June 12, 2024

Leslie Martin: High-Speed Connection

UMW Associate Professor of Sociology Leslie Martin is committed to strengthening the relationships between the campus and local communities. And she has the energy to do it!

Professor of Sociology Leslie Martin is director of the new Center for Community Engagement. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

UMW Professor of Sociology Leslie Martin is director of UMW’s new Center for Community Engagement. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Dashing between Monroe as chair of the sociology department and the UC as director of the new Center for Community Engagement, Martin is a whirlwind.

Sometimes, she’s teaching the First Year Seminar “No Place Like Home: Housing and Society,” which delves into the dynamics of communities and inequalities that affect housing choices. Sometimes, she’s helping UMW’s COAR with its annual gift box drive that wrapped up last month.

Sometimes, she’s sitting in meetings to get a feel for community engagement already happening on campus. Sometimes, she’s riding down the Rappahannock River, helping to replenish the local oyster population.

Martin has lived in Philadelphia, Richmond and now, of course, Fredericksburg. But ever since she was a graduate student at Emory University in Atlanta, she said, she’s hoped to work in an office like the CCE.

Q: What sort of work does the CCE do in the Fredericksburg community?
A: It’s not so much what CCE is doing in the community but more that CCE is trying to be the infrastructure to support everybody else who’s doing stuff in the community.

Q: What community organizations are special to you?
A: I love them all; I can’t choose a favorite child! Since I’ve been at Mary Washington I’ve been involved in issues around homelessness. I’m currently on the board of the Fredericksburg Regional Continuum of Care, the coalition of homeless service organizations. That’s very close to my heart.

Q: When did you first realize the value of community engagement?
A: When I was in high school, I started volunteering at the Richmond Peace Education Center. I think I just did clerical work, but it felt really good to get out of my normal habit of doing things that seemed to be about me. I felt like I was part of something larger.

Q: How does being engaged with the community makes you feel, in one word?
A: Can you tell I don’t ever use just one word? I’m not sure we should do the work necessarily because of how it makes us feel. That keeps the focus on us rather than on the work in the community. Connected! That’s the word.

Q: What are your long-term goals for the CCE?
A: President Paino signed a pledge saying that we would create a civic action plan to commit ourselves to creating measurable change in our community. Isn’t that awesome? When I think about that I feel goosebumps. I want to do that! I want us to not just make efforts but to make an impact. It’s going to take a little time to get there, but by next January I want us to have a plan in place: Here is a thing that has been identified by our community as important, and here’s how UMW is going to work on moving the needle.

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: A quote by Lilla Watson, an aboriginal political activist and artist: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” It’s this idea of pointing out the difference between helping and working together.

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It was just a conversation about ice cream, but it was a breakthrough. Recent UMW grad Lily Olson ’18 had visited one of her favorite hospice patients for weeks. She’d sat by his bed and held his hand, but few words had been exchanged. Until the day she discovered that if she spoke directly into […]

Tim Saulnier: Financial Aid Focus

As a college student, Tim Saulnier found financial aid a near impossible maze to navigate. Despite repeated attempts, he failed to get help from a counselor and was unable to register for some classes he needed. Now, as UMW’s new director of Financial Aid, he’s laser-focused on providing a more student-centered experience for Mary Washington Eagles.

UMW Director of Financial Aid Tim Saulnier. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

UMW Director of Financial Aid Tim Saulnier. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

On the job for the past three months, Saulnier brings plenty of experience to UMW. He spent six years in the financial aid office at UNC Charlotte and, more recently, served as financial aid director for the private Lynchburg University. He’s also finishing up his doctoral dissertation on how to retain second-year students. “I try to create an environment where students are heard,” Saulnier said. “We try to resolve issues, not just dismiss the student.”

Q: What prepared you for your role at UMW?
A: Working my way up in financial aid and holding multiple jobs. I have a master’s in education, and I’m working on my doctorate in educational leadership.

Q: What does a typical day look like?
A: Each day is different. For starters, I attend meetings, help students, troubleshoot system problems, research better practices and ways to improve the student experience, read and implement Department of Education rules and regulations.

Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
A: Right now, it’s training new staff, making sure everyone is prepared for their job and making needed improvements with limited resources. Of the eight people in the office, five are new, and one is in a new role. The upside is being able to use these changes to create a whole new environment.

Q: What’s most rewarding?
A: Helping students that really need our help. Advising them not just on financial aid, but on life choices and decisions.

Q: What’s the most commonly asked financial aid question students ask?
A: It varies, but maybe, “How do I get more money?”

Q: What advice do you give students struggling with financial aid?
A: Apply for outside scholarships like it’s a job; the more effort and time you put in, the more likely you are to receive scholarships. Find a student employment job on campus; faculty and staff will become invested in your success and can help you with the many challenges of college.

Q: How does UMW compare to other four-year schools in student debt at graduation?
A: About 58 percent of our students graduate with debt, according to our SCHEV Reports. That’s below the state average. Our current default rate is 1.8 percent, which shows our students are getting good jobs and have the ability to pay back their loans.

Q: What resources are available to students struggling to pay for college?
A: We provide institutional scholarships, need-based gift aid, and merit scholarships awarded at the time of admission. We awarded over $10 million just in institutional aid for 2017-18. (Applications for UMW scholarships in 2019 open Feb. 1 and close May 1.)

Q: Do you have any mottos you live by?
A: No job is beneath me – I wouldn’t ask someone to do a job I’d be unwilling to do.

Q: What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: The number of places I’ve traveled to and lived. After college I lived in Ireland for three months.

John McIntyre: Food for Thought

As the resident dining director at UMW, John McIntyre runs a tight ship – a tight, large ship with lots of moving parts. He attributes his discipline and leadership skills to his military service prior to joining UMW in 2011.

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Marissa Miller: Stepping Up for Students

If you’ve ever emailed Marissa Miller and haven’t heard back in a snap, don’t take it personally.
Her two roles as associate coordinator in the Office of Student Conduct and coordinator for Prevention and Advocacy with the Office of Title IX keep her so busy chances are you’ve seen her speed-walking to her next destination on campus.

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Lynda Allen: Exhibiting a Love of History

As public programs coordinator at the James Monroe Museum, Lynda Allen juggles tours, social media, the museum’s newsletter and student education. In her spare time, she’s managed to publish three collections of poetry, a novel and a nonfiction book.

Allen came to the James Monroe Museum five years ago when she stumbled upon an opening for store manager. She says in getting to know America’s fifth president, she’s rekindled a love for history she last exhibited (pun intended) in high school.

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