April 14, 2021

UMW Alum Pays it Forward … and Backward

Securing a free ride to grad school, in large part, through a highly competitive Payne Fellowship was the easy step for Nehemia Abel ’20. The hard step is deciding among the six prestigious schools to which he has been accepted for his pursuit of a master’s degree in international development: Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, George […]

UMW Alum Pays it Forward … and Backward

Nehemia Abel ’20 has secured a highly competitive Payne Fellowship, which covers most of the cost of graduate school and provides a “unique pathway” toward a future career with USAID.

Nehemia Abel ’20 has secured a highly competitive Payne Fellowship, which covers most of the cost of graduate school and provides a “unique pathway” toward a future career with USAID.

Securing a free ride to grad school, in large part, through a highly competitive Payne Fellowship was the easy step for Nehemia Abel ’20.

The hard step is deciding among the six prestigious schools to which he has been accepted for his pursuit of a master’s degree in international development: Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, George Washington, Howard and American.

Abel is a believer in paying it forward – and giving back.

Born in Tanzania, he escaped the east African nation of Burundi with help from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). “During my time in a refugee camp, USAID – along with UNICEF – helped my family tremendously by providing us daily necessities and other vital support. I would like to give back by assisting others living in crisis situations globally,” Abel said.

The Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship Program is described as a “unique pathway” towards gaining employment with USAID. According to the Payne Fellowship website, “If you want to work on the front lines of some of the most pressing global challenges of our times — poverty, hunger, injustice, disease, environmental degradation, climate change, conflict and violent extremism – the Foreign Service of the U.S. Agency for International Development provides such an opportunity.” Read more.

Sushma Subramanian: In Touch

Assistant Professor of Communication Sushma Subramanian

Assistant Professor of Communication Sushma Subramanian

How are you feeling? That question often elicits a one- or two-word response.

For Sushma Subramanian, it took 272 pages. In the midst of a global pandemic, quarantines and social distancing, she just published How to Feel: The Science and Meaning of Touch.

Touch may be our most important sense, said Subramanian, a science journalist and University of Mary Washington assistant professor of communication. Her current work explores the scientific, physical, emotional and cultural aspects of feeling.

She had finished the manuscript last March when news of COVID-19 broke, prompting several additions and revisions. “My editor and I quickly realized that society’s relationship with touch was going to change in some pretty extreme and long-lasting ways.”

After more than a year without physical contact, people are suffering from touch-deprivation, but it’s not all bad, she said. Her post-pandemic prediction? “I don’t think we’ll go back to shaking hands,” said Subramanian, admitting she isn’t a fan of the practice. “But hugs, as more people are getting vaccinated, could be coming back pretty fast. People really miss it!”

Book Cover: "How to Feel: The Science and Meaning of Touch"

Photo credit: Columbia University Press.

Her family pod expanded by one near the beginning of quarantine. Subramanian gave birth to a daughter. “Thanks to her, I have faced no touch-deprivation at all!”

Subramanian, who earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California and a master’s at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, currently teaches news reporting and writing, and serves as faculty advisor to The Blue & Gray Press. Her own writing focuses on how science can explain daily phenomena, from iPad technology to why our skin tingles when we listen to beautiful music.

“Journalism is a field that is quickly changing,” Subramanian said, “so it’s always helpful to have one foot inside it to teach students what they can expect when they graduate.”

 

Q: What attracted you to Mary Washington?
A: I had been part-time teaching for many years and wanted to make it a bigger part of my career. Writing can be lonely, so I like having regular interaction, and teaching students about something I love so much helps keep me excited about it.

Q: What’s your favorite course to teach?
A: Magazine journalism, which allows journalists to delve deeply into their subjects and write creatively about the material they collect.

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: If something sparks my interest, I can just call up the world’s expert in that topic. And then I get to share what I learn. I think of my writing as a form of teaching, too.

Sushma Subramanian giving her 6-month-old daughter a massage.

Sushma Subramanian giving her 6-month-old daughter a massage.

Q: Most challenging?
A: Coming up with new ideas that no one else has tackled … I get anxious when my bucket is dry.

Q: What’s the most tactile item in your office?
A: A couple years ago, I entered a Peeps diorama contest. I made a scene of Neanderthals gathering around a fire with those Easter marshmallow treats – and I was a prize winner. I sprayed it with shellac, but I worry how long those Peeps will last.

Q: What might people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I make dog houses out of used Amazon boxes. I’ve done a castle and mid-century modern.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: I used to be a serious procrastinator; now I’m the opposite. I always say, “If you don’t put in the work now, you’ll pay for it later.”

COVID Delays, But Fails to Deter Fulbright Scholars

2019 alumna Hannah Rothwell is one of several recent UMW graduates going abroad as a Fulbright Scholar this year. The international program recently announced that educational exchanges would continue after being halted last year due to the pandemic.

