February 20, 2019

Greg Render: Priority Mail

Greg Render winds – no, he bounds – his way up the Eagle Village stairs, taking them two at a time. With more than 70 flights per day under his belt, his Fitbit’s on fire! And that’s good for his heart, especially on Valentine’s Day with love letters galore to deliver.

Greg Render, who retired from Fairfax County Public Schools, delivers UMW mail across campus. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Greg Render, who retired from Fairfax County Public Schools, delivers UMW mail across campus. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Render braves snow and rain to make sure UMW students, faculty and staff get their mail, zigzagging across campus and beyond, from Lee Hall and Woodard, to the Jepson Alumni Executive Center and Facilities Services, to the Stafford campus and Belmont. He basically sprints the whole way, achieving the aforementioned 70-plus flights of stairs and about 28,000 steps – more than 12½ miles – per day.

Valentine’s Day brings more mail than usual, said Render, who retired after 32 years with Fairfax County Public Schools. But for he and his wife, his “soul mate,” of 47 years, every day is Valentine’s Day.

“As soon as I saw her,” he said, “I knew we were going to have a life together.”

Q: How long have you been at UMW?
A: The first time? Seven years. I’d been gone three years when I came back in August. The dog couldn’t go to Florida. (Don’t ask.)

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: The people. I love the people here. They’re so nice.

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: Pfft …nothing. Come on, it’s delivering mail.

Q: Do you deliver more mail than usual for Valentine’s Day?
A: Yes. There’s a lot of letters and packages – ProFlowers, FTD. We get boxes with hand-drawn hearts all colored in.

Q: Any suggestions for lovebirds to get their Valentine’s packages noticed?A: Show up yourself and give it to her.

Q: Any memorable deliveries throughout the years?
A: We’ve gotten kayaks, a 65-inch television, a 20-gallon saltwater aquarium. Bananas, pumpkins, leaves and pieces of wood, just loose with stamps on them. Yesterday, we got a 50-pound fitness vest. That was heavy!

Q: You zoom around all over the place on your golf cart. Have you ever had an accident?
A: No, but I’ve had them break down. You have to push them, and they’re heavy. One had battery problems, and I had to push it from Sodexo to the parking garage on Route 1.

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: Have fun with life. You’ve got to laugh every day. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you have a problem.

God of Carnage Pay-What-You-Can Preview, Feb. 13

UMW Theatre will continue its 2018-19 season with God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton. Performances will be Feb. 14-16 and Feb. 20-23 at 7:30 p.m., and February 17, 23 and 24 at 2 p.m. in Klein Theatre in duPont Hall.

Guests may also attend the Pay-What-You-Can Preview performance on Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m. The box office opens at 5:30 p.m. and tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis. AfterWords, a post-show talkback with the cast, will occur after the matinee performance on Feb. 17. Tickets are $20 for standard admission and $16 for students, senior citizens, alumni and military.

This contemporary comedy focuses on two sets of well-to-do parents, united after their sons are involved in a playground altercation. Alan and Annette are invited into Michael and Veronica’s home to civilly work out the conflict. As the visit progresses, polite conversation is abandoned and the evening dissolves into chaos.

God of Carnage was originally written in French. The play debuted on the West End in 2008 and moved to Broadway in 2009, where it won the Tony Award for Best Play. It’s since been produced internationally. In 2011, a film version titled Carnagewas produced starring Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly, Jodie Foster and Christoph Waltz.

At UMW, God of Carnage is directed by Gregg Stull, professor and chair of the Department of Theatre & Dance. Scenic design is by associate professor Julie Hodge, and costume design is by associate professor Kevin McCluskey. Lighting and sound design are by guest designers Catherine Girardi and Jon K. Reynolds, respectively. For further information, call the Klein Theatre Box Office at (540) 654-1111 or visit www.FredTix.com.

Kenny Horning: Set to Build

Teaching college students to build props and scenery can be rewarding … but risky. Just ask Klein Theatre Shop Foreman Kenny Horning.

