July 17, 2024

Message From the President – March 2023

Dear UMW Community,

Campus has come into bloom following spring break, and as our weather warms, we’re seeing signs of budding research projects, campus traditions, and new initiatives.

I hope you had a rejuvenating spring break, reconnecting with friends and family or exploring the world. I followed along with your travels via social media, noting that nearly 100 members of our community studied abroad from Brazil to Argentina, Bonaire to Guatemala, and London to Costa Rica. You ventured to the top of the mountains and dove into the oceans, and it’s truly astounding how much you accomplished in the week.  And locally, our student-athletes represented UMW during competitive winter and spring athletic outings, with women’s basketball hosting the C2C Championships. For the first time in school history, both the University of Mary Washington women’s and men’s basketball teams advanced to the NCAA Division III Tournaments in the same season. Our swim teams also represented UMW on the national stage. The women’s team captured the 2023 Metro Swimming Conference championship and junior Kinsey Brooks gained All-America status in three events at the NCAA national meet for the second straight year.

Locally, we recently celebrated the unveiling of the Civil Rights Trail: “Freedom, a Work in Progress” that showcases the initial results of a community-based collaboration with the City of Fredericksburg and UMW.  The project features two trails totaling nearly five miles of walking and driving paths that weave throughout Fredericksburg’s historic downtown district and the UMW campus, and it’s the culmination of years of work by our James Farmer Multicultural Center in collaboration with the Departments of Geography and Historic Preservation. Our students, faculty and staff put this trail on the map!  First-hand testimonials, Virginia historical markers, online photos and stories, etc. beautifully highlight sites of history-making sit-ins, neighborhoods marred by segregation, and locations that illustrate the efforts of Black artists, educators, entrepreneurs, students and others determined to make a difference.

March has become the month for student leadership, with the annual Social Justice & Leadership Summit, held March 11, providing engagement opportunities for area high school students, as well as Germanna Community College and UMW students that focus on awareness of social justice issues and effective strategies of response.  This event offers the unique opportunity to forge new trails ahead, as well as to remember, reflect and validate the past and recognize key individuals and groups who have inspired us. We also recognized many women leaders this month, from our namesake Mary Ball Washington, to the wonderful speakers and programming of Women’s History Month. Our Founders Day on March 14th also marks our tremendous transformation and growth over the past 115 years.

We announced the largest gift in the University’s history this month, with $30 million from the Irene Piscopo Rodgers’ estate funding out-of-state scholarships and inspiring future scientists to study at UMW. She made a name for herself in the field of electron microscopy and helped pave the way for UMW graduates, especially women, to excel in STEM subjects of their own choosing.

As we look ahead to continue promoting bold new challenges and creating new pathways, we reaffirm our commitment to UMW’s Strategic Vision in all aspects of our operations, keeping us focused, grounded, and with purpose.  In support of this effort, it is critical that we have the essential staffing needed to achieve our goals.  Upon the retirement of Paul Messplay, we welcomed Craig Erwin, the new Vice President for Administration and Finance & Chief Financial Officer; Dr. Jeff McClurken ’94 is now the Chief of Staff and Vice President of Strategy; and, by the creation of a new position, we welcome Sandy Gregor ‘91 as Senior Assistant Attorney General & University Counsel.  These positions will assist with financial and strategic planning and resolution of legal matters as we embark on future pathways.

As we celebrate where we’ve come from, it’s exciting to showcase our future and where we’re headed. Every 10 years, schools reaffirm their accreditation with national accrediting organizations.  The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) will visit campus March 27 thru March 30 to perform this process.  For the past two years, UMW faculty, staff and students have been preparing for this reaffirmation process and have developed our unique Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), called “Life After Mary Washington: Preparing Students for Life and Career.”  The QEP directly connects to our Strategic Vision, boldly preparing students for success in life and in careers by building upon an already fundamental and robust undergraduate experience.

Continuing through the second half of the semester, I encourage you to intentionally contemplate, discern, and consider how you can take advantage of opportunities to enhance your academic, social, and personal experience at UMW.  Consider meeting with academic advisors to carefully review course selections, personalized research projects, etc.; meeting with coaches and advisors to learn time management tactics; or spending time with mentors to glean advice about practical life lessons such as building trustworthy relationships, managing money, selecting a career, etc.  If you’re looking ahead to learn more about jobs, occupations, internships, etc. consider attending the Job and Internship Fair on March 23rd hosted by UMW’s Center for Career and Professional Development.  You can also mark your calendar for April 4th, our sixth annual Mary Wash Giving Day, when we’ll come #TogetherUMW, and have many ways to give back and thank those who continue to contribute to our success.

And finally, along the way, take the time to acknowledge your efforts, thank those around you who support you, and strive to obtain a happy, healthy and mindful balance between your personal and professional goals.  I encourage you to look forward to all that this semester offers, including warmer weather and wonderful opportunities.


Troy Paino