October 30, 2020

Ryan Hastings: Military Man

Staff Sgt. Ryan Hastings served for 20 years with the U.S. Army before becoming UMW's veterans liaison in 2019.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Hastings served for 20 years with the U.S. Army before becoming UMW’s veterans liaison in 2019.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Hastings began the year on a mission. He wanted to purchase lapel pins for faculty and staff to show solidarity with veterans and students from military families, who make up a sizeable chunk of the University of Mary Washington community. He shored up support from the Staff Advisory Council, the Office of the President and UMW’s Veterans Resource Center and found a local veteran-owned business to produce the pins.

Then came COVID-19. Everything was put on hold, that is, until Hastings decided to pay out of his own pocket for the pins, he said, “in a small act of defiance against the pandemic.”

This kind of commitment to those who have served is what led to Hastings – a 20-year U.S. Army veteran – becoming UMW’s Veterans Liaison in 2019. He previously earned a Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree in History and Communication from UMW and a post-baccalaureate degree in Leadership and Management Studies.

“As a student, I found it difficult to relate to many of my younger classmates,” said Hastings, adding that veterans tend to be older and married with children. Based in the Registrar’s Office on the Stafford Campus, he draws from personal experience to help the graduate students seeking their MBA or Master in Education, as well as the undergrad students using the V.A. Vocational Readiness and Employment education benefits to acclimate to life at UMW, often coordinating with other departments across the University.

After arranging tutoring for one student, Hastings shared how UMW’s Office of Disability Resources had helped him in college. He also brought him to the Veterans Resource Center on the University Center’s first floor, where veterans and military-connected students can study, relax and connect with other former service members.

“If you’re a veteran looking to recapture the camaraderie you had in the military,” he said, “I encourage you to give it a try.”

Q: What motivated you to join the military?
A: I grew up in a musical family, so I wanted to serve in one of the military bands stationed near Washington, D.C. After an intense audition process, I was fortunate to earn a spot with the U.S. Army Fife and Drum Corps and serve as a bugler at Fort Myer in Arlington for 20 years.

Q: What do you remember about your time in the military?
A: Marching in five inauguration ceremonies for Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama and performing at the opening of the D-Day Museum in New Orleans, where I met Tom Hanks. But I’m also haunted by the memories of the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon. Many of us saw it happen and were later tasked with removing the remains.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Engaging with UMW’s veteran community and helping them make their academic goals a reality.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Working with a student who just transitioned out of the military. There are a few required steps to set up education benefits through the Veterans Affairs office, which moves at a glacial pace.

Q: How has life changed for you now that you’re a veteran?
A: I’ve enjoyed using the word “no” a lot. I wasn’t able to say it very much between 1995 and 2015.

Day on Democracy Encourages Voting and Civic Engagement

Ashley Utz was a freshman at the University of Mary Washington when she registered to vote. To cast her ballot, she needed to find time during her busy class schedule and figure out which polling place was hers. “My inexperience with the voting process made it all the more challenging,” said Utz, now a senior, […]

Family Weekend: Connecting With UMW From the Comfort of Home

For the first time ever, UMW’s beloved fall tradition known as Family Weekend is going virtual, with events and activities throughout the weekend of Oct. 29 through Nov. 1.

For the first time ever, UMW’s beloved fall tradition known as Family Weekend is going virtual, with events and activities throughout the weekend of Oct. 29 through Nov. 1.

Every fall, University of Mary Washington students gather with loved ones on campus for exciting events and activities that showcase Eagle life.

Now in its 47th year, Mary Washington’s Family Weekend is going virtual for the first time. Even in the digital realm, this beloved tradition, held Oct. 29 through Nov. 1, promises families ample opportunities for quality time together while apart.

“Virtual Family Weekend allows families the flexibility to decide when they want to engage together,” said Marissa DiMeo, of the Office of University Events and Conferencing. Much of the digital content will be available around the clock, thus “eliminating the stress of missing out on events that occur at the same time.” And there’s no need to worry about the weather. Read more.

Family Weekend: Connecting With UMW From the Comfort of Home

Every fall, University of Mary Washington students gather with loved ones on campus for exciting events and activities that showcase Eagle life. Now in its 47th year, Mary Washington’s Family Weekend is going virtual for the first time. Even in the digital realm, this beloved tradition, held Oct. 29 through Nov. 1, promises families ample […]

Victoria Russell: (Re)Focused on Teaching

Center for Teaching Director and Associate Professor of Education Victoria Russell

Center for Teaching Director and Associate Professor of Education Victoria Russell

Victoria Russell comes from a family of teachers, but it was a career path she initially resisted. Instead, she set her sights on becoming a colonial historian. That changed when she took a break from archiving one day to volunteer at a local elementary school.

“I fell in love with being in the classroom,” said Russell, who soon began a master’s degree in education, while also completing her graduate work in history.

After two decades teaching students – including aspiring special education teachers in UMW’s College of Education since 2014 – she’s now supporting professors who wish to become better educators.

“At all touchpoints throughout my career, I’ve thrived when working directly with other teachers,” said Russell, who became the director of Mary Washington’s Center for Teaching (CfT) in June, three months into the pandemic.

Her work was cut out for her. Most UMW professors had never taught an online course before COVID-19 hit, so Russell and her team collaborated with Digital Learning Support (DLS) to create ReFocus Online, a four-week virtual teaching design camp for faculty and staff. Over 200 instructors signed up for at least one event or workshop this summer, and UMW resources were also shared with faculty and teaching centers at colleges and universities across Virginia and the country.

“We wanted to provide rich learning experiences for students this year,” Russell said, “no matter how and where we had to do it.”

Many of her colleagues were concerned about teaching virtually, but Russell says “their effort and willingness to learn new things” makes her confident they’ll succeed this year, whether in a classroom or online. “They learned about new ideas and ended up creating fabulous courses.”

 

Q: What’s happening with ReFocus Online this fall?
A: We’ve refocused! The website remains available as a resource, but we’re providing more direct and daily support for faculty. It’s about maintaining energy and momentum as well as problem-solving when challenges occur.

Q: What’s the Faculty Pedagogy Colloquium?
A: It’s a chance for faculty to share research about teaching or strategies they’re using in their classrooms. We’re also co-sponsoring several panels, including a Teaching Talk series on race in the classroom. A second panel, co-sponsored with the Women’s and Gender Studies program, focuses on post-tenure mentoring and faculty development.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: When faculty members share ideas they’d like to do but assume aren’t possible. The joy in a colleague’s voice after we help find a solution is the best feeling.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Being such a small unit and wanting to do more.

Q: While you’ve been teleworking, what have you missed about the UMW campus?
A: Seeing former and current students on Campus Walk. Getting coffee and lunch with friends. The laughter and energy in the CfT/DLS suite. And the leaves changing colors – fall is my favorite season at UMW.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always in the most unlikely places.” – Roald Dahl. It reminds me to pay attention and appreciate small bits of beauty and joy.

Social Justice Summit Spurs Students to Action

UMW students speak at a previous Social Justice and Leadership Summit, presented by the James Farmer Multicultural Center. Covering topics like systemic racism, housing injustice, immigration and climate crisis, this year's full event was held last weekend, while a smaller event was held during the summer.

UMW students speak at a previous Social Justice and Leadership Summit, presented by the James Farmer Multicultural Center. Covering topics like systemic racism, housing injustice, immigration and climate crisis, this year’s full event was held last weekend, while a smaller event was held during the summer.

When junior Mandy Byrd came to the University of Mary Washington, she got involved with the James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) and the University’s new NAACP chapter. These organizations helped open her eyes to a wide range of social justice issues, she said, and “just how powerful this kind of work can be.”

Her goal is to devote the rest of college – and beyond – to educating people about injustice and encouraging conversations that result in “positive and lasting change.”

She did both last Saturday, when JFMC hosted its Social Justice and Leadership Summit on Zoom. Dozens of Mary Washington students joined high school and community college students from the Fredericksburg area, as well as UMW faculty members and guest speakers, engaging in a virtual dialogue about pressing issues currently impacting our country and planet. Held annually since 2018 – usually in person – the summit gives students, according to the website, “the chance to build coalitions across cultural barriers, strengthen advocacy and promote a more equitable culture and climate at UMW and in American society.” Read more.

Social Justice Summit Spurs Students to Action

When junior Mandy Byrd came to the University of Mary Washington, she got involved in the James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) and the University’s new NAACP chapter. These organizations helped open her eyes to a wide range of social justice issues, she said, and “just how powerful this kind of work can be.” Her goal […]

Service Project Takes UMW Students ‘Into the Streets’ to Build Community

From right to left: Caroline Mowdy, Paige Beidelman and Lance Whitesel spread mulch with Tree Fredericksburg on Saturday as part of COAR’s Into the Streets. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

From right to left: Caroline Mowdy, Paige Beidelman and Lance Whitesel spread mulch with Tree Fredericksburg on Saturday as part of COAR’s Into the Streets. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Early Saturday morning, a group of University of Mary Washington students gathered on Ball Circle. Wearing masks and social distancing, they came together on that crisp fall day to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty, completing outdoor service projects for Into the Streets. The autumn tradition is hosted by UMW’s COAR (Community Outreach and Resources), whose mission is to provide structural support for community engagement, volunteerism and service.

“At a time when we are all unable to do many of the things that give us joy, satisfaction and focus,” said Leslie Martin, faculty director of UMW’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE),  “volunteering reminds us that we are all still connected and able to work together for the betterment of our shared community.”

The Center, which opened last fall, helps build bridges – and strengthen existing ones – between Mary Washington and organizations in the greater Fredericksburg area. Several of CCE’s community partners are navigating budget cuts and layoffs as a result of the pandemic, Martin said, so “our community needs us now more than ever.” Read more.

Service Project Takes UMW Students ‘Into the Streets’ to Build Community

Early Saturday morning, a group of University of Mary Washington students gathered on Ball Circle. Wearing masks and social distancing, they came together on that crisp fall day to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty, completing outdoor service projects for Into the Streets. The autumn tradition is hosted by UMW’s COAR (Community […]

Voter Registration Day Event Gives UMW Students a Voice

Callie Jordan remembers everything about her first election at age 18 – the poll workers excitedly handing her a ballot, penciling in the little circles to mark her choices and getting an American flag sticker to show the world that she had voted. But what she remembers most is feeling empowered. “I felt valued by […]