December 2, 2022

Fleming, Jones Tapped to Advance Student Experience

Two University of Mary Washington administrators dedicated to the student experience – Associate Dean for Student Involvement Melissa Jones and Assistant Dean for Residence Life and Housing Dave Fleming – begin this 2022-23 academic year in new roles.

Dave Fleming and Melissa Jones

Dave Fleming and Melissa Jones

Jones has been named dean of students and associate vice president of student affairs. Fleming has been named dean of residence life and housing and serves as assistant vice president for student affairs. Both will be working in crucial campus roles held for decades by Cedric Rucker who retired this summer.

In their new positions, Jones who came to UMW in 2014 as assistant dean for student involvement, and Fleming who arrived in 2015 as associate director of residence life, will continue to enhance the campus experience, in what they call UMW’s, “conversational” approach to student engagement.

“I love watching them apply the skills they’re learning in class, through their involvement in clubs and throughout college,” Jones said. “We try to make sure Mary Wash students have a seat at the table, become engaged and get involved.”

Assistant Dean of Student Involvement Melissa Jones thrives on her role helping new college students find their way.

As Assistant Dean of Student Involvement Melissa Jones thrived on her role helping new college students find their way.

Promoted to associate dean in 2017, Jones has led UMW’s Student Involvement team, overseeing Orientation, Campus Rec and Student Activities and Engagement, fostering a peer mentorship program and highlighting the importance of student collaboration.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and English, with a minor in African American studies, and a master’s degree in social foundations of education from the University of Virginia. She also earned a master’s in counseling psychology with a concentration in college student personnel administration from James Madison University.

Having been in higher education since 1999, Jones worked in residence life and housing, student conduct and academic integrity, and residence education at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). She also worked in residence life at the University of Richmond. She has taught courses and held roles in student conduct, Title IX, crisis management, career services, student leadership development, and in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Promoted to assistant dean for residence life and housing in 2017, Fleming has led critical areas such as residence hall strategic planning, budget management, program development and assessment, and staff development and supervision. He’s been a leader in crisis management, assuring after-hours emergency response and adherence to protocols, all with a focus on students.

Dave Fleming on move-in day in 2017

Dave Fleming on move-in day in 2017.

Most recently, he’s served as co-chair of the University’s Public Health Advisory Working Group throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been able to move the University through, while minimizing the impact on students and making sure they’re having as good an experience as possible,” he said.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in business administration, from Salisbury University in Maryland and a master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology from the University of New Haven in Connecticut. He has worked in higher education since 2006, holding various positions in residence life at Salisbury University and at VCU.

In his new role as dean, he’ll continue to lead the charge to optimize residential life for UMW students, and as assistant vice president for student affairs, he’ll also oversee the area of student conduct and responsibility.

Together, Jones said, she and Fleming will strive to maintain the feeling she found her first day at UMW. It’s a goal they’ve shared on and off campus, as Jones and Fleming married in 2015.

“I remember coming to the conclusion that this really feels like home and hoping that’s what it feels like for our students,” she said. “Eight years later, I know that’s what it feels like for our students.”

Move-In Week News From Dining Services

Students dining on campus

Students dining on campus

A message from UMW Dining Services:

University Dining is excited to welcome everyone to campus for the fall 2022 semester!  Please visit the Campus Dining website for the latest updates or read the Welcome Letter for more information.

*  Food options and serving hours during move-in week

* The Dining Welcome Tent hours with free lemonade, prizes, and dining information

* The time meal plans go active

* Dining gift packages, jobs, and lots more!



Stull on “With Good Reason” Radio, Aug. 6-12

Professor of Theatre and Chair of Theatre and Dance Gregg Stull

Professor of Theatre and Chair of Theatre and Dance Gregg Stull

Professor and Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance and Producing Director of UMW Theatre Gregg Stull is interviewed on With Good Reason radio this week, Aug. 6-12. In the episode titled “Set the Stage,” Stull shares how some industries came to a slow crawl at the dawning of the pandemic, with curtains closing quickly for theatres across the country. Now we are returning to the stage, but theatre may be changed forever. Hear more online. 

Jody Wilken: Belmont Blooms

If Corinne Melchers could see the gardens at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont today – bursting with blooms in pinks, purples and yellows – Jody Wilken hopes she’d be pleased.

