December 1, 2023


With ballot and pencil in hand, you walk over to a covered voting booth. Looking down, you see a line of empty white bubbles next to names you’ve heard on the news for more than a year. But do you really know what the names stand for? Are you ready to vote?

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, more than 4,300 University of Mary Washington students will be eligible to vote for the first time. In preparation, UMW political experts Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science, and Rosalyn Cooperman, associate professor of political science, weighed in on the 2016 U.S. Presidential election to answer questions from our own UMW community.

Professors Farnsworth and Cooperman answers questions about the election. Professors Farnsworth and Cooperman answers questions about the election. Professors Farnsworth and Cooperman answers questions about the election.

If I vote third party am I voting for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?

Cooperman: If depends on which state you’re voting in. If you’re voting in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I don’t know that a third party vote would affect the outcome given the polls that I’ve seen. In terms of Clinton having a comfortable enough lead in registered voters in the Commonwealth, it would be a vote for Trump. But would it affect the outcome of this state contest? Probably not.

Farnsworth: The main thing is that people have very different political environments and very different states. When you look at Virginia, the polls show an advantage for Hillary Clinton. So the consequences, in my view, are that the gap does seem large enough that more or less people can do as they please without affecting the outcome very much. If we were having this conversation about voters in Florida or North Carolina or Iowa, then we’d be looking at a state that’s a lot closer than Virginia looks to be right now, and that would suggest the wisdom of being very careful about the outcome. What often happens when you vote third party in a close election is the candidate you personally least like ends up benefiting.

Does it seem likely that Virginia will vote Democratic for three presidential elections in a row?

Farnsworth: Having Tim Kaine on the ticket as a vice presidential nominee is going to add a few points to the Democratic total in Virginia. If Kaine were not on the ticket, Hillary Clinton might be in more of a competitive race in this state. That being said, assuming that Tim Kaine is on the ticket four years from now, there would still be a couple-point bump for the Democrats in that situation. But it’s important to remember that Virginia’s purple-state status hasn’t gone away even with Tim Kaine on the ticket. The average right now for Virginia is about a four-point advantage for Hillary Clinton so it’s still more or less purple, it’s just not as purple as say Florida or North Carolina or Ohio might be right now.

Donald Trump has implied that he may not accept the results of the election. Is a candidate’s concession statement a legal requirement or just a political tradition?

Cooperman: Is a candidate’s concession speech a formal requirement? No.  But I think what candidates understand, at least candidates prior to this election cycle have understood, is that there is something to be celebrated if not encouraged by the democratic transition. Winners and losers alike accept the outcome and the system resets for the next election. There is an expectation of being able to potentially look at how the vote count preceded, but that’s a very different tone from the outright and disturbing notion of refusing to accept the election outcome unless one wins.

Farnsworth: Donald Trump talking about the illegitimacy of this process before it even takes place has increased the likelihood that people will be very upset on Election Day. It may not be very pleasant for those people waiting to vote or having to face questions about whether they’re legitimate voters. I think that what Donald Trump has done is deeply troubling and really undermines the way Democrats and Republicans have been competing in elections for decades.

How can Republicans go about healing the rift within their party?

Cooperman: I recently interviewed Jennifer Pierotti Lim, a 2007 alumna of UMW, who founded Republican Women for Hillary. She spoke very candidly about the Growth and Opportunity Report that came from the Republican Party in early 2013 following their loss of the 2012 election. She was delighted that the Party recognized the need for outreach with communities of color and younger voters, and the need to be intentional in highlighting the role of women partisans in the Party. Then this campaign comes along, and she feels like her idea of what it means to be a Republican isn’t valued in the Party anymore. In fact, many of the people who find themselves in a group like Republican Women for Hillary have come out and said, “I’m a Republican, but this is a bridge too far for me in terms of supporting Donald Trump.” There is and should be a concern about how easily and whether or not those folks will come back into the party fold. The Republican Party is not a viable party without women.

Farnsworth: I think the key question is how much of a margin there is on Election Day. The scenario for the Republican Party is going to be a very painful one if it’s close. If the Republican Party doesn’t lose by much, the party’s identity crisis continues for another four years because they’ll continue down the same track. If the Republican Party gets blown out, they might make a more definitive turn.

Enthusiasm about the election peaked in March, when Sanders was drawing wide millennial support in his bid for the Democratic nomination. It dropped some in August and again a little last month. Why should millennials be sure to vote next week?

Farnsworth: I think that you have to appreciate the fact that these one-day presidential elections have extraordinarily long-term consequences. Whether you like or don’t like one or both of these candidates, you will be governed by one of them and the decision made by this country on Election Day will affect things like the Supreme Court, our international relations and war and peace. Who knows how much the impact of a presidential election can be? It’s important to remember that the consequences downstream in terms of whatever might come across four years of a presidency can really have dramatic impacts. So even if you think that Election Day doesn’t matter, for four years you’ll learn that it does.

