June 19, 2018

Arts-Fused STEM Equals Student Success

It started as a standard third-grade science lesson – how the tilt of the Earth causes the seasons to change. Now a group of future educators looked over a Greek play that gave a wholly different version of how summer turns to fall. Under the direction of a UMW theatre professional, they acted out the […]

Arts-Fused STEM Equals Student Success

It started as a standard third-grade science lesson – how the tilt of the Earth causes the seasons to change. Now a group of future educators looked over a Greek play that gave a wholly different version of how summer turns to fall. Under the direction of a UMW theatre professional, they acted out the […]

Richardson Named Distinguished Woman in Business Education

Lynne Richardson, vice president for administration and finance at the University of Mary Washington, has been recognized as the 2018 Patricia M. Flynn Distinguished Woman in Business Education. The award recognizes female thought leaders whose leadership, research and educational initiatives have made a difference for women in business education. The honor was established in 2016 […]

Melissa Jones: Oriented For Success

This might just be Melissa Jones’ favorite time of year. For two frenetic weeks, the assistant dean of student involvement will help welcome nearly 1,000 incoming students to campus for a 24-hour introduction to college life at the University of Mary Washington.

The first group arrived on Tuesday. The final group of first-year students will leave June 27. The goal of Jones and her team is to ensure the experience they get brings them back on move-in day — and keeps them coming back all four years.

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

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

“It’s our job to see the potential in every student we come across,” Jones said. “Every student at Mary Washington needs someone who believes in them. That’s us, out of the gate.”

Orientation takes a year of planning. By the time incoming students arrive, Jones has moved onto campus for the duration. It’s that consuming. It’s also that important.

“Orientation helps form a deeper and stronger connection to the university,” said Jones, who in addition to overseeing the program supervises the offices of Campus Recreation, the James Farmer Multicultural Center and Student Activities and Engagement.

The experience can also mean the difference between a student deciding to make UMW home or going elsewhere. That’s why, Jones said, “we put our best foot forward.”

Q: How did you choose the field of education?
A: I was going to go to law school. Halfway through the Law School Admission Test, I looked around and thought, “I don’t want to spend the next three years with these people.” I took the GRE two weeks later. I was fighting the education bug.

Q: What is the goal of Orientation
A: Students are coming from the K-12 experience where they had their friends and they knew what to expect. Now they’re trying to find their footing. One of our main purposes is to create for them a community with each other and the institution.

Q: What message do you want incoming students to take away from Orientation?
A: This is the place where you can be found. You can show up here and be your authentic self and you will be found.

Q: Any interesting activities or events scheduled for Orientation?
A: There’s UMW Live, skits and plays written for students and by students that cover a range of topics, from housing and financial aid to academic services and making good choices. Students hear it differently when it comes from other students. It’s more meaningful. There are video games, golf cart tours, adult coloring if you need something lower key. There’s Bingo in the Underground and a big game of Four Square outside the UC. We have pizza at 10 p.m. That’s college.

Q: Anything you’d like faculty and staff to keep in mind during Orientation?
A: We encourage everybody to be patient and welcoming. One of the best things about this community is how welcoming it is. Keep up the good work you’re doing. And let us know if there’s a need not being met.

Q: What are some of the more unusual questions people ask during Orientation?
A: We have some students who ask where they can go to find a party. Parents and guests ask us if we’re going to do bed checks and things like that. No, we’re not.

Q: Any favorite quotes you try to live by?
A: “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” It’s from a James Taylor song. There is joy in every single moment. Try not to forget that. Try not to let anyone steal your joy.

Paul Anka to Open UMW’s 2018-19 Philharmonic Season

American singing icon Paul Anka will kick off UMW’s new Philharmonic Orchestra Season this fall. A Star Trek celeb, travel guru and violin virtuoso will round out the star-studded lineup, which runs October through April in Dodd Auditorium. Anka, known for such chart-topping hits as Puppy Love and Put Your Head on My Shoulder, will take the stage […]

Governor Announces Appointments to UMW Board of Visitors

The Virginia Governor’s Office today announced the appointment of Martha Abbott ’72, Allida M. Black and Leopoldo Martínez to the University of Mary Washington Board of Visitors. In addition, Edd Houck has been reappointed to a second term on the Board. The appointees will serve four-year terms, which expire June 30, 2022. They succeed Holly […]