Master Gardener Jody Wilken is landscape lead at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont

Master Gardener Jody Wilken is landscape lead at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont

As landscape lead at the 18th-century estate of the famous American artist and his wife, Wilken is tasked with maintaining the standards of natural beauty set forth by the late Mrs. Melchers. Records of what she planted and Garden Club of Virginia guidelines provide a template for maintaining the historic grounds, which Wilken embellishes with her own expertise.

“The discipline of having to stay within a timeframe is helpful to me,” she said. “Left to my own devices, it would probably be more of a hodgepodge of plants that I love.”

She was already in the weeds, as they say, when she landed her current position in December 2019. Having worked part time at Belmont for years alongside predecessor Beate Jensen, Wilken knew the flow of the seasons. Summer’s filled with weeding and watering. Fall means planning for warm weather’s return. Winter’s for paperwork catch-up and tending less prominent areas of the 27-acre property. And spring? Well, spring is showtime!

Wilken grew up fascinated with her grandfather’s Ohio farm and her grandmother’s complementary green thumb. Now a Master Gardener, she’s shared her expertise with others through stints at the local extension office, the Fredericksburg Farmers Market plant clinic and Richmond’s Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. She earned the Southern Garden History Society’s Young Professional Grant earlier this year, and grows tomatoes, melons, peppers, onions, garlic and herbs at her Stafford County home.

“I guess it’s in my blood!”

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: When I’m out on the grounds and people ask about certain plants. It’s nice to be complimented. I take a lot of pride in my work.

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: The physical aspect of it, especially in the heat of a Virginia summer. The plants need to be cared for regardless of weather, and they don’t care if the gardener is hot, sweaty and tired. I have to be careful not to overdo it.

Q: What’s your favorite season?
A: Spring, although it’s also the busiest. The gardens at Belmont really put on a show from late March through early June.

Q: What’s your favorite plant?
A: I know it sounds crazy, but I don’t have one. My favorite color in plants is deep blue, uncommon in the plant world. I have an iris at home called “blue suede shoes.” It’s gorgeous.

Q: What’s your favorite flower-filled area at Belmont?
A: The four triangle beds planted with antique roses and hundreds of tulip bulbs and daffodils in spring.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I spent 21 years as a flight attendant and didn’t really start gardening until I retired in 2001.

Q: How do you spend your free time … other than gardening?
A: My husband and I are passionate about good food. Chopping and prepping is relaxing for me. I’m also an avid downhill skier, but I don’t get to do that enough in Virginia!

Sharon Williams: Graduation Evaluation

Assistant Registrar for Degree Audit Sharon Williams.

Assistant Registrar for Degree Audit Sharon Williams.

Starting a new job might not be at the top of most birthday to-do lists. But in September 2016, Sharon Williams was happy to spend her special day at the University of Mary Washington.

As assistant registrar for degree audit, she holds in her hands the future of hundreds of hopeful grads every year.

“Yes, I see them in my sleep,” Williams said of the applications she reviews for students closing in on completing UMW’s bachelor of arts and bachelor of science programs.

She runs reams of reports to identify missing requirements, then works – along with faculty advisors – to help soon-to-be graduates find ways to finish in time to cross the Ball Circle stage.

Things really ramp up when Commencement creeps close, but Williams’ world begins picking up speed as early as March.

“My inbox is full each day after getting through the day before,” said Williams, who has spent the better part of her career in higher education and completed a term on the University Staff Council last month. “Then there are the many phone calls and in-person visits.”

Each student’s circumstance is unique and calls for its own brand of support and encouragement, but the end goal is always the same.

“Everyone wants to know and hear you say it …,” Williams said. “Upon the success of this semester, you are on track to completing your degree(s).”

Q: Have you held any other positions at UMW?
: Yes, I worked as the Student Records Specialist when I first arrived in 2016, but I’ve always been in the Registrar’s Office.

Q: What are the most important qualities to have in a job where you’re working with young people eager to graduate from college?
A: Patience and empathy. Remembering that I was once in their shoes and someone was patient with me. 

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Being able to help students find solutions, even the ones that don’t know they need help. It takes an entire village to get students to the finish line, and I’m so grateful for all the support.

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: Telling a student they won’t graduate. I hear the heartbreak and see the tears, not always from the student but also the parents.

Q: What’s the most meaningful thing in your office?
A: I have a sign that says “Believe.” To me that means that even on your worst day, you need to continue to believe.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I grew up on a farm, but I don’t like to be outside for long periods of time.

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: Start each day with a grateful heart.

