February 4, 2023

Field Trip Gets Elementary School Students Excited About STEM

Battlefield Elementary School student Aidan Muller reacts to a chemistry experiment during a recent field trip to the University of Mary Washington. The experience, a collaboration between UMW and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, had students from 16 Spotsylvania schools crossing campus for lessons in STEM subjects. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Battlefield Elementary School student Aidan Muller reacts to a chemistry experiment during a recent field trip to the University of Mary Washington. The experience, a collaboration between UMW and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, had students from 16 Spotsylvania schools crossing campus for lessons in STEM subjects. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Elephant toothpaste. The giant glob of sudsy foam created in a classroom experiment gave Battlefield Elementary School student Aidan Muller a thought: “Chemistry is cool!”

The whimsical tooth wash – hydrogen peroxide mixed with dish soap and a healthy dose of imagination – was part of a fall field trip designed to get students excited about STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) and educators comfortable with teaching them. Third- through fifth-graders in Spotsylvania County Public Schools’ Rising Scholars program swept through the University of Mary Washington, soaking up lessons on aquatic plants and outer space, and having up-close encounters with robots.

“It’s a unique opportunity for these students to learn about real-world solutions being developed by scientists,” said Michael Clark, director of academic engagement for the Chief Technology Office of the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, which brought the robots to UMW’s Fredericksburg campus.

The base partnered with Mary Washington’s College of Education, and departments of biology, chemistry and physics, to host the elementary-school entourage – from 16 public schools – on an exploration of topics, from kinetics to cosmology, and how the arts and humanities can tie them together. Read more.

Public Health Reminders for Seasonal Illnesses (Oct. 28)

Dear UMW Community,

This week the COVID-19 community level remains low, as reported on the CDC tracker. Based on this level of transmission, the CDC’s recommended action is to “Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines. Get tested if you have symptoms. Wear a mask if you have symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19. Wear a mask on public transportation. You may choose to wear a mask at any time as an additional precaution to protect yourself and others.”

Seasonal illnesses, including RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) and the flu, are also common this time of year, and you may have seen recent news of a potential outbreak at a Stafford County high school. The Rappahannock Area Health District is working with Stafford County Public Schools to investigate and keep the community informed. State health officials urge residents to be ready for an increase in respiratory illness and recommend vaccination and practicing preventive health habits.

Everyday preventive actions recommended by the CDC to reduce the spread of flu include avoiding close contact with people who are sick. If you are sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them, and please stay home. You can avoid spreading germs by covering coughs and sneezes, washing your hands often with soap and water, or using hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with viruses that cause flu.

There’s still time to be vaccinated against flu, and the next on-campus vaccine clinic is Thursday, Nov. 17, or you can find vaccines via the CDC website. The CDC also notes that it is safe to get both a COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine at the same time.

UMW continues to evaluate the COVID-19 pandemic in accordance with public health guidance and will provide updates to the campus community when there are significant updates from the CDC or an increase in our community levels. We are also monitoring the latest data and information about the spread of monkeypox, and working in partnership with the Rappahannock Area Health District. For information on monkeypox transmission, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s monkeypox website, call the VDH hotline at 877-829-4682, or visit the CDC monkeypox transmission website.

Take care,

UMW’s Public Health Advisory Working Group

Smile! There’s a Freelance Photographer on Campus

Freelance Photographer Tom Rothenberg

Freelance Photographer Tom Rothenberg

Don’t be surprised if you spot freelance photographer Tom Rothenberg – and his cameras – on campus in the coming weeks and months. University Communications has contracted with Rothenberg, a veteran photojournalist (and father of a UMW freshman) whose work has appeared in the likes of The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Sports Illustrated.

He’ll be strolling Campus Walk, scoping out academic buildings, and attending games and events, capturing slices of UMW life. His images will be curated by University Communications for use on the University’s website, social media platforms, marketing materials and more.

If you are aware of an upcoming event or happening, or a special person or place, that might be worthy of a photo opportunity that showcases Mary Washington, please contact Assistant Director of Design Services Maria Schultz.

Summer Snapshot: Study Abroad Is Back at UMW

 

‘UMW in Spain’ and other study abroad programs return this year at University of Mary Washington. In this photo, from left to right, Center for International Education Director Jose Sainz poses with UMW students Jessica Oberlies, Madeline Killian, Julia May and Gwen Harrison during the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Photo courtesy of Jose Sainz.

‘UMW in Spain’ and other study abroad programs return this year at University of Mary Washington. In this photo, from left to right, Center for International Education Director Jose Sainz poses with UMW students Jessica Oberlies, Madeline Killian, Julia May and Gwen Harrison during the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Photo courtesy of Jose Sainz.

