July 15, 2019

Bianca Hightower: Career Creator

Bianca Hightower, assistant director of the Center for Career and Professional Development. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Bianca Hightower, assistant director of the Center for Career and Professional Development. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Bianca Hightower has several meaningful mementos and family photos decorating her office. But for the assistant director of the Center for Career and Professional Development, what reminds her most of why she loves her job are the signed business cards from UMW graduates she’s guided toward careers.

“I work closely with students to help them develop the skills and experiences they need to pursue their career goals,” said Hightower, who came to Mary Washington in 2013 and began her current role two years later. “I cherish seeing how successful they have become.”

Hightower oversees UMW’s Peer Career Consultant Program and helps students navigate the internship and job search, in addition to teaching a course that helps job seekers learn how to communicate their personal brand to prospective employers. One might assume that Hightower and the Career and Professional Development staff have downtime during the summer. On the contrary, the office is bustling with activity, especially after commencement, during orientation and before the start of the school year. In the meantime, the staff is busy preparing to help the next crop of students plan their futures.

If that isn’t enough, Hightower also supports teenagers throughout the region in finding pathways to success. She leads the James Farmer Scholars, a college access program for 250 students in grades seven to 12.

“Juggling these dual roles has certainly challenged me to grow as a professional,” Hightower said. “I manage by staying organized and being efficient. But I couldn’t do it without the people around me.”


Q: How did you come to work in this field?
A: I completed several internships during graduate school to discover my interests and career services was where I found my niche.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: When students are able to define and reach their goals. Figuring out a career path is a daunting task, so I applaud students for working through the process.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Finding time in the day to fit it all in. Our office is small, but we get the job done.

Q: Tell us about Handshake and how it works.
A: It’s a platform that students use to connect with potential mentors and employers, track their experiences and keep in touch with our office. The biggest use is for students to search for and apply to job and internships posted in the system by employers.

Q: How will the James Farmer Scholars celebrate the 100th anniversary of James Farmer’s birth next January?
A: We are planning a reunion for past Scholars and special activities for current participants.

Q: What was your favorite summer job as a teen or college student?
A: Working as an undergraduate RA during a summer school session at Wake Forest University. It was a different dynamic than during the academic year and helped solidify my desire to pursue a career in higher education.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I am obsessed with cheerleading! I recently had knee surgery after being on an adult cheer team, but it was worth it.

Student-Athlete Award Winner Scores Government Fellowship

John Cronin ’19 came to the University of Mary Washington to play basketball. But the Springfield, Virginia, native’s biggest goal was to be known for more than just his jump shot, though he admittedly didn’t have a plan for college beyond that. A mere two months after graduating, Cronin, who was named 2019’s Male Student-Athlete […]

Larus Interviewed by Fortune.com on China Trade Talks

Political Science Professor Elizabeth Larus

Political Science Professor Elizabeth Larus

Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Elizabeth Larus, an expert on the politics of China, was recently interviewed on Fortune.com for an article titled “The U.S. May Have Snubbed a Critical Dealmaker in China Trade Talks.” In the article, she discusses how trade deals differ in China from the U.S.

According to the article, “In China, the situation is almost entirely flipped, with high-level control making use of focused experts. ‘The Chinese communist party has what’s called leading small groups—LSGs—for all important policy matters,’ Larus said. ‘Xi Jinping is the leader of most of these leading small groups.’ Xi also happens to be the president of the PRC and the general secretary of the Communist Party of China.”


Schiffrin Quoted in Yahoo Article about Intensive Parenting

Professor of Psychology Holly Schiffrin

Professor of Psychology Holly Schiffrin

Professor of Psychology Holly Schiffrin was quoted in a Yahoo.com article titled “Science Suggests Parents are Taking Parenting Too Far.”

In the article, Shiffrin says, “When I was in college there was no parental involvement unless there was some kind of crisis. It’s just a really different level of involvement now. Parents are giving kids feedback on their papers, or emailing or calling me and other faculty members. It’s not every student, but it’s shocking that it happens at all.”

