May 29, 2022

Paino Calls for Commitment at ‘Critical Juncture’

UMW President Troy Paino welcomed faculty and staff to Spring 2022 – a fifth semester of teaching and learning amid a global pandemic – yesterday in a livestreamed all-University address.

“In light of what we’ve gone through over the past two years, we’re at a critical juncture,” he said. “I’m calling for the University community to come together.”

UMW President Troy D. Paino

UMW President Troy D. Paino

Paino asked all employees – even outside of Admissions – to consider student recruitment and retention an essential part of their job, as colleges across the country struggle to yield incoming classes. Part news bulletin, part pep talk, the presentation praised resilience across campus in the face of an incorrigible COVID-19 and a damaging winter storm that pounded the area last week. The 35-minute address also looked toward the future, touching on planned capital projects, new leadership and ambitious initiatives.

But the present – today’s return to in-person classes – was key. The ability to stick with that plan was made possible, Paino said, thanks to a vaccination rate of more than 95 percent among the UMW community, and just six percent positivity among students, compared with more than 40 percent in the region, as the Omicron variant surges.

“The bottom line is that working and living in this community, which is almost totally vaccinated, makes this campus one of the safest places to be here in the Fredericksburg area,” he said.

Paino encouraged University personnel to stay strong and aware, to practice self-care and to consider at-risk individuals. He also urged the campus community to be cognizant of the contributions of healthcare partners, including the CDC, Virginia Department of Health, Rappahannock Area Health District and colleagues throughout the commonwealth.

Much of the talk focused on the University-wide need to connect with prospective students. “It’s the small things,” Paino said. “It’s the way we answer the phone, the way we interact with people on campus.” Related initiatives, he said, include the newly created Recruitment and Retention Council, the launch of a new brand and a push to engage students earlier in their high school careers.

Turning to the topic of construction, Paino said, activity continues on campus despite supply chain and inflation issues. He cited the recent demolition of Alvey; renovation of Seacobeck, which re-opened today; and the ongoing underground utilities project on Ball Circle.

After an extensive renovation, longtime dining area Seacobeck Hall has officially taken on its new role as home to the College of Education. More capital projects are in the works, President Paino announced during the Spring 2022 All-University Address.

After an extensive renovation, longtime dining area Seacobeck Hall has officially taken on its new role as home to the College of Education. More capital projects are in the works, President Paino announced during the Spring 2022 All-University Address.

More such work is on the way, he said, with a new legislative session and state administration. Preliminary funding will support the museums operated by UMW, the Office of Disability Resources and a proposed salary increase. In addition, funding will be available to plan for the construction of a new theatre and the renovation of duPont, Melchers and Pollard halls, along with Simpson Library.

Paino welcomed Chief Diversity Officer Shavonne Shorter and Director of Emergency Management and Safety Brandy Ellard, and announced the launch of a national search for a vice president for advancement.

Leadership will guide the need to reassess Mary Washington’s strategic vision, Paino said. He asked the entire University community to join in the effort of examining the four current pillars – civic engagement, immersive learning, creation of a diverse and inclusive community, and adaptation of the liberal arts to a digital world – in light of lessons learned over the past two years.

“How do we respond to this moment?” he said. “And this is a moment, let’s make no mistake about it, that we have to respond to.”

On what would have been the 102nd birthday of former Mary Washington faculty member and civil rights icon James L. Farmer Jr., Paino stressed the need to work together to help shape the next generation of engaged citizens, inspire social mobility and demonstrate a commitment to truth.

“Is it challenging work? Is it huge work? Is it hard work? No doubt,” he said. “But I feel grateful that we have a sense of purpose here at this critically important time for our democracy. Thank you for all the work you do.”