September 25, 2020

UMW Alumna Lands National VP Position to Support Teachers

A position Princess Moss won last week with the National Education Association (NEA) will give her a larger voice for teachers and students throughout the country. A 1983 Mary Washington graduate, Moss will trade her current post as secretary-treasurer of the nation’s largest professional organization, representing three million educators, to become vice president. She was […]

Professors Pool Expertise to Create ‘Compelling Courses’

To teach mitosis, April Wynn has students in her class act out the process, portraying chromosomes that divide into nuclei. The assistant professor of biological sciences hopes to replicate lively exercises like this – but virtually – in the fall. “My goal is to promote the same level of engagement, energy and enthusiasm in an […]

Professors Earn Emeritus Status

With four of several upcoming retirements, UMW bids farewell and issues emeritus status to faculty members Rosemary Barra, Dana Hall, Warren Rochelle and Marie Wellington.

Rosemary Barra

Professor Emerita of Biological Sciences Rosemary Barra

Rosemary Barra has taught at Mary Washington for 38 years and most recently held the William M. Anderson Jr. Distinguished Chair in Biological Sciences.

She joined the biology faculty as an adjunct, quickly became full time and worked her way up to full professor in 1994. She chaired the department from 1993 to 2002. From 2004 to 2010, she served as interim vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty.

Barra has served on and chaired numerous committees at every level, including as treasurer and chair of the board of the Friends of the UMW Philharmonic. Her distinguished research career includes five grants from the National Institutes of Health. She has published 11 journal articles and 51 abstracts, most with undergraduate co-authors.

She has overseen 72 student independent research projects, many resulting in public presentations at the annual meetings of the Virginia Academy of Science, the American Society for Cell Biology and the American Association for Cancer Research.

Barra received the Grellet Simpson Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2003. With a reputation for teaching difficult classes and being a demanding but fair professor, Barra embraced her students’ affectionate nickname for her: Barracuda.

Dana Hall

Associate Professor Emerita of Athletics, Health and Physical Education Dana Hall

Dana Hall, who departs after 34 years at Mary Washington, is senior woman administrator in the department of athletics, health and physical education and senior associate athletic director.

She arrived on campus as an assistant coach and has served various faculty and coaching roles. She coached both field hockey and women’s lacrosse for more than 20 years, for teams that received bids to 18 NCAA Division III tournaments and advanced to three Final Four championships. Hall was named 2001 NCAA Division III National Women’s Lacrosse Coach and 1993 National Coach of the Year in field hockey.

As an administrator, Hall oversaw the introduction of the sports management minor and directed the men’s and women’s golf programs. She initiated a student-athlete leadership academy, holding monthly assistant coach professional development seminars and head coach roundtable discussions.

“During her long and renowned career as both a coach and administrator, Dana has had a positive and lasting impact … that will be felt for years to come,” said Director of Athletics Patrick Catullo. “She will be remembered for her contributions to the success of our athletic department and small college athletics.”

Warren Rochelle

Professor Emeritus of English Warren Rochelle

Throughout two decades at Mary Washington, Warren Rochelle, who coordinates the creative writing program, empowered students of all disciplines to become better writers through their courses in the Department of English, Linguistics and Communication.

“Warren devoted himself to his students with unflagging diligence, personalized attention and true concern, whether on campus or in the study-abroad programs he led in England and Wales,” wrote department chair and Professor of English Gary Richards. Students sought out Rochelle’s “sweet, wise counsel,” noted Professor Judith Parker.

Known for his willingness to lead search committees and organize speaking events, Rochelle  was a prolific writer, publishing dozens of short stories, articles and reviews. He published five books, including a study of the works of Ursula Le Guin, and four novels. One of those novels, The Called, was nominated for a 2010 Lambda Literary Award.

“In this fiction, Warren repeatedly imagined the possibilities of embodied queerness and retold age-old stories to reflect the actualities of our evolving sexualities,” Richards wrote.

Marie Wellington

Professor Emerita of French Marie Wellington

Marie Wellington has shared her love of French language and literature with Mary Washington students for 29 years, teaching beginning to advanced French, and offering courses on 18th-century French theater and prose, philosophical texts, Voltaire, and advanced French stylistics.

Wellington specialized in the literature of the Enlightenment and concentrated her research in theater and prose fiction of that period.

In addition to her book on the theater of Voltaire, she has published articles – in English and French – in such journals as Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, The Australian Journal of French Studies, Dalhousie French Studies and Romance Quarterly. She participated in numerous conferences on 18th-century studies and served on the editorial boards of four professional journals.

Students appreciated her dry sense of humor and her “propensity to cut through rhetoric and tell it like it is,” wrote Professor of Spanish Elizabeth Lewis.

Wellington served on departmental committees and the University Faculty Council, and her colleagues will miss her lively take on British actors, Project Runway, Steve Martin and travel.

