December 2, 2022

Virginia Public Schools Make the Grade in New Statewide Survey

Virginians give their local public-school districts high marks, respond to Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) control over public schools, and rate gubernatorial performance so far according to a new statewide survey from the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington. The 1,000-person annual poll of Virginia adults was conducted for the […]

UMW Earns National Rankings in ‘Washington Monthly,’ ‘Princeton Review’

[caption id="attachment_140992" align="alignright" width="285"]Last month, UMW landed on two national college rankings, 'Washington Monthly' and 'The Princeton Review.' Last month, UMW landed on two national college rankings, 'Washington Monthly' and 'The Princeton Review.'[/caption] The University of Mary Washington is once again listed in two of the leading college rankings, each released in August. This week, Washington Monthly, which judges schools based on contributions to the greater good in the categories of social mobility, research and public service, recognized UMW among its top liberal arts colleges. This year marks the first time UMW has been ranked among its peers in the liberal arts and sciences, as the University updated its Carnegie Classification earlier in the year. The reclassification and associated rankings underscore UMW’s longstanding mission and place the University as a national leader among schools that share a reputation and commitment to academic excellence in undergraduate education. Read more.

Three Professors Receive Colleague-Chosen Awards

University of Mary Washington professors bestowed prestigious awards on three of their colleagues at the Fall 2022 Faculty Address earlier this month. Professors of English, German and physics were praised for their commitment to their fields, the art of teaching and the importance of service. Maya Mathur Professor of English Maya Mathur received the Grellet […]

Three Professors Receive Colleague-Chosen Awards

University of Mary Washington professors bestowed prestigious awards on three of their colleagues at the Fall 2022 Faculty Address earlier this month. Professors of English, German and physics were praised for their commitment to their fields, the art of teaching and the importance of service. Maya Mathur Professor of English Maya Mathur received the Grellet […]

Three Professors Receive Colleague-Chosen Awards

University of Mary Washington professors bestowed prestigious awards on three of their colleagues at the Fall 2022 Faculty Address earlier this month. Professors of English, German and physics were praised for their commitment to their fields, the art of teaching and the importance of service.

Maya Mathur

Maya Mathur, Associate Professor of English

Associate Professor of English Maya Mathur

Professor of English Maya Mathur received the Grellet C. Simpson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. The honor recognizes full-time faculty members, who – like Simpson, UMW’s fourth president – place an emphasis on quality teaching and the liberal arts.

Since earning the rank of associate professor six years ago, Mathur has created six courses, including sought-after first-year seminars Shakespeare and Popular Culture and From Cinderella to Harry Potter: Fairy Tales and Fantasy Literature. Tailored to the interests of 21st-century students, Mathur’s courses blend canon with modern topics, prompting exploration of class, race, gender and power within texts.

“The enthusiasm and engagement my students bring to class both enhance my understanding of literary texts and help me develop new ways to analyze it,” said Mathur, whose meticulously constructed Canvas pages and use of engaging applications like Padlet and Flipgrid stand out.

She shares innovative ideas and has worked with the Center for Teaching to co-sponsor workshops, including one focused on race in the classroom. “Many faculty and students are eager to address race,” said a nominator. “Professor Mathur is leading the way in guiding us to do so.”

Marcel Rotter

Associate Professor of German Marcel Rotter

Associate Professor of German Marcel Rotter

Associate Professor of German Marcel Rotter received the J. Christopher “Topher” Bill Outstanding Faculty Service Award for those who have taught at UMW at least seven years and held significant service roles in their departments, colleges and community. The award was established in 2003 in honor of longtime UMW psychology professor Topher Bill.

Rotter, who chairs the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, works to promote and improve German language instruction at Mary Washington and in Virginia, organizing continuing education events for teachers and cultural immersion experiences for students. “His work cultivates key relationships and promotes UMW as a cultural hub and an institution with a global mindset,” said a nominator.

In 18 years at Mary Washington, Rotter also has served as chair of the University Faculty Council, leading a revision of the general education curriculum, and as treasurer for the Faculty Senate of Virginia, all while keeping students top of mind.

