January 23, 2020

UMW Takes First Place as a ‘Great Value College’

The University of Mary Washington topped the list of America’s 50 Most Underrated Colleges. Released this week by Great Value Colleges (GVC), the list pinpoints schools that stand out among vast offerings in higher education, but whose size and other factors can preclude them from rising to the top of big-name national rankings. “None of the colleges […]

James Farmer Multicultural Center Turns 30

Junior Courtney Flowers was writing a high school paper when she stumbled upon a name she didn’t recognize. “It was James Farmer,” said the Los Angeles native, who spent that day on a UMW website, researching the late civil rights pioneer and Mary Washington history professor. “What ultimately drew me here was the James Farmer […]

Pete Kelly: Teaching is Power

Pete Kelly believes in the power of teachers.

Pete Kelly is dean of UMW's College of Education. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Pete Kelly is dean of UMW’s College of Education. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

As a kid growing up in a chaotic environment, he faced his share of struggles in school. A couple of key teachers (Mr. Wright and Mr. Stoffsky – he still remembers their names) took the time to make a difference, inspiring Kelly to become a teacher himself.

Now, as dean of UMW’s College of Education (COE), Kelly is in a position to make his own impact – on the Mary Washington faculty who train future educators and on those they’ll go on to lead in the classroom.

“Good teachers have enormous power to make a difference in the lives of students,” he said.

Kelly – whose wife, Julia DeLancey, is a professor of art and art history at UMW – worked for a while teaching history in high school, where he gravitated toward learners like himself, who tend to choose seats at the back of the class. He earned a master’s degree in special education, spent six years teaching in the prison system and, like President Paino, came to Mary Washington from Missouri’s Truman State University.

Kelly’s résumé provides the breadth of experience he needs in his job, where he works to empower others. And with funding back on track for the renovation of Seacobeck, set to be COE’s new home, UMW is poised to offer educators-in-training more power than ever, he said.

“It’s a remarkable demonstration of support for teacher education at UMW.”

Q: What brought you to your position at UMW?
A: The opportunity had great appeal. Social justice and diversity are a part of the DNA of this place; these are important ideas for me and for teacher preparation.

Q: How is UMW helping with the region’s teacher shortage?
A: We’ve developed ways to allow students to earn a degree and certification during their undergraduate programs. And we’re working with high school students and community colleges to encourage young people to teach, and to streamline their education.

Q: How has teaching changed throughout your career?
A: Meeting the needs of diverse student populations, including English language learners and those with disabilities, is one of the biggest challenges new teachers face. We must prepare teachers to meet the learning needs of ALL the students in their classrooms. Our democracy depends on it.

Q: What item in your office is most meaningful to you?
A: In my first year of teaching, my principal gave me a Weeble. It’s a small toy from the ’70s with a round bottom. When you knock it down, it pops right back up. New teachers need this superpower of resilience.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: Cooking a meal to share with others is my favorite thing to do. I’m proud to have shared my love of cooking with my kids.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: If you can cook a good meal, you will always have friends.

Q: What’s the best gift you ever received from a student?
A: I still have a folder with notes from students from when I completed my student teaching 30 years ago. Those were very important to me early in my career. Thanking a teacher who made a difference in your life is a powerful thing to do.

Parking Lot Project Highlights UMW, City Partnership

A ribbon cutting Friday for a newly expanded parking lot at UMW’s Battlefield Athletic Complex illustrates a concerted effort by the University and the City of Fredericksburg to work collaboratively on community issues. The project, which enlarged the lot between UMW’s Tennis Center and Physical Plant to eight times its original size, aims to ease […]

Lacrosse Player Scores Big With Study Abroad

For Bobby Leytham ’18, a single semester in Spain was a game-changer. Now a software consultant for a powerhouse company in Bilbao and a player on Spain’s national men’s lacrosse team, Leytham is living his dream, said UMW Professor of Spanish Jose Sainz. A bachelor’s degree in business administration and four years’ experience as a […]

Brian Strecker: Strategy for Success

As one of UMW's student success coordinators, Brian Strecker helps students who are facing academic probation design strategies to improve their grades and achieve their goals. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

As one of UMW’s student success coordinators, Brian Strecker helps students who are facing academic probation design strategies to improve their grades and achieve their goals. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

It’s crunch time at the University of Mary Washington. Students are hitting the books, writing papers, completing projects and downing copious amounts of coffee to pull all-nighters.

The last few weeks of the semester can be stressful for anyone, particularly for those struggling to keep up. That’s where Brian Strecker and the Office of Academic Services come in. As one of UMW’s student success coordinators, Strecker works closely with students on academic probation to help them adopt strategies to improve their grades and achieve their goals.

“I make sure my students know that I care about their success, but more importantly, about them,” said Strecker, whose bachelor’s degree in philosophy prepared him to solve problems, and theatrical work taught him to hone his listening and responding skills. “As we work together, I share in their excitement at their accomplishments.”

