April 4, 2020

Carole Garmon: Art as Life

While the month winds down and we’re all consumed with information about COVID-19, March gives us something to celebrate – Arts Education Month, and a teacher’s dedication to students.

Carole Garmon’s career – and art – is best described as one and the same.

Professor of Art Carole Garmon

Professor of Art Carole Garmon

The longtime UMW professor of art views the world through a visual lens, believing the creative process fuels the imagination. “We have to allow ourselves to imagine things beyond the tangible. Art is beautiful and sometimes challenging,” she said. “But it’s always a reflection on the self.”

A Texas native, Garmon was reflecting on her own future when she moved to Virginia to earn an MFA in sculpture at VCU. She came to work at Mary Washington in 1998, hired to update the sculpture area in Melchers Hall. Presented with a blank canvas, she was charged with creating – almost from scratch – a studio art program, which she says champions art as a career and a lifestyle, not “merely a lifelong appreciation.”

Her stance is the perfect portrait for March, Arts Education Month.

Garmon’s love of teaching is as extraordinary as her passion for artmaking. “Curiosity and wonder” are what drive her. Teaching allows her to constantly channel the creative process, even when she’s supposed to be sleeping.

“I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and brainstorm possible solutions for students,” she said.

Garmon is one of only two Americans chosen to participate in the international exhibition, Inspired By Rembrandt, commemorating the celebrated artist’s 400th birthday. Her work has been shown in D.C., San Antonio, New York, Peru and Berlin, with an upcoming exhibit in New Orleans.

She loves seeing former students’ art, too, around the world. She’s never surprised but always amazed.

“Some students say I act like they can do anything,” Garmon said. “What’s the alternative? Nothing?”

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: I work with talented students and faculty who recognize the importance of art and commit to a life that some view as “not as relevant” as traditional life goals.

Q: Most challenging?
A: Getting students comfortable with risk-taking, even failure. We learn a lot through these experiences; I’d say more so than from our successes. Think masterpiece, risk failure.

Q: Your favorite work of art?
A: Donatello’s sculpture of David. He’s far from the traditional heroic approach. When I saw him in an art history class, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He blurs gender; the epitome of ambiguity. As photographer Sally Mann says, “If it doesn’t have ambiguity, why bother?”

Q: How do you teach art virtually?
A: For many, it’s a first. My classes voted on how to proceed. We upload and comment on images through Canvas. My assignments provide openness, empowering students to push creativity while working away from the studio. They’re resilient and eager to keep learning. They’ve blown me away. A student who finally made it back to California just told me she had to bend her artwork to get it on the plane. We do what we have to do.

Q: A mantra you live by?
A: “Never ask permission to take up space” and “If you’re asking the question, you already know the answer.”

Garmon asked to include a special addendum for this uncertain time:
“If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Stay Connected With SAE Playlists

With laptops in tow, Many UMW faculty, staff and students have hunkered down in their bedrooms, at their kitchen tables and in home offices, firing up search engines, virtual meetings and social media – anything to keep the semester on track.

Practicing social-distancing in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, can’t keep the UMW community from staying connected. The Office of Student Activities and Engagement (SAE) believes in the power of music to help us do that. Its new “Playlist Spotlight” program features favorite song selections submitted by faculty and staff to share with each other and with students.

Appearing each week in SAE’s Monday newsletter (and on its Facebook page Monday, Wednesday and Friday), the Spotify lists will keep us movin’ and groovin’ – even though we’re sequestered – and all UMW employees are welcome to submit the music that inspires them.

With events and on-campus engagements on hold, “we’re looking for the best ways to build community online,” said UMW senior and SAE intern Lillian Lester, who plans other “digital student activities,” like craft DIY videos, cooking tutorials, joint movie streaming and video game tournaments. “We know it’s never going to replace all of the big events that our students were looking forward to, but it’s the least we can do for our people.”

Assistant Director for Campus RecreationBrittanie Naff was quick to get in on the act, stacking her playlist, Dance Fitness With Naana, with the tunes she uses to teach weekly classes, now on hold with the Fitness Center closed until further notice. Think Party Favor and Cardi B.

“I hope it inspires you to have some fun, get a little silly and smile!” she wrote on her playlist.

Assistant Director of Student Activities Crystal Rawls filled her playlist, KPOP Mania #1, with songs from the eclectic K-pop genre from South Korea.

“This idea was started because we felt that music was one of the best ways to bring people together during such an uncertain time,” Rawls said. “We wanted to keep students engaged online as best as we could.”

Up next? COAR’s selections. A little Billy Joel, anyone?

All UMW faculty and staff are invited to send their own Spotify Playlist for possible inclusion in the newsletter. To contribute, email Crystal Rawls at crawls@umw.edu or Lillian Lester at llester@mail.umw.edu.

