December 14, 2018

Kevin Bartram featured on ‘With Good Reason’ holiday show

UMW Philharmonic Orchestra Director Kevin Bartram will be a guest on With Good Reason radio’s Holiday Favorites and Memories show, Dec. 22 to 28. Joined by faculty members from other Virginia schools, who discuss the power of Christmas music to evoke the past, Bartram explains that “certain something” singers like Judy Garland and Tony Bennett bring to seasonal classics. Later in the show, in an encore segment, UMW Professor Gary Richards argues that Broadway musicals with Southern themes – from Show Boat and Porgy and Bess in the first half of the 20th century to Memphis, which debuted on Broadway in 2009 – tend to relay a negative view of the South and ill represent today’s diversity. Broadcast times are posted at: For more information, visit the With Good Reason website at

Have a Safe and Happy Holiday Season!

Holiday Break is finally here! If you haven’t already, don’t forget to mark your calendar for Dec. 19 through Jan. 1, when UMW offices will be closed for the holidays. Pour yourself a mug of steamy hot chocolate, flip on your favorite yuletide flick and enjoy time with family and friends. However and wherever you celebrate, be safe, and make the most of the holiday season.

Fleece Fest Volunteer Opportunity, Dec. 14

Every winter, the Dorsey Scholars make fleece blankets for the area homeless. Some are distributed directly to folks on the streets; others go to homeless shelters. With some extra kits available this year, the Dorsey Scholar program has opened up the opportunity for some community service to the UMW family. Any faculty, staff or students interested in helping should show up in the University Center lobby Friday from 4 – 6  p.m.  Skills needed include using scissors to cut fleece and tying knots. Thank you.

John Symonds: Just “Claus”

John Symonds is making his list and checking it twice, plumping his bushy white beard and plotting a course to a flurry of Christmastime stops.

An application database administrator at UMW, Symonds began playing Santa soon after he started tinkering with computers, on a bulky Burroughs B25 model in 1975.

In Fredericksburg, he was Santa in last weekend’s parade and (when it isn’t rained out, like it was this year) at the Hurkamp Park tree lighting the weekend before. He stops in at the Department of Social Services, Fredericksburg Academy, Christ Lutheran Church and Rappahannock Regional Library. And he strolls Caroline and William streets throughout the season. (Download the Fred Map app and use the Santa Tracker to find him.) He also shows up at the National Gladding Family Adoption Agency in Northern Virginia, and tree lightings in Port Royal and Ladysmith volunteer fire departments.

“Whew,” he said, “… you never know where I might be.”

Oh, but we do. At least on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. That’s when Symonds – as Santa – will welcome children of UMW faculty and staff at the home of President Troy Paino and wife Kelly at Brompton. (Register online; there’s still a few spaces left.)

Q: What brought you to UMW?
A:Sitting in traffic on I-95 in December 2000, I kept hearing an ad for a systems analyst at UMW. I’d retired from the Air Force in 1994 and was an Air Force contractor until I put my application in at UMW and got the job.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Making users happy by answering their questions or figuring out what their problem was.

Q: What was your first gig as Santa?
A: In 1981, I was the deputy chief of the Northeast Volunteer Fire Department and we needed a Santa to ride through the subdivisions on a fire truck. I had done it for my kids a couple of times. I came out of the box that year!

Q: What are some funny questions kids have asked you?
A: Where are the reindeer? Can I be your elf?

Q: Does it get hot under that big costume – and beard?
A: It’s like the weather in the basement of GW; you dress in layers and hope you got it right.

Q: How do you stay in a jolly, Santa-ish mood?
A: I think of the kids. I do this all for the kids. If I can reach just one and make a connection, my day is made.

Q: How does your UMW Santa appearance compare to the rest?
A: UMW has always (since 2001) been near and dear to me, and I’ve always wanted to give back in some other way than Giving Day. Thanks to the Hurleys and now the Painos, I’m allowed to do that. In the end, it’s all about the kids.

Q: Who’s easier to deal with, the children who sit on your lap as Santa or employees who come to you with computer questions?
A: I try to treat all the same. Many of the UMW faculty and staff are really just big kids at heart.

Q: How old were you when you stopped believing in a real Santa?
A: I don’t think I ever really stopped “believing.” It’s the spirit of Santa that lives on and on. Tim Allen and his movies helped me understand.

Q: Any mottos you live by?​
A: “Do the most you can, for as many as you can, as often as you can.”

Barry Presents at National Conference in Denver

Jennifer Barry, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, recently presented in two panels at the national conference for the Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion.

