August 15, 2020

Professors Pool Resources to Focus on ‘Compelling Courses’

Assistant Professor of Biology April Wynn is among the dozens of UMW professors participating this summer in Compelling Courses, a faculty learning community to help instructors design engaging courses.

Assistant Professor of Biology April Wynn is among the dozens of UMW professors participating this summer in Compelling Courses, a faculty learning community to help instructors design engaging courses.

To teach mitosis, April Wynn has students in her class act out the process, portraying chromosomes that divide into nuclei. The assistant professor of biological sciences hopes to replicate lively exercises like this – but virtually – in the fall.

“My goal is to promote the same level of engagement, energy and enthusiasm in an online space,” said Wynn, who, as faculty director of the University of Mary Washington’s First-Year Experience, is helping other instructors do the same for their classes.

Professors often spend their breaks on scholarly research, but Wynn is among dozens of UMW faculty members who went back to school this summer. Through a new faculty learning community called Compelling Courses, representatives from nearly every academic department have been teaching each other how to deliver dynamic online lessons and incorporate the best of the UMW experience into distance learning.

In March of this year, UMW professors – the majority of whom had never taught online – abruptly had to shift to a new method of teaching. The succeeding months have given these instructors time to tinker with and tweak tools so that they are fully prepared to teach virtually if necessary. Many, like Wynn, have found that this modality can even offer benefits.

“We believe teaching can be excellent regardless of medium,” said Professor of Economics Steve Greenlaw, who launched the group with Professor of Communication Anand Rao. “It all depends on how you design the course.” Read more.

Professors Pool Expertise to Create ‘Compelling Courses’

To teach mitosis, April Wynn has students in her class act out the process, portraying chromosomes that divide into nuclei. The assistant professor of biological sciences hopes to replicate lively exercises like this – but virtually – in the fall. “My goal is to promote the same level of engagement, energy and enthusiasm in an […]

Summer Science Symposium Showcases Student Research

Senior Allison Grant explains how climate change has disproportionately affected redlined communities, a project she’s worked on under the guidance of Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science Pamela Grothe. Grant was one of 19 UMW students who presented their research yesterday over Zoom as part of Mary Washington’s Summer Science Symposium.

Senior Allison Grant explains how climate change has disproportionately affected redlined communities, a project she’s worked on under the guidance of Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science Pamela Grothe. Grant was one of 19 UMW students who presented their research yesterday over Zoom as part of Mary Washington’s Summer Science Symposium.

Temperatures soared yesterday, but Allison Grant was cool and calm as she explained how climate change has disproportionately affected low income neighborhoods that are impacted to a greater degree by heat.

“Redlining was outlawed over 50 years ago,” said the UMW senior, citing the discriminatory lending practice that prevented minorities from purchasing homes. “Yet it continues to have a damaging impact on current communities, especially African Americans.”

Grant was among the 19 students who participated in the University of Mary Washington’s Summer Science Institute (SSI), which engages undergraduates in an intense 10-week research experience – in collaboration with their professors and peers – and provides a jumpstart on projects they’ll continue throughout the school year. The SSI Research Symposium, held virtually over Zoom for the first time, gave these young scientists the chance to explain their methods and findings to a wider audience.

Students from six concentrations – biology, chemistry, Earth and environmental science, computer science, mathematics and physics – displayed giant posters and delivered oral presentations. They discussed real world topics, from the reduction of carbon emissions during the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of statistical models to predict weather patterns, to pollinator insect diversity and more effective ways for computers to multitask.

“SSI is about providing an authentic research experience, and we’re fortunate that we can continue to give this to our students,” said Associate Professor of Chemistry Davis Oldham, who coordinated this year’s program with Assistant Professor of Mathematics Jeb Collins. “They’re still learning new skills, receiving faculty feedback and getting opportunities they could not get in a classroom setting.” Read more.

Summer Science Symposium Showcases Student Research

Temperatures soared yesterday, but Allison Grant was cool and calm as she explained how climate change has disproportionately affected low income neighborhoods that are impacted to a greater degree by heat. “Redlining was outlawed over 50 years ago,” said the UMW senior, citing the discriminatory lending practice that prevented minorities from purchasing homes. “Yet it […]

Janet Asper: In Her Element

Department of Chemistry Chair and Professor Janet Asper

Department of Chemistry Chair and Professor Janet Asper

When Janet Asper took over as chair of UMW’s Department of Chemistry earlier this year, she knew she’d have a big job. What she didn’t expect was the onslaught of emails.

