December 2, 2021

UMW Course Preserves Native American Stories

UMW historic preservation students are working this semester with the Patawomeck and Rappahannock tribes on a Native American heritage driving trail in King George County.

UMW historic preservation students are working this semester with the Patawomeck and Rappahannock tribes on a Native American heritage driving trail in King George County.

John Blankenship’s passion for historic preservation is personal. A member of Virginia’s Patawomeck Indian Tribe, he’s always been interested in learning about his family tree and the roots his ancestors laid along the Potomac River.

“Since I was young, I’ve wanted to ensure that the people and events of the past are remembered,” he said, “and that their stories are told accurately.”

Blankenship is getting that chance in University of Mary Washington Assistant Professor Lauren McMillan’s Preservation in the Community course. During November’s National Native American Heritage Month, UMW juniors and seniors enrolled in this historic preservation seminar are collaborating with the Patawomeck and Rappahannock tribes to create a driving trail that honors their past and present.

McMillan, who has partnered with the tribes on archaeological excavation projects for previous courses, said their work has the potential to put the region on the map as a destination for those who wish to learn more about indigenous history and culture. Read more.

Faces From Faraway Places: UMW Goes International

Roommates Lauren Harford (left) and Daisy Jennings, seen here at Eagle Gathering, are among the more than 50 international students currently attending the University of Mary Washington.

Roommates Lauren Harford (left) and Daisy Jennings, seen here at Eagle Gathering, are among the more than 50 international students currently attending the University of Mary Washington.

When Lauren Harford and Daisy Jennings arrived at the University of Mary Washington last summer, a small gesture made a big difference. Center for International Education (CIE) Director Jose Sainz personally escorted the roommates to purchase a few English comforts – a kettle, tea and biscuits – after an unexpected doctor’s visit for Harford.

“I’m beyond grateful for the care I got thousands of miles from home,” said Harford, a University of Reading student who came from Great Britain in August to spend a year at UMW. “I knew then I’d be in good hands at Mary Washington.”

More than 50 students from across the globe – twice as many as this time last year – are studying at UMW this semester. During International Education Week, Nov. 15 to 19, we celebrate faces from faraway places – Fiji and France, Egypt and Ethiopia, Nepal and Nigeria, Scotland and Saudi Arabia. After quarantines, lockdowns and COVID protocols due to the global pandemic, they’re here to experience life at an American college. It’s an all-around cultural win.

“You can bring a piece of the world to your campus,” Sainz said, “especially at a time when domestic students are unable or reluctant to travel.” Read more.

UMW Course Preserves Native American Stories

John Blankenship’s passion for historic preservation is personal. A member of Virginia’s Patawomeck Indian Tribe, he’s always been interested in learning about his family tree and the roots his ancestors laid along the Potomac River. “Since I was young, I’ve wanted to ensure that the people and events of the past are remembered,” he said, […]

Faces From Faraway Places: UMW Goes International

When Lauren Harford and Daisy Jennings arrived at the University of Mary Washington last summer, a small gesture made a big difference. Center for International Education (CIE) Director Jose Sainz personally escorted the roommates to purchase a few English comforts – a kettle, tea and biscuits – after an unexpected doctor’s visit for Harford. “I’m […]

Jill Hyman: Global Guide

Jill Hyman hails from Philadelphia, but some of her most life-changing moments happened in a rural Chinese village.

Jill Hyman, study abroad coordinator for UMW's Center for International Education.

Jill Hyman, study abroad coordinator for UMW’s Center for International Education.

“Studying abroad made me who I am today,” said Hyman, who spent a college semester in Beijing nearly a decade ago. While in China, she held a panda cub, trekked rice terrace fields, stayed in tiny hostels and shared traditional meals with locals. “Meeting people from all walks of life, thousands of miles from home, was a really meaningful experience.”

Since 2019, Hyman has helped globetrotting students plan their own overseas adventures, as the study abroad coordinator for University of Mary Washington’s Center for International Education (CIE). The Center also aids international students – there are currently more than 50 on campus – as they acclimate to life in the United States and at UMW.

“The personal, academic and professional growth that living and learning abroad facilitates is the key to developing global awareness and understanding,” said Hyman, who earned a bachelor’s degree from American University and a master’s of international education from The George Washington University.

