February 4, 2023

Beyond the Classroom Endowment Ramps Up Student Research

Senior Madeline Killian, seen here on a previous study-abroad trip to Spain, received funds from UMW’s Beyond the Classroom Endowment to travel to Madrid this winter to conduct research on Spain’s first civic organization for women.

Senior Madeline Killian, seen here on a previous study-abroad trip to Spain, received funds from UMW’s Beyond the Classroom Endowment to travel to Madrid this winter to conduct research on Spain’s first civic organization for women.

Senior Madeline Killian isn’t just hitting the books to study female scientists in 18th century Spain. In December she will travel to Madrid to delve into discoveries made by Junta de Damas de Honor y Mérito, the country’s first civic organization for women.

“They conducted groundbreaking medical experiments to improve infant health, and the group still exists today,” Madeline says. A physics and Spanish major at the University of Mary Washington, she plans to write her thesis on the topic.

This unique opportunity to explore Spain’s national archives and historical sites – and many other high-impact learning experiences for students – were made possible by UMW’s Beyond the Classroom Endowment (BTC). Established two years ago, the initiative supports student experiential learning, including independent research, internships, travel to academic conferences, and study abroad. Read more.

Beyond the Classroom Endowment Ramps Up Student Research

Senior Madeline Killian isn’t just hitting the books to study female scientists in 18th century Spain. In December she will travel to Madrid to delve into discoveries made by Junta de Damas de Honor y Mérito, the country’s first civic organization for women. “They conducted groundbreaking medical experiments to improve infant health, and the group still […]

Campus Recreation Scores Mary Washington Healthcare Sponsorship

The University of Mary Washington is getting a big boost from Mary Washington Healthcare (MWHC), which has committed to a sponsorship that will provide support for Campus Recreation (CREC) over the next five years.

“Mary Washington Healthcare exists to improve the health of all people in the region,” said MWHC Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Eric Fletcher. “Part of that commitment is to promote wellness, so partnering with UMW in these efforts is a natural connection. We hope our sponsorship helps students, faculty and staff stay healthy and enjoy life to the fullest.”

A portion of the funds will go toward campus events that encourage wellness, exercise and outdoor activities, like last week’s Big Ash Bonfire and Campout with Residence Life, and November’s Largest Gratitude Meditation.

But Director of Campus Recreation Kelly Shannon said the sponsorship will mainly help expand operating hours for the fitness center. More than 70 percent of the student body takes group classes, works out or participates in other activities such as intramural or club sports, she said. “MWHC’s sponsorship is helping us better serve our mission of promoting student success, learning and personal wellness.” Read more.

A new sponsorship by Mary Washington Healthcare will provide $100,000 in funding to Campus Recreation throughout the next five years.

A new sponsorship by Mary Washington Healthcare will provide $100,000 in funding to Campus Recreation throughout the next five years.

Alum Sheds Light on Economic Inequality

Lavar Edmonds ’14 discovered an interest in economics at UMW, where he received a bachelor’s degree in the subject. Now a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University, his research and opinions on housing, economic and educational inequality have made headlines.

Lavar Edmonds ’14 discovered an interest in economics at UMW, where he received a bachelor’s degree in the subject. Now a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University, his research and opinions on housing, economic and educational inequality have made headlines.

The Mayor of Mary Washington. That’s what one professor called then-student Lavar Edmonds ’14 as he strolled down Campus Walk, stopping to chat with everyone along the way.

“I’ve always been a curious person,” said Edmonds, who discovered a passion for social science research at the University of Mary Washington. Majoring in economics was “a whole new way to ask and answer my own questions about the world, which is a huge part of what I do now.”

A Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University, Edmonds engages in conversations with his students like he did with his professors a decade ago, describing his time at UMW as “an unparalleled experience.” He’s still asking important questions, such as how economic and housing inequality can impact learning, recently as a research specialist at Princeton University’s Eviction Lab.

At the start of the pandemic, Edmonds penned a Washington Post opinion piece that asked: Want to help kids weather this school year? Keep them from getting evicted. His expertise drew national attention, landing him interviews on PBS Newshour and NPR. Read more.

Betty Emrey of Mindpower Inc. contributed to the reporting and writing of this story.

