October 17, 2021

UMW Presents Top Faculty Awards

Professor of Religion Mary Beth Mathews earned the Grellet C. Simpson Award, the University of Mary Washington’s most prestigious honor for excellence in undergraduate teaching, established in 1972 and presented to a senior faculty member.

Professor of Religion Mary Beth Mathews

Professor of Religion Mary Beth Mathews

She was one of several professors honored at the fall semester’s opening faculty meeting. Most awards generally are presented at Commencement; this year, limited attendance at graduation ceremonies deferred some presentations.

As the most recent recipient of the award, Mathews was praised for her “spellbinding” lectures. She “challenges a broad community of students to think critically and reflect, both in and beyond the classroom,” said Associate Professor of Linguistics Janie Lee, chair of UMW’s Sabbaticals, Fellowships and Faculty Awards committee.

Mathews, who has taught at Mary Washington for 21 years, is a leading scholar of American – particularly African-American – and European religious history. She has led the charge to create UMW’s interdisciplinary African American studies minor and will serve as the program’s first director, beginning this year.

Described by Lee as a “pioneer in digital pedagogy and distance learning,” Mathews has team-taught a digital course, Divided Houses: Secession and Separatists Movements, and taught the Race & Revolution and Religion & Social Movements in the U.S. First -Year Seminars.

Professor of Communication Anand Rao received the J. Christopher “Topher” Bill Award for his contributions to the University and involvement and leadership in the greater community. Since 2003, this honor has been presented annually to a full-time member of the teaching faculty who has served at UMW for at least seven years and has a significant record of service accomplishments.

Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Rao’s “university and college service alone fills more than a page of his CV,” Lee said. In his 19 years at Mary Washington, he has held critical leadership roles on and off campus, serving twice as University Faculty Council chair and leading the Faculty Senate of Virginia. Rao also launched UMW’s Communication and Digital Studies major and department, which he currently chairs.

During the pandemic, Rao participated in the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Education Response and Recovery work group and co-facilitated UMW’s popular COVID-19 in Context and Life After COVID courses.

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science Pamela Grothe ’06 received the UMW Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award, given annually to an exceptional faculty member who has served the University for at least two years but no more than five.

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Pamela Grothe

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Pamela Grothe

Grothe returned a decade after her graduation to serve as a professor at her alma mater, where she has excelled in the areas of teaching, research and service. She “truly goes above and beyond,” Lee said, citing Grothe’s willingness to mentor students, manage her department’s social media accounts, serve on various university committees, and engage with current and prospective students, as well as alumni.

In addition, Grothe has developed a new study abroad course for students and secured a Virtual Library of Virginia grant to teach courses with Open Access Resources, Lee said, all while managing a heavy teaching load.

Among faculty who received awards during Commencement week earlier this year were Professor of Mathematics Janusz Konieczny, who earned the Waple Faculty Professional Achievement Award; and Professor of Marketing Kashef Majid, recipient of the Mary W. Pinschmidt Award, annually presented by the graduating class. Professor of Biological Science Andrew Dolby received the inaugural Board of Visitors Faculty Leadership Award.