Klein Theatre Shop Foreman Kenny Horning. Photo by Karen Pearlman

Klein Theatre Shop Foreman Kenny Horning. Photo by Karen Pearlman

Since his 2008 UMW début, he’s suffered all manner of minor catastrophes. During work on the Romeo & Juliet set, for example, a clunk in the head with a C-clamp nearly caused a concussion. He’s had a screw drilled through his fingernail, been shot with a runaway staple and re-broken a toe. Not to mention torn ligaments in his back, knees and shoulder.

While the job calls for caution, it demands creativity. That’s the part Horning likes best.

“I like construction more than anything else,” he said during a break from laying tile flooring – a first in all his years on the job – for God of Carnage, set to run Feb. 14 to 24. “I’m artistic. I can draw. I can paint. Building things comes easy for me, and it’s freeing.”

Set in an upscale Brooklyn apartment – hence the pristine marble floors – the comic drama’s backdrop is less complicated than many on which Horning has worked (save for the scene where a character vomits, a maneuver made possible with pneumatic air, a hose and some oatmeal).

That each day is different is awesome, said Horning, who once worked on a Pillsbury assembly line, stuffing frozen cookies into a box. “It s-u-u-u-u-cked.”

Q: What prepared you for your role as shop foreman?
A: I have an MFA from the University of Missouri in Kansas City. In school, I did a little bit of everything. I’ve been onstage, backstage, on crew, in the booth. I’ve stage-managed, hung lights. You name it, I’ve done it.

Q: What do you find most rewarding about your job?
A: It’s not monotonous. The projects change day to day.

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: You never know what you’re going to deal with – student participation, physical designs, machines not working correctly, they’re all factors. 

Q: What’s the biggest set you’ve worked on at UMW?
A: Noises Off (a two-story, three-faced, “lazy Susan-like” set with walls that folded accordion-style and detached on casters). It was a 13-week build. Once [set designer and associate professor Julie Hodge] and I got it down to a science, we turned it over to student crews and taught them what to do.

Q: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done in the name of theatre?
A: In residency for grad school, I was a crew member for Blithe Spirit. My job was to crawl under the deck from offstage, put on a headset and do cues as a ghost. I had to bang underneath the table, hit some buttons to pop up the couch cushions, crawl out the other sideof the set and drop down the fireplace. I had to wedge myself into a hole under the set and army-crawl. It was the weirdest thing.

Q: What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: I actually watch WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). That’s how I connected with my father.

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: KISS – keep it simple, stupid

Jaime Opanashuk: ‘You Are Not Alone’

A collection of curious items awaits those who visit Jaime Opanashuk’s Tyler House office – a squishy stress ball that looks like a doughnut, tubs of bold-tinted Play Dough, a coloring book.

Jaime Opanashuk is UMW's new victim advocate. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Jaime Opanashuk is UMW’s new victim advocate. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

The trinkets engage multiple senses, Opanashuk said, and put those who come to see her at ease. As UMW’s new victim advocate, she welcomes anyone who’s experienced sexual assault or misconduct, or relationship abuse, and is confused about which way to turn. The position is funded as part of a $300,000 grant Mary Washington received from the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).

With a perspective that’s evenly colored – as a probation officer, she’s supervised offenders; as a case coordinator, she’s worked with victims – Opanashuk is set to share her insight with UMW students who seek her services.

“Seeing survivors from day one of the incident and how they bloom and blossom … that gives me purpose,” she said. “The earlier we can educate students about warning signs and increase awareness, the more we can help decrease incidents of violence on campus.”

Q: What appealed to you about the victim advocate position at UMW?
A: Two things, victim advocacy has been a career passion for 20 years and I always find fulfillment in working to better my community.

Opanashuk starts a conversation with a student on Campus Walk during the Cocoa and Consent event. Photo by Marty Morrison.