UMW Alum Sheds Light on Economic Inequality

The Mayor of Mary Washington. That’s what one professor called then-student Lavar Edmonds ’14 as he strolled down Campus Walk, stopping to chat with everyone along the way. “I’ve always been a curious person,” said Edmonds, who discovered a passion for social science research at the University of Mary Washington. Majoring in economics was “a […]

Campus Recreation Scores Mary Washington Healthcare Sponsorship

The University of Mary Washington is getting a big boost from Mary Washington Healthcare (MWHC), which has committed to a sponsorship that will provide $100,000 for Campus Recreation (CREC) over the next five years. “Mary Washington Healthcare exists to improve the health of all people in the region,” said MWHC Senior Vice President and Chief […]

Alums Establish Mental Health Endowment in Friend’s Honor

Two years ago, Jake Kelly received a humorous text from his friend and former University of Mary Washington roommate, Phil Smith. But, just a week later, Jake and friends Jonathan Wigginton and Jeremy Wood, all 2010 alums, were shocked to learn that Phil had taken his own life.

2010 graduates Jeremy Wood, Jonathan Wigginton, Phil Smith, and Jake Kelly. When Phil took his life in 2020, his friends worked with Mary Washington to establish the Phil Smith ’10 Talley Center Endowment to provide more mental health and suicide prevention resources to UMW students.

2010 graduates Jeremy Wood, Jonathan Wigginton, Phil Smith, and Jake Kelly. When Phil took his life in 2020, his friends worked with Mary Washington to establish the Phil Smith ’10 Talley Center Endowment to provide more mental health and suicide prevention resources to UMW students.

“It totally hit us out of the blue,” says Jake, who returned to UMW with Jonathan to speak to incoming freshmen during Orientation, right before September’s Suicide Prevention Month. “We asked ourselves questions we couldn’t answer. Why did he do it? What did we miss?”

What they did know is that they wanted to memorialize Phil at Mary Washington, where their friendship began during their first week of classes. And they wanted his death to help spark discussions about mental health and suicide prevention.

With the blessing of Phil’s family, they began working with UMW’s Office of Advancement to establish the Phil Smith ’10 Talley Center Endowment, which will provide more counseling services, education and training, and other resources for current and future Mary Washington students. The endowment is on the verge of being fully funded, thanks to many generous donors, including Betty Dobbins Talley ’68 – her significant gift gave the Talley Center for Counseling Services its name – who gave $5,000 on Giving Tuesday in 2021 as part of a dollar-for-dollar match.

UMW also announced this week the rollout of an after-hours and weekend service through ProtoCall. Students now can access critical counseling care through the Talley Center as well as outside licensed professionals, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We have already seen an unprecedented volume of students coming in to see us, certainly in response to Jake and Jonathan’s presentation to freshmen,” says Talley Center Director Tevya Zukor. “As a firm believer that proactive treatment and intervention are the best way to prevent crises, it has been gratifying to see so many Eagles attending to their mental health needs.” Read more.

Mary Washington ElderStudy Encourages Lifelong Learning

As each August rolls around, University of Mary Washington students are getting ready for the new school year.

Mary Washington ElderStudy, now in its 30th year, kicks off its new season of exciting lectures, book discussions, gallery tours, performances and social engagements in August.

Mary Washington ElderStudy, now in its 30th year, kicks off its new season of exciting lectures, book discussions, gallery tours, performances and social engagements in August.

But they’re not the only ones heading back to class. Fredericksburg area seniors are gearing up for a new season of Mary Washington ElderStudy, or MWES. The lifelong learning program, celebrating its 30th year, offers exciting lectures, book discussions, gallery tours, performances, and social engagements to local retired or elder residents, including many Mary Washington alumni.

Lectures, now held in a hybrid format or on Zoom, are given by UMW faculty experts and accomplished outside speakers, covering a wide variety of topics: visual and performing arts, science and health, political science, business and economics, history, and much more.

“ElderStudy helps nourish one’s intellectual curiosity,” says Carolyn Eldred ’66, whose bachelor’s degree in psychology set her up for success in her career as a social science researcher.

She cites UMW President Troy Paino’s recent Mary Talk on the value of the liberal arts in a changing world. “I’m a firm believer in that kind of educational experience,” Carolyn says. “I’ve found that ElderStudy satisfies my hunger for continuing learning and exposes me to topics I might not have ever thought about. Learning can be an exciting, lifelong pursuit!”

Carolyn discovered MWES around the time of her 50th reunion at Mary Washington. A resident of the nearby Celebrate retirement community, which helps promote the program, she joined the curriculum and membership committees, helping curate each season’s activities, which are suggested by members.

This fall’s events include lectures on the history of education in colonial America, virtual reality, the issue of food waste, and the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House and the contributions UMW students made to the project. Professor of Political Science Stephen Farnsworth will provide an overview of the midterm elections. Theatre and Dance Department Chair Gregg Stull will offer sneak peeks of UMW Theatre’s upcoming season, as well as a lecture on the life and work of Stephen Sondheim in Seacobeck Hall’s newly renovated Weatherly Wing.

