October 2, 2023

Carole Garmon: Art as Life

While the month winds down and we’re all consumed with information about COVID-19, March gives us something to celebrate – Arts Education Month, and a teacher’s dedication to students.

Carole Garmon’s career – and art – is best described as one and the same.

Professor of Art Carole Garmon

Professor of Art Carole Garmon

The longtime UMW professor of art views the world through a visual lens, believing the creative process fuels the imagination. “We have to allow ourselves to imagine things beyond the tangible. Art is beautiful and sometimes challenging,” she said. “But it’s always a reflection on the self.”

A Texas native, Garmon was reflecting on her own future when she moved to Virginia to earn an MFA in sculpture at VCU. She came to work at Mary Washington in 1998, hired to update the sculpture area in Melchers Hall. Presented with a blank canvas, she was charged with creating – almost from scratch – a studio art program, which she says champions art as a career and a lifestyle, not “merely a lifelong appreciation.”

Her stance is the perfect portrait for March, Arts Education Month.

Garmon’s love of teaching is as extraordinary as her passion for artmaking. “Curiosity and wonder” are what drive her. Teaching allows her to constantly channel the creative process, even when she’s supposed to be sleeping.

“I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and brainstorm possible solutions for students,” she said.

Garmon is one of only two Americans chosen to participate in the international exhibition, Inspired By Rembrandt, commemorating the celebrated artist’s 400th birthday. Her work has been shown in D.C., San Antonio, New York, Peru and Berlin, with an upcoming exhibit in New Orleans.

She loves seeing former students’ art, too, around the world. She’s never surprised but always amazed.

“Some students say I act like they can do anything,” Garmon said. “What’s the alternative? Nothing?”

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: I work with talented students and faculty who recognize the importance of art and commit to a life that some view as “not as relevant” as traditional life goals.

Q: Most challenging?
A: Getting students comfortable with risk-taking, even failure. We learn a lot through these experiences; I’d say more so than from our successes. Think masterpiece, risk failure.

Q: Your favorite work of art?
A: Donatello’s sculpture of David. He’s far from the traditional heroic approach. When I saw him in an art history class, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He blurs gender; the epitome of ambiguity. As photographer Sally Mann says, “If it doesn’t have ambiguity, why bother?”

Q: How do you teach art virtually?
A: For many, it’s a first. My classes voted on how to proceed. We upload and comment on images through Canvas. My assignments provide openness, empowering students to push creativity while working away from the studio. They’re resilient and eager to keep learning. They’ve blown me away. A student who finally made it back to California just told me she had to bend her artwork to get it on the plane. We do what we have to do.

Q: A mantra you live by?
A: “Never ask permission to take up space” and “If you’re asking the question, you already know the answer.”

Garmon asked to include a special addendum for this uncertain time:
“If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

One Note Stand Single Makes A Cappella Album

Out of hundreds of national submissions, Mary Washington’s One Note Stand stood out. The co-ed a cappella group started its year on a high note, with its most recent single, See Her Out, among 20 songs chosen for 2020’s Best of College A Cappella (BOCA) album. One Note Stand also made its fourth consecutive appearance […]

One Note Stand Single Makes A Cappella Album

UMW’s a cappella group, One Note Stand, recently learned its most recent single, ‘See Her Out,’ was among 20 songs chosen for 2020’s Best of College A Cappella (BOCA) album.

UMW’s a cappella group, One Note Stand, recently learned its most recent single, ‘See Her Out,’ was among 20 songs chosen for 2020’s Best of College A Cappella (BOCA) album.

Out of hundreds of national submissions, Mary Washington’s One Note Stand stood out.

The co-ed a cappella group started its year on a high note, with its most recent single, See Her Out, among 20 songs chosen for 2020’s Best of College A Cappella (BOCA) album. One Note Stand also made its fourth consecutive appearance at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella Mid-Atlantic quarterfinals in Washington, D.C., last weekend.

The ensemble could barely contain its excitement, said President Kali Lassiter, who “jumped for joy” when she learned the song was selected. “We put in a lot of hard work and it paid off.” Read more.