University of Mary Washington Postpones 2020 Giving Day

The University of Mary Washington has postponed its fourth annual day of online fundraising, Mary Wash Giving Day, originally set to take place Thursday, March 19. In light of the unparalleled impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on UMW, the Fredericksburg community – and the nation, the University instead encourages its constituents to focus on each […]

Mary Wash Giving Day Is On(line)!

This year’s Mary Wash Giving Day coincides with an unprecedented time for the University of Mary Washington and the world, as COVID-19 concerns grow. After much reflection and thought, UMW has decided to continue with plans to hold the event, a 24-hour online day of giving to Mary Washington, on Thursday, March 19. Packed with optimism […]

A Message from the President to Faculty and Staff

This spring semester, our campus has been presented with extraordinary circumstances. During what we all hoped would be a smooth, conventional completion of the semester, COVID 19 (novel coronavirus) has tested our mettle. These are trying times as we deal with an unprecedented situation at UMW and in our broader society.

For generations, Mary Washington faculty and staff have demonstrated a deep commitment to students and to each other, along with a desire to make a difference. As we face this virus as a community, I want to thank you for your service and dedication to students and for your support and encouragement of your coworkers. Each person has a unique and vital role to play, and all are equally meaningful to our mission.

Your sacrifice is not only for the safety of the UMW community, but for the broader public. Removing thousands of people from campus and canceling mass gatherings helps fulfill our responsibility to keep the virus from spreading fast. Epidemiologists have expressed the fear that a rapid contagion will overwhelm our national health care system, causing more people serious or life-threatening harm because there won’t be enough hospital beds, staffing and medical supplies to serve them. Even if we cannot reduce the number of total cases, slowing down the rate of the epidemic is critical. This is another way for Mary Washington to fulfill its public purpose and serve our community.

To our faculty, please know that we recognize you are now undertaking significant duties above and beyond your normal load. Spring is always laden with the responsibilities of advising and teaching; however, now you are tasked with finding imaginative and resourceful means of doing your job, with new tools and in a new environment. I know this is difficult, but your fortitude and commitment to students have been truly inspiring.

To our staff, I thank you for continuing a job well done in daily life and now amplified in these unusual circumstances. While the nature of some of your roles may be changing or expanding, your willingness to undertake fresh responsibilities, new demands and unfamiliar expectations is an example for all.

One of the great aspects of UMW is our ability to be nimble and readily responsive when our endeavors are unpredictable. We certainly try to model problem-solving, creative thinking and strategic reasoning in our daily work. This situation is also providing us an opportunity to model resilience and positivity in the face of uncertainty. I believe it’s true that the human spirit is often revealed most clearly and authentically in moments of deep trial and challenge. I admire how our faculty and staff have risen to this occasion.

As we fully confront these circumstances, please know that I have the deepest respect and appreciation for your contributions, as do Cabinet members, administrators and our Board of Visitors. We recognize that it will take the talent and hard work of every single member of our campus to face and surmount this situation. Together we can emerge as a stronger community, better prepared to face the challenges of tomorrow.

My thanks to all,


Christy Pack: Master of Admissions

Director of Graduate Admissions Christy Pack, who also serves as the Staff Advisory Council president. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Director of Graduate Admissions Christy Pack. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Director of Graduate Admissions Christy Pack has always been a fan of the quote: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” These poetic words were penned by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, a novella about a young boy who leaves his tiny planet to explore the universe. It’s quite fitting for Pack, who helps aspiring students reach for the stars.

With more than 15 years of experience in enrollment management under her belt, Pack oversees admissions and recruitment for UMW’s graduate programs in education, business and geospatial analysis. Along with Assistant Director David Harger, she spends her days recruiting and holding information sessions, orchestrating communications and marketing plans for each program, and collaborating with the Undergraduate Admissions and Continuing and Professional Studies teams.

“I never get tired of talking about advancing your education and investing in yourself,” said Pack, who also serves as president of the University’s Staff Advisory Council. Since coming to Mary Washington in 2015, she has witnessed an uptick in graduate applications, which she credits to competitive strategies developed to attract prospective students. “It’s been exciting to watch the profession evolve through technology and acclimate to the ever-changing landscape of higher education.”

Working full-time while completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business primed her to address the needs of adult learners, said Pack, adding that Mary Washington accommodates students juggling busy lives by offering evening and online classes and full- and part-time enrollment. She cited a graduate education student she recently met who’s currently completing practicum assignments.

“He said he can’t imagine a more rewarding experience than being in the classroom,” Pack said. “He’s building the foundation of a successful career right here on UMW’s Stafford Campus.”


Pack has been a member of the Staff Advisory Council since coming to UMW in 2015, and now serves as its president. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Pack has been a member of the Staff Advisory Council since coming to UMW in 2015, and now serves as its president. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Q: You were instrumental in establishing the long-anticipated agreement to offer business classes at UMW’s Dahlgren Campus. Can you tell us more about it?
A: This was a team effort all the way. We received over 50 applications and pulled together to get the first cohort set up in less than four months. We’re planning for a second one this fall.

