February 20, 2019

Mary Washington Welcomes New Victim Advocate

Jaime Opanashuk shivered as she stood on Campus Walk asking students to spin a Wheel of Fortune-like disc filled with interpersonal-experience scenarios. If they were the characters described in the story on which they landed, Opanashuk asked, what would they do next? “My name’s Jaime,” she told those who played the game Monday, reminding them […]

Kayla Smith: Right on Time

If you’ve ever gotten an email reminder to approve your MyTime hours, it probably came from UMW Payroll Accountant Kayla Smith.

But does she ever forget to approve her own?

Kayla Smith

UMW Payroll Accountant Kayla Smith. Photo by Karen Pearlman

“I can honestly say that my timecard is always approved by the deadline,” said Smith, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration (with a focus in accounting) at Mary Washington.

Her precision isn’t surprising, considering her professional world – analyzing reports, handling reconciliations, reviewing timecards – revolves around accuracy.

She was working as an accountant in Washington, D.C., when she saw an opening at her alma mater and “couldn’t resist.”

“This campus is full of beautiful memories for me,” said Smith, who’s pursuing a master’s degree and hopes to become a CPA. “It’s truly an amazing place to be, both as a student and as an employee.”

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: When I feel like I truly helped someone, even if it was just assisting with a leave request. I also get to be part of an extremely dedicated group of individuals who work diligently every day to ensure that payroll operations run smoothly.

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: Payroll is a complex machine with lots of small working parts. We have to make complicated calculations that impact peoples’ pay. We’re responsible for interpreting and abiding by policies. It can be intimidating. Thankfully there’s no shortage of knowledge at UMW and there’s always someone to check behind me!

butterfly picture

Princess Bubblegum and Butterflies by Maggie Smith

Q: What’s the best thing in your office?
A: My 5-year-old daughter, Maggie, drew a picture called “Princess Bubblegum and butterflies.” Every time I look at it, I smile. It’s like having a small piece of her with me all day to motivate me.

Q: Is accounting as boring as some people think?
A: Accounting is so fun! There are always opportunities to learn and grow. It’s never-ending and always changing. It’s rewarding to solve complicated problems by analyzing and sorting data. It feels like such an accomplishment each time you find a solution!

Q: What do you think of MyTime?
A: It’s a fantastic program. It does a great job of generating reports for supervisors and employees, and catching timecard errors. I’ve used several timekeeping systems, and I’d definitely say that MyTime is my favorite.

Q: Do you feel like a MyTime “mom” with your email reminders?
A: I wouldn’t say that I feel like anyone’s mom; we’re all a team here! Everyone is working hard every day under deadlines and priorities unique to their department. We just want to make sure that timecards – and the payroll – are accurate.

Q: Any budgeting tips for non-accountant types?
A: I keep a spreadsheet for my personal finances. I usually have a couple months forecasted to help prevent overspending and to budget for special events and activities.

Q: What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: I played bass clarinet in middle school band. We were pretty good!

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: A quote from Paula Coelho’s The Alchemist inspires me: “People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.” It’s the idea that no matter what stage of life we’re in, we can always change course and fulfill our dreams.

Physics Professor Makes Quantum Leap to Prestigious Fellowship

UMW Professor of Physics Hai Nguyen knew the odds were against him. Thousands of scientists – the best of the best from across the country – vie each year for fewer than 150 first-time fellowships with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He estimated his chances of being chosen at .0001 percent; […]

UMW Waives Application Fees for Furloughed Workers

The University of Mary Washington has taken another step to help furloughed federal employees, by waiving admissions application fees for those affected by the government shutdown. Impacted families considering applying for admission to UMW can skip the $50 fee by using the waiver code “UMW66” when they complete the form online at umw.edu/apply. In another […]

Furloughed Federal Workers Find Respite, Support at UMW Event

Jeff Quinones watched as University of Mary Washington Professor of Education George Meadows swept an iPad around the room to show how 3D printing can be used to create almost anything. Even a type of weapon? Quinones asked. That kind of concern is paramount to Quinones on his job with the Department of Homeland Security’s […]

Chris Williams: Full Circle

Growing up in Spotsylvania County, Chris Williams lived mere minutes from James Farmer’s house. He’d spend summer days there soaking up the civil rights icon’s real-life tales of the part he played in the famous 1961 Freedom Rides and of his work at Mary Washington, where he taught history and American studies for more than a decade.