“Intensive parenting really stresses the parent out,” Schiffrin continues. “The research is looking like it’s not beneficial for kids to do everything for them because they don’t become self-sufficient and that is correlated with higher rates of depression and anxiety at the college level.”

Read more. 


Itzhak Perlman Opens UMW Philharmonic’s 2019-20 Season

Legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman kicks off the UMW Philharmonic’s 49th season this fall. Concerts continue through the spring with an appearance by Mary Washington’s new artist-in-residence, as well as a tribute to American icon Norman Rockwell and an actor-led celebration of national treasures from Abraham Lincoln to America’s pastime. The series runs October through April […]

Rochelle Interviewed on Fantasy Literature Blog

Professor of English Warren Rochelle

Professor of English Warren Rochelle

Professor of English Warren Rochelle was interviewed on Andrew Q. Gordon’s “The Land of Make Believe,” a blog that focuses on fantasy literature featuring LGBTQ+ characters. Rochelle discussed his writing process, building worlds that intersect the magical and mundane, fantasy writers who inspire him, how real-world places in Virginia and North Carolina are featured in his work and more. Read more.



Kisila Featured in Article on Water Quality Study in Fredericksburg

Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Ben Kisila

Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Ben Kisila

The Augusta Free Press highlighted research being done by Associate Professor of Geology and Environmental Sciences Ben Kisila in an article titled “Researchers shed light on water quality impacts of Fredericksburg region.”

According to the article, Kisila will assist David Sample, a professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Biological Systems Engineering, in a study of urban runoff quality from Fredericksburg’s local sub-watersheds that will also include the assessment of stormwater controls. Lee Daniels, a professor in Virginia Tech’s School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, will also assist with tracking the formation of strongly acidic soils in the region and analyzing solutions to mitigate their effects.

The study “will estimate the mass of pollutants – nitrogen, phosphorus and suspended solids – from the City of Fredericksburg’s stormwater system during storm events, working from five sites linked to five different forms of land use: residential, high-density residential, commercial, industrial and parks. This work marks a comprehensive research effort to revisit pollutant loads developed in a national study nearly 40 years ago – values that still guide state and federal storm water management programs today.”

Read more. 


Crosby Named to Allegheny College Athletic Hall of Fame

Assistant Professor of Communication Emily Deering Crosby

Assistant Professor of Communication Emily Deering Crosby

Assistant Professor of Communication Emily Deering Crosby was named to the Allegheny College Athletic Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019. Crosby, who graduated in 2006, is the Allegheny women’s lacrosse all-time leader in both points (144) and goals (123).

According to the release, “The only player in program history to be named all-region four times, Crosby was a three-time, first-team all-region selection (2003, ’04 and ’06), and a 2005 second-team honoree. Following a senior campaign in which she led the Gators to a then-school record nine wins and appearance in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) championship, Crosby earned the 2006 NCAC Defensive Player of the Year award after ranking in the top four in the conference in draw controls (2.25 per game), ground balls (3.81 per game) and cause turnovers (3.19 per game). She remains one of just two lacrosse players in school history to be a four-time, first-team All-NCAC selection.”

Read more.



Stommel and Burtis Featured on Connected Teaching and Learning Blog

Executive Director of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies Jesse Stommel and Digital Knowledge Center Director Martha Burtis’ recent EdSurge.com interview on Critical Digital Pedagogy was discussed on the Connected Teaching and Learning Blog. The author shared highlights from the interview, specifically focusing on their views on grading in the classroom. Read more. 

Richardson Column in The Free Lance-Star

College of Business Dean Lynne Richardson

College of Business Dean Lynne Richardson

Read the latest column in The Free Lance-Star written by Lynne Richardson, Dean of the College of Business, titled “A Fork in the Road.”


Life, especially your work life, is not always going to go as you hope. There will be occasional storms. But it’s how you react and respond to those storms that determines your character.

Let’s say you’re up for a big promotion. Either you or your archrival at work will get the nod. The anticipation builds as everyone waits for the announcement. You just know your name will be called. But your rival’s name is announced. How will you respond?