May 27, 2018

Carolyn Parsons: Living History

Carolyn Parsons has her hand on the pulse of Mary Washington’s past. From James Farmer’s academic papers to Devil-Goat Day memorabilia, the head of Special Collections and University Archives helps preserve the relics and records that tell our story.

Carolyn Parsons

Carolyn Parsons

Parsons has served in her current role since 2003. But her own Mary Wash history runs much deeper.

“I am one of the early graduates of UMW’s Historic Preservation program,” she said, earning a degree in 1983.

Parsons went on to work for the National Park Service and the Library of Virginia and earn a master’s degree in library science with a concentration in archives management. She returned to her alma mater in 1995 as a reference librarian.

As head of Special Collections, she helps oversee 1,500 volumes of rare books and journals that date to the 16th century and include first and limited editions.

As an archivist, “I make sure that UMW’s institutional history is preserved for future generations,” Parsons said.

That not only includes older records but also digital materials: UMW’s website, blogs and social media posts.

Q: What’s the most unusual record you’ve come across?
A: There is a wonderful collection of scrapbooks that includes saved corsages, political pins, locks of hair, fun roommate photos. But I’ve also run across a McDonald’s apple pie box and peanut shells from the popular 1960s Freshman Peanut Week.

There’s also a lot of fun correspondence, like a 1939 letter from President Combs to the dorm hostesses asking them to prevent students from putting signs up with hairpins because it was ruining the screen doors!

Q: What do you like about your work?
A: No two days are ever the same. One day I can be collaborating with faculty and students on an exhibit, teaching a class on primary resources or helping a researcher locate blueprints of the campus buildings.

Q: What’s the best part of your job?
A: Mentoring and sharing my passion for archives and Mary Washington with our students. Many have gone into the archives field and are working with collections at a number of prominent institutions. I also get to work every day with wonderful collections, from 17th century vellum-bound atlases to UMW’s founding legislation.

Q: Any recent big projects?
A: We went live with two new cloud-based repositories, Preservica and Eagle Scholar. Preservica is a digital preservation system that preserves and makes accessible UMW’s unique Special Collections materials. Eagle Scholar is an open-access institutional repository that showcases faculty and student scholarship.

Q: Is there a motto you tell yourself every day?
A: “Forever – is composed of Nows.” It’s a line from an Emily Dickinson poem that reminds me to be in the present, to strive to do my best work daily and, most importantly, to enjoy each day!

Michael Spencer Talks About Former Alms House in FLS

Michael Spencer, professor of historic preservation, was recently quoted in a story in The Free Lance-Star about the former Alms House on College Avenue. The building will likely be torn down after Fredericksburg City Council members decided not to vote on a proposition that could potentially help save it.

Read the full story here:

Heslep Amphitheatre, Morris Stage to Debut at Reunion

The University of Mary Washington invites you to the start of a new chapter in the life of one of the University’s oldest and most endearing sites. The dedication of the Heslep Amphitheatre and Morris Stage will take place Saturday, June 2, at 2:30 p.m., during UMW’s Reunion Weekend.

Built in the early 1900s off Sunken Road, behind Lee and Trinkle halls, the Amphitheatre has long been a favorite campus site, at varying times throughout history home to commencement exercises, outdoor study sessions, plays, concerts, even weddings.

The June 2 dedication marks the end of a meticulous renovation project to return the Amphitheatre to its historical glory and sustain its park-like setting, while increasing accessibility, upgrading infrastructure and enhancing flexibility.

Thanks to generous campaign gifts, the Heslep Amphitheatre has been named for Donald B. and Josephine McPherson Heslep, a 1956 Mary Washington graduate, and the Morris Stage for Marceline “Marcy” Weatherly Morris and Elmer “Juney” Morris Jr., both 1950 grads.

UMW Psi Chi Chapter Named Best in Organization

Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology, has recognized the UMW Psi Chi chapter as the best in the organization.

The annual Ruth Hubbard Cousins Chapter Award, which includes a $3,000 prize, selects one chapter that best demonstrates Psi Chi’s mission to recognize and promote excellence in the science and application of psychology.

UMW Psi Chi officers, left to right: Aimee Silverman ’18, Jamie Carey ’18, Taylor Presley ’18, Megan Jensen ’18, Sophia Lamp ’18 and
Erin Shaw ’19.

“This award highlights the University of Mary Washington Psi Chi Chapter as exemplary amongst other Psi Chi chapters,” said Paige Anctil, awards and grants officer for the Psi Chi Central Office.
Psi Chi has over 1,100 chapters worldwide, Anctil said. But only a small fraction of those even quality for the award, making eligibility an achievement unto itself.

