March 23, 2018

Scott Harris: Keeping History Alive

Scott Harris graduated from Mary Washington in 1982.

Scott Harris is executive director of the University Museums.

Scott Harris ’83 got firsthand history lessons as a boy growing up in Staunton, Va. His grandmother, who was born in 1898, was a gifted storyteller who could transport Harris to life in Virginia at the turn of the 20th century. Historical sites were all around him. When Harris’ parents took him to the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park at age 9, he never imagined he’d grow up to be its director decades later.

Nor did he foresee returning to his alma mater, from which he received a B.A. with honors in history and historic preservation in 1983.  In 2011 Harris became director of the James Monroe Museum, the world’s largest repository of artifacts and archives related to the nation’s fifth president.  Earlier this year he was named executive director of University Museums, overseeing the James Monroe Museum, the Papers of James Monroe, and the Gari Melchers Home and Studio. In his new role, Harris remains focused on a mission that that has motivated his 30-year museum career: “Our job is to remind people today of the importance of those who went before them.”

Q: Tell us about your new role.

A: I get to advocate for the museums from a broader perspective. I help secure funding to keep the Papers of James Monroe active and figure out how we can best position the museums for the future.

Q: What’s your favorite part of the job?

A: Every day brings a new challenge. I get the opportunity to make a big impact on all these components of University Museums and hopefully help them thrive.

Q: What do the James Monroe Museum and Gari Melchers Home and Studio have in common?

A: James Monroe and Gari Melchers were well known and respected in their times, each at the top of his game, and yet they are not household names today. The challenge is to reintroduce them to the world.

Q: Why are these two people important?

A: James Monroe played a significant role in our early national history, from the Revolutionary War to the generation before the Civil War.  Gari Melchers brought skill and passion not only to his own art, but also to advocacy of the arts generally.  The contributions of both men are useful in providing artistic and cultural content to balance the contemporary emphasis on STEM education.

Q: How do the museums connect to the UMW community?

A: Mary Washington has administered both museums since the 1960s. While both relationships began as “marriages of convenience,” the museums’ affiliation with UMW, and that of the Papers of James Monroe, provide valuable learning labs for our students in history, historic preservation, museum studies, and other fields. Working with these entities allows students to hone practical skills that will help them in the future careers.

Q: What’s your favorite part of the Gari Melchers Home and Studio, and of the James Monroe Museum?

A: Melchers’ studio contains one of my favorite paintings of his, titled “In Holland.”  Painted in 1887, it shows two young women crossing a field, one bearing two heavy buckets on a yoke.  Their expressions convey a wealth of emotions.  Melchers had a knack for making the ordinary extraordinary in his work.  My favorite spot in the James Monroe Museum is in front of his large portrait painted by Rembrandt Peale around 1825.  It shows Monroe at the end of his presidency and political career, and again, the expression on his face speaks volumes.

Q: Any mantras you tell yourself every day?

A: Don’t screw up



Conservation Trust Luncheon Highlights UMW Connections

UMW contingent pose at NVCT luncheon.

UMW contingent pose at NVCT luncheon.

Former UMW Student President Jay Sinha ’07 emceed the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust’s (NVCT) annual luncheon on March 15 in Alexandria.

The meeting brings together some 200 officials and area leaders to celebrate the non-profit’s achievements, with a focus this year on how land conservation improves water quality in our region.

Sinha, one of Singh’s former political science students, recently joined the NVCT board, volunteering his time and talents to the nonprofit – one of many connections the university shares with the trust. Each year, UMW students participate in NVCT internships.

UMW has generously supported the NVCT and this event by sponsoring a table for the last two years. A group of environmentally-minded students – including Shelby Correia and Tommy White – joined Kathy Harrigan, executive director of Friends of the Rappahannock on March 15. The Center for International Education’s Ann Witkowski also took part.


Forums on Campus Safety Scheduled

Want to feel safer on campus? The UMW Department of Public announces three upcoming forums on safety. University Police Chief Mike Hall will offer tips and strategies, explain steps he and his officers are taking, and allow time for questions and answers.

Open to all faculty, staff, and students, these safety sessions will be offered:

Monday, March 26, 5-6 p.m., HCC Digital Auditorium

Friday, April 6, 1-2 p.m., HCC Digital Auditorium

Wednesday, April 11, 3-4 p.m., Stafford Campus, specific location TBD

If none of these times is convenient, please contact Campus Police at 540-654-1025. Other sessions can be scheduled.

Beth Hunsinger: Paying It Forward

It’s like Christmas, except on caffeine. For Beth Hunsinger, the university’s director of annual giving, a year of working and planning all comes down to a single day.

UMW Director of Annual Giving Beth Hunsinger. Photo by Alex Sakes.

UMW Director of Annual Giving Beth Hunsinger plans all year for UMW Giving Day. Photo by Alex Sakes.

Beginning at midnight on March 20, donors have 24 hours – until 11:59 p.m. – to celebrate the UMW spirit of giving back.

The second annual Mary Wash Giving Day provides donors the chance to expand the impact of their donations thanks to several one-day challenges and matching gifts.

This year’s theme – “What can you do in a day?” – encourages the UMW community to consider what can happen when we come together to give back, Hunsinger says. She hopes people will also think about what we can do today because of UMW.

Q: How did you become the director of Annual Giving?

A: It was a dream opportunity to work for my alma mater. Fourteen years after I graduated in 2001, I came back. My previous experience in independent school communications, marketing and advancement aligned with the position requirements.

Q: How did Giving Day get started?

A: We held our first 24-hour online day of giving last year to inspire alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents and friends of Mary Wash to come together on one day and “give back to pay it forward.”

Q: Any changes this year?