UMW Dedicates Renovated Heslep Amphitheatre

Saturday’s dedication of the Heslep Amphitheatre and Morris Stage began a new chapter in the life of one of Mary Washington’s oldest and most endearing sites. The event took place during Reunion Weekend 2018, 95 years after the Amphitheatre’s original 1923 dedication. It marked the near conclusion of a meticulous $3 million renovation project funded largely by alumni […]

Code-Breaking Grads Do the Math

Bailey Stewart ’18 grew up piecing together Lego blocks and K’nex sets, turning tiny pieces into space shuttles, castles and carnival rides. At home in Chesapeake, Virginia, where she and her sister would later discuss derivatives and integrals at the dinner table, she imagined becoming an engineer or architect. She ultimately decided on a career […]

Mark Thaden: It’s Show Time

For most of UMW, Reunion Weekend is a three-day affair. For Executive Director of Alumni Relations Mark Thaden ’02, it’s life. He and his staff spend more than a year planning each of the annual events, which bring nearly a thousand alums back to campus.

Executive Director of Alumni Relations Mark Thaden

Executive Director of Alumni Relations Mark Thaden

When the throngs of nostalgic Mary Washington alums – from Baby Boomers in their 90s to Gen Z’s in their 20s – start converging on campus tomorrow, it’ll be Thaden’s job to keep them all happy, all weekend long.

Now, that’s a tall order.

Q: How did you come to work at UMW?

A: After I graduated from Mary Washington in 2002, I was hired as the assistant director of Annual Giving. The position was only part-time, so after a year I moved on to work in development at other institutions, including the University of Virginia. I promised myself I’d return to Mary Washington if I got the chance. In 2011, my goal of leading UMW’s alumni engagement efforts was realized.

Q: What’s the best part of your job?

A: Working with a dynamic team that cares about our alumni, about the institution, and gets excited about creating programs that support and engage our alumni.

Q: What is most challenging?

A: Keeping alumni happy! Most people have one boss. I feel like I have 40,000, all with different opinions, experiences and suggestions.

Q: What do you most look forward to during reunion weekend?

A: This might sound cheesy, but seeing the pure joy of alumni reconnecting with each other and campus is energizing for me. Mary Washington alumni truly love this place, and seeing them relive their college days with classmates and friends inspires me and my team to continue creating those opportunities for them.

Q: Do you have any favorite stories from past reunion weekends?

A: I had one extremely challenging alumna from the Class of 1949, who wasn’t particularly happy that a (“young”) man was in the alumni director position with an alumni base of primarily women. It seemed there was nothing I could do to make her happy. We pulled out all the stops and did everything we could to make her reunion experience the best she’d ever had. At the end of the weekend, I sent over one of the floral arrangements for her to take home because she had mentioned how beautiful they were. She then yelled “COME HERE!” and grabbed my face and planted a big kiss right on the lips. We have a special bond to this day.

Q: Any recurring themes that you hear from alums?

A: They love how the school has updated and built buildings while keeping with the architecture and preserving green space. They’re amazed with the beauty of campus and updated facilities.

Q: What’s the earliest graduate you’ve met?

A: I had the pleasure of speaking with a member of the class of 1943 during one reunion. One member of the Class of 1947 has attended each of the past six reunions.

Q: What kinds of stories do you hear from older alums?

A: Hearing about the notorious Dean of Women Nina Bushnell is fascinating. She ran a tight ship! No walking on the grass in Ball Circle, strict curfews, interviews for dates and no skirts above the ankles! I also hear about the guys from U.Va. and Quantico who would pack into trucks and head to Mary Washington looking for dates. Classes of the ’80s enjoyed a brief period when the drinking age was 18, and it sounds like there were some pretty epic parties in the Underground, Lee Hall Ballroom (fourth floor) and around campus.

Q: UMW grads often talk about how special this place is. What do you think makes it so?

A: It’s a small school, and the friendships developed here are deep and lasting. I frequently hear stories about the faculty members who helped guide them through their time and impacted their careers. So many say this place was a home for them.

New UMW Grad Heads to Virginia Governor’s Office

When Chris Cassingham collected his political science degree from the University of Mary Washington earlier this month, he already knew what was next. The swimmer from Plano, Texas, had learned days before that he’d earned one of just 23 coveted spots in the 2018 Governor’s Fellows Program, selected among rising college seniors and graduates from […]