At Mary Washington, with more than 150 programs in 60 countries, Hyman guides students through every aspect of the study abroad process, including navigating COVID protocols for international travel. CIE has monitored the ever-evolving situation, she said, working closely with government agencies, healthcare providers and academic counterparts in foreign countries since the start of the pandemic.

As International Education Week kicks off next Monday, Hyman said she feels hopeful and heartened that UMW students are beginning to travel once again.

“Our doors are open,” she said. “We’re ready to help you go abroad!”

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Q: How many UMW students are studying abroad this year?
A: We have 10 this fall and two dozen next semester, including one at sea. There are also faculty-led trips going to the Galapagos, Guatemala, Jamaica, England and Poland during spring break.

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: Seeing UMW students come to my office, anxious and unsure, and then return brimming with confidence. They often serve as CIE peer advisors after studying abroad, so it’s a privilege to get to know them better.

Q: Most challenging?
A: It was stressful when we brought our students home at the start of the pandemic, but I feel like the worst is behind us.

Q: What is one of your favorite travel memories?
A: In 2015, my husband and I got engaged in Ireland. We drove all over backroads in a rented car, seeing as much of the country as we could. He proposed on the last day, at sunset under a rainbow on the Cliffs of Moher. We dined at Knappogue Castle that evening.

Q: Where do you want to go next?
A: I have to pick one? My top five are Poland, Peru, Scotland, Taiwan and South Africa.

Q: What would surprise people about you?
A: I’ve seen all 807 television episodes and 13 movies in the Star Trek franchise. Live long and prosper, fellow nerds!

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Literature Course a Matter of Life and Death – and Purpose

Shelley Nguyen hasn’t landed on a career choice yet, but she’s already contemplating what kind of legacy she wants to leave. “It’s important to think about how I want to live my life,” said Nguyen, a University of Mary Washington sophomore and international affairs major who spends a few minutes each morning jotting down notes […]

Literature Course a Matter of Life and Death – and Purpose

A UMW course called Literature of Death and Purpose has students exploring prose and poetry grappling with grief, loss and life’s meaning. Photo by Annabelle Shuler.

A UMW course called Literature of Death and Purpose has students exploring prose and poetry grappling with grief, loss and life’s meaning. Photo by Annabelle Shuler.

Shelley Nguyen hasn’t landed on a career choice yet, but she’s already contemplating what kind of legacy she wants to leave.

“It’s important to think about how I want to live my life,” said Nguyen, a University of Mary Washington sophomore and international affairs major who spends a few minutes each morning jotting down notes in a gratitude journal. “I’m glad I’m already figuring these things out.”

She began to think along those lines during one of her first courses at Mary Washington: Literature of Death and Purpose. Introduced right before COVID hit in spring of 2020, the timely class covers two millennia of prose and poetry grappling with grief, loss and life’s meaning. In addition to literary analysis, students write letters to their 80-year-old selves, practice connecting with strangers, visit cemeteries and take photos to illustrate what brings them joy. Projects like these have helped them process the pandemic and reflect on what the late poet Mary Oliver – whose work “The Summer Day” made it onto the syllabus – called their “one wild and precious life.”

Conceived and taught by Professor of English Marie McAllister, whose research explores the intersection of literature and medicine as well as 18th-century works, the class was originally meant to focus on health. But, as she began developing it three years ago, McAllister found many pieces that wrestled with death, illness, pain and suffering.

“I thought, ‘Wow, that’s pretty bleak,’” she said, “but much of what has been written about death is actually about how to live our best life while we still can.” Read more.

Gregg Stull: Return to the Stage

Department of Theatre and Dance Chair Gregg Stull sets the scene as he shares his first impressions of his alma mater.

Theatre and Dance Professor and Chair Gregg Stull

Theatre and Dance Professor and Chair Gregg Stull

“I discovered Mary Washington when we visited my aunts who lived on Kenmore Avenue,” said Stull, who earned a bachelor’s degree in dramatic arts in 1982. “I remember sitting in the backseat of my mother’s car as we passed by the gates.”

First in his family to attend college, Stull described campus life as “idyllic” and slow paced – with one exception. In the theatre department, amid the hustle and bustle of rehearsals and shows, he learned not only to perform onstage but how to run lights, paint scenery, build costumes and manage the box office, under the guidance of supportive faculty members. “They encouraged us to stretch ourselves in every direction.”

