May 9, 2021

UMW Pivots for COVID-Era Commencements

The University of Mary Washington will hold nine separate in-person Commencement ceremonies for the Classes of 2020 and 2021 over the course of four days, May 6 to 9. Photo by Norm Shafer.

The University of Mary Washington will hold nine separate in-person Commencement ceremonies for the Classes of 2020 and 2021 over the course of four days, May 6 to 9. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Hannah Checkeye ’21 will cross the University of Mary Washington Commencement stage this weekend with more than she could have imagined when she came to campus four years ago.

She chose UMW because it gave her a pathway to pursue two passions: lacrosse and med school. Successful in both, she’s among a handful of students accepted into an early selection program at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. She’s just one example of UMW graduating seniors who are “Portraits of Perseverance,” having excelled in academics and extracurricular activities through a worldwide pandemic and turbulent times.

And COVID only enhanced her college experience.

With pandemic precautions in place, Checkeye is one of 1,100 graduates who will turn their tassels – ready to take on a world that’s already handed them test after test – during UMW’s in-person 2020 and 2021 Commencement festivities. The event will look different this year, with nine separate ceremonies over the course of four days, May 6 to 9. But, Checkeye said, “I’m still super excited to get to graduate in person!”

Visit the UMW Commencement Page for details and upcoming livestreams.

Pandemic-Era Commencement Holds A Number of Highlights

Jasmine Williams ’20 models her decorated mortarboard. Members of the Class of 2020 waited a year for their Commencement.

Jasmine Williams ’20 models her decorated mortarboard. Members of the Class of 2020 waited a year for their Commencement.

What a year … and 52 days! But who’s counting?

With University of Mary Washington Commencement ceremonies for the Classes of 2020 and 2021 taking place today through Sunday, we are.

When UMW paused in-person learning last spring, amid a growing pandemic, campus life as we knew it was thrown off kilter. Amid the disruption, Class of 2020 graduation plans were rescheduled, then put on hold. A robust MMDC (monitor, mask, distance and clean) campaign – and a gymnastics routine of face-to-face and virtual learning – brought students back to campus in the fall. But it’s been a long road.

Racial unrest and political angst swept the nation. Weekly emails from UMW’s “COVID-19 Implementation Team” told of fast-changing news: disease progression, vaccine availability and those hard-to-pin-down Commencement plans.

Now, with a web of socially distanced, guideline-adherent measures in place, Mary Washington presents the capstone activity for two extraordinary classes. Bring on the bagpipes, brightly colored honor cords, and decorated caps … and masks!

With everything else that’s been turned on its head, we’re flipping the number ’21, too. Here – in numerical order – are 12 things to know about one unconventional Commencement, broken into nine parts. Read more.

Class of 2021: Portraits of Perseverance, Part 1

Beth Kelly

Beth Kelly

Last spring, when the University of Mary Washington suddenly switched to remote learning, students found themselves in new territory, especially rising seniors. Nevertheless, they didn’t let the global pandemic stop them. They continued to excel academically, partake in extracurricular activities and serve as campus leaders, helping the rest of the UMW community navigate through the COVID crisis, civil unrest, and a contentious and consequential election season, along with the types of challenges all students face.

Here, in part one of a two-story series, several 2021 graduates – Beth Kelly, John Asmus, Margaret Gregory and Breonna Washington – share their achievements and future plans, as well as how Mary Washington has prepared them for life after college. Check the UMW website on Friday for the second installment. Read more.

 

Marker Furthers UMW Mission on Freedom Rides’ 60th Anniversary

Today, on the 60th anniversary of the start of the Freedom Rides, a temporary historic marker was unveiled at the site of the former Fredericksburg bus station, where the Freedom Riders first stopped in 1961. The marker is the result of efforts by UMW staff, faculty and students, in partnership with the City of Fredericksburg. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Today, on the 60th anniversary of the start of the Freedom Rides, a temporary historic marker was unveiled at the site of the former Fredericksburg bus station, where the Freedom Riders first stopped in 1961. The marker is the result of efforts by UMW staff, faculty and students, in partnership with the City of Fredericksburg. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Sixty years ago today, 13 men and women – seven Black and six white – departed Washington, D.C., on Greyhound and Trailways buses. Led by civil rights icon James L. Farmer Jr., these Freedom Riders embarked on a quest to desegregate interstate travel.