“Many of our students have never left Virginia, let alone the U.S.” said Rotter, who also is VP for the Society of German American Studies. “My colleagues from around the world and I are here to show them what’s out there.”

Varun Makhija

Assistant Professor of Physics Varun Makhija

Assistant Professor of Physics Varun Makhija

Assistant Professor of Physics Varun Makhija won the Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Award, for those who’ve taught full time at Mary Washington for two to five years.

At the end of his first semester at Mary Washington in fall 2019, Makhija found himself the sole physics professor in the Department of Chemistry and Physics. And so, in three years, he taught 21 of the 24 physics offerings in the course catalog; supervised 19 students in individual studies, internships and Summer Science Institute research; and reinvigorated UMW’s chapter of the Society for Physics Students, which won awards in 2020 and 2021.

Makhija is “the glue,” said nominators, “that has, through sheer enthusiasm and love for teaching and physics,” held the program together.

At Mary Washington, he has worked to connect the campus physics community with scholars in the field and published six papers in leading journals, often with undergraduate co-authors.

“The primary motivation for me has been our students,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from them, and I’ve tried my best to provide an environment in which they can do things they’re passionate about, and then go to the places they want to go after UMW.”

Thanks to Associate Professor of Mathematics Education Kyle Schultz, who provided a transcript of his awards presentation, and to the members of last year’s Committee for Sabbaticals, Fellowships and Faculty Awards.

UMW Awarded $250,000 for Fredericksburg Region Internships

The University of Mary Washington has received a $250,000 grant from SCHEV – the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia – to expand paid and credit-bearing student internships in collaboration with Virginia employers. The grant is part of the Fund for Excellence and Innovation, also known as the Virginia Talent + Opportunity Partnership. The […]

UMW Presidential Address Ushers in the 2022-23 Academic Year

University of Mary Washington President Troy Paino kicked off the fall semester – and the 2022-23 academic year – Tuesday morning during an in-person address to faculty and staff. “I haven’t been able to welcome you like this for a while,” Paino said from the stage in George Washington Hall’s Dodd Auditorium. The start-of-the-semester assembly […]

UMW To Welcome More Than 1,000 New Students

The University of Mary Washington welcomes new and returning students back to campus this week for the fall 2022 semester, starting with move-in for new students on Wednesday, Aug. 17, and culminating in the campus tradition of Eagle Gathering on Sunday, Aug. 21. Fall classes start Monday, Aug. 22. Enrollment of both first-year and transfer […]

Fleming, Jones Tapped to Advance Student Experience

Two University of Mary Washington administrators dedicated to the student experience – Associate Dean for Student Involvement Melissa Jones and Assistant Dean for Residence Life and Housing Dave Fleming – begin this 2022-23 academic year in new roles.

Dave Fleming and Melissa Jones

Dave Fleming and Melissa Jones

Jones has been named dean of students and associate vice president of student affairs. Fleming has been named dean of residence life and housing and serves as assistant vice president for student affairs. Both will be working in crucial campus roles held for decades by Cedric Rucker who retired this summer.

In their new positions, Jones who came to UMW in 2014 as assistant dean for student involvement, and Fleming who arrived in 2015 as associate director of residence life, will continue to enhance the campus experience, in what they call UMW’s, “conversational” approach to student engagement.

“I love watching them apply the skills they’re learning in class, through their involvement in clubs and throughout college,” Jones said. “We try to make sure Mary Wash students have a seat at the table, become engaged and get involved.”

Assistant Dean of Student Involvement Melissa Jones thrives on her role helping new college students find their way.

As Assistant Dean of Student Involvement Melissa Jones thrived on her role helping new college students find their way.

Promoted to associate dean in 2017, Jones has led UMW’s Student Involvement team, overseeing Orientation, Campus Rec and Student Activities and Engagement, fostering a peer mentorship program and highlighting the importance of student collaboration.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and English, with a minor in African American studies, and a master’s degree in social foundations of education from the University of Virginia. She also earned a master’s in counseling psychology with a concentration in college student personnel administration from James Madison University.