Cooperman: This enthusiasm gap will have an impact on the candidates who run. Political science research tells us that younger people are not reliable voters and most are very turned off by the prospect of running for office. That’s a problem for this election and ones in the future. Democracies work best when people opt in – to vote and be invested enough in the system to want to participate in a meaningful way. If millennials sit out this election, they’ve given away their voice and an opportunity to have their say about how we order our priorities and spend finite resources.

Students on Ball Circle

Rosalyn Cooperman, associate professor of political science, specializes in American political parties and the U.S. Congress. Her articles have been featured in multiple publications such as, American Political Science Review (2010), Virginia Social Science Journal (2011), and Political Science Quarterly (2015). She is a regular contributor to Presidential Gender Watch. Before coming to the University of Mary Washington in 2003, Cooperman’s professional experience in the political arena included serving as a campaign manager for Congresswoman Jill Long (IN-4) and working in the Montana State Legislature. Currently, she teaches the FSEM “U.S. Campaigns and Elections,” in which her students deconstruct the 2012 presidential campaign to analyze the current 2016 campaign.

Stephen Farnsworth is professor of political science and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington. He is the author and co-author of five books and dozens of scholarly articles on the presidency, mass media and Virginia politics. His political commentary has appeared in many media outlets such as The New York Times, Washington Post and C-SPAN. Farnsworth is a former Canada-U.S. Fulbright Research Chair in Public Policy at McGill University in Montreal and a former chair of the political communication section of the American Political Science Association.

Pumpkin Palooza: COAR, Candy and Costumes

On an unusually warm October afternoon, multiples of Batmans, scarecrows, witches and cowboys lined Campus Walk to fill their plastic pumpkins with candy. “Trick or treat, smell my feet,” an Egyptian princess teased as she reached for a Kit Kat bar. A few feet away an angel giggled and bit into a Reese’s Peanut Butter […]

Conquering Congress

Just before dawn in the nation’s capital this summer—before tourists flooded the streets—UMW alumna Grace May placed her order in the Dunkin’ Donuts, located inside the James Madison Memorial Building of the Library of Congress.

Great mind feature, September 16, 2016. (Photo by Norm Shafer). Great mind feature, September 16, 2016. (Photo by Norm Shafer). Photographer

“I was the very first customer every day,” said May, who was in the city for her Library of Congress internship. “They even memorized my order, a blueberry donut and tea.”

This past summer, May was one of 38 students – out of 800 who applied – to be accepted into the 2016 Junior Fellows Summer Intern Program at the Library of Congress. It’s an appointment she owes, in part, to the hands-on experience she’s collected while working with UMW’s Digital Archiving Lab. As part of the library’s Humanities and Social Sciences division, May spent 10 weeks creating templates that resulted in a presentation on display in the U.S. Presidential Inaugurations collection.

“I was given projects such as taking old content and creating new templates for items housed in the Library of Congress,” said May, who would commute into the city each day. “I also worked to make the website for The Main Reading Room more accessible.”

With a focus on the digital, May would spend hours online making library materials more accessible to users. She also had the chance to tour the Library of Congress, getting to see incredible artifacts like President Lincoln’s inaugural Bible.

“It was the same Bible that Obama and Lincoln placed their hands on,” said May, describing what turned out to be one of her favorite experiences during the internship.

At the end of the summer, the junior fellows put on a presentation within their divisions. May’s presentation focused on the U.S. Presidential Inaugurations collection. She created a template for this collection that made it easier to view and research the items within it. While presenting, May showcased the current template along with her modifications.

Before her summer internship, May had spent one year working with UMW’s Digital Archiving Lab, helping to convert Simpson Library’s rare and unique archival materials to digital formats.

“Grace has been a crucial element in helping us get our digital collections online,” said Carolyn Parsons, head of UMW’s Special Collections and Archives. “She’s digitized various Mary Washington publications, added metadata and helped us get our campus blueprint online.”

May graduated this past spring with a bachelor’s degree in history but is still working on her post-baccalaureate degree in computer science at Mary Washington. With only three classes left, she will officially finish her undergraduate studies this December.

“It’s one thing to learn about it in school,” said May, reflecting on how her experience at UMW positioned her for success at the Library of Congress. “But to actually apply it and make sure that you’re doing it to the best of your abilities – that’s the real goal.”

UMW Ghost Walk Returns to Fredericksburg

When the sun goes down in historic downtown Fredericksburg, the night comes alive. As the University of Mary Washington celebrates its 32nd Annual Ghost Walk on Friday, Oct. 21 and Saturday Oct. 22, the Fredericksburg nightlife will even get spooky. Hosted by UMW’s Historic Preservation Club, the 45-minute haunted tours will run from 6 to […]

UMW Students Go ‘Into the Streets’ to Serve Community

With coffee in hand and work boots on their feet, 79 University of Mary Washington students gathered in front of the University Center for COAR’s annual Into the Streets event on Saturday, Oct. 1. COAR, which stands for Community Outreach and Resources, is a student-run volunteer office established at UMW in 1990. The office serves […]

Fish Tales

When Assistant English Professor Jon Pineda decided to plan a fly-fishing lesson for literature students outside Combs Hall, he’d faced the facts. There would be no actual fish – or for that matter, water – on the green Jefferson Square lawn. The forecast that late-summer day proved him wrong.