Pictures from University of Mary Washington summer study abroad programs say a thousand words, but in honor of this weekend’s Education Abroad Fair we asked students to use just one word to sum up their recent overseas experiences.

“Enriching,” senior Julia May said of her time in Bilbao, Spain, where she took a food culture class, toured one of the country’s oldest wineries and visited a Spanish civil war museum devoted to the theme of peace.

Launched in 2002, UMW in Spain is one of Mary Washington’s three longest-running faculty-led study abroad programs – including UMW in France and UMW in Paris – all back this summer, after the pandemic put them on pause for two years. UMW students can learn about upcoming opportunities to study, research, intern or volunteer overseas at the fair, presented by the Center for International Education. It takes place Saturday, Oct. 1, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the University Center’s Chandler Ballroom.

The most recent study-abroad adventurers shared their thoughts, summing up the sights and tastes, people and traditions, landmarks and languages in just a few syllables. Read more.

UMW’s Into the Streets Service Project Helps Local Community

More than 70 University of Mary Washington students shared their volunteer spirit with the Fredericksburg area community on Saturday, Sept. 24, for Into the Streets. The autumn tradition is hosted by UMW’s Community Outreach and Resources (COAR), which supports and promotes community engagement, volunteerism and service among students.

“For a few hours on a Saturday, they have a chance to get out of their residence hall room and make a positive difference,” said Center for Community Engagement Director Sarah Dewees. “Into the Streets is a great way for UMW students to volunteer with nonprofit organizations that serve Fredericksburg and learn more about our community.”

Groups big and small set out to do lawn and garden work – planting, weeding, harvesting, mulching, shrub-trimming – for the Fredericksburg Area Museum, St. Mary’s Church, Lafayette Upper Elementary School, Downtown Greens and Tree Fredericksburg. They also cleaned up trash throughout the city and along the Rappahannock River. In total, the project helped 12 organizations and resulted in 216 service hours.

“It’s a great way to get involved with the City of Fredericksburg and give back to the community we call home during the school year,” said Nathan Francis, a junior and COAR staff member who’s majoring in political science and philosophy. Read more.

Rotter Presents Papers at German Studies, Polish Culture Conferences

Associate Professor of German Marcel Rotter

Associate Professor of German Marcel Rotter

Marcel Rotter recently presented papers at two conferences, one on the future of German-American Studies at the annual meeting of the German Studies Association in Houston, Texas, the other on the influence of metropolitan traffic on the poster design of 1920s Berlin at the Institute for Polish Culture of the University of Warsaw, Poland.

UMW Gets it Right With ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’

UMW juniors Nathaniel Huff (left) and Seth Drenning ’24 star in ‘The Play That Goes Wrong.’ Photo by Geoff Greene.

UMW Theatre opens its 2022-23 season with a show that has college students performing a play about college students performing a play.

The descriptor might be redundant, but the outcome is riveting, said Department of Theatre and Dance Chair Gregg Stull.

The Play That Goes Wrong is the story of a cast of wannabe stars committed to pulling off their opening-night presentation of Murder at Haversham Manor despite boundless blunders and missteps. Packed with comedic elements and technical touches, this play within a play stretches the talents of UMW students who act like actors in a murder mystery gone awry. The show – onstage in Klein Theatre through Sunday, Oct. 2 – kicks off a season specifically designed to coax theatregoers into continuing to return to in-person performances.

“The very nature of this play is so different from what people expect from theatre,” said senior computer science and theatre major Ethan Pearson, who’s cast as Chris. “The dominoes keep falling to make things worse and worse, and you just can’t wait to see what fails next.” Read more.

UMW Psychology Grad Speaks About Veteran Mental Health

Robyn Shepardson ’05, a clinical psychologist and researcher at the Department of Veterans Affairs, is this year’s psychology graduate-in-residence.

Robyn Shepardson ’05, a clinical psychologist and researcher at the Department of Veterans Affairs, is this year’s psychology graduate-in-residence.

Robyn Shepardson wants more mental health care to be available for veterans.

“They’ve experienced horrors of war that civilians cannot imagine,” said Shepardson, who earned a degree in psychology from the University of Mary Washington in 2005. “As a society, we owe it to those who have served to take good care of them when they leave the military.”

She hoped to impart her message – that integrating mental health into primary care settings is key to increasing access to service for veterans affected by repeated deployments, combat or traumatic brain injuries – during a recent visit to UMW.

This year’s psychology graduate-in-residence, Shepardson delivered a lecture titled “Increasing Access to Mental Health Treatment: Clinical Research Evaluating a Brief Anxiety Intervention for Primary Care Behavioral Health Settings.” The free public presentation took place in the Hurley Convergence Center Digital Auditorium on Thursday, Sept. 15. Read more.