Having been in higher education since 1999, Jones worked in residence life and housing, student conduct and academic integrity, and residence education at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). She also worked in residence life at the University of Richmond. She has taught courses and held roles in student conduct, Title IX, crisis management, career services, student leadership development, and in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Promoted to assistant dean for residence life and housing in 2017, Fleming has led critical areas such as residence hall strategic planning, budget management, program development and assessment, and staff development and supervision. He’s been a leader in crisis management, assuring after-hours emergency response and adherence to protocols, all with a focus on students.

Dave Fleming on move-in day in 2017

Dave Fleming on move-in day in 2017.

Most recently, he’s served as co-chair of the University’s Public Health Advisory Working Group throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been able to move the University through, while minimizing the impact on students and making sure they’re having as good an experience as possible,” he said.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in business administration, from Salisbury University in Maryland and a master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology from the University of New Haven in Connecticut. He has worked in higher education since 2006, holding various positions in residence life at Salisbury University and at VCU.

In his new role as dean, he’ll continue to lead the charge to optimize residential life for UMW students, and as assistant vice president for student affairs, he’ll also oversee the area of student conduct and responsibility.

Together, Jones said, she and Fleming will strive to maintain the feeling she found her first day at UMW. It’s a goal they’ve shared on and off campus, as Jones and Fleming married in 2015.

“I remember coming to the conclusion that this really feels like home and hoping that’s what it feels like for our students,” she said. “Eight years later, I know that’s what it feels like for our students.”

Jody Wilken: Belmont Blooms

If Corinne Melchers could see the gardens at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont today – bursting with blooms in pinks, purples and yellows – Jody Wilken hopes she’d be pleased.

Master Gardener Jody Wilken is landscape lead at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont

Master Gardener Jody Wilken is landscape lead at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont

As landscape lead at the 18th-century estate of the famous American artist and his wife, Wilken is tasked with maintaining the standards of natural beauty set forth by the late Mrs. Melchers. Records of what she planted and Garden Club of Virginia guidelines provide a template for maintaining the historic grounds, which Wilken embellishes with her own expertise.

“The discipline of having to stay within a timeframe is helpful to me,” she said. “Left to my own devices, it would probably be more of a hodgepodge of plants that I love.”

She was already in the weeds, as they say, when she landed her current position in December 2019. Having worked part time at Belmont for years alongside predecessor Beate Jensen, Wilken knew the flow of the seasons. Summer’s filled with weeding and watering. Fall means planning for warm weather’s return. Winter’s for paperwork catch-up and tending less prominent areas of the 27-acre property. And spring? Well, spring is showtime!

Wilken grew up fascinated with her grandfather’s Ohio farm and her grandmother’s complementary green thumb. Now a Master Gardener, she’s shared her expertise with others through stints at the local extension office, the Fredericksburg Farmers Market plant clinic and Richmond’s Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. She earned the Southern Garden History Society’s Young Professional Grant earlier this year, and grows tomatoes, melons, peppers, onions, garlic and herbs at her Stafford County home.

“I guess it’s in my blood!”

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: When I’m out on the grounds and people ask about certain plants. It’s nice to be complimented. I take a lot of pride in my work.

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: The physical aspect of it, especially in the heat of a Virginia summer. The plants need to be cared for regardless of weather, and they don’t care if the gardener is hot, sweaty and tired. I have to be careful not to overdo it.

Q: What’s your favorite season?
A: Spring, although it’s also the busiest. The gardens at Belmont really put on a show from late March through early June.

Q: What’s your favorite plant?
A: I know it sounds crazy, but I don’t have one. My favorite color in plants is deep blue, uncommon in the plant world. I have an iris at home called “blue suede shoes.” It’s gorgeous.

Q: What’s your favorite flower-filled area at Belmont?
A: The four triangle beds planted with antique roses and hundreds of tulip bulbs and daffodils in spring.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I spent 21 years as a flight attendant and didn’t really start gardening until I retired in 2001.

Q: How do you spend your free time … other than gardening?
A: My husband and I are passionate about good food. Chopping and prepping is relaxing for me. I’m also an avid downhill skier, but I don’t get to do that enough in Virginia!