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams

UMW James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams

At 12, Williams landed a spot in UMW’s James Farmer Scholars Program, designed to encourage students who otherwise might not have considered going to college. Recently, Farmer’s former caretaker Brenda Sloan shared with Williams that Farmer thought a young Williams would “be someone important in the future.”

Now an accomplished writer whose work has been published in outlets like The Atlantic and The Huffington Post, Williams has come full circle. As a college administrator, he’s helped students from varying backgrounds through struggles ranging from learning disabilities to racism.

And as assistant director of UMW’s James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) since September 2017, his work includes helping plan events like UMW’s weeklong Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration and “encapsulates the very things [Farmer] stood for during his lifetime,” Williams said.

“My experiences with him are something that I will treasure for the rest of my life,” he said. “More people need to know how great he was and the grand legacy he left behind for us.”

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: The daily impact I have on our students and the meaningful relationships I’ve built with them, along with colleagues, staff and faculty.

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: Finding a good work-life balance.

Q: What’s your proudest accomplishment so far at UMW?
A: When I accepted this position, I was asked to cultivate and implement a Social Justice and Leadership Summit here at the university. With help from colleagues, university leadership, faculty and students, I was able to create something original and unique that’s become a popular event on campus. I was given the latitude to utilize my talents, resources and skill sets to bring JFMC Director Marion Sanford’s vision for the summit to fruition. I’m proud of it because of the diversity and inclusivity it showcased and because of the dedication of staff, faculty and students to the mission of obtaining social justice for all persons. I also spearheaded the execution of the first Social Justice Fall Break Trip to Montgomery and Selma, Alabama.

Q: What do you hope UMW’s MLK celebration brings to the Fredericksburg community?
A: Over the years, I think there has been a tendency to dilute and soften the image and legacy of Dr. King by only celebrating quotes from his “I Have a Dream” speech. There was more at the core of the man. He was diligent and forthright in his work for obtaining civil rights, social justice and inclusion for all marginalized and disenfranchised people in this country. The JFMC provides programming that tells the true essence of Dr. King, especially what he stood for during the last years of his presence in the civil rights movement.

Q: You’ve had lots of articles published. Do you have a favorite?
A: I had the pleasure of interviewing legendary producer and engineer Malcolm Cecil regarding his involvement in securing a national holiday for Dr. King for Wax Poetics magazine in 2014. Many people don’t know that the initial introduction of the measure to pass a federal law was made by Rep. John Conyers Jr. and Sen. Edward Brooke in 1971. The bill languished in Congress until Jimmy Carter became president. The House of Representatives defeated it the same year, so Coretta Scott King worked feverishly to get it passed, traveling the country collecting endorsements for state and local political figures. After acquiring three million signatures … and being denied, it was clear that The King Memorial Center and Mrs. King needed another vehicle to accomplish their goal. That’s when Stevie Wonder and Gil Scott-Heron got involved, helping get legislation passed through the U.S. Congress and signed by then-president Ronald Reagan in 1983. On his album, Hotter Than July, Stevie Wonder wrote Happy Birthday in honor of Dr. King to bring more attention to the cause of getting him a national holiday. This story is a powerful example of how the arts can change our society for the better.

Q: You’ve written about musicians from Madonna to Marvin Gaye. Who’s your favorite?
A: Stevie Wonder. His music changed lives and altered the universe.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I’m a man of many talents.