President Paino Announces Climate Action Task Force

To all students, faculty, and staff,

I write today to announce that over the last three months, a presidentially appointed Climate Action Task Force has begun work to produce an actionable plan aimed at significantly reducing UMW’s carbon footprint.  Their full charge is attached.

Co-chaired by Sustainability Coordinator Sean Morrow and Professor of Biological Sciences Dr. Alan Griffith, the task force includes representatives from the UFC and USC, as well as a number of other units at the University.  The plan will identify specific actions and policies, provide measurable objectives, and include timeframes for implementation.

This work is incredibly important, both for ourselves and for future generations.  The grave threats posed by global climate change must be recognized and addressed by individuals and institutions alike. Knowing that success in this area requires the cooperation and commitment of all of us, I’ve asked the task force to reach out and work with students, faculty, and staff across the University as they develop this Climate Action Plan to be delivered to me by July of next year. And so, I also ask each of you to be responsive when the task force reaches out and supportive of their work.

Thanks to Sean and Alan and the other members of the committee for their work now and in the months to come.

Four Mary Washington Alums Named to Board of Visitors

The Virginia Governor’s Office announced yesterday the appointment of four Mary Washington alumni to UMW’s Board of Visitors. Andrew Lamar ’07 of Midlothian, William “Lee” Murray ’04 of Fredericksburg, Davis Rennolds ’06 of Richmond and Terrie Suit, MBA ’16, of Bumpass will return to their alma mater as members of its governing board. Read more.

University Center Naming Celebration Honors Rucker

Upon the retirement of Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker next week, the University Center will officially bear the name "Cedric Rucker University Center."

Upon the retirement of Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker next week, the University Center will officially bear the name “Cedric Rucker University Center.”

Mary Washington’s University Center is four stories and 100,000 square feet, but a new name is about to make it even bigger.

“Today we are celebrating two giants,” Vice President for Student Affairs Juliette Landphair said Sunday at UMW. “One of the giants is behind me, the University Center. The second giant, of course, is Cedric Bernard Rucker.”

The structure’s new moniker becomes official when Rucker retires later this month as associate vice president and dean of student life. That means the central campus building dedicated to student success will bear the name of the man who’s devoted his life to that goal.

It’s a story decades-long in the making. Arriving on Double Drive as an undergrad in 1977, just as institutions of higher education began accepting more students of color, Rucker was the first African-American male graduate to live in a residence hall. He quickly became an integral part of campus culture, immersing himself in clubs, activities and organizations.

“All these doors opened, and Mary Washington just felt like mine,” said Rucker. Read more.

Davidson Weighs in on Ukraine for Voice of America

Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Jason Davidson

Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Jason Davidson

Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Jason Davidson talked with Voice of America News for the feature, “Ukraine Faces Challenges as Russian Forces Advance.” “At this moment what we are really seeing is primarily an artillery war, particularly from the perspective of Ukraine,” Davidson said. “What Ukraine can do…is mostly artillery as a means to counter the Russians.” Hear more.


Profiles Prospects: Who’s Next?

You may have noticed – there’s no shortage of amazing UMW faculty and staff to showcase in EagleEye ProFiles Q&A features. But we want to hear from you.

Is there a UMW employee you’d like to know more about? Curious about the ins and outs of this person’s job? Wondering what makes them show up and do their best work day after day?

We’ve put together a special Q&A to walk you through the nomination process. It’s quick and easy! We hope you’ll use it to let us know which of your Mary Washington colleagues you’d like to see celebrated in EagleEye. Or, hey, if you’re feeling confident, go ahead and nominate yourself! We won’t tell.

Q: Who is eligible to be highlighted in EagleEye ProFiles Q&A features?
A: Anyone who works at UMW!

Q: What do I need to know about the person I’m nominating?
A: Not much, really. We don’t need a lot of information to get started – just the person’s name and job title if you know it. It’s a bonus if you let us know why you’re interested in learning more about this person and their job. Why are you curious about what they do? Have you noticed something special about this person that could help us customize their questions?

Q: I know this person is busy. If they agree to be featured, will it take much of their time?
A: No! Being highlighted in a ProFiles Q&A is pretty painless. We send each subject a list of 10 to 15 questions, and we grab a photo of them, which typically takes no more than 10 minutes.

Q: Will my colleagues know I nominated them?
A: No, not unless you decide to spill the beans.

Q: Where should I send my nomination info?
A: Please contact us – with the name of the person you’d like to see featured, plus their job title, if you know it, and any extra input you think would be helpful – at