Opanashuk starts a conversation with a student on Campus Walk at Cocoa and Consent. Photo by Marty Morrison.

Q: What’s a typical day like on the job?
A: Right now, I’m involved in a lot of training, meeting with community partners and trying to meet students and learn the layout of campus.

Q: What’s most rewarding about your position?
A: My role in assisting victims of violence transition into survivors.

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: Continuing to see evidence and examples of rape culture, oppression and victim blaming in our society.


Q: You’re one of the university’s few confidential employees. Is that daunting?
A: No. I am honored.  A survivor’s story is theirs to share if they choose to and not my decision to make for them.

Q: Your work can be emotional and intense. How do you disengage?
A: By baking cupcakes with my 3-year-old.

Q: If you could fly a banner over campus with just a few words, what would it say?
A: You Are Not Alone!

Q: What’s your favorite item in your office?
A: My mother-in-law’s very old cactus.  She lost her battle with dementia two years ago.  It’s sentimental.

Q: What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: Right out of college, I ran a county-wide domestic violence taskforce of 120 community partners and our county’s first domestic violence shelter for women and children. My position was funded by one of the early OVW grants. Ironically, 20 years later, my UMW confidential advocate position is again funded by an OVW grant.

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: Thanks for challenging me to find one that fits my aspirations today: Be the person you want to meet!

Visit the UMW News site, to read more about Jaime. And catch up with her at The Escalation Workshop, a film based-discussion covering the signs of relationship abuse, presented by the Office of Title IX and the Center for Prevention and Education on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at 4 p.m. in HCC 307.

Kayla Smith: Right on Time

If you’ve ever gotten an email reminder to approve your MyTime hours, it probably came from UMW Payroll Accountant Kayla Smith.

But does she ever forget to approve her own?

Kayla Smith

UMW Payroll Accountant Kayla Smith. Photo by Karen Pearlman

“I can honestly say that my timecard is always approved by the deadline,” said Smith, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration (with a focus in accounting) at Mary Washington.

Her precision isn’t surprising, considering her professional world – analyzing reports, handling reconciliations, reviewing timecards – revolves around accuracy.

She was working as an accountant in Washington, D.C., when she saw an opening at her alma mater and “couldn’t resist.”

“This campus is full of beautiful memories for me,” said Smith, who’s pursuing a master’s degree and hopes to become a CPA. “It’s truly an amazing place to be, both as a student and as an employee.”

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: When I feel like I truly helped someone, even if it was just assisting with a leave request. I also get to be part of an extremely dedicated group of individuals who work diligently every day to ensure that payroll operations run smoothly.

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: Payroll is a complex machine with lots of small working parts. We have to make complicated calculations that impact peoples’ pay. We’re responsible for interpreting and abiding by policies. It can be intimidating. Thankfully there’s no shortage of knowledge at UMW and there’s always someone to check behind me!

butterfly picture

Princess Bubblegum and Butterflies by Maggie Smith

Q: What’s the best thing in your office?
A: My 5-year-old daughter, Maggie, drew a picture called “Princess Bubblegum and butterflies.” Every time I look at it, I smile. It’s like having a small piece of her with me all day to motivate me.

Q: Is accounting as boring as some people think?
A: Accounting is so fun! There are always opportunities to learn and grow. It’s never-ending and always changing. It’s rewarding to solve complicated problems by analyzing and sorting data. It feels like such an accomplishment each time you find a solution!

Q: What do you think of MyTime?
A: It’s a fantastic program. It does a great job of generating reports for supervisors and employees, and catching timecard errors. I’ve used several timekeeping systems, and I’d definitely say that MyTime is my favorite.

Q: Do you feel like a MyTime “mom” with your email reminders?
A: I wouldn’t say that I feel like anyone’s mom; we’re all a team here! Everyone is working hard every day under deadlines and priorities unique to their department. We just want to make sure that timecards – and the payroll – are accurate.