“Our chapter has always strived to provide the best opportunities for our members as well as students within the entire department of psychological science,” said Sophia Lamp, chapter co-president. “Each year, this involves organizing informative panels about life after graduation, planning service projects both on campus and in our broader community, and hosting collaborative social events.”

These include workshops on resume and personal statement writing, GRE preparation and career and graduate school forums. The chapter also organizes Mental Health Awareness Week in an effort to educate the campus about mental illness and help end the stigma surrounding it.

Other events organized by UMW Psi Chi give students the opportunity to present research to an audience beyond their own class. Past service projects include writing holiday cards to troops in Iraq and collecting donations of both money and goods to contribute to a foundation started in honor of a child who lost her fight against cancer.

“This award will allow our chapter to continue to thrive, foster the growth of future psychologists, and open new avenues enabling even more positive contributions to our department, university, and community,” said Lamp.

Past winners of the Ruth Hubbard Cousins Award, named for a long-time Psi Chi secretary and executive director, include Central Connecticut State University and Temple University in Philadelphia.

“The University of Mary Washington Psi Chi chapter is honored beyond words for its selection as the Ruth Hubbard Cousins Chapter Award recipient for 2017-2018 and for being recognized as an exceptional role model for current and future chapters,” said Mindy Erchull, faculty advisor and psychological science professor.

Jason Sellers Named FOR Volunteer of the Year

Jason Sellers, left, was named Friends of the Rappahannock Volunteer of the Year.

Jason Sellers, left, was named Friends of the Rappahannock Volunteer of the Year.

Dr. Jason Sellers, assistant professor of history and American studies at the University of Mary Washington, is the 2018 Volunteer of the Year for Fredericksburg-based Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR).

For the past two years, Sellers has served as faculty adviser for Life Along the Rappahannock, a collaborative oral history project between FOR and UMW. To date, Life Along the Rappahannock has completed six interviews and employed four UMW interns who logged hundreds of hours of service. Sellers supports FOR’s outreach events, interpretive trips, and buildings and grounds projects.

Farnsworth Featured in Boston Globe,,

UMW political science professor Stephen Farnsworth, was recently featured in the Boston Globe, and talking about Donald Trump’s tweets.

In the Boston Globe and

“If the political conversation is about Donald Trump’s typos, that plays into the narrative that the coastal elites don’t understand ordinary Americans who make typos,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia. Farnsworth recently wrote a book on how presidents connect to supporters.


Does Trump Tweet Himself? White House Aides Reportedly Include Grammatical Errors On Purpose

As Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, told the Boston Globe, “If the political conversation is about Donald Trump’s typos, that plays into the narrative that the coastal elites don’t understand ordinary Americans who make typos.”

Fitness Center Reopens May 21 With New Summer Hours

The Fitness Center will reopen May 21 with new summer hours.

The following summer hours are effective May 21 to June 22:

Monday through Friday: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Saturdays and Sundays: Noon to 4 p.m.

The Fitness Center will be closed Monday, May 28 for Memorial Day.

UMW Awards Top Honors at Commencement

The University of Mary Washington presented its top honors during commencement ceremonies Friday, May 11, and Saturday, May 12.

Kendall M. Parker of Fredericksburg received the Colgate W. Darden Jr. Award, which is presented to the student with the highest grade-point average (GPA) in the four-year undergraduate program. Parker finished with a 3.99 GPA.

Robert Barr, associate professor of political science, received the Grellet C. Simpson Award, the institution’s most prestigious annual award for excellence in undergraduate teaching. The recipient is routinely a senior member of the faculty.

Catie Finlayson, assistant professor of geography, received the UMW Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award, presented annually to an exceptional member of the faculty who has served the institution for at least two years but no more than five years.

Smita Jain Oxford, senior lecturer in the College of Business, received the Mary W. Pinschmidt Award. The winner is selected by the graduating class as the faculty member “they will most likely remember as the one who had the greatest impact on their lives.”

Jane Huffman, associate professor of education, was recognized with the Graduate Faculty Award. The honor showcases an exceptional full-time faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in graduate teaching and professional leadership in a graduate program. The person selected must have served in a full-time position at the university for at least two years.

Read more about the winners here.

Schiffrin Study Appears in Question

A question about a study led by Psychology Professor Holly Schiffrin recently appeared on

“As maintained in ‘r u friends 4 real?,’ a 2010 study with 99 undergraduates led by holly schiffrin, a psychology professor at the university of mary washington, found that those who spent more time on the internet reported:”

(You have to join to find out the answer.)

Lee Skallerup Bessette Quoted in Chronicle of Higher Education

Lee Skallerup Bessette was recently quoted in a story in The Chronicle of Higher Education called “What a Controversy Over an App Tells Us About How Students Learn Now.”

Read the story at: