April 18, 2021

Phillip Duggins: CASE Chemistry

Phillip Duggins, UMW's associate director for Regional Alumni Engagement, won a CASE Award last week for last summer's "Chemistry in the Kitchen" program for Mary Washington alumni and their families.

Phillip Duggins, UMW’s associate director for Regional Alumni Engagement, won a CASE Award last week for last summer’s “Chemistry in the Kitchen” program for Mary Washington alumni and their families.

University of Mary Washington professors teaching science experiments online for alumni and their children to perform at home.

The idea was born from a start-of-the-pandemic brainstorming session attended by Phillip Duggins, UMW’s associate director for Regional Alumni Engagement.

Duggins shared the idea with his friend and neighbor, Davis Oldham, an associate professor of chemistry at UMW, who in turn connected him with fellow faculty members Leanna Giancarlo, Kelli Slunt and Janet Asper. In June, the trio taught “Chemistry in the Kitchen,” drawing an audience of over 150 alumni families. The virtual lunchtime learning classes are now available on YouTube.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) presented Duggins last week with a silver “Alumni Engagement on a Shoestring” award for his work on the popular program.

“I was so excited to share the news with our chemistry colleagues who partnered with us to make this event so successful,” Duggins said, “especially when they were in the midst of transitioning to online classes last spring.”

With more than two decades of experience in event planning and managing volunteers, Duggins was hired in 2019 to engage Mary Washington’s 41,000 alumni globally and help them feel connected to their alma mater. Organized by UMW’s 22 regional alumni networks and 10 affinity groups, events were mostly held in person before COVID hit.

Alumni engagement is more challenging now, Duggins said. But his team has found that Mary Washington graduates are still eager to take part in online events, such as last September’s virtual tour of the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, led by a UMW alum who works at the site. Within 45 minutes, participants registered for all 100 spots, so organizers added a second tour, which also filled up quickly, drawing alumni from as far away as San Diego.

“Not everyone lives in or near a regional network or can travel,” Duggins said. “Virtual events like this are giving us the opportunity to reach a much wider audience.”

 

“Not everyone lives in or near a regional network or can travel,” said Duggins, who has helped Mary Washington's 41,000 alumni feel connected to their alma mater since coming to UMW in 2019. “Virtual events like this are giving us the opportunity to reach a much wider audience.”

“Not everyone lives in or near a regional network or can travel,” said Duggins, who has helped Mary Washington’s 41,000 alumni feel connected to their alma mater since coming to UMW in 2019. “Virtual events like this are giving us the opportunity to reach a much wider audience.”

Q: What other virtual events has Alumni Relations offered?
A: We’ve had cider and beer tastings, a behind-the-scenes tour of the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden light show, and several academic departments have hosted alumni happy hours. We’re exploring offering a coffee tasting, more tours of museums and cultural sites, and “Paint and Sip” events.

Q: What might people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I grew up on a farm and was driving a tractor by the time I was 8.

Q: What’s your favorite thing in your office?
A: Pictures of my children: Madelyn, 15; Hannah, 14; and Zachary, 11.

Q: What have you been doing outside of work during the pandemic?
A: Keeping up with my kids’ activities and doing projects around the house.

Q: What is your favorite thing about the UMW campus?
A: The gates on Sunken Road. That area is so peaceful and relaxing.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: From my time as a Cub Scout: “Do your best.”