June 4, 2023

Meet Mr. UMW

It takes a certain kind of person to wear Disney-themed onesies to a college party. University of Mary Washington junior Mikey Barnes is that guy.

The consummate campus entertainer, Barnes is “Mr. UMW,” literally; he claimed the title at the annual competition last spring. Spinning Eagle Pride at halftime, talking sports on WMWC radio or lauding Mary Washington athletes online, he’s steeped in school spirit. With his wit and his warmth – and that Wite-Out white smile – he was born for UMW’s new major, communication and digital studies.

Mikey Barnes

“I love the fact that it involves talking to people and engaging,” he said. “That’s me. That’s my life. Engaging in conversations is everything I live for.”

Growing up in Falls Church, Barnes had a one-track mind, playing basketball, baseball, football, soccer, golf, you name it. He managed his high school’s girls’ basketball team, covered sports for the newspaper and binged on ESPN’s Sports Center. It was in the pages of John Feinstein’s novel Cover Up: Mystery at the Super Bowl where he found focus.

“I watched sports, read sports, talked sports, played sports. Sports were everything to me,” said Barnes, who began writing for the online news source Patch.com and vying for work at the Falls Church-News Press. “Sports journalism was definitely my plan.”

Barnes studied journalism in college, but he was unsure at first that he’d found the right fit at Mary Washington. So he did what he’s always done best – he got social, joining group after group.

“Most kids struggle with getting involved. I had the opposite experience. I got way too involved way too early,” he said. “My GPA was in the toilet.”

As UMW worked its magic on him, though, he began to find balance, learning lessons in historic preservation, finite math … and life. “I realized what’s important and what’s not,” he said. “I learned time management.”

Head of recruitment for The Talons spirit group, assistant sports editor for The Blue & Gray Press student newspaper, and treasurer of Best Buddies and his residence hall, Barnes is still blazing through campus. He’s vice president of Club Basketball, a member of Club Baseball, and on the intramural basketball and flag football teams.

His thoughts on hot sports topics, like the proposed Redskins name change, travel the airwaves Friday nights on his WMWC radio show. He fires up fans as emcee of Eagles basketball games and he appeared in Mary Washington’s first TV commercial, filmed last summer in the Hurley Convergence Center.

“Mikey has done a great job bringing students together, especially in spirit,” said UMW Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker. “You’re immediately taken by his sense of what Mary Washington has to offer. He really wants people to be happy here. He does all he can to facilitate connections.”

So when UMW introduced its new communication and digital studies major last fall, he grabbed it, changing his course load … and his dreams.

“My current goal is to be rich and famous,” said Barnes, who donated his “Mr. UMW” loot – earned by lip-syncing Will Smith’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – to a scholarship fund in honor of the late Robert “Bob” Ericson ’14.

With a heart that’s as big as his smile, Barnes can even turn cleaning clothes – his signature bowties, preppy Vineyard Vines duds and, yes, even his Disney-themed PJs – into a cordial affair.

“I go to the laundry room and see five people I know, and I love it,” Barnes said. “I love people. I love to talk. It’s my life. It’s what I do.”