2019 alumna Hannah Rothwell is one of several recent UMW graduates going abroad as a Fulbright Scholar this year. The international program recently announced that educational exchanges would continue after being halted last year due to the pandemic.

Hannah Rothwell ’19 was recently in the middle of a meeting for her internship at a D.C. think tank when she received a text out of the blue: Call the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan immediately.

Rothwell, who majored in economics and international affairs at the University of Mary Washington, was suddenly flooded with memories of being named months earlier as an alternate for a Fulbright award. Knowing she was only a backup and that COVID-19 had suspended all Fulbright endeavors, she had “put it completely out of mind.”

Despite – or, possibly, due to – COVID, Rothwell learned she was needed in Uzbekistan, formerly part of the Soviet Union, as soon as possible to teach English under the auspices of the Fulbright.

Designed to increase mutual understanding between countries, Fulbright is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Its student exchange program is the largest for American students and young professionals who want to undertake international graduate study, advanced research or teaching English worldwide. More than 2,000 grants are awarded annually in all fields of study for the program, which operates in more than 140 countries. Read more.

COVID Delays, But Fails to Deter Fulbright Scholars

Hannah Rothwell ’20 was recently in the middle of a meeting at her internship at a D.C. think tank when she received a text out of the blue: Call the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan immediately. Rothwell, who majored in economics and international affairs at the University of Mary Washington, was suddenly flooded with memories of […]

John Morello: The End of an Era

When John Morello first set foot on the Mary Washington campus in February 1989, the day was bright and balmy, Ball Circle was abuzz with Frisbees flying, and the campus seemed vibrant.

Associate Provost for Academic Affairs John Morello is retiring after over three decades at UMW.

Associate Provost for Academic Affairs John Morello is retiring after over three decades at UMW.

It felt right.

Tomorrow, when Morello leaves the UMW campus, his 31 years of career accumulations in tow, it will likely be chilly and cloudy, with no students and few employees in sight.

It will feel right.

No – he’s not being driven out by the pandemic or by pending accreditation reaffirmation. Morello, 72, said he has done everything he could do at Mary Washington, and retirement is the next step. “It’s like an aging athlete,” he said. “You know when it’s time to go.”

But during his more than three decades at UMW, Morello has been a high-scorer who adeptly played multiple positions, and his departure will leave quite a void in the University’s strategic operations. He started out as a speech professor in the English department as well as director of the Mary Washington debate team.

With an undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary and a master’s from Northern Illinois State University, Morello – a native New Yorker who grew up in Virginia – took his first job at James Madison University. While working there and during leave time, he earned a doctorate from Wayne State University. He next landed at Simpson College in Iowa. He held tenured positions at both JMU and Simpson, as well as at Mary Washington.

In 1998, Morello moved into administration with UMW’s Office of Academic Affairs. He eventually became the University’s associate provost, where he’s handled myriad responsibilities, including compiling the course catalog. Previously printed, it’s now completely online. Building out that system was one of many factors that delayed his retirement.

Under ordinary circumstances, the presidential election this fall would have cast Morello in a role he has traditionally played every four years: instructor of a class on communication and the presidential election campaign.

While his areas of academic expertise include presidential political campaign communication strategy and political oratory, Morello said he found the current state of political communication and televised presidential debates too depressing to teach the course one last time.

Morello with Provost Nina Mikhalevsky with a special ukulele given to him by Academic Affairs in honor of his retirement. Commissioned and built by local luthier and UMW adjunct instructor Larry Hinkle, the ukulele was made from materials salvaged from an old piano soundboard as well as wood from a tree grown on Washington Avenue, across from Kenmore Plantation. Learning to play will be another retirement activity.

Morello with Provost Nina Mikhalevsky with a special ukulele given to him by Academic Affairs in honor of his retirement. Commissioned and built by local luthier and UMW adjunct instructor Larry Hinkle, the ukulele was made from materials salvaged from an old piano soundboard as well as wood from a tree grown on Washington Avenue, across from Kenmore Plantation. Learning to play will be another retirement activity.

Many alumni, including current Board of Visitors Rector Heather Crislip, have fond memories of classes he taught. She sang her former professor’s praises at the November Board meeting, noting that Morello is the only person she’s ever met who can recite all the U.S. presidents in order, both forward and backward.

Crislip said the phrase he used to accomplish that feat is one she recites to her own children now: “Train your brain.”

Morello groupies – and by now there are many – nearly universally mention his dry wit and self-depreciating demeanor.

“He comes across as a curmudgeon,” said President Troy Paino, “but he has a humongous heart.” A frequent partner on the golf links, Paino said of Morello: “His work ethic, gift for critical analysis, memory, eye for detail, humor, kindness and commitment to Mary Washington’s students and mission will be impossible to replace.”

No debate about it, the reservoir of Morello’s institutional knowledge will be irreplaceable.