Q: Any budgeting tips for non-accountant types?
A: I keep a spreadsheet for my personal finances. I usually have a couple months forecasted to help prevent overspending and to budget for special events and activities.

Q: What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: I played bass clarinet in middle school band. We were pretty good!

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: A quote from Paula Coelho’s The Alchemist inspires me: “People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.” It’s the idea that no matter what stage of life we’re in, we can always change course and fulfill our dreams.

UMW Students Win Math Competition

Makenzie Cowler and Riley Anderson

Makenzie Cowler, left, and Riley Anderson presented at AMA’s Undergraduate Poster Session.

UMW students Riley Anderson and Makenzie Clower, accompanied by Assistant Professor of Mathematics Jeb Collins, delivered outstanding performances at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Baltimore earlier this month.

Anderson and Clower won the Radical Dash, a group competition that asks participants to answer math questions through social media, taking home a year subscription to the mathematics software Maple and a textbook. The students also presented at the Mathematical Association of America’s Undergraduate Students Poster Session.

“This conference is a great opportunity for students to see the wider mathematical world, to meet other students from different universities and to hear talks about research done in the field,” Collins said.

Chris Williams: Full Circle

Growing up in Spotsylvania County, Chris Williams lived mere minutes from James Farmer’s house. He’d spend summer days there soaking up the civil rights icon’s real-life tales of the part he played in the famous 1961 Freedom Rides and of his work at Mary Washington, where he taught history and American studies for more than a decade.

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams

At 12, Williams landed a spot in UMW’s James Farmer Scholars Program, designed to encourage students who otherwise might not have considered going to college. Recently, Farmer’s former caretaker Brenda Sloan shared with Williams that Farmer thought a young Williams would “be someone important in the future.”

Now an accomplished writer whose work has been published in outlets like The Atlantic and The Huffington Post, Williams has come full circle. As a college administrator, he’s helped students from varying backgrounds through struggles ranging from learning disabilities to racism.

And as assistant director of UMW’s James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) since September 2017, his work includes helping plan events like UMW’s weeklong Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration and “encapsulates the very things [Farmer] stood for during his lifetime,” Williams said.

“My experiences with him are something that I will treasure for the rest of my life,” he said. “More people need to know how great he was and the grand legacy he left behind for us.”

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: The daily impact I have on our students and the meaningful relationships I’ve built with them, along with colleagues, staff and faculty.

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: Finding a good work-life balance.

Q: What’s your proudest accomplishment so far at UMW?
A: When I accepted this position, I was asked to cultivate and implement a Social Justice and Leadership Summit here at the university. With help from colleagues, university leadership, faculty and students, I was able to create something original and unique that’s become a popular event on campus. I was given the latitude to utilize my talents, resources and skill sets to bring JFMC Director Marion Sanford’s vision for the summit to fruition. I’m proud of it because of the diversity and inclusivity it showcased and because of the dedication of staff, faculty and students to the mission of obtaining social justice for all persons. I also spearheaded the execution of the first Social Justice Fall Break Trip to Montgomery and Selma, Alabama.

Q: What do you hope UMW’s MLK celebration brings to the Fredericksburg community?
A: Over the years, I think there has been a tendency to dilute and soften the image and legacy of Dr. King by only celebrating quotes from his “I Have a Dream” speech. There was more at the core of the man. He was diligent and forthright in his work for obtaining civil rights, social justice and inclusion for all marginalized and disenfranchised people in this country. The JFMC provides programming that tells the true essence of Dr. King, especially what he stood for during the last years of his presence in the civil rights movement.

