September 16, 2021

UMW Presents Top Faculty Awards

Professor of Religion Mary Beth Mathews earned the Grellet C. Simpson Award, the University of Mary Washington’s most prestigious honor for excellence in undergraduate teaching, established in 1972 and presented to a senior faculty member.

Professor of Religion Mary Beth Mathews

Professor of Religion Mary Beth Mathews

She was one of several professors honored at the fall semester’s opening faculty meeting. Most awards generally are presented at Commencement; this year, limited attendance at graduation ceremonies deferred some presentations.

As the most recent recipient of the award, Mathews was praised for her “spellbinding” lectures. She “challenges a broad community of students to think critically and reflect, both in and beyond the classroom,” said Associate Professor of Linguistics Janie Lee, chair of UMW’s Sabbaticals, Fellowships and Faculty Awards committee.

Mathews, who has taught at Mary Washington for 21 years, is a leading scholar of American – particularly African-American – and European religious history. She has led the charge to create UMW’s interdisciplinary African American studies minor and will serve as the program’s first director, beginning this year.

Described by Lee as a “pioneer in digital pedagogy and distance learning,” Mathews has team-taught a digital course, Divided Houses: Secession and Separatists Movements, and taught the Race & Revolution and Religion & Social Movements in the U.S. First -Year Seminars.

Professor of Communication Anand Rao received the J. Christopher “Topher” Bill Award for his contributions to the University and involvement and leadership in the greater community. Since 2003, this honor has been presented annually to a full-time member of the teaching faculty who has served at UMW for at least seven years and has a significant record of service accomplishments.

Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Rao’s “university and college service alone fills more than a page of his CV,” Lee said. In his 19 years at Mary Washington, he has held critical leadership roles on and off campus, serving twice as University Faculty Council chair and leading the Faculty Senate of Virginia. Rao also launched UMW’s Communication and Digital Studies major and department, which he currently chairs.

During the pandemic, Rao participated in the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Education Response and Recovery work group and co-facilitated UMW’s popular COVID-19 in Context and Life After COVID courses.

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science Pamela Grothe ’06 received the UMW Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award, given annually to an exceptional faculty member who has served the University for at least two years but no more than five.

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Pamela Grothe

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Pamela Grothe

Grothe returned a decade after her graduation to serve as a professor at her alma mater, where she has excelled in the areas of teaching, research and service. She “truly goes above and beyond,” Lee said, citing Grothe’s willingness to mentor students, manage her department’s social media accounts, serve on various university committees, and engage with current and prospective students, as well as alumni.

In addition, Grothe has developed a new study abroad course for students and secured a Virtual Library of Virginia grant to teach courses with Open Access Resources, Lee said, all while managing a heavy teaching load.

Among faculty who received awards during Commencement week earlier this year were Professor of Mathematics Janusz Konieczny, who earned the Waple Faculty Professional Achievement Award; and Professor of Marketing Kashef Majid, recipient of the Mary W. Pinschmidt Award, annually presented by the graduating class. Professor of Biological Science Andrew Dolby received the inaugural Board of Visitors Faculty Leadership Award.

UMW Theatre Plans Reflective In-Person Season

UMW Theatre kicks off its 2021-22 season this week with its first live performances in more than 18 months, presenting Joan Holden’s ‘Nickel and Dimed,’ based on the bestselling book by Barbara Ehrenreich. Photo by Geoff Greene.

UMW Theatre kicks off its 2021-22 season this week with its first live performances in more than 18 months, presenting Joan Holden’s ‘Nickel and Dimed,’ based on the bestselling book by Barbara Ehrenreich. Photo by Geoff Greene.

Mina Sollars sums up UMW Theatre’s upcoming season in a single word: revival.

“Preparing for the first in-person performances on campus in more than a year is such an honor,” Sollars, a University of Mary Washington junior, said of the lineup, which kicks off tomorrow at 7:30 with a pay-what-you-can preview performance in duPont Hall’s Klein Theatre. “We’re so lucky to be able to act onstage together once again.”

After an 18-month hiatus, UMW Theatre students, faculty and staff are once again planning an in-person season, producing plays that will be performed in front of a live audience, with COVID protocols in place. Beginning with Joan Holden’s Nickel and Dimed, this year’s shows reflect the collective pandemic-era conversation that has revolved around society, culture and politics.

“There’s no question that this seems to be an extraordinary moment to engage in the dialogue inspired by Nickel and Dimed,” Department of Theatre and Dance Chair Gregg Stull said of the play, which spotlights those who are overworked and underpaid. “Never before have we thought so much about work and what it means to make a living.” Read more.

UMW Theatre Plans Reflective In-Person Season

Mina Sollars sums up UMW Theatre’s upcoming season in a single word: revival. “Preparing for the first in-person performances on campus in more than a year is such an honor,” Sollars, a University of Mary Washington junior, said of the lineup, which kicks off tomorrow at 7:30 with a pay-what-you-can preview performance in duPont Hall’s […]

Maddie Taghon: Coach for Justice

Maddie Taghon picked up her first lacrosse stick in middle school. Years later, a job as a physical education teacher abroad made her realize her dream of coaching.

Maddie Taghon, who was named UMW women’s lacrosse head coach in 2020, and her team worked with campus organizations on the annual Run for Justice 5K to raise funds for the James Farmer Multicultural Center.

Maddie Taghon, who was named UMW women’s lacrosse head coach in 2020, and her team worked with campus organizations on the annual Run for Justice 5K to raise funds for the James Farmer Multicultural Center.

“From the second I stepped onto the field, I knew this is what I wanted to do,” said Taghon, who has trained players at all levels, from preschoolers to professionals on Britain’s national team. “All of these opportunities prepared me to coach at the collegiate level.”

Now the University of Mary Washington’s women’s lacrosse head coach, Taghon imparts her own experience as an athlete – she played defense and midfield at Presbyterian College in South Carolina – on UMW lacrosse players.

“It’s amazing watching their confidence grow through such a fun sport,” said Taghon, who earned a bachelor’s degree in history and art history, and coached at Shenandoah University and England’s Ampleforth College. “I love the creativity and speed of the game.”

Off the field, Taghon and her players have parlayed their passion into social justice. Inspired by Black Lives Matter, UMW women’s lacrosse teamed up last year with the Black and Jewish student associations, Women of Color, Brothers of a New Direction and the campus NAACP chapter to organize an annual Run for Justice, which took place again this summer. The virtual 5K has raised more than $5,000 toward a grant program for the James Farmer Multicultural Center and gained momentum along the way.

“The young women on my team were eager to get involved in a way that would impact our campus and community,” she said. “We want UMW student-athletes to know that they can create the change they want to see in the world by using their platform and voices.”

 

Q: What brought you to Mary Washington?
A: I came here to work with former women’s lacrosse head coach Caitlin Moore, who is now UMW Athletics assistant director. I knew it was a great school and program, and I fell in love with the campus immediately.

Q: What do you like most about campus?
A: The trees and the architecture, from Campus Walk to Ball Circle to the Bell Tower.

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: Getting to work with our amazing student-athletes.

Taghon, who played defense and midfield at Presbyterian College in South Carolina, said she enjoys watching her players grow and become more confident on the field.

Taghon, who played defense and midfield at Presbyterian College in South Carolina, said she enjoys watching her players grow and become more confident on the field.

Q: Most challenging?
A: The crazy highs and lows of managing a collegiate sports team.

Q: What’s your favorite thing in your office?
A: My Lilly Pulitzer water bottle. It keeps me hydrated and brightens up my day.

Q: Outside of work, how have you kept busy during the pandemic?
A: Lots of Netflix! I also started teaching a fitness class at a local gym in downtown Fredericksburg.

Q: What might people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I’m a horror fan – books, television, movies – as long as it isn’t too gory.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Find joy in everything you do.

Common Experience Encourages Critical Thinking, Connections

“We don’t need most of the fast-thinking system processes that were used thousands of years ago to survive,” said first-year student Bridget Zagrobelny (right), who learned from the PBS episode that autopilot thinking in modern life often results in mistakes and poor decisions. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

“We don’t need most of the fast-thinking system processes that were used thousands of years ago to survive,” said first-year student Bridget Zagrobelny (right), who learned from the PBS episode that autopilot thinking in modern life often results in mistakes and poor decisions. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Bridget Zagrobelny has heard that first impressions matter. But the University of Mary Washington freshman decided on a different strategy for making friends in college.

“We’re prone to judging others too quickly,” she said, “so it’s important to tap the brakes in our brains when we meet new people.”

She gained that insight after watching Living on Autopilot, an episode from the PBS Hacking Your Mind series exploring the mental processes at play in rational versus quick decision making, as part of this year’s Common Experience. Launched in 2015, this shared academic milestone gives incoming UMW first-year students the chance to engage in critical thinking and college-level discussions with professors, staff and peers as soon as they arrive on campus.