Stull, who holds a master’s degree from the University of Maryland, put his studies to work as managing director of D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre, before being hired first as an adjunct in 1990, then as a full-time instructor.

Now, as department chair, Stull ensures UMW’s aspiring thespians still receive a well-rounded education, even during the pandemic. With stages going dark everywhere, the department pulled together and persevered, delving into virtual productions, offering online and socially distanced courses, and employing professional actors to teach via Zoom.

But nothing compares to performing for a live audience, Stull said. In September, COVID precautions in place, UMW Theatre returned to the stage to perform Joan Holden’s Nickel and Dimed. After an 18-month hiatus, Mary Washington served as model to other schools as to how to safely resurrect live performances.

Next up is the Tony Award-winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, about a teen who investigates the mysterious death of a neighbor’s dog, opening Nov. 11, followed by The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Julius Caesar.

“Ours is work that demands we share space, proximity and even breath with each other,” Stull said. “We need to be in dialogue with an audience; nothing can replicate that moment of connection.”

Purchase tickets for UMW Theatre’s upcoming performances. Masks and proof of vaccination or a negative test are required.

 

Q: As a student, did a particular professor make an impact on you?
A: My advisor, Roger Kenvin, sparked a curiosity in me about the world that made me see myself beyond my rural high school and Mary Washington. We still exchange handwritten letters, 43 years later.

Q: How will Curious Incident resonate with audiences?
A: It’s an extraordinary story about challenging assumptions, exceeding expectations and navigating the chaos of life. It’s filled with hope and joy, which we could all use more of right now.

Q: Thoughts on UMW’s planned new theatre complex?
A: We’ve outgrown duPont and need facilities that support our work and project the theatre spaces students will encounter when they enter their professional lives.

Q: You were executive director of the NAMES Project, which displays the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and recently contributed to UMW’s LGBTQ+ Alumni Oral History Collection. What message do you hope to convey to the next generation doing this work?
A: Being part of a global project fighting for the rights of people who were dying without a voice affirmed for me that art is powerful and can change the world. I hope today’s young people will honor the struggle that brought us to this point in history and remember those whose lives were lost when the world – not so long ago – did not value difference.

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: When students discover themselves as a result of working on a production, I know I’m doing what I was called to do.

Q: Most challenging?
A: Meeting and responding to our ever-changing world on our stages and in our classrooms and studios.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I went to culinary school in Italy and was a stage (French for “cooking apprentice”) at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Emilia-Romagna.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Thinking and doing, doing and thinking,
That is the sum of all wisdom. – Goethe

Memoirist, Disability Rights Activist Kenny Fries Delivers Keynote

Author and disability rights activist Kenny Fries delivered the keynote address for JFMC’s Disability Awareness Month and Gender & Sexual Minorities & Allies cultural celebration at UMW. Photo credit: Michael R. Dekker.

Author and disability rights activist Kenny Fries delivered the keynote address for JFMC’s Disability Awareness Month and Gender & Sexual Minorities & Allies cultural celebration at UMW. Photo credit: Michael R. Dekker.

Acclaimed writer Kenny Fries had a message to impart last week when he spoke to University of Mary Washington students: “Disability is just a different way of moving through the world.”

Fries, an author and activist whose work focuses on his experiences of being disabled and gay, came to UMW to deliver the keynote address for James Farmer Multicultural Center’s duo of commemorations: Disability Awareness Month and Gender & Sexual Minorities & Allies cultural celebration. The event was held in the University Center’s Chandler Ballroom and livestreamed via Zoom.

A prolific writer, Fries earned a master’s degree in playwriting from Columbia University. He has published the award-winning In the Province of the GodsThe History of My Shoes and The Evolution of Darwin’s Theory and Body, Remember: A Memoir as well as several books of poetry, and he edited the literary anthology Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out. Fries is also the recipient of numerous awards, grants and fellowships and is a two-time Fulbright Scholar. Read more.

Memoirist, Disability Rights Activist Kenny Fries to Deliver Keynote

Acclaimed writer Kenny Fries has a message to impart tomorrow when he speaks to University of Mary Washington students: “Disability is just a different way of moving through the world.” Fries, an author and activist whose work focuses on his experiences of being disabled and gay, comes to UMW to deliver the keynote address for […]