UMW Partners With Germanna, Stafford Schools to Pave Way for Area Educators

The University of Mary Washington has signed an agreement with Germanna Community College and Stafford County Public Schools to make it easier for local students to become educators and help ease the state’s teacher shortage. Streamlining the path from high school to college, the memorandum of understanding, signed last month by UMW President Troy Paino […]

UMW Chooses New Name for Building: James Farmer Hall

The University of Mary Washington Board of Visitors today voted to change the name of Trinkle Hall to James Farmer Hall. With this action, the Board memorialized a beloved member of the Mary Washington community who spent most of his career fighting injustices. “I commend the action of the Board today,” said Rector Heather Crislip. […]

UMW Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Americans With Disabilities Act

When UMW junior Lueden Sheikhnureldin arrived at Simpson Library that early fall morning, something felt off. The old-style wooden chairs in the study area where she’d crammed for so many exams had been replaced by sleek gray-and-green seats. “I couldn’t concentrate,” said Sheikhnureldin, whose ADHD can cause sensitivity to details like a chair’s texture and […]

Summer Science Symposium Showcases Student Research

Temperatures soared yesterday, but Allison Grant was cool and calm as she explained how climate change has disproportionately affected low income neighborhoods that are impacted to a greater degree by heat. “Redlining was outlawed over 50 years ago,” said the UMW senior, citing the discriminatory lending practice that prevented minorities from purchasing homes. “Yet it […]

Janet Asper: In Her Element

Department of Chemistry Chair and Professor Janet Asper

Department of Chemistry Chair and Professor Janet Asper

When Janet Asper took over as chair of UMW’s Department of Chemistry earlier this year, she knew she’d have a big job. What she didn’t expect was the onslaught of emails.

“As a professor, I could catch up on email in 10 minutes,” said Asper, who earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh and bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and zoology from Ohio University. “Now, it takes me an hour to work through all my correspondence.”

Screen-time has increased for everyone during the pandemic, said Asper, admitting that video games have kept her three children occupied while she navigates her new role and readies herself and her colleagues to teach courses both online and in the classroom this fall.

But for future scientists and educators, hands-on learning is particularly important, Asper said. That’s why she and her fellow faculty members are figuring out ways to maximize opportunities for students to work in the state-of-the-art labs in the recently renovated Jepson Science Center, while still observing social distancing measures.

“We’ve enjoyed discussing which lab skills are the most critical to teach,” she said, “as well as coming up with remote lab activities students can do from their residence halls or homes.”

As UMW prepares to resume classes next month, Asper is looking to the wisdom she received from Professor Emeritus Charlie Sharpless, with whom she worked for over a decade, and Leanna Giancarlo, who served as chair from 2009-2015, and as interim chair before Asper stepped into the role.

“Leanna taught me the value of transparency and overcommunication,” Asper said. “Charlie encouraged me to take time and think things through when responding to important questions.”


Chemistry Chair and Professor Janet Asper helps several students during a previous semester. She and her colleagues are coming up with ways for students to do the hands-on learning that is critical to the sciences, while also observing social distancing measures.

Chemistry Chair and Professor Janet Asper helps several students during a previous semester. She and her colleagues are coming up with ways for students to do the hands-on learning that is critical to the sciences, while also observing social distancing measures.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: The students, of course! I love when our alumni tell us that the skills we taught them helped them get a job or earn a promotion.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Channeling my enthusiasm and crazy ideas, and making sure I’m listening to everyone involved so I can see the bigger picture.

Q: What do you miss most about being on the Mary Washington campus?
A: I’ve actually been going to UMW once a week to maintain my equipment and work in my office for a few hours. I miss my colleagues, my students and getting to work in the lab with my equipment.

Q: Have there been any silver linings to this COVID cloud?
A: Getting to spend so much time with my family.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: A lot of people do know this, but I’m adopted, and I found my biological family in 2015 when Ohio changed the law allowing adult adoptees to request their original birth certificates.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.


Charlie Sharpless Bio

Professor Emeritus Charlie Sharpless (back row, second from right) with his colleagues and students. Sharpless retired from UMW earlier this spring.

Professor Emeritus Charlie Sharpless (back row, second from right) with his colleagues and students. Sharpless retired from UMW earlier this spring.

The Department of Chemistry this spring said farewell to former Chair and Professor of Chemistry Charlie Sharpless after 16 years of teaching, student mentoring, research and leadership at Mary Washington.

Sharpless arrived in fall 2004 as an assistant professor, bringing his expertise in environmental photochemistry and a commitment to involving students in research projects.

Over the years he engaged and challenged students to think critically, develop strong study skills and learn independently, Professor of Chemistry Kelli Slunt ’91 said in a faculty tribute. Sharpless implemented changes to the capstone senior seminar course to improve student understanding of chemical literature and help them better present their research topics.

He played a big role in the renovation and expansion of the Jepson Science Center, working with architects to design the chemistry space and also negotiating appropriate space for other science disciplines. In his last few years at UMW, Sharpless not only chaired the Chemistry Department but took on oversight of the Physics Department as well.

“Charlie’s leadership will leave an indelible mark on our department,” Slunt stated.

Sharpless earned a bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences at Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Duke University. There he held a postdoctoral position before coming to Mary Washington. – Laura Moyer, editor, University of Mary Washington Magazine

UMW Supports K-12 Teachers in Online Teaching

After doing their best to teach remotely for three months due to the global pandemic, Virginia’s K-12 teachers got word in June that they likely would return to teaching this fall – and at least some of it would be online. The sudden switch in spring had been hard enough; few of the state’s teachers […]

Quarantine Can’t Quash UMW’s Spirit of Service

Maria Rhoads was worried when COVID-19 first hit. But the UMW senior decided fear shouldn’t stop her from serving her community. “I’m low risk as a young person,” said Rhoads, whose first task as a Medical Reserve Corps volunteer was assisting with safety and sanitation at a local voting precinct. “Because of everything that’s happening […]