For the first panel, sponsored by the SBallies unit, Barry participated in a roundtable on the #MeToo movement and issues around harassment, how to be an ally to people facing harassment or discrimination, and what to do if you see or experience harassment. Each panelist gave a short presentation and then generated a productive conversation with the audience. 

During the second panel, sponsored by the Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism session, Barry reviewed David M. Litwa’s recent translation of the Refutation of All Heresies: Text, Translation, and Notes (Atlanta, 2016). Barry was invited to this panel by special request.

The SBLAAR conference was particularly productive and Barry was asked to join the steering committee for the SBL program unit on Exile and Biblical Literature due to her work on exile.

Al-Tikriti Presents Paper, Joins Book Prize Panel at MESA Conference

Associate Professor of Middle East History Nabil Al-Tikriti presented a paper entitled “The Imam’s Cut: Ghaza’ Norms in the Ottoman Age of the Caliphate on Sunday, November 18. The presentation took place on a panel titled Ruler of the East and the West: Notions of Universal Rule in Early Modern Ottoman History, 1400-1800” in San Antonio at the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Conference.

The paper abstract was: “At some point between June 1509 and his death in February 1513, the Ottoman royal Şehzade Korkud completed an Arabic legal manual attempting to clarify what he considered doctrinally correct allocation of human and material plunder in a theater of war. Entitled Hall ishkal al-afkar fi hill amwal al-kuffar (A Solution for Intellectual Difficulties Concerning the Proper Disposal of Infidel Properties), the text appears to have had two primary purposes: to rationalize property allocation among victorious participants in the ghaza’ military economy, and to define licit sexual relations with concubines and captives.

Korkud’s text can be read as an attempt to fit an evolving imperial law of war into older shari‘a norms of conquest administration. While the manual’s legal scholarship falls squarely within the Shafi‘i tradition of siyar (campaign rules) literature, at the time it provided a fresh synthesis of older rulings answering to particularly Ottoman concerns.

One of the key claims Korkud made was the decisive role agents of the imam must play in adjudicating, taxing, and allocating both human and material plunder. Ensuring that the imam’s fifth is properly administered, implicitly by Ottoman state officials, provided a religio-political case for imperial control over the ghaza’ economy, as well as over other issues related to the laws of war and taxation. In light of caliphal titulature periodically floated during Bayezid II’s reign, Hall ishkal al-afkar predicated itself on Ottoman justifications for universal rule as the caliphal authority.

Demonstrating the continuing relevance of such siyar campaign literature, in 2013 a small Istanbul press, ISAR, published a scholarly introduction, full Turkish translation, and complete facsimile of Hall ishkal al-afkar. With this paper, I shall attempt to situate this text within its broader Ottoman and Islamic context, as well as suggest possible connections between this text and recent allegations of regulated sexual slavery by Da‘sh in Iraq and Syria.”

The panel summary was as follows: “It is commonly assumed that Ottoman sultans did not deploy the title ‘caliph’ with any efficacy or intent until the reign of Abdülhamid II (d. 1918), whose interest in the title was diplomatically motivated. Recent studies have demonstrated, however, that there is a much longer and richer history to the notion of caliphate, in its mystical-theological sense, as part and parcel of Ottoman political thought.

This panel aims to investigate early modern Ottoman notions of caliphate as an expression of Ottoman political ambition for universal rule. Caliphate, or the notion of divinely ordained rule, was employed by Ottoman authors to argue universal supremacy synchronically and diachronically.

Synchronically, the notion of universal caliphate served to claim superiority over contemporary polities. Diachronically, the same concept was employed to compare the Ottomans with preceding Islamic dynasties, intimating both enduring permanence and culmination.

The panel engages with Ottoman political writing on the concept of divinely ordained universal rule in two key ways. First, we aim to show that the Ottoman dynasty grappled with the notion of caliphate from early on. From bolstering claims to superiority over their archenemies, the Safavids, to regulating the realm of law and legitimacy, the title ‘caliph’ had a lot to offer to the Ottoman authorities in the early modern period. Second, and more significantly, we locate an intellectual territory beyond the administrative-pragmatic uses of the title ‘caliph’. Ottoman discussions of caliphate comprised sophisticated discussions about the nature of divine authority and its relation to sacral authority framed in rich mystical, philosophical, and ethical traditions. This panel aims to acknowledge the historical dynamism of the Ottoman notions of caliphate, while showing that questions of caliphate and of divine legitimation were never the realm of the political center exclusively. They were simultaneously the realm of the mystic, the theologian, and the ‘ulama.”