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: Tell the truth.

LaFayette to Deliver Keynote for UMW’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

“Institutionalize and internationalize nonviolence.” These are the orders Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. bestowed on Bernard LaFayette Jr. in 1968. Still devoted more than 50 years later to carrying out the edict for nonviolent social change, LaFayette will deliver the University of Mary Washington’s MLK Jr. Celebration keynote address Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 7 p.m., […]

UMW to Host Free Day of Inspiration, Relaxation for Government Workers

What does a furloughed federal employee do while awaiting the return to work? Worry, wonder and deal with boredom? The University of Mary Washington has the answer. UMW is inviting all workers affected by the government shutdown to a stress-free and free-of-charge day of professional development and personal enrichment this Thursday, Jan. 17, from 10 […]

Doug Noble: Show Time

The elegant gowns and long flowing locks made her a standout by anyone’s standards, but it was Miss Piggy’s personality – “her attitude and comic timing” – that caught Dodd Auditorium Director Doug Noble’s attention.

UMW Dodd Auditorium Director Doug Noble

UMW Dodd Auditorium Director Doug Noble

He grew up watching The Muppet Show on his parents’ boxy TV. So meeting Muppets creator Jim Henson’s biographer, Brian J. Jones, at UMW was a highlight of Noble’s career.

“I love it when they thank me personally for the great tech experience,” he said of Jones and other William B. Crawley Great Lives Lecture Series presenters. “I take pride in the fact that we’re ready for them on time and have everything working before they arrive … and they’re so grateful for the personal attention we give them.”

The fawning is part of his job – along with set-ups and sound-checks, rehearsals and stage prompts, and everything else in between. Since taking the helm of the thousand-plus-seat auditorium in 2006, Noble has handled hundreds of events, from employee information sessions to star-studded performances, but the Great Lives lecturesare among his favorites.

The lights will dim and the music will fade when the series’ 16th season kicks off on Tuesday with Rodgers and Hammerstein biographer Todd Purdum … and it will be show time!

It will all seem like magic, but long after the curtain has closed and the last of the guests have filed out into the night, Noble will still be working in Dodd.

Q: What do you find most rewarding about your job?
A: Working with the students

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: Working with the students 

Q: You make a point to read all the Great Lives books. Why?
A: I love to read and I think it’s important to be able to establish a connection with each author before the lectures to help put them at ease. I have the books signed as a reminder of this great series and the time I spent with them.

Q: Despite the pressures of live performances, you always seem unflappable. How do you do it?
A: Two things: Be as prepared as you can before the event so you can handle emergencies when they arrive. If you’re still doing basic set-up when performers arrive, you’re not paying attention to their last-minute needs and you’re cutting into their time, which can put everyone on edge. Also, I worked with a wonderful general manager who would often remind me that theatre isn’t brain surgery and no one will die if a mistake happens. It’s all how you handle the error and keep the show moving.

Q: What’s the most high-profile performance you’ve ever handled in Dodd?
A: That has to be the [2017] Kristin Chenoweth concert with the UMW Philharmonic.

Q: Any unusual special requests from performers?
A: To have the stage painted black for their show… as you can see that didn’t happen.

Q: Any mishaps during a show that you can laugh about now?
A: A student kicked the plug out of the outlet that was controlling the lighting console and plunged the whole stage into darkness. It took a minute to figure out what had happened and get the lights back on. It was very stressful and not fun at the time.

Q: What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: I taught theatre design for 16 years at various colleges and universities around the country.

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: You have to remain flexible – no plans are set in concrete.

UMW Earns Best-Value and Other Top College Guide Rankings

The University of Mary Washington is ranked 25th on Value Colleges’ (VC) recently published list of the country’s top 50 best-value schools. The group scours the nation’s more than 6,000 colleges and universities to help readers find the best quality education for the most affordable price. “The University of Mary Washington … has earned accolades nationally […]