

Steven R. Staples

As Virginia’s 24th superintendent, Staples serves as the executive officer of the Virginia Department of Education, the administrative agency for the commonwealth’s public schools. He also serves as secretary of the Board of Education.

State Superintendent Steven Staples

State Superintendent Steven Staples

Previously, Staples served for two years as the executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. He also was a faculty member at the College of William and Mary from 2008-2012 and worked in various capacities in four Virginia school divisions. In 1997, he was selected as Virginia Superintendent of the Year.

Staples received his doctorate in education administration and supervision from Virginia Tech, a master’s degree in education administration and supervision, as well as a bachelor’s degree in history and English from the College of William and Mary.

Pamela E. Bridgewater

Bridgewater retired from active duty in the U.S. Diplomatic Service in 2013 with the rank of Career Ambassador after 34 years of distinguished service.

Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater

Bridgewater has served as U.S. ambassador in three countries under three different presidents: President Bill Clinton appointed her U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Benin; President GeorgeW. Bush named her U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Ghana, and President Obama appointed her as Ambassador to Jamaica.

Among her extensive overseas tours, she became the first African-American woman to serve as consul general in Durban, South Africa, during the historic transition from Apartheid to a non-racial government. As the political officer assigned to cover Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress, a former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa said, “Bridgewater established a degree of trust and confidence with Mr. Mandela and the ANC leadership that the U.S. had not previously enjoyed.”

Her contributions to international affairs and public policy have resulted in numerous commendations, including two U.S. Presidential Meritorious Service Awards, the Charles Cobb Award for Trade Promotion, Department of State Superior Honor Awards and the Secretary of State’s Career Achievement Award.

The Fredericksburg native earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Virginia State University and a master’s degree in political science from the University of Cincinnati. She completed coursework and advanced to candidacy for the PhD degree from the American University School of International Service. She holds honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Virginia State University, and an honorary Doctor of Public Service from Morgan State University.

For more information about the commencement ceremonies, visit or call the Office of University Events and Conferencing at (540) 654-1065.