The rain steadily poured while 15 students, many clad in rain jackets and slickers, lined up in the grass on the Fredericksburg campus. Over the sound of squeaky rain boots and fishing lines whipping through the air, Pineda celebrated each successful cast.

Students practice their fly-fishing skills on Jefferson Square.
Students practice their fly-fishing skills on Jefferson Square.

“I just imagined my students out on Jefferson Square, that was always the vision,” said Pineda, who invited two fishing experts from Orvis sporting goods store to teach students in his Ecoliterature class how to fly fish.  “We can talk all day long about fly fishing, but there’s something about actually holding the rod.”

In a two-part lesson, the Orvis fishermen, Mark Fackner and Aaron Spicer, instructed the students about fly patterns and the ecology of the river. Then, the novice student fishermen got to experience casting a fishing rod for themselves.

Ecoliterature students learn the basics of fly fishing. Kirsten Whitley casts her rod. Jon Pineda offers encouragement. Alexis Donahue concentrates on her delivery. Orvis expert Mark Fackner instructs students.

Fackner and Spicer taught the class two casts: false casting and the pick up and lay down. While some students got the hang of it immediately, many first timers struggled with technique.  Quick to sense their frustration, Pineda—an avid fisherman himself–jumped in to help.

“I’ve fished in so many conditions,” said Pineda. “This is what it’s all about.”

This 300-level literature course with a focus on nature and the environment was a dream class for Pineda. He hoped to provide his students with some hands-on experience to help them connect with their writing.

“Writers use their imagination when constructing narratives, of course, but having firsthand knowledge of the thing they’re describing often gives them a relevant starting point and can also help create additional opportunities for the scope of the piece,” said Pineda, an acclaimed writer and poet, who is a finalist for the 2016 Library of Virginia Literary Award. “Writers can choose specific, essential details that build more authentic imagery, which often lends greater credibility to the voice of the narrative.”

That’s just what happened while writing his novel Apology. At the time, he also worked for a telecommunications company where he had to learn to climb 35-foot telephone poles.

“I decided my protagonist would go through similar training, and so I wrote those parts into the story,” said Pineda, about the book that won the 2013 Milkweed National Fiction Prize.

First-timer sophomore Sally Marrazzo could relate as she cast her line high into the air. “I think this experience will benefit my writing in this class,” she said. “Even though we are all novices it’s given us a better understanding.”

That’s just what Pineda wanted to hear. He’s loves to learn new things and hopes to spark the same curiosity within his writing students.

“The reason I teach is because I want students to find their voice and find their way,” said Pineda, recipient of the University’s 2016 outstanding young faculty member award.  “I’m simply helping them find who they’ve always been.”

Creative Communication

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so they say.

For first-generation student Joemmel Tendilla, a picture is priceless.

The UMW freshman uses photography to break down the language barrier within his Filipino-American family.

Joemmel Tendilla an aspiring photographer at the ampitheater, Tuesday Nov. 17, 2015. (Photo by Norm Shafer). Joemmel Tendilla an aspiring photographer at the ampitheater, Tuesday Nov. 17, 2015. (Photo by Norm Shafer).

Though his immediate family moved to the United States before he was born, Tendilla’s extended family still lives in the Philippines, and it can be difficult to communicate with his family members whose native language is Tagalog.

Tendilla received his first camera as a hand-me-down from his sister when he was 16. Without ever taking a photography class, he taught himself how to capture beautiful images and tell stories through them.

“I communicate with my family through my pictures,” said Tendilla, a double major in sociology and political science. “My mom also doesn’t speak fluent English, so it’s easier to show her a picture than to try to find the words to explain it.”

As the first person in his family to attend a four-year college, Tendilla has become a role model for his family both in the U.S. and abroad. Tendilla started at UMW in August 2015 with a partial scholarship for his outstanding community service and leadership.

“My family back home in the Philippines is very proud,” said Tendilla. “Their education ends after middle school and, if they surpass it they have to pay for it, so college is a big deal.”

Tendilla’s passion for photography has evolved over the years. Today, not only does he photograph close friends and family, but extends his services to the UMW community for a small fee.

He enjoys the reaction from his subjects.

“I love seeing someone change their profile picture on Facebook to a photo I took and seeing all the positive comments,” said Tendilla. “It reminds me how much I love being a photographer.”

His favorite place to photograph? UMW’s amphitheater.

“I always return to the amphitheater,” said Tendilla. “It’s part of our campus history and it tells a great story.”


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The University of Mary Washington presents its 2016 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series beginning Thursday, Jan. 14. Now in its 13th year, the four-month series examines the lives of historical figures told through lectures by nationally prominent biographers and authors. The talks will be held at 7:30 p.m. on selected Tuesdays and Thursdays in George Washington […]

Lighting the Way

UMW senior brings Solar Lanterns to Tanzania

UMW Alumna Janel Donohue Receives Metzger Award

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