Their first stop? Fredericksburg, Virginia. The riders visited the bus station terminal and lunch counter, once located at the corner of Princess Anne and Wolfe streets, where the fire station stands today.

The bus depot was torn down years ago, but this afternoon, a historical marker was erected in its place, thanks to the tireless work of University of Mary Washington staff, faculty and students, in partnership with the City of Fredericksburg. Their efforts are part of a greater campaign to share the history of the region’s Black residents, as well as UMW’s commitment to keep alive the legacy of the Freedom Riders and Dr. Farmer. Read more.

Eagles Soar During Virtual Awards Ceremony

Senior Jessica Lynch received the Grace Mann Launch Award during the virtual Eagle Awards ceremony on Thursday.

Senior Jessica Lynch received the Grace Mann Launch Award during the virtual Eagle Awards ceremony on Thursday.

University of Mary Washington senior Jessica Lynch received the Grace Mann Launch Award during the Eagle Awards ceremony, held virtually last night. Student leaders and outstanding campus organizations were honored at this annual event, presented by the James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC), Student Activities and Engagement, and Center for Community Engagement. Juniors Amber Brown and Quinn Lipetz served as hosts for the online presentation.

“Jessica is an amazing, outstanding individual,” said Dean of Students Cedric Rucker, who presented Lynch with the award. “All of the experiences she has had as a student leader, opening doors and making UMW a more inclusive community, are reflective of the life Grace led at Mary Washington. Jessica will leave a legacy for other students to follow.”

Grace Mann was a UMW student leader and social justice activist who died six years ago during her junior year. Her parents established an endowment for an annual financial award to be presented to a graduating senior who exemplifies Mann’s commitment to social justice, equality and advocacy. Read more.

UMW Symposium Spotlights Student Research and Creativity

Tomorrow, University of Mary Washington students will showcase the research they’ve toiled away on for the past year as part of the 15th annual Research and Creativity Symposium. The event will be held virtually and will be accessible through Friday.

Tomorrow, University of Mary Washington students will showcase the research they’ve toiled away on for the past year as part of the 15th annual Research and Creativity Symposium. The event will be held virtually and will be accessible through Friday.

Ashley Utz knows that over-the-counter medications like Prilosec and Prevacid are typically used to treat ulcers, reflux and other common stomach disorders. But the senior biochemistry major has a theory that these drugs, known as proton-pump inhibitors (PPI), could also help destroy cancer cells.

Tomorrow, along with more than 100 of her University of Mary Washington peers, Utz will share this trailblazing research, which she’s toiled away on in Jepson Science Center labs for the past year, in the midst of a global pandemic. The 15th annual UMW Research and Creativity Symposium, held virtually again this year due to COVID-19, will put a spotlight on one of Mary Washington’s top priorities: undergraduate research. Featuring PDF posters and oral synopses on video, Thursday’s presentations will span disciplines from science to sociology, math to music and classics to communication and will remain accessible through Friday for questions and comments.

“When students discover how to pursue and investigate their own research questions, interpret the information they uncover and communicate their findings, it brings their learning to life and puts the knowledge and skills they’ve gained into practice,” said College of Arts and Sciences Assistant Dean Betsy Lewis, who described her own undergraduate research experiences as “life-changing.” Read more.

Top UMW Students Reach Revered Phi Beta Kappa Rank

Forty UMW students were inducted into the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society, Phi Beta Kappa, during last night’s virtual ceremony.

Forty UMW students were inducted into the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society, Phi Beta Kappa, during last night’s virtual ceremony.

Along with 40 University of Mary Washington students, President Troy Paino was inducted last night into an exclusive 250-year-old worldwide club, which used to have a secret sign and handshake. Membership is lifelong, and it has been offered to 17 U.S. Presidents and 42 U.S. Supreme Court justices.