UMW Alumna Produces ‘Puppy Bowl’ Cuteness

This Super Bowl Sunday, millions of viewers will tune in to a cuddlier kind of competition when Team Ruff and Team Fluff face off for Puppy Bowl XVI. UMW alumna Jordan Kyler ’14 has worked for nearly a year on the show, which has become increasingly popular since it began in 2005. As associate producer on […]

Lacrosse Player Scores Big With Study Abroad

For Bobby Leytham ’18, a single semester in Spain was a game-changer. Now a software consultant for a powerhouse company in Bilbao and a player on Spain’s national men’s lacrosse team, Leytham is living his dream, said UMW Professor of Spanish Jose Sainz. A bachelor’s degree in business administration and four years’ experience as a […]

Andréa Smith: Tombstone Teacher

Fredericksburg is home to many historic landmarks, but graveyards may not immediately come to mind. The St. George’s, Masonic, Confederate and City cemeteries are all within walking distance of Mary Washington. Nearby is Shiloh, a historic burial ground for the City’s three sister African American congregations, as well as Fredericksburg National Cemetery, final resting place for more than 15,000 Union soldiers.

Professor of Historic Preservation Andrea Livi Smith

Associate Professor of Historic Preservation Andrea Livi Smith. Photo by Matthew Sanders.

All those ghost stories and headstones are enough to frighten some, but Associate Professor of Historic Preservation Andréa Livi Smith’s students sign up for a semester full of them.

When her Historic Fredericksburg Foundation cemetery tours drew crowds a couple years ago, Smith decided to offer her students the chance to explore these haunts for themselves. Now in her second semester teaching the 400-level historic preservation course “Graves and Burial Grounds,” Smith is still amazed by the waitlist that crops up for the class.

She believes burial sites say lots about the lives of the dead, and her students’ final projects – including the documentation of concrete graves in Fredericksburg, a brochure of a local family cemetery and headstones sculpted in 18th-century designs – reflect that notion.

Hired in 2008, Smith landed her “dream job,” she said, since UMW’s program is revered in historic preservation circles. Her days are spent like any other professor’s, with plenty of teaching, grading and advising. But Smith’s particular gig scares up some additional duties, like surveying historic houses and photographing gravestones.

Now that’s spooky.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Helping students discover their passion. I’ve never had someone come to UMW saying they desperately want to become a preservation planner. But some realize they love it and subsequently go into that career. Knowing I played a part in that discovery is an incredible feeling.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Balancing all that needs to get done. Also, getting enough sleep.

Q: What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?
A: I once challenged myself to quote The Princess Bride in every class until someone called me on it. No one ever did, so I kept it up all semester long.

Q: What in your office is meaningful to you?
A: I have a lot of LEGOs, including a mausoleum designed by a student who took the Graves course.

Q: What’s your favorite burial site?
A: I love the “Woodmen of the World” tombstones, which all look like logs or tree trunks. Woodmen was – and still is – an insurance company that used to provide gravestones for their members; apparently it was great advertising.

Q: People are often superstitious or scared of cemeteries and burial sites, especially at Halloween. What would you say to help quell their fears?
A: In the 19th century, there were no public parks, so people went to cemeteries to enjoy the outdoors. Just imagine families picnicking and children playing tag among the gravestones. Or is that even more spooky?

Alison Grimes: Access for All

Associate Director of Disability Resources Alison Grimes.

Associate Director of Disability Resources Alison Grimes.

Associate Director of Disability Resources Alison Grimes wears many hats. She’s a disability content specialist, educator, motivator, interpreter, sounding board, cheerleader, trainer and more. It’s what you’d expect, given that Mary Washington has the highest population – 11 percent – of students who self-disclose a disability, when compared to other Virginia state universities.

After earning a master’s of education degree from UMW in 2011, Grimes thought she’d become a teacher. But a position in counseling services changed her mind, and six years ago, she landed a job in the Office of Disability Resources (ODR) at her alma mater.

“I felt that I could make a bigger impact and support a community that helped me grow into the passionate professional I am now,” said Grimes, whose days are spent meeting with students, navigating committees, reviewing documentation and working with faculty and staff. To Grimes, the willingness to learn and take on additional roles and responsibilities is necessary toward enacting change in a student’s life.

Diagnosed with type one diabetes as a child, she uses her personal experiences to encourage students to communicate their needs, understand their strengths and access the campus community so they can make their own mark. Despite her chronic illness, Grimes says the onus is on her to push herself to participate in life and be there for her students.

“I believe actions speak louder than words,” she said. “If I’m going to ask students to show up, I should as well.”