“As a professor, I could catch up on email in 10 minutes,” said Asper, who earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh and bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and zoology from Ohio University. “Now, it takes me an hour to work through all my correspondence.”

Screen-time has increased for everyone during the pandemic, said Asper, admitting that video games have kept her three children occupied while she navigates her new role and readies herself and her colleagues to teach courses both online and in the classroom this fall.

But for future scientists and educators, hands-on learning is particularly important, Asper said. That’s why she and her fellow faculty members are figuring out ways to maximize opportunities for students to work in the state-of-the-art labs in the recently renovated Jepson Science Center, while still observing social distancing measures.

“We’ve enjoyed discussing which lab skills are the most critical to teach,” she said, “as well as coming up with remote lab activities students can do from their residence halls or homes.”

As UMW prepares to resume classes next month, Asper is looking to the wisdom she received from Professor Emeritus Charlie Sharpless, with whom she worked for over a decade, and Leanna Giancarlo, who served as chair from 2009-2015, and as interim chair before Asper stepped into the role.

“Leanna taught me the value of transparency and overcommunication,” Asper said. “Charlie encouraged me to take time and think things through when responding to important questions.”

 

Chemistry Chair and Professor Janet Asper helps several students during a previous semester. She and her colleagues are coming up with ways for students to do the hands-on learning that is critical to the sciences, while also observing social distancing measures.

Chemistry Chair and Professor Janet Asper helps several students during a previous semester. She and her colleagues are coming up with ways for students to do the hands-on learning that is critical to the sciences, while also observing social distancing measures.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: The students, of course! I love when our alumni tell us that the skills we taught them helped them get a job or earn a promotion.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Channeling my enthusiasm and crazy ideas, and making sure I’m listening to everyone involved so I can see the bigger picture.

Q: What do you miss most about being on the Mary Washington campus?
A: I’ve actually been going to UMW once a week to maintain my equipment and work in my office for a few hours. I miss my colleagues, my students and getting to work in the lab with my equipment.

Q: Have there been any silver linings to this COVID cloud?
A: Getting to spend so much time with my family.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: A lot of people do know this, but I’m adopted, and I found my biological family in 2015 when Ohio changed the law allowing adult adoptees to request their original birth certificates.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.

 

Charlie Sharpless Bio

Professor Emeritus Charlie Sharpless (back row, second from right) with his colleagues and students. Sharpless retired from UMW earlier this spring.

Professor Emeritus Charlie Sharpless (back row, second from right) with his colleagues and students. Sharpless retired from UMW earlier this spring.

The Department of Chemistry this spring said farewell to former Chair and Professor of Chemistry Charlie Sharpless after 16 years of teaching, student mentoring, research and leadership at Mary Washington.

Sharpless arrived in fall 2004 as an assistant professor, bringing his expertise in environmental photochemistry and a commitment to involving students in research projects.

Over the years he engaged and challenged students to think critically, develop strong study skills and learn independently, Professor of Chemistry Kelli Slunt ’91 said in a faculty tribute. Sharpless implemented changes to the capstone senior seminar course to improve student understanding of chemical literature and help them better present their research topics.

He played a big role in the renovation and expansion of the Jepson Science Center, working with architects to design the chemistry space and also negotiating appropriate space for other science disciplines. In his last few years at UMW, Sharpless not only chaired the Chemistry Department but took on oversight of the Physics Department as well.

“Charlie’s leadership will leave an indelible mark on our department,” Slunt stated.

Sharpless earned a bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences at Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Duke University. There he held a postdoctoral position before coming to Mary Washington. – Laura Moyer, editor, University of Mary Washington Magazine

Quarantine Can’t Quash UMW’s Spirit of Service

Senior Heather Strother is among the Mary Washington students who are contributing in their communities this summer, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Friends of the Rappahannock volunteer, she’s participating in socially distanced river clean-ups.

