December 14, 2018

Leslie Martin: High-Speed Connection

UMW Associate Professor of Sociology Leslie Martin is committed to strengthening the relationships between the campus and local communities. And she has the energy to do it!

Professor of Sociology Leslie Martin is director of the new Center for Community Engagement. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

UMW Professor of Sociology Leslie Martin is director of UMW’s new Center for Community Engagement. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Dashing between Monroe as chair of the sociology department and the UC as director of the new Center for Community Engagement, Martin is a whirlwind.

Sometimes, she’s teaching the First Year Seminar “No Place Like Home: Housing and Society,” which delves into the dynamics of communities and inequalities that affect housing choices. Sometimes, she’s helping UMW’s COAR with its annual gift box drive that wrapped up last month.

Sometimes, she’s sitting in meetings to get a feel for community engagement already happening on campus. Sometimes, she’s riding down the Rappahannock River, helping to replenish the local oyster population.

Martin has lived in Philadelphia, Richmond and now, of course, Fredericksburg. But ever since she was a graduate student at Emory University in Atlanta, she said, she’s hoped to work in an office like the CCE.

Q: What sort of work does the CCE do in the Fredericksburg community?
A: It’s not so much what CCE is doing in the community but more that CCE is trying to be the infrastructure to support everybody else who’s doing stuff in the community.

Q: What community organizations are special to you?
A: I love them all; I can’t choose a favorite child! Since I’ve been at Mary Washington I’ve been involved in issues around homelessness. I’m currently on the board of the Fredericksburg Regional Continuum of Care, the coalition of homeless service organizations. That’s very close to my heart.

Q: When did you first realize the value of community engagement?
A: When I was in high school, I started volunteering at the Richmond Peace Education Center. I think I just did clerical work, but it felt really good to get out of my normal habit of doing things that seemed to be about me. I felt like I was part of something larger.

Q: How does being engaged with the community makes you feel, in one word?
A: Can you tell I don’t ever use just one word? I’m not sure we should do the work necessarily because of how it makes us feel. That keeps the focus on us rather than on the work in the community. Connected! That’s the word.

Q: What are your long-term goals for the CCE?
A: President Paino signed a pledge saying that we would create a civic action plan to commit ourselves to creating measurable change in our community. Isn’t that awesome? When I think about that I feel goosebumps. I want to do that! I want us to not just make efforts but to make an impact. It’s going to take a little time to get there, but by next January I want us to have a plan in place: Here is a thing that has been identified by our community as important, and here’s how UMW is going to work on moving the needle.

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: A quote by Lilla Watson, an aboriginal political activist and artist: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” It’s this idea of pointing out the difference between helping and working together.

Psychology Students Volunteer to Breathe Life Into Hospice

It was just a conversation about ice cream, but it was a breakthrough. Recent UMW grad Lily Olson ’18 had visited one of her favorite hospice patients for weeks. She’d sat by his bed and held his hand, but few words had been exchanged. Until the day she discovered that if she spoke directly into […]

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.”

UMW’s Great Lives Lecture Series Kicks off in January

South African revolutionary Nelson Mandela, jazz legend Billie Holiday and baseball superstar Cal Ripken are among the larger-than-life figures to be featured during this year’s William B. Crawley Great Lives lecture series. The lectures take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, from Jan. 15 to April 9, at the University of Mary Washington’s Dodd […]

Mike Breitenbach: Behind the Screens

Mike Breitenbach insists there’s no magic or mystery to what he does here at UMW. Or that his behind-the-screens job as director of web communications makes him a wizard.

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UMW College of Business Earns AACSB Accreditation

AACSB International (AACSB) announced Monday, Nov. 26 that the University of Mary Washington has gained accreditation for its College of Business. Earned by only 5 percent of the world’s schools offering business degrees, AACSB accreditation inspires new ways of thinking within business education globally. UMW is one of only five U.S. schools to receive accreditation […]

Suicide Survivor Brings Message of Hope to UMW

One Monday in September of 2000, Kevin Hines, then 19, took a bus to the Golden Gate Bridge, climbed over the railing and jumped. In the split second after his hands left the rail, he thought “What have I done? I don’t want to die.” Miraculously, he didn’t. Hines will tell his incredible story of […]

Tim Saulnier: Financial Aid Focus

As a college student, Tim Saulnier found financial aid a near impossible maze to navigate. Despite repeated attempts, he failed to get help from a counselor and was unable to register for some classes he needed. Now, as UMW’s new director of Financial Aid, he’s laser-focused on providing a more student-centered experience for Mary Washington Eagles.

UMW Director of Financial Aid Tim Saulnier. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

UMW Director of Financial Aid Tim Saulnier. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

On the job for the past three months, Saulnier brings plenty of experience to UMW. He spent six years in the financial aid office at UNC Charlotte and, more recently, served as financial aid director for the private Lynchburg University. He’s also finishing up his doctoral dissertation on how to retain second-year students. “I try to create an environment where students are heard,” Saulnier said. “We try to resolve issues, not just dismiss the student.”

Q: What prepared you for your role at UMW?
A: Working my way up in financial aid and holding multiple jobs. I have a master’s in education, and I’m working on my doctorate in educational leadership.

Q: What does a typical day look like?
A: Each day is different. For starters, I attend meetings, help students, troubleshoot system problems, research better practices and ways to improve the student experience, read and implement Department of Education rules and regulations.

Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
A: Right now, it’s training new staff, making sure everyone is prepared for their job and making needed improvements with limited resources. Of the eight people in the office, five are new, and one is in a new role. The upside is being able to use these changes to create a whole new environment.

Q: What’s most rewarding?
A: Helping students that really need our help. Advising them not just on financial aid, but on life choices and decisions.

Q: What’s the most commonly asked financial aid question students ask?
A: It varies, but maybe, “How do I get more money?”

Q: What advice do you give students struggling with financial aid?
A: Apply for outside scholarships like it’s a job; the more effort and time you put in, the more likely you are to receive scholarships. Find a student employment job on campus; faculty and staff will become invested in your success and can help you with the many challenges of college.

Q: How does UMW compare to other four-year schools in student debt at graduation?
A: About 58 percent of our students graduate with debt, according to our SCHEV Reports. That’s below the state average. Our current default rate is 1.8 percent, which shows our students are getting good jobs and have the ability to pay back their loans.

Q: What resources are available to students struggling to pay for college?
A: We provide institutional scholarships, need-based gift aid, and merit scholarships awarded at the time of admission. We awarded over $10 million just in institutional aid for 2017-18. (Applications for UMW scholarships in 2019 open Feb. 1 and close May 1.)

Q: Do you have any mottos you live by?
A: No job is beneath me – I wouldn’t ask someone to do a job I’d be unwilling to do.

Q: What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: The number of places I’ve traveled to and lived. After college I lived in Ireland for three months.

UMW Theatre Set Stage for Law Firm’s First Female President

Courtney Moates Paulk ’92 knew she wanted to grow up to be an actress or an attorney. What she didn’t know was that one would lead to another. Or that the skills she learned on stage – how to speak in front of a crowd, how to interpret even the most complex characters – would […]

UMW Recognized for Support of First-Generation Students

The University’s support of first-generation students has earned the University of Mary Washington recognition by ScholarMatch, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that helps to make higher education possible for low-income youth by providing free college counseling services. The University is one of 375 higher education institutions recognized on the ScholarMatch 2018 College Honor Roll for going […]