December 1, 2020

Day on Democracy Encourages Voting and Civic Engagement

Ashley Utz was a freshman at the University of Mary Washington when she registered to vote. To cast her ballot, she needed to find time during her busy class schedule and figure out which polling place was hers. “My inexperience with the voting process made it all the more challenging,” said Utz, now a senior, […]

Family Weekend: Connecting With UMW From the Comfort of Home

Every fall, University of Mary Washington students gather with loved ones on campus for exciting events and activities that showcase Eagle life. Now in its 47th year, Mary Washington’s Family Weekend is going virtual for the first time. Even in the digital realm, this beloved tradition, held Oct. 29 through Nov. 1, promises families ample […]

Hillel Center to Serve as a Nest for Eagles

Growing up, Fredericksburg native Larry Silver spent many hours hanging out on what were then open fields of the nearby Mary Washington College. How fitting that decades later, the real estate investor has established a place at Mary Washington for students to hang out. Silver, based now in Boca Raton, Florida, was on hand yesterday […]

Fun Is Not Canceled: A Student To-Do List

The bell tower on Double Drive still chimes twice a day. Campus Walk clamors with students changing classes. Adirondack chairs continue to migrate all over Ball Circle – except for the space occupied by the white dining tent that went up this spring due to COVID-19. In an unprecedented semester of health guidelines, there are […]

Virtual Leadership Colloquium Aims to Help Women ‘Level-Up’

The Women’s Leadership Colloquium @UMW is changing things up. The 27th annual event, held virtually this year, includes a new special session for senior leaders and puts a techy spin on tried-and-true offerings, with Zoom-room breakouts and an abbreviated agenda to accommodate the busy multi-taskers who typically attend. “We’ve challenged ourselves to offer the same quality […]

Trans Elected Official to Share Experiences

Rosemary Ketchum, a newly elected council member in Wheeling, West Virginia, is shattering stereotypes typically associated with her state. A resident of Wheeling since her high school days, the 26-year-old first-in-her-family college graduate is the one and only openly transgender elected official in the state’s history. As such, she has been featured nationally on MSNBC […]

Camera Captures UMW’s Resolve During COVID-19

Masks are typically worn on Halloween. Social distancing is practiced during flu-season physicians’ visits. COVID-19 has flung these phenomena into the mainstream and into microcosms of it, on college campuses everywhere. As the University of Mary Washington community perseveres through the pandemic – monitoring, masking, distancing, cleaning, testing and more – a rigorous liberal arts […]

Great Lives Series Explores Perceptions of Past Presidents

In the midst of 2020’s contentious presidential election season, most Americans are looking ahead – to Nov. 3 and beyond. In the meantime, UMW Professor Emeritus of History William B. Crawley is looking backward, serving up some snapshots of past presidents. With the spring Great Lives series cut short by COVID-19, Crawley decided to videotape, […]

Victoria Russell: (Re)Focused on Teaching

Center for Teaching Director and Associate Professor of Education Victoria Russell

Center for Teaching Director and Associate Professor of Education Victoria Russell

Victoria Russell comes from a family of teachers, but it was a career path she initially resisted. Instead, she set her sights on becoming a colonial historian. That changed when she took a break from archiving one day to volunteer at a local elementary school.

“I fell in love with being in the classroom,” said Russell, who soon began a master’s degree in education, while also completing her graduate work in history.

After two decades teaching students – including aspiring special education teachers in UMW’s College of Education since 2014 – she’s now supporting professors who wish to become better educators.

“At all touchpoints throughout my career, I’ve thrived when working directly with other teachers,” said Russell, who became the director of Mary Washington’s Center for Teaching (CfT) in June, three months into the pandemic.

Her work was cut out for her. Most UMW professors had never taught an online course before COVID-19 hit, so Russell and her team collaborated with Digital Learning Support (DLS) to create ReFocus Online, a four-week virtual teaching design camp for faculty and staff. Over 200 instructors signed up for at least one event or workshop this summer, and UMW resources were also shared with faculty and teaching centers at colleges and universities across Virginia and the country.

“We wanted to provide rich learning experiences for students this year,” Russell said, “no matter how and where we had to do it.”

Many of her colleagues were concerned about teaching virtually, but Russell says “their effort and willingness to learn new things” makes her confident they’ll succeed this year, whether in a classroom or online. “They learned about new ideas and ended up creating fabulous courses.”


Q: What’s happening with ReFocus Online this fall?
A: We’ve refocused! The website remains available as a resource, but we’re providing more direct and daily support for faculty. It’s about maintaining energy and momentum as well as problem-solving when challenges occur.

Q: What’s the Faculty Pedagogy Colloquium?
A: It’s a chance for faculty to share research about teaching or strategies they’re using in their classrooms. We’re also co-sponsoring several panels, including a Teaching Talk series on race in the classroom. A second panel, co-sponsored with the Women’s and Gender Studies program, focuses on post-tenure mentoring and faculty development.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: When faculty members share ideas they’d like to do but assume aren’t possible. The joy in a colleague’s voice after we help find a solution is the best feeling.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Being such a small unit and wanting to do more.

Q: While you’ve been teleworking, what have you missed about the UMW campus?
A: Seeing former and current students on Campus Walk. Getting coffee and lunch with friends. The laughter and energy in the CfT/DLS suite. And the leaves changing colors – fall is my favorite season at UMW.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always in the most unlikely places.” – Roald Dahl. It reminds me to pay attention and appreciate small bits of beauty and joy.

Phi Beta Kappa Inducts Stars at Academics and Adaptability

The University of Mary Washington inducted 34 students earlier this year into Phi Beta Kappa, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious academic honor societies. Founded in 1776 – the same year as the signing of the Declaration of Independence – the organization is dedicated to championing a liberal arts and sciences education. In […]