Q: You’ve had lots of articles published. Do you have a favorite?
A: I had the pleasure of interviewing legendary producer and engineer Malcolm Cecil regarding his involvement in securing a national holiday for Dr. King for Wax Poetics magazine in 2014. Many people don’t know that the initial introduction of the measure to pass a federal law was made by Rep. John Conyers Jr. and Sen. Edward Brooke in 1971. The bill languished in Congress until Jimmy Carter became president. The House of Representatives defeated it the same year, so Coretta Scott King worked feverishly to get it passed, traveling the country collecting endorsements for state and local political figures. After acquiring three million signatures … and being denied, it was clear that The King Memorial Center and Mrs. King needed another vehicle to accomplish their goal. That’s when Stevie Wonder and Gil Scott-Heron got involved, helping get legislation passed through the U.S. Congress and signed by then-president Ronald Reagan in 1983. On his album, Hotter Than July, Stevie Wonder wrote Happy Birthday in honor of Dr. King to bring more attention to the cause of getting him a national holiday. This story is a powerful example of how the arts can change our society for the better.

Q: You’ve written about musicians from Madonna to Marvin Gaye. Who’s your favorite?
A: Stevie Wonder. His music changed lives and altered the universe.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I’m a man of many talents.

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: Tell the truth.

President Paino Uses Address to Launch a New Semester

UMW President Troy D. Paino

UMW President Troy D. Paino

President Troy Paino addressed faculty and staff Tuesday afternoon — the first official day of the spring semester – describing 2019 as his “most ambitious year” as UMW’s president.

Paino reminded the gathering of UMW’s distinct role in the commonwealth and the importance of its response to challenges in a world where student debt exceeds 1.5 trillion dollars. He said students experience anxiety over not only the cost of college and the likelihood of gaining post-graduate employment, but also finding success in an increasingly digital world.

He mentioned the gap between state funding for and student interest in high-demand fields – technology, engineering and health care – and those that have experienced a steady national decline, such as history and English, and he said that we need to ask ourselves what that means for UMW as a liberal arts institution. In response, Paino suggested UMW rely on its four-pronged vision, which weaves together service and civic engagement, high-impact personalized learning experiences, diversity and inclusion, and the digital liberal arts, which he described as the “integration of the use and analysis of modern technology into our liberal arts experience.”

Mary Washington hosted a summit last week, he said, that brought the University together with local K-12 partners, Germanna Community College, KnowledgeWorks, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and community partners to create educational pathways for students that lead to jobs, reduce costs, accelerate time toward degrees, and promote powerful personalized learning experiences.

“I think we have to in some ways be an innovative campus that is also willing to break the model,” said Paino, who reminded the audience of UMW’s start as a normal school with the overarching purpose of educating the entire citizenry. “… I want us to make a positive difference in the world. I want us to help solve these problems.”

Paino began his address by expressing gratitude for employees’ efficient response to the sudden closure of Alvey and Arrington halls this past summer, which forced many students into off-campus housing, and for the “amazing” renovation of Arrington. “I’m really happy to say that all of our resident students are back on campus this year, where they belong,” he said.

He praised the ongoing work of the Campus Environment Presidential Ad Hoc Committee, which on the recommendation of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, surveyed thousands of public displays on UMW’s three campuses to gauge how Mary Washington represents itself in terms of inclusivity.

And, in terms of finances, Paino spoke of possible effects of the government shut-down on both students’ ability to pay and the receipt of expected federal grant money in support of various programs. He presented an update on funds in the Governor’s budget—under consideration by the General Assembly—for additional equipment in Jepson and Seacobeck, and for employee pay increases. He also said he remains hopeful that UMW will receive requested aid for capital improvements to renovate Melchers, Pollard and duPont halls and to build a new theatre. He said the work the University is doing with consultants will help guide key decisions on recruitment, retention, pricing and budgeting.

Referring in his address to a parable put forth by Leo Tolstoy, Paino stressed the importance of focusing on the present, the people we are with at the moment, and the value of service.

“I want us all to be reminded that the time is now. The people we are here to work with are in this room,” he said. “And the most important people to serve are the students who are in our residence halls and our classrooms right now.”