Q: A master’s degree is a plus for today’s job-seekers. What are you doing to attract prospective students?
A: We are currently implementing a new application process. This technology is a huge transition for our office and will help us create dynamic strategies to reach and engage adult learners.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: For me, it’s graduation day. Watching a student begin their journey, overcome obstacles and become the person they’re meant to be keeps me motivated.

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: Responding to the changing pace of the job.

Q: You’ve been involved in Staff Advisory Council (SAC) since you came to UMW and now you’re president. Tell us why you love being part of the organization.
A: At Mary Washington, I’ve sought opportunities – such as Leadership UMW – to be professionally engaged in ways that can serve others and continue my skill development. As SAC president, I’ve enjoyed working with my colleagues who share this common mission of promoting collaboration and communication across our campus community. One of SAC’s final activities this year will be supporting UMW employees during Virginia Public Service Week in May. Stay tuned!

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I love fishing. Two years ago, I caught a 35-pound blue catfish on the Rappahannock River in Port Royal.

Q: What’s the most inspiring book you’ve read?
A: Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg. She provides great perspective on women and leadership that I’ve valued in my own journey.

Professor Wins Grant to Pen Open Education Textbook

It’s a dilemma faced by many students on financial aid. Funds often don’t hit accounts until a few weeks into the semester, so students can’t purchase textbooks, and they risk falling behind. Melissa Wells, an assistant professor in UMW’s College of Education (COE), knows this scenario all too well. That’s why she’s designing an Open […]

UMW NAACP Chapter Set to ‘Make Waves’

Most meetings make their way onto the calendar, but some materialize out of thin air. Brianna Reaves might stop by the James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) to run something by advisor Chris Williams. Next thing you know, Bilqiis Sheikh-Issa shows up, followed by Maya Jenkins and Dana Norwood. Then it’s on. “We didn’t come in […]

UMW NAACP Chapter Set to ‘Make Waves’

Most meetings make their way onto the calendar, but some materialize out of thin air. Brianna Reaves might stop by the James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) to run something by advisor Chris Williams. Next thing you know, Bilqiis Sheikh-Issa shows up, followed by Maya Jenkins and Dana Norwood. Then it’s on. “We didn’t come in […]

Pat Canciglia: SWaM Champion

Pat Canciglia, UMW's senior contracting officer and SWaM Champion for Procurement Services. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Pat Canciglia, UMW’s senior contracting officer and SWaM Champion for Procurement Services. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Pat Canciglia’s job is a bit like a puzzle, but as Mary Washington’s senior contracting officer for Procurement Services, she enjoys putting the pieces together.

These puzzles aren’t jigsaws or crosswords, she says, but complex conundrums requiring Canciglia’s skills and expertise – she spent 33 years working for the federal government – not to mention a robust knowledge of higher education rules and regulations. Since coming to UMW five years ago, she’s learned every day is different and brings new challenges.

“Some unique procurements require me to research and develop strategy to assure my customers get what they need, vendors are given equal opportunity to compete and purchases are fair and reasonably priced,” said Canciglia, who earned associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees after interning with the Navy’s procurement office.

From Capital Outlay construction projects to purchases for Design Services and Alumni Relations, Canciglia helps Mary Washington employees secure a vast array of products and services. The University’s designated “SWaM Champion,” Canciglia also ensures that UMW meets its goal to support small, women-owned and minority-owned businesses. She often collaborates with UMW’s Small Business Development Center so these organizations get the resources they need to thrive.

Canciglia also champions micro vendors who earn less than $3 million in annual revenue and have no more than 25 employees. Some will be among the 50-plus businesses who will showcase their goods and services at the annual Supplier Expo on Tuesday, March 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the UC’s Chandler Ballroom.

“There are hourly door prizes and giveaways, Sodexo will provide the snacks, and the Fredericksburg Nationals will have a booth,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun!”


Q: Last year Procurement Services updated policies and procedures to comply with the governor’s recent executive order. Can you tell us about that?
A: Short and sweet, UMW is required to pay up to five percent more for a micro vendor product or service. We’ve been working to get those vendors who meet those parameters officially recognized as such, and we’ve also provided justifications for exceptions where there isn’t a micro vendor to fulfill the University’s need.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
A: I enjoy finding procurement solutions for our customers, but it’s tough overcoming the perception that our office is the obstacle.

Q: What in your office means the most to you?
A: A George Bernard Shaw quote: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I have a motorcycle license but rarely use it.

Q: How do you spend your free time?
A: I like gardening, but I’m not particularly good at it. I love my new granddaughter, Emiko, and enjoy every minute spent with her.

Q: What’s the most inspiring book you’ve read?
A: I read The Bible regularly. Besides that, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World, by Jacqueline Novogratz.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Mother Teresa’s “Anyway Poem” – “You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; it was never between you and them anyway.”