A: Last year, we received 1,218 gifts on Mary Wash Giving Day, so this year we have set the bar even higher at 1,908 gifts in honor of the University’s founding year.

Q: What does the university do with the money it raises?

A: The dollars donated by Giving Day donors support service-learning opportunities, undergraduate research, scholarships, student travel, internships, athletic teams, leadership development, theatrical productions, preservation of historic sites, artistic and cultural experiences, and more.

Q: Are there other ways to help on Giving Day if you can’t make a monetary donation?

A: Absolutely! One of the most important ways to help is by spreading the word on social media, leading up to and especially on Giving Day, by including the #MaryWashDay hashtag and the Giving Day URL:

Open Forums Announced About Community Value Statement Drafts

After meeting with, and hearing from, students, staff, faculty, alumni, and members of the broader community, the Committee to Review the Statement of Community Values and the Statement of Guiding Principles on Diversity and Inclusion offers three new draft statements of community values, and two draft statements on diversity and inclusion.

Feedback on the Drafts. We will hold two open forums to discuss your thoughts about the drafts (see below), and will solicit feedback through our online comment form ( Members of the committee will also plan to meet with a variety of campus groups, including the Staff Advisory Council, the Student Government Executive Board, the Student Senate, the Multicultural Leadership Council, the University Faculty Council, College of Arts & Sciences Department Chairs in CAS and faculty in the Colleges of Business and Education.

We will hold two open forums over the coming weeks:
• Thursday, March 22, 4-5 p.m. in Lee Hall, Room 412
• Wednesday, March 28, noon-1 p.m. in the Hurley Convergence Center’s Digital Auditorium

Recommendation to the Board of Visitors. After discussing the drafts and options with the campus community through the month of March, the committee will work on developing a final recommendation for the Board of Visitors, to be presented at its April 19-20, 2018, meeting.

Anand Rao and Cedric Rucker, co-chairs

Committee to Review the Statement of Community Values

  • Cedric Rucker (Dean of Student Life), co-chair
  • Anand Rao (Professor of Communication), co-chair
  • Janet Asper (Associate Professor of Chemistry)
  • Bianca Hightower (Staff Advisory Council Representative)
  • Ekta Kapoor (student representative)
  • Marion Sanford (Director of Multicultural Affairs)
  • Holly Schiffrin (Professor of Psychology)
  • Alda White (community representative)

8th Annual Arab Culture Night Set for March 22

The 8th annual Arab Culture Night will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 22 in the University Center’s Chandler Ballroom.

The event will feature Arab cuisine from Aladin’s Restaurant, a Moroccan wedding, camel ride, cultural showcase, henna and live music.

The cost is $1 for UMW students and $3 for all others. Children 3 and younger are free. Cash or EagleOne card only.

Christine Henry Featured in Urban History Association blog

Christine Henry, assistant professor of historic preservation, was recently featured as the member of the month on the Urban History Association blog.

Read more here:

Christina Eggenberger: At Your Service

Christina Eggenberger puts these items on her list of Spring Break travel must-haves: A tool belt and work gloves.

The university’s director of service is spending her week with a group of students in Tucker, Georgia, an old railroad town just outside Atlanta with a population of less than 2,000. While others dip their toes in tropical waters, explore a European city or just sleep in, these students are working eight hours a day on a house for Habitat for Humanity.

For more than two decades, UMW students have taken part in Alternative Service Breaks, a civic engagement opportunity offered by the Center for Honor, Leadership and Service.

Eggenberger arrived here 11 years ago, drawn by the university’s small size, its absence of Greek life and the uniqueness of the service position.

Q: How did you become interested in service work?
A: My dad reminded me the other day that in second grade I organized a playground clean-up for Earth Day. So that shows I’ve always been service-minded.

Q: What’s your favorite part about Alternative Service Breaks?
A: I get to be out of the office for a week and go out and get my hands dirty. I also get to learn new things. Last year, I learned how to tile a bathroom floor.

Q: What are the trips like?
A: Students immerse themselves in the experience. They don’t have to go to class or do homework. It’s getting up and building, 9 to 5. It’s a lot of group togetherness. You make friends quick. We clean up, make dinner and play games at night.

Q: Do you have a favorite project?
A: Whenever you have the chance to frame the entire house. When you walk up, it’s a concrete slab. When you leave, you see the shape of the house. You get a sense that someone is going to live in the house and make a life there. That’s always impactful.

Q: Any touching stories?
A: A lady who was going to live in a house we were working on brought us lunch. She was very grateful for our help. Usually, we don’t get a chance to meet the homeowners. When we do, it’s a bonus.

Q: How willing are UMW students to give up their own time for Alternative Service Breaks?
A: We always fill the trips. The cost of the trip – $250 – is sometimes a barrier. We do offer first-time participants a $100 scholarship.

Q: Are there any mantras you tell yourself every day?
A: Small things can make a big impact on people’s lives.

Athletics Story Wins Special Olympics Spotlight Poll

A UMW Athletics story is the winner of the February NCAA Division III Special Olympics Spotlight Poll.

The poll is a story-telling initiative that features three new stories per month, each highlighting a Division III and Special Olympics joint activity or event.

The winning story — UMW Athletics Welcomes Special Olympics Virginia Athletes to Basketball Doubleheader — got 49 percent of the votes.

The university will get $500 toward its next Specialty Olympics activity, in addition to be recognized in the NCAA Division III Monthly Newsletter and on NCAA Division III social media channels.

Robert Rycroft Publishes Economics Book

Professor of Economics Professor Robert Rycroft recently had a book published: The Economics of Inequality, Discrimination, Poverty and Mobility, 2nd Edition, Routledge.

Read more about the book here:




Professor of Economics