“We hope to challenge them to think about the material in new ways, learn about themselves and connect with their classmates,” said Assistant Professor of Biology April Wynn. As the First-Year Experience director, she oversees a variety of initiatives, including first-year seminars, living and learning communities, and peer mentorships, all designed to help freshmen successfully transition to life at Mary Washington. Read more.

Common Experience Encourages Critical Thinking, Connections

Bridget Zagrobelny has heard that first impressions matter. But the University of Mary Washington freshman decided on a different strategy for making friends in college. “We’re prone to judging others too quickly,” she said, “so it’s important to tap the brakes in our brains when we meet new people.” She gained that insight after watching […]

President Paino Focuses on What Matters Most in UMW Address

As the University of Mary Washington welcomed students to campus last week, President Troy Paino expressed “true joy” as he gathered with many of his colleagues for the first time since March of last year. Speaking in Dodd Auditorium last Monday, Paino was visibly moved as he delivered his all-University address in person to more […]

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President Paino Focuses on What Matters Most in UMW Address

As the University of Mary Washington welcomes students to campus this week, President Troy Paino expressed “true joy” as he gathered with many of his colleagues on Monday for the first time since March of last year. Speaking in Dodd Auditorium, Paino was visibly moved as he delivered his all-University address in person to more than 100 faculty and staff, while those still teleworking watched on livestream.

UMW President Troy Paino. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

UMW President Troy Paino. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Paino, who wore a mask in adherence to UMW’s indoor face coverings policy, shared his concerns about the Delta variant. But having witnessed the campus community’s commitment to mitigating the spread of the virus, he said he was confident in Mary Washington’s resilience and ability to adapt. “Our capacity to serve our students and fulfill our mission” will be renewed and strengthened after the adversity we’ve all faced, he said.

Touting a 90 percent vaccination rate among students and employees, Paino said the University will continue to monitor the situation and follow guidance from local and state health authorities. Finishing the last academic year among schools with the lowest number of cases, Mary Washington has been a model for the Commonwealth, he said. Furthermore, Chief of Staff Jeff McClurken, who managed UMW’s pandemic response with Interim Provost Tim O’Donnell, was asked to chair a team of COVID directors from Virginia colleges and universities.

Flanked by banners declaring the values that matter at Mary Washington, Paino announced that more than 7,000 members of the UMW community helped create “a collective expression … that is authentic to who we are.” Mary Washington will continue to collaborate with Atlanta-based firm Mindpower to refine and reinforce the Matter brand to tell our story to prospective students and their families, he said.

 

 

He also encouraged faculty and staff to focus on fostering connections with current students, especially those who came to UMW during the pandemic. “Individualized attention … the human interaction with our students inside and outside the classroom,” he said, “that’s the Mary Washington experience.”

The president also provided updates on construction projects, including the newly renovated Virginia Hall, which new students began moving into this week; the anticipated spring 2022 completion of Seacobeck as the new home of the College of Education; and the Maxine and Carl D. Silver Hillel Center, which will serve as a hub for UMW’s Jewish students. Funds have been secured from the General Assembly to start planning for a new theatre, Paino said, as well as a revitalization of the duPont, Pollard and Melchers arts complex.

Mary Washington has begun a nationwide search for a new chief diversity officer to succeed Sabrina Johnson, who retired earlier this year, Paino said. Citing UMW’s recent rankings on the Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges and Washington Monthly’s list of institutions that serve a public good, he added that Mary Washington is on the verge of hiring a full-time sustainability coordinator.

Paino concluded his address with praise for faculty and staff, emphasizing their role in helping UMW students discover what matters most to them. “I wish you well as we welcome our students back to campus,” he said, “and be reminded of the important work we do together.”

 

We want to create an ExpertFile profile for you!

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If so, UMW’s Media and Public Relations team wants to create an ExpertFile profile for you. The process is easy; to get started, we just need your bio, CV, photo and any links to recent research available on the web. The rest of the work is on us and ExpertFile, but you’ll get to review your profile in private mode and make edits before it goes public.

Once your profile goes live, you may be contacted by members of the media and other entities looking for your expertise. For those who cover topics regularly in the news, such as climate change, psychological trauma, politics and academic integrity, that might be often. For others, it might be more occasionally, when your area of expertise winds up in the news cycle.

It’s always up to you to accept or decline interview requests, but making some time for press coverage will ultimately help us get the word out about UMW and your research.

If you have questions or want us to start building your own ExpertFile profile, please contact UMW Media Relations Manager Jill Laiacona at jlaiacon@umw.edu.

If you already have an ExpertFile profile, please look out in your email for our 10-minute Content Refresh Survey, which will allow you to make you to make updates to your profile.