 

Q: What are your retirement plans?
A: Before the pandemic, my wife Tami and I planned to do a lot of traveling. We’re still optimistic. Meanwhile, I have projects around the house. And there’s always golf – the ultimate social-distancing sport.

Q: What will you miss most?
A: Since 1966 (when I entered W&M), my life has revolved around a college campus. I will miss walking on a campus and knowing I am a part of that environment.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A:  I spent a brief and undistinguished time in the Army. I also have a hobby of collecting all of Jimmy Stewart’s movies. I’m about halfway there.

Q: What are your favorite movies?
A:
Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Field of Dreams and most movies with Jimmy Stewart.

Q: What’s your favorite motto?
A: A lot of people know that I’m a fan of quoting lyrics from songs or passages from old movies. But what motivates me most is a golf-related quote: “One shot at a time.” You need to try to focus on the next shot (or task) rather than obsessing about the mistake you may have just made.

When the Pandemic Struck, UMW Persevered

UMW sophomore Andrew Newman poses on a Campus Walk bench. The University community pulled together this fall to follow MMDC (monitor, mask, distance and clean) guidelines and minimize the number of COVID-19 cases on campus. Increased pandemic-related measures will be employed this spring.

UMW sophomore Andrew Newman poses on a Campus Walk bench. The University community pulled together this fall to follow MMDC (monitor, mask, distance and clean) guidelines and minimize the number of COVID-19 cases on campus. Increased pandemic-related measures will be employed this spring.

Eager to begin her college career at Mary Washington, Sarah Bazemore moved into Willard Hall in September, stocking her room with masks and sanitizer.

Little did she know that she would end her first semester living in Marshall Hall under quarantine. Bazemore and two of her friends were among several dozen students who were either exposed to or came down with COVID-19 in fall 2020.

Even so, she rated the entire semester an A+. “I am so grateful I had the opportunity to be on campus this fall, and I’m beyond impressed with the way UMW handled COVID-19,” she said. “Even when we entered quarantine, there was a plan. At no time was I unable to get the support I needed or an answer to my questions.”

Only 40 students utilized the more than 100 designated quarantine/isolation rooms on campus. That, added Bazemore, “says a lot about the student body and our administration. We followed MMDC (monitor, mask, distance and clean) and did all we could to keep COVID-19 away from UMW.”

Plenty of planning and extreme vigilance paid off. While the pandemic rages across the globe, the University ended up with fewer than 50 COVID cases since the end of August.

“I’m filled with pride by the way the Mary Washington community has thus far risen to this challenge,” said President Troy Paino. “We have proven something to ourselves: We can adapt, innovate and persevere.” Read more.

When the Pandemic Struck, UMW Persevered

Eager to begin her college career at Mary Washington, Sarah Bazemore moved into Willard Hall in September, stocking her room with masks and sanitizer. Little did she know that she would end her first semester living in Marshall Hall under quarantine. Bazemore and two of her friends were among several dozen students who were either […]

Endowment Endeavors to Enhance Student Experiences

UMW theatre students on a pre-pandemic trip to New York City and Broadway. The Beyond the Classroom Endowment will ensure Mary Washington students continue to experience extraordinary learning opportunities like this one.

UMW theatre students on a pre-pandemic trip to New York City and Broadway. The Beyond the Classroom Endowment will ensure Mary Washington students continue to experience extraordinary learning opportunities like this one.

The UMW historic preservation students were on a mission. As part of a 2019 study abroad trip to Paris, they were determined to find the grave of James Monroe’s daughter, Eliza, and make sure it was in good shape.

Success. After clearing away some plant growth, the students were able to report that Eliza Monroe Hay’s grave marker was intact. This trip benefitted not only the students but also the University’s James Monroe Museum.

Similarly, geography students brought prestige to UMW when they won the World Geography Bowl last year at the Southeastern Division of the American Association of Geographers competition in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Study abroad, domestic trips for research, unpaid internships – all of these beyond-the-classroom opportunities, some of which are unique to Mary Washington – greatly enhance students’ education. But they often come with a price tag.

During the 2019-20 academic year, more than 250 UMW students applied for grants to support supplies and travel related to internships and undergraduate research projects. Sadly, their requests exceeded available funds by close to $100,000.

The coronavirus pandemic abruptly halted student travel, while also tightening all university budgets. Even so, said College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Dean Keith Mellinger, “students needed money for lab equipment and studio projects, books and subscriptions, and some were also still looking for funding for day-travel to places like Washington, D.C., to visit museums or archives.” Read more.

Endowment Endeavors to Enhance Student Experiences

The UMW historic preservation students were on a mission. As part of a 2019 study abroad trip to Paris, they were determined to find the grave of James Monroe’s daughter, Eliza, and make sure it was in good shape. Success. After clearing away some plant growth, the students were able to report that Eliza Monroe […]