Senior Heather Strother is among the Mary Washington students who are contributing in their communities this summer, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Friends of the Rappahannock volunteer, she’s participating in socially distanced river clean-ups.

Maria Rhoads was worried when COVID-19 first hit. But the UMW senior decided fear shouldn’t stop her from serving her community.

“I’m low risk as a young person,” said Rhoads, whose first task as a Medical Reserve Corps volunteer was assisting with safety and sanitation at a local voting precinct. “Because of everything that’s happening in our world, I think it’s important for someone like me to help others.”

While many people are staying home, the pandemic hasn’t paused UMW’s passion for service. From encouraging civic participation to feeding families in need to socially distanced river clean-ups, Mary Washington students and alums are stepping up, using the skills and experiences they’ve acquired in college to give back – both in person and remotely – to their communities.

“Our students went from doing their planned work on campus this spring to recognizing a need to help others in the face of the pandemic,” said Leslie Martin, faculty director of UMW’s Center for Community Engagement. “The ethos of civic responsibility has really taken root, and they’re finding new ways to support their neighbors even in situations of such uncertainty.” Read more.

Quarantine Can’t Quash UMW’s Spirit of Service

Maria Rhoads was worried when COVID-19 first hit. But the UMW senior decided fear shouldn’t stop her from serving her community. “I’m low risk as a young person,” said Rhoads, whose first task as a Medical Reserve Corps volunteer was assisting with safety and sanitation at a local voting precinct. “Because of everything that’s happening […]

Paige Shiplett: Business as Usual

Local small businesses thrive thanks to countless tourists and residents who enjoy Fredericksburg’s charm and hospitality. But when COVID-19 came to town, many downtown shops were forced to shutter their storefronts and endure a decline in sales.

Paige Shiplett, finance and marketing coordinator for UMW's Center for Economic Development. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Paige Shiplett, finance and marketing coordinator for UMW’s Center for Economic Development. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Enter the UMW Center for Economic Development (CED) which swiftly switched its popular seminars to free webinars by speakers who donated their time and expertise. A slew of regional entrepreneurs who participated in two virtual series – overcoming business challenges and best practices for going online – said they were thrilled to have their needs addressed.

“Some were unaware of our resources before the crisis, and told us they are so grateful to have found us,” Paige Shiplett said. As finance and marketing coordinator for the CED, which houses the Small Business Development Center and a host of programs, she helped publicize these timely events.

Hailing from Cincinnati, Shiplett majored in marketing at Kent State University. Just a few years later, she’d find herself in the market for a new job. “When I moved here, I fell in love with Fredericksburg and Mary Washington,” said Shiplett, who vowed to work at UMW one day.

She soon got her chance. For the past two years, she’s put her degree to good use, managing the Center’s website, purchasing, and budget and reconciliation reports, and promoting innovative events and programs like StartUpUMW, which will be offered both virtually and in-person this fall.

“Real world learning and extracurricular activities are so important,” she said, “and even students doing the program online can learn about entrepreneurship or begin the steps to launch their business.”

Serving as her office’s point of contact during the pandemic, Shiplett often gets calls from local business owners who want to know how they can stay afloat. The Center is here to help, she tells them, whether it’s scheduling an online appointment with a consultant or walking them through applying for a loan.

In other words, she said, in these unusual times, it’s still business as usual.

 

Q: What’s a typical day like for you working at home?
A: I often get calls from small business owners sharing their hardships, especially when the quarantine first started. I began playing upbeat music as I worked to keep my mind at ease.

Q: What do you miss most about being at UMW?
A: Getting exercise by walking across campus, seeing familiar faces and updates to renovated buildings, and chatting with Mary Bullock in the cashier’s office as she writes my deposit.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: I love wearing multiple hats, which means I’m never bored.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Right now, working remotely is hard because I am a people person. I miss interactions with clients and co-workers, so sometimes it can be hard stay my “cheerful self.” Cue upbeat music again!

Q: What are you doing in your free time?
A: I’ve refurbished my nightstands and taught my dog a new trick, and I’m now learning Adobe Illustrator.