The motivation appears to be working. Grimes’ desk is decorated with thank you cards from students she’s helped, reminding her on difficult days just how much she loves her job.


Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: The students, by far. I love seeing them grow and learn to advocate on their own behalf. I appreciate how they bring a level of understanding of access to the different areas in which they participate across campus and the support they give one another.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Finding ways to support students, as it’s never a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s about learning what each person needs and helping based on that information.

Q: October is dedicated to celebrating disability inclusion. Why is that important?
A: Individuals with disabilities constitute the largest and most diverse minority group, so it’s critical that we educate our community. Promoting disability awareness helps those with different needs be heard and understood, and encourages empowerment and advocacy across campus.

Q: Is ODR introducing any new initiatives?
A: Our new mission is Access for All. We’re working to guide the UMW community into focusing on accessibility first. For example, ODR has partnered with Diversity and Inclusion on addressing the need for accessible furniture on campus. We’re also offering more training opportunities for our campus partners. In spring 2020, ODR will launch the Keep CALM campaign to assist faculty with choosing accessible learning materials. More information will be shared in the coming months.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill


Mike Muckinhaupt: Eye on the Storm

Mike Muckinhaupt has always been fascinated by tornadoes – from childhood games of twirling around on the playground to real-life chases where he’s faced whirling storms and furious funnels of air.

Mike Muckinhaupt

UMW Director of Emergency Management and Safety Mike Muckinhaupt

His interest in severe weather was further piqued when he worked as a radio technician at his local Amateur Radio Emergency Services group in Ohio. Shortly after, he decided to pursue emergency management as a vocation. According to Muckinhaupt, the ability to remain composed and keep others calm in crises can only be learned over time, and through experience.

Muckinhaupt joined UMW two years ago as a fire safety officer. Now UMW’s director of Emergency Management and Safety, he describes his job as “Jack of all trades, master of none.” On any given day, he monitors weather forecasts, looking for issues that may have popped up overnight, and attends safety-related meetings all across campus.

With expertise that runs the gamut, Muckinhaupt is prepared to report in any situation – fire, weather, life safety, you name it. Just don’t mention his fear of heights.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Watching everyone come together during an emergency and working as a team. I have had a lot of proud moments here at UMW watching our team work as one.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Trying to get the word out about our department and the importance of emergency management and safety to all students, staff, faculty and visitors. This is why I urge everyone to visit our website. If you have questions, please ask before an emergency strikes!

Q: What constitutes an emergency?
A: Any situation that requires immediate action to eliminate a risk to life or property.

Q: What should everyone have in their go-to emergency bag?
A: Water, non-perishable food, flashlights, a first aid kit and cash are the five most important items. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s checklist can help assist with preparation for emergencies of any nature.

Q: Anyone who spends much time on campus is familiar with the booming voice that warns them to seek shelter. How does it work?
A: The Area Warning System is sounded for various emergencies. A computer is set up at our Communications Center showing all of the speaker arrays. With two clicks of the mouse, the system is activated and will sound for as long as necessary. If you hear the AWS, take immediate action!

Q: A memorable emergency you’ve had to respond to?
A: In June of 2006, when the area I was supporting received over 6 inches of rain in one hour, alongside a Tornado Warning, high winds and power outages. I was working at the Emergency Operations Center as a scribe and runner to the Law Enforcement desk. Going through training during that emergency was the best on-the-job training that I have received.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Pay It Forward. This motto was adopted by our family in memory of my mom. Performing a random act of kindness may mean more to someone than you could ever realize.

Sign up to receive emergency alerts at https://www.umw.edu/alerts/.

Service Project Takes UMW Students ‘Into the Streets’

Early Saturday morning, a wave of 200 blue shirts emblazoned with the words “Little ripples make big waves,”stretched out across the front of the University Center. Wearing the shirts were UMW students gathered for Into the Streets, one of six annual events hosted by UMW’s COAR (Community Outreach and Resources), whose mission is to provide […]

UMW Events Promote Sexual Assault Awareness

Tomorrow, a rainbow of T-shirts will hang from a clothesline on the University of Mary Washington’s Ball Circle, each individually designed and crafted to publicly express the personal experience of a survivor of gender violence. The Clothesline Project is just one of the events UMW is involved in and hosting this April to recognize Sexual […]