Each student’s plan for improvement is tailored to individual circumstances, abilities and needs. But Strecker encourages everyone he helps to attend classes and engage with the network of professors, peer tutors, academic consultants, and personnel from the Writing and Speaking centers who are here to offer support and guidance.

“Over time, our students learn that many people on campus care about them,” he said, “and they become more connected to the UMW community.”

The thank-you notes from students – and sometimes even parents – that Strecker keeps in his office are a testament to his own success on the job and the impact he makes at Mary Washington.


Q: Where are you from and how long have you lived in the Fredericksburg area?
A: I was born in Stuttgart, then part of West Germany. Since 2002, I’ve lived in a drafty, pre-Civil War gothic cottage I restored in downtown Culpeper.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Witnessing the transformation of students, as they begin to realize they can be successful and become more engaged on campus.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Convincing students of their need for engagement and of their responsibility for accountability.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I’m a trained dancer. I actually shared a waltz with Mira Sorvino shortly after she won an Academy Award for her role in Mighty Aphrodite.

Q: How do you spend your free time?
A: I’m an introvert by nature and value having alone time, but I love being with my friends and family as well. I’m also an active Catholic who prays a lot, and though I’m not a voracious reader, I enjoy books about American history.

Q: What’s the most inspiring book you’ve read lately?
A: The Life of Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd. I also just started reading The Slaves’ War: The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves by Andrew Ward.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: I’ve never thought of having one, but I live by the words, “Do not be afraid to love.”

Wild Encounters Prepared Alumna for Zoo Job

Cage diving with great white sharks. Swimming alongside humpback whales. Getting close to lions and leopards on an African safari. It sounds like a nature TV show, but it’s not. It’s how Nikki Maticic ’14 spent one summer break as a Mary Washington student. Now she cares for lions, tigers and Andean bears – oh, […]

French Study Abroad Sparks Joy in Alumnus

Stephen Lamm ’19 was a junior at Mary Washington when he studied abroad at the foot of the Alps. During those four months, he learned to speak fluent French and trekked across Europe. He also lost his grandfather – and found himself. As an openly gay student who led UMW’s College Republicans, Lamm spent his […]

Study Abroad Carves Career Path for Alumna

Emily Rothstein ’18 chose the University of Mary Washington for its study abroad opportunities. When she wasn’t trotting across Campus Walk – sometimes on horseback as a UMW equestrian – she was trekking across countries and continents. The voyages this globetrotter made as a student have led her to an international nonprofit job and now […]

Kimberly Young: Connect-Ed

It’s hard to pin down Kimberly Young.

UMW Executive Director of Continuing and Professional Studies Kimberly Young

UMW Executive Director of Continuing and Professional Studies Kimberly Young

As executive director of Continuing and Professional Studies, she darts daily among UMW’s three campuses, canvassing for community partners, zipping up connections wherever she can.

She was already revved up when she came to Mary Washington in spring 2017 from the University of Missouri, where she built a similar program from scratch. She set straight to work sweeping herself into the culture of UMW and the greater Fredericksburg area, matching faculty expertise to the region’s professional needs.

In just over two years, she’s established relationships with key organizations like Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, the Central Rappahannock Regional Library and Mary Washington Healthcare, and launched more than a dozen non-credit and single-credit courses.

Thanks to a grant that came through this spring, a new cybersecurity certificate program that targets an underserved area is now up and running. It’s the result of a hugely collaborative effort.

“It was a lot of work,” Young said. “Getting everyone on the same page and willing to work together was a tremendous feat that required shared vision and a commitment to improving our region through education.”

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: When my work makes an impact. I love seeing a faculty member teach an executive class and nailing it, or putting together a program to help a client do business more innovatively.

Q: Most challenging?
A: In order to increase our presence and credibility in regional workforce and professional development, I have to dynamically prioritize daily. That requires a broad base of knowledge, from regional economic development to the latest trends in adult learning.

Q: What question do colleagues most often ask?
A: How they can help. I love that! Faculty and staff call and pitch ideas for classes. We help each other grow and build.

Q: What’s the most interesting course you’ve come across? Is Underwater Basket Weaving really a thing?
A: I’m not opposed to it! We had a collaboration with an art museum in which we applied Visual Thinking Strategy to works of art to help participants sharpen observation and problem-solving skills. They learned about 19th-century artists, as well as how to think deeply and ask questions to become better leaders.

Q: What are the characteristics of an effective leader?
A: Self-awareness, empathy, and the ability to formulate and communicate vision. The lack of self-awareness is a big de-railer. It limits the ability to recognize blind spots and impairs a leader’s ability to be flexible and adaptable.

Q: What item in your office is most special to you?
A: My graduation stole from Duke University. My senior class was the first to allow kente cloth stoles for African American students to wear during graduation. We worked tirelessly to impress upon university administrators the importance of representing both this great accomplishment and our heritage. It reminds me who I am and where I come from, and makes me proud.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I love to cook. I’m passionate about the art of the dinner party and home entertaining. There’s nothing more special to me than creating and sharing a meal with someone or having them do the same for me.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: To whom much is given, much is required.