July 14, 2024

Courageous Conversations: Faculty Speak from the Heart

In addition to collaboration and collegiality, university campuses have their share of controversy and contention. University of Mary Washington is no exception. How does this campus come to grips with civil discord?

We talk – or at least we try. This requires us to listen. To open our minds. To think critically. To speak from the heart.

To engage in courageous conversations.

The word courage comes from the Latin word cor, meaning heart. The original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

UMW faculty have been captured on video to talk about timely issues.

This spring, five UMW faculty members have been captured on video using their hearts to talk about timely issues of significance. They are courageous conversationalists, and we will be featuring each of them, on a weekly basis, in EagleEye. Next week, you will start seeing a rollout of the University’s Courageous Conversations video series.

In addition to spotlighting UMW’s outstanding experts, this series shows that Mary Washington is a place to use your voice, and a place where voices are heard. It says this university is not afraid to tackle controversial subjects, and – in fact – considers it the civic duty of a public institution.

As President Troy Paino put it earlier this year:

Here at Mary Washington, I want to promote a liberal arts education that is responding to the issues of our day. It is our responsibility at this time in our society – as we see fraying around the edges of our democracy, as we see increased fragmentation, polarization, anger and an inability for people to talk and work with one another – to think about what our role is.

 As we think about our role in society, let the Courageous Conversations begin.

LaWanda Simpkins, James Farmer post-doctoral fellow in civil rights and social justice, helps us learn more about breaking down social barriers with intentionality. Today’s UMW students learn just as much from their peers as they do from their professors. How do we help them know how to approach others who bring varying perspectives into the classroom and beyond?

Associate Professor of Historic Preservation Michael Spencer takes on the thorny topic of monuments, relics and artifacts that depict the past – a past that is painful for some members of society. Preservationists like Spencer are increasingly being called on to help navigate the monumental decisions surrounding what are perceived as either icons or eyesores.

John Broome, associate professor and program director in the College of Education, issues a clarion call for diversifying education. Do the people in your textbooks and reading materials look like you? While the United States has continued to be a melting pot of cultures, races and ethnicities, our education system yet to catch up. Find out why he believes putting different people in the same room – and classroom – matters

In this hyperconnected digital world, it is imperative that we discuss how we relate to each other online and how we interact as citizens on the web. That is just what Jesse Stommel, executive director of Teaching & Learning Technology, does in his Courageous Conversation.

Is speech ever really free? Professor of Communication Anand Rao grapples with understanding First Amendment rights in the U.S. during these divisive days of protests, “fake news,” and offensive language.

The conversations must continue. UMW’s Office of University Relations is indebted to these trailblazing faculty members and encourages others in the University community to speak up and to step forward if you would like to participate in a Courageous Conversation.

About Anna Billingsley

Anna B. Billingsley, associate vice president for university relations, has worked at UMW since 2004.