Participants can also tour Fredericksburg landmarks and visit UMW’s art galleries. In addition, there are monthly wine and cheese hours and book discussions over Zoom, and an in-person holiday luncheon and social in December.

“I’ve learned information changes over time, so it’s important to have a strong knowledge base in many different areas, so you can keep up as you age,” says Ellen Brown ’69, who majored in physics but enjoyed taking courses in art, literature, and theatre as a Mary Washington student. “With ElderStudy, there’s no homework or tests – just wonderful opportunities for lifelong learning.”

Ellen first discovered the program from former colleagues at Dahlgren’s Naval Surface Warfare Center, where she worked as a physicist for many years. She now serves on MWES’s curriculum and administrative committees. “We also make donations to support UMW departments whose faculty members have volunteered their time and expertise.”

Janet Kimbrell ’72 majored in English at Mary Washington, also loading up on courses in history, psychology, and drama. When she slowed down her real estate business six years ago, becoming involved in MWES gave her the chance to revisit these topics.

“When you’re retired, you have time to choose what you’re doing with your day,” says Janet, who has enjoyed hearing UMW Professor of Art History Julia DeLancey discuss how the bubonic plague impacted Venetian art. With the move to Zoom, she says, MWES now engages outside experts, such as a recent guest lecturer in New York City who spoke about jazz music.

“It’s such a blessing to have ElderStudy in our community because it helps us keep our minds active as we get older,” she says. “And we’re so thankful to be supported by the University of Mary Washington.”

Visit the ElderStudy website to learn more, request information and register for membership. 

-Article written by Assistant Director of Advancement Communications Jill Graziano Laiacona ’04.

Theatre Alum Creates Costumes For Hit Shows on Hulu, HBO

[caption id="attachment_166882" align="alignright" width="150"]Alicia Austin Alicia Austin[/caption] Alicia Austin ’16 had never even attended a play before coming to the University of Mary Washington. But after her first costume design course, she realized theatre was the perfect fit. “It was so interesting to me that I changed my major,” said Austin, who planned to study psychology but found elements of that in her new field. “I discovered that costuming could be a visual language to express each character’s personality.” Now she’s putting those sartorial skills to work. After earning a bachelor’s degree in theatre from Mary Washington, Austin completed an MFA at Yale University. Graduating just before COVID shuttered Broadway, she made a leap from stage to screen, joining design teams for remakes of HBO’s Sex and the City and Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, as well as the Hulu hit Only Murders in the Building, which just began its second season. It’s a success story she’s been stitching together a little at a time. Read more.

Summer Science Students Earn Perkins Research Awards

As temperatures soared near triple digits last Wednesday, the weather formed a compelling case for Ava Spencer’s research on how extreme heat impacts Fredericksburg’s most marginalized communities.

Participants in Mary Washington’s 2022 Summer Science Institute pose for a picture with their professors and peers. Photo credit: UMW’s Summer Science Institute.

Participants in Mary Washington’s 2022 Summer Science Institute pose for a picture with their professors and peers. Photo credit: UMW’s Summer Science Institute.

“I wanted to look at these issues from a sociological perspective, in a way that could help people,” says Ava, a rising senior majoring in environmental science at the University of Mary Washington.

She was one of a pair of students who took home the top prizes at UMW’s Summer Science Institute (SSI), which engages undergraduates in an intense 10-week research experience with professors and peers. At a public symposium held in the Hurley Convergence Center’s Digital Auditorium, she and physics major Kevin Leong were chosen by a panel of faculty judges to each receive a scholarship award through the John C. and Jerri Barden Perkins ’61 College of Arts and Sciences Student Research Endowment. The funds will help the students continue their projects through the upcoming school year.

Second place winners were Curtis Kasiski for his research on determining the dietary diversity of bumblebees, and Orianne Mbuyi Mujinga Kazadi for her work identifying fungal strains that can destroy invasive spotted lanternflies.

“I hope this award inspires them to open their minds to possibilities in life,” says Dr. Jerri Barden Perkins, who watched the presentations via Zoom. She was amazed at the variety and relevance of topics, she says, from fighting antibiotic resistance with phage therapy to using sockets to create video games. “The liberal arts and sciences education students find at Mary Washington broadens their perspectives and prepares them for the real world.”

Dr. Perkins earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Mary Washington and a M.D. from the Medical College of Virginia. She went on to conduct her own trailblazing research into rheumatoid arthritis and approved one of the first FDA drug therapies to combat AIDS. Her endowment, one of several she established at UMW, is in honor of her late husband, Cal, who practiced internal medicine.

“The Perkins scholarship award will allow us to recognize UMW students demonstrating exemplary performance,” says College of Arts and Sciences Dean Keith Mellinger. “This elevates SSI to a professional level.” Read more.