June 4, 2023

Troy Paino: Great College [President] to Work For

How does he do it? That’s a question often asked about UMW President Troy Paino, who constantly juggles meetings with alumni, speaking engagements, trips to Richmond to secure more funding for Mary Washington, board meetings, family time, one-on-ones with his Cabinet members and physical fitness.

University of Mary Washington President Troy Paino plans to continue the work that led UMW to the Great Colleges to Work For recognition it received this week. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

University of Mary Washington President Troy Paino plans to continue the work that led UMW to the Great Colleges to Work For recognition it received this week. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

To keep his commitments and do it with flair, Mary Washington’s 10th president relies on the adrenaline boost he gets from interacting with students, faculty and staff.

“Their enthusiasm and spirit for this place is infectious,” Paino said. He hopes UMW’s new designation as a Great College to Work For – the results of a survey of the University’s more than 800 full-time employees that came out this week – ramps up that mojo.

Since taking office in 2016, he’s used feedback from a previous Great Colleges study as a compass for what was working and what needed work – communication, collaboration and compensation. “When people start feeling that they can actively participate in making a place better, morale is going to improve,” said Paino, who crisscrosses campus, the local community and the state Capitol on behalf of our school.

But college presidents need downtime, too. He finds it when he can curl up on the couch with wife Kelly and dog Oscar (both daughters have left the nest) binge-watching Billions. But Mary Washington is never far from his mind.

“I’ve become more energized since I’ve been here, working with people to articulate a vision, create a plan and begin implementing it,” he said. “I feel a lot of good forward momentum. I’m excited to be part of it.”

Q: You worked eight years at Truman State University, six of them as president. What brought you to Mary Washington?
A: I would not have left Truman for just any place. I fell in love with Mary Washington’s mission and thought I could use my talents and skill sets to make a difference here.

Q: What’s a typical day like on the job?
A: I have meetings with my Cabinet members and surprises on campus that need to be addressed. I keep my eye toward external audiences – fundraising, politics, community, corporate relations. I find opportunities to interact with students wherever I can, even just walking down Campus Walk and striking up conversations. I’m teaching a class this semester. The more interaction I can get with students, the more it keeps me grounded and reminds me why we’re doing this work.

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: When I get to interact with a student and see that their Mary Washington experience has sparked something inside them – a passion, a purpose, a direction, a vocation.

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: Having to make tough decisions with limited resources to empower those who work here to do everything they want to do for our students. We pride ourselves on being an inclusive, tight-knit community, so it’s always a challenge trying to hold it together when it seems there are issues in our world that are pulling us apart.

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: “It’s not about you, stupid.” It’s easy in life to become self-absorbed. I try each day to remind myself that this isn’t about me. It’s about the mission. It’s about the students. That’s why I’m here.