Panel Participants’ List:

Buster-Williams Presents at National Enrollment Planning Conference

Kimberley Buster-Williams, vice president for enrollment management, presented at the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) SEM Conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday, November 12, 2018. Buster-Williams presented with colleagues Alicia Moore (Central Oregon Community College), Tara Sprehe (Clackamass Community College) and Jody Gordon (University of the Fraser Valley). The 90-minute session was titled, “SEM and Retention: A Perfect Pair”. The session was interactive and fast-paced. Presenters discussed a wide range of potential retention strategies and focused on these three aspects; access, progression and completion. The session was geared to those interested in more intentionally engaging in effective SEM-based retention work.

AACRAO’s annual Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) Conference provides participants with practical solutions, promising practices, training, research and guidelines for enrollment management practitioners looking to maximize student success, improve operational efficiency and enhance the financial well-being of their institution.

The SEM Conference brings together a comprehensive lineup of experts, researchers and practitioners who showcase core concepts that are the foundation of SEM, as well as new and best practices. Approximately 1,000 people attended this year’s conference.

UMW Team Wins World Geography Bowl

Congrats to our brilliant geography students who put UMW on the World Geography Bowl map year after year! A team of five undergrads, joined by a Georgia grad student, won the competition this week at a SouthEastern Division of the American Association of Geographers meeting in Tennessee. Alex Chrvala, the top- scoring undergrad, and Darby Libka, the top-scoring female, will tackle the national World Geography Bowl in April.

“Over the Garden Gate: Gari Melchers’ Falmouth” on View at Belmont, Oct. 5 to Dec. 2

Four paintings by Gari Melchers, including three never before seen publically at Belmont, will be featured in the upcoming spotlight exhibition Over the Garden Gate: Gari Melchers’ Falmouth, scheduled for Oct. 5 through Dec. 2, 2018.

Thanks to generous loans from private collectors and the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia, the loaned paintings — Gossips, Pear Tree in Blossom, Pot Hunters and Rainbow — will be combined with a select group of images drawn from the collection at Gari Melchers Home and Studio, which reproduce local settings and villagers long familiar to natives of Falmouth, Virginia.

Joanna Catron, who curates the show, says that “while Melchers saw Virginia as an escape from the demands of his New York studio, the picturesque environs of his home and nearby Falmouth were too seductive to allow for much rest.”  The result was dozens of evocative images that chronicle a simpler time and place.

The exhibition is included with Museum admission. For more information, contact Joanna Catron at or 540-654-1841, or visit

Paul Messplay: On the Money

As another school year chugs into action, so do classes and conferences, meetings and midterms, grades and – eventually – graduation. All the while, Paul Messplay’s mind is on the money.

UMW Director of Budget and Financial Analysis Paul Messplay. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

UMW Director of Budget and Financial Analysis Paul Messplay. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

As Mary Washington’s director of Budget and Financial Analysis, he’s the force behind the funds in UMW’s $129 million operating budget. And with 10 years’ experience in higher education policy, 13 at a large research institution and more than a decade at Mary Wash, he’s the man for the job.

Messplay and his team develop and administer the budget, prepare revenue and expenditure projections, monitor enrollment trends, keep an eye on the General Assemblyand state funding, provide materials for the Board of Visitors, analyze institutional debt ratios and instructional program costs, evaluate student tuition and fees, and develop long-range goals to support UMW’s master plan.

[Deep breath here.]

And, next year, guess what. They’ll do it all again.

Q: Accounting for a multi-million-dollar operating budget seems daunting. Is it stressful?
A: There are moments of stress, particularly when we’re trying to pull the budget together for the next fiscal year and need to make sure everything’s balanced. Fortunately, I have excellent colleagues who are very knowledgeable and skilled, and willing to put in whatever hours are needed to get the job done.

Q: Have you always been good with numbers?
A: I don’t think I have exceptional math skills, but I do like problem solving and analytical work.

Q: How well do you stick to your budget at home?
A: At the risk of sounding nerdy, my wife and I have been pretty disciplined in managing the budget and finances.

Q: Any advice for the rest of us?
A: The same thing I’ve told my kids: Come up with a plan and stick with it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but do somethingand start early with regular savings and investing. And, make that allocation the first draw against your paycheck. Otherwise you’ll just end up spending it on something else.

Q: Are there any drawbacks to your job?
A: State reporting requirements that consume a lot of time but seem to be of little value to the institution.

Q: What makes you lose sleep at night?
A: There are times when I worry about my job. I don’t want to be too complacent; that’s when mistakes are made. I lose much less sleep these days than I used to, but that’s one of the benefits of 30-plus years of experience.

Q: Any mantras you live by?
A: This too shall pass.