Watch Paino’s address: https://vimeo.com/311673418




LaFayette to Deliver Keynote for UMW’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

Dr. Bernard Lafayette

Dr. Bernard Lafayette

“Institutionalize and internationalize nonviolence.” These are the orders Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. bestowed on Bernard LaFayette Jr. in 1968. Still devoted more than 50 years later to carrying out the edict for nonviolent social change, LaFayette will deliver the University of Mary Washington’s MLK Jr. Celebration keynote address Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 7 p.m., in the University Center’s Chandler Ballroom.

The speech is part of a series of events hosted by UMW’s James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) to recognize the life – and assassination – of the great civil rights leader. Activities include a MLK Jr. Kid’s Day for Fredericksburg area children, Day of Service for UMW students to get involved in community projects, and documentary film viewing and discussion.

A minister, educator and lecturer appointed by King to national leadership positions in the civil rights movement, LaFayette led the 1961 Freedom Rides alongside longtime civil rights leader James Farmer, who taught history and American Studies at UMW from 1985 to 1998. King named LaFayette to national roles as program administrator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and coordinator for the Poor People’s Campaign. LaFayette also co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Nashville Movement lunch counter sit-ins, and directed the 1962 Alabama voter registration project in Selma, Alabama.  Read more

Doug Noble: Show Time

The elegant gowns and long flowing locks made her a standout by anyone’s standards, but it was Miss Piggy’s personality – “her attitude and comic timing” – that caught Dodd Auditorium Director Doug Noble’s attention.

UMW Dodd Auditorium Director Doug Noble

UMW Dodd Auditorium Director Doug Noble

He grew up watching The Muppet Show on his parents’ boxy TV. So meeting Muppets creator Jim Henson’s biographer, Brian J. Jones, at UMW was a highlight of Noble’s career.

“I love it when they thank me personally for the great tech experience,” he said of Jones and other William B. Crawley Great Lives Lecture Series presenters. “I take pride in the fact that we’re ready for them on time and have everything working before they arrive … and they’re so grateful for the personal attention we give them.”

The fawning is part of his job – along with set-ups and sound-checks, rehearsals and stage prompts, and everything else in between. Since taking the helm of the thousand-plus-seat auditorium in 2006, Noble has handled hundreds of events, from employee information sessions to star-studded performances, but the Great Lives lecturesare among his favorites.

The lights will dim and the music will fade when the series’ 16th season kicks off on Tuesday with Rodgers and Hammerstein biographer Todd Purdum … and it will be show time!

It will all seem like magic, but long after the curtain has closed and the last of the guests have filed out into the night, Noble will still be working in Dodd.

Q: What do you find most rewarding about your job?
A: Working with the students

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: Working with the students 

Q: You make a point to read all the Great Lives books. Why?
A: I love to read and I think it’s important to be able to establish a connection with each author before the lectures to help put them at ease. I have the books signed as a reminder of this great series and the time I spent with them.

Q: Despite the pressures of live performances, you always seem unflappable. How do you do it?
A: Two things: Be as prepared as you can before the event so you can handle emergencies when they arrive. If you’re still doing basic set-up when performers arrive, you’re not paying attention to their last-minute needs and you’re cutting into their time, which can put everyone on edge. Also, I worked with a wonderful general manager who would often remind me that theatre isn’t brain surgery and no one will die if a mistake happens. It’s all how you handle the error and keep the show moving.

Q: What’s the most high-profile performance you’ve ever handled in Dodd?
A: That has to be the [2017] Kristin Chenoweth concert with the UMW Philharmonic.

Q: Any unusual special requests from performers?
A: To have the stage painted black for their show… as you can see that didn’t happen.

Q: Any mishaps during a show that you can laugh about now?
A: A student kicked the plug out of the outlet that was controlling the lighting console and plunged the whole stage into darkness. It took a minute to figure out what had happened and get the lights back on. It was very stressful and not fun at the time.

Q: What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: I taught theatre design for 16 years at various colleges and universities around the country.

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: You have to remain flexible – no plans are set in concrete.