Three Professors Receive Colleague-Chosen Awards

University of Mary Washington professors bestowed prestigious awards on three of their colleagues at the Fall 2022 Faculty Address earlier this month. Professors of English, German and physics were praised for their commitment to their fields, the art of teaching and the importance of service.

Maya Mathur

Maya Mathur, Associate Professor of English

Associate Professor of English Maya Mathur

Professor of English Maya Mathur received the Grellet C. Simpson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. The honor recognizes full-time faculty members, who – like Simpson, UMW’s fourth president – place an emphasis on quality teaching and the liberal arts.

Since earning the rank of associate professor six years ago, Mathur has created six courses, including sought-after first-year seminars Shakespeare and Popular Culture and From Cinderella to Harry Potter: Fairy Tales and Fantasy Literature. Tailored to the interests of 21st-century students, Mathur’s courses blend canon with modern topics, prompting exploration of class, race, gender and power within texts.

“The enthusiasm and engagement my students bring to class both enhance my understanding of literary texts and help me develop new ways to analyze it,” said Mathur, whose meticulously constructed Canvas pages and use of engaging applications like Padlet and Flipgrid stand out.

She shares innovative ideas and has worked with the Center for Teaching to co-sponsor workshops, including one focused on race in the classroom. “Many faculty and students are eager to address race,” said a nominator. “Professor Mathur is leading the way in guiding us to do so.”

Marcel Rotter

Associate Professor of German Marcel Rotter

Associate Professor of German Marcel Rotter

Associate Professor of German Marcel Rotter received the J. Christopher “Topher” Bill Outstanding Faculty Service Award for those who have taught at UMW at least seven years and held significant service roles in their departments, colleges and community. The award was established in 2003 in honor of longtime UMW psychology professor Topher Bill.

Rotter, who chairs the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, works to promote and improve German language instruction at Mary Washington and in Virginia, organizing continuing education events for teachers and cultural immersion experiences for students. “His work cultivates key relationships and promotes UMW as a cultural hub and an institution with a global mindset,” said a nominator.

In 18 years at Mary Washington, Rotter also has served as chair of the University Faculty Council, leading a revision of the general education curriculum, and as treasurer for the Faculty Senate of Virginia, all while keeping students top of mind.

“Many of our students have never left Virginia, let alone the U.S.” said Rotter, who also is VP for the Society of German American Studies. “My colleagues from around the world and I are here to show them what’s out there.”

Varun Makhija

Assistant Professor of Physics Varun Makhija

Assistant Professor of Physics Varun Makhija

Assistant Professor of Physics Varun Makhija won the Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Award, for those who’ve taught full time at Mary Washington for two to five years.

At the end of his first semester at Mary Washington in fall 2019, Makhija found himself the sole physics professor in the Department of Chemistry and Physics. And so, in three years, he taught 21 of the 24 physics offerings in the course catalog; supervised 19 students in individual studies, internships and Summer Science Institute research; and reinvigorated UMW’s chapter of the Society for Physics Students, which won awards in 2020 and 2021.

Makhija is “the glue,” said nominators, “that has, through sheer enthusiasm and love for teaching and physics,” held the program together.

At Mary Washington, he has worked to connect the campus physics community with scholars in the field and published six papers in leading journals, often with undergraduate co-authors.

“The primary motivation for me has been our students,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from them, and I’ve tried my best to provide an environment in which they can do things they’re passionate about, and then go to the places they want to go after UMW.”

Thanks to Associate Professor of Mathematics Education Kyle Schultz, who provided a transcript of his awards presentation, and to the members of last year’s Committee for Sabbaticals, Fellowships and Faculty Awards.

UMW Presidential Address Ushers in the 2022-23 Academic Year

UMW President Troy Paino addresses faculty and staff before the start of the fall 2022 semester. Photo by Paige Shiplett.

UMW President Troy Paino addresses faculty and staff before the start of the fall 2022 semester. Photo by Paige Shiplett.

University of Mary Washington President Troy Paino kicked off the fall semester – and the 2022-23 academic year – Tuesday morning during an in-person address to faculty and staff.

“I haven’t been able to welcome you like this for a while,” Paino said from the stage in George Washington Hall’s Dodd Auditorium.

The start-of-the-semester assembly came after what Paino called a busy summer and a very successful legislative session in which the commonwealth made a historic investment in UMW. The president spoke of plans for the funding, the launch of a new strategic vision slated to be revealed this fall, the filling of key administrative roles and – most importantly – the importance of welcoming a strong and diverse incoming class. Read more or watch the YouTube video of the entire address.