Q: What would surprise people to learn about you?
A: One of my goals in 2018 was to write more letters, so I began writing to my grandma. The first time, she texted me back instead, but we ended up writing to each other for a year.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” – The Office, Season 9, Episode 23.

UMW Goes Online for New Student Orientation

Thirty student orientation leaders, along with Mary Washington faculty and staff, will shepherd first-years and transfer students through UMW’s first-ever virtual orientation.

Thirty student orientation leaders, along with Mary Washington faculty and staff, will shepherd first-years and transfer students through UMW’s first-ever virtual orientation.

When Shannon Hardy misplaced her bookbag at her UMW orientation, it felt like a disaster. But the help and reassurance she got from her orientation leaders reinforced that she made the right college choice.

“That’s just how Mary Wash is,” said Hardy, a rising junior. “Everyone here wants you to succeed and gives you the tools to make that happen. I want every new student to feel the sense of belonging that I’ve felt since that day.”

Hardy’s among the 30 student orientation leaders who will shepherd hundreds of new Eagles through the University of Mary Washington’s 2020 orientation. Unlike her own orientation, though, she is connecting with incoming students via a computer screen.

Freshman orientation, pandemic style. Like other universities, UMW has had to shift from its traditional model of having new students experience life on campus to exploring their new home via Zoom. Today marks the first of nine one-day virtual sessions geared toward freshmen, while transfers had their pick of three events that began earlier this summer.

But that’s only the beginning – a series of online engagements with UMW faculty, staff and current students will guide incoming students throughout the summer and prepare them to step onto campus in the fall. Read more.

Britni Greenleaf: Virtual Orientation

Britni Greenleaf knows what it’s like to be the new kid on campus. She didn’t know a single soul at the University of Mary Washington when she was hired two summers ago.

Coordinator of New Student Programs Britni Greenleaf.

Coordinator of New Student Programs Britni Greenleaf.

That made her a perfect fit for her job as coordinator of New Student Programs. In that role, she welcomes Eagles to the UMW community, planning First-Year Seminar Peer Mentoring, NEST early arrival, and freshman and transfer student Orientation programs, like the one for first-years that started today.

When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered campus this spring, Greenleaf and her team were still tasked with planning the events, which for many, commemorate their first concentrated interaction with UMW classmates. But it all had to be done virtually.

“A large-scale program like this usually takes a year to prepare. We had to do it in two months,” said Greenleaf, who earned a master’s degree in counseling and college student personnel from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. Hailing the preparations as a “team effort,” Greenleaf praised her UMW colleagues and student leaders who have worked tirelessly to make online Orientation happen.

Held over Zoom, the one-day online experience gives new students the chance to connect with peers, learn how to use Canvas and UMW email, and ask questions about their schedules and potential majors. They’ll meet President Troy Paino, become acquainted with the University’s value system, ASPIRE, and watch “UMW Live,” featuring prerecorded skits – written by and for students – about campus life and resources.

And hopefully, Greenleaf said, even online, participants will begin to feel like Mary Washington is home. Mindful that these freshmen missed out on traditional high school experiences like prom and graduation, she and her staff have added “touchpoints” to allow for student engagement all summer.

“They haven’t had some of their ‘lasts’ in closing one chapter and opening another but are still excited to become a part of our community,” Greenleaf said. “The best thing we can do is connect with them virtually until we can show them the spirit of UMW in person in August.”

 

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Watching students come to UMW, get involved, take on leadership roles and eventually graduate.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Transitioning to the job as a young professional and making programs work with limited resources.

Q: What do you miss most about the UMW campus?
A: Waving to people on Campus Walk while golf carting with Associate Dean Melissa Jones. Random conversations with my students. Hanging out with Mr. Russell, a custodian in the UC and one of my favorite people on campus. Visiting my friends in Campus Rec and Student Activities and Engagement. Seeing students benching on Ball Circle.

Q: What do you do when you aren’t working?
A: I recently became a registered yoga instructor through the Yoga Foundation of Fredericksburg. I also love to read, journal, run and spend time outdoors.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I’m a first-generation college student from a working class family in rural Pennsylvania. I used to spend my summers driving a dump truck at a paper mill to pay for college.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: “You don’t always have to know what to say or what to do, but continue to show up. #blacklivesmatter