The key to membership in this invitation-only club, Phi Beta Kappa, is academic excellence and love of learning. The five College of William and Mary students who founded this august honor society in 1776 could hardly have imagined new inductees being presented virtually via a technology called Zoom.

But that is what happened last night as photos of new members were projected onto a screen and as Dr. Paino accepted his honorary induction into “the most prestigious academic honor society in the nation.” Read more.

A message from President Paino

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

On Monday, I recorded this video as a year-end message of appreciation and encouragement for all of you. At that time, we had no idea when a verdict would be rendered or what to expect in the trial of Derek Chauvin. Now that we know the outcome, my sentiments expressed here take on even more poignancy and meaning. We must continue to strive to be better and to hold ourselves and our nation accountable as a place where all can live with dignity, purpose, and acceptance.

When I consider all the visible and unseen challenges each of you has confronted this past year, I realize that this year has come at a great price, but also with tremendous reward. The way that this great community continues to overcome the unimaginable fills me with a sense of hope for the future.

Wishing you all the best,

Troy Paino
President

 

UMW Gets Down to Earth With Sustainability Coordinator Position

 UMW, which is listed in the 2021 edition of “The Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges,” plans to hire a full-time sustainability coordinator by summer.


UMW, which is listed in the 2021 edition of “The Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges,” plans to hire a full-time sustainability coordinator by summer.

By summer, the University of Mary Washington plans to have its own Sustainability Coordinator. The announcement of the new full-time position by UMW President Troy Paino in last week’s Board of Visitors meeting comes just in time for Earth Day and on the heels of Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive order to reduce Virginia’s reliance on single-use plastics.

“UMW has a long tradition of prioritizing sustainability, but it’s time we take that commitment to another level,” Paino said. “We need a dedicated position to develop and implement an ambitious plan that will make UMW a national leader among green campuses.”

The effort has already begun. A “Virginia Green” dining program, paired with academic programs, like the conservation biology, and Earth and environmental science majors, will serve as a launching pad for the sustainability coordinator. So will the recent Climate of Change discussion series, along with recycling, bike-sharing and other existing eco-specific initiatives.

UMW traded plastic straws for paper ones more than two years ago, said Campus Dining Marketing Coordinator Rose Benedict, and the University is listed among the nation’s most environmentally conscious schools in the 2021 edition of The Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges. Read more.

UMW Board of Visitors votes to freeze tuition for third year

To all faculty and staff:

At its meeting today, April 16, the University of Mary Washington Board of Visitors endorsed President Troy Paino’s recommendation that tuition be held at current rates for the third consecutive year. The President acknowledged the difficult financial impact of COVID and rising costs on the University, but noted that the University is prioritizing student affordability over other budgetary considerations.

Both undergraduate and graduate students will benefit from consistent tuition rates through the coming year, regardless of in- or out-of-state residency. Housing and dining costs will rise by 2 percent. Auxiliary fees will increase by 4 percent for full-time undergraduate and graduate students. The modest increases will help address state mandates, contractual obligations, and unavoidable cost increases. Overall, full-time Virginia students living in campus housing will experience a net increase of $414 or 1.7 percent, inclusive of tuition, housing, dining, and auxiliary charges.

“It would be a failure in our public mission to ignore the economic hardships facing many of our students and their families,” said Paino. “Clearly this decision will have an impact on our ability to undertake certain initiatives and to provide the full range of services and programming that students request, as well as challenge our ability to meet some current commitments, but we believe that affordable access is the foremost need of our student body as a whole.”

During its budget cycle ending earlier this month, the General Assembly and Governor Northam adopted a plan that was more favorable to UMW than in previous years. It included new allocations for planning monies for a new theatre and renovation of Melchers/Pollard/duPont halls, COVID relief funding for unbudgeted expenses, support for a new joint education and workforce training program with local secondary schools and Germanna Community College, and additional financial aid for UMW students.

President Paino expressed his appreciation for these commitments. “There are many aspects of the state budget development that have been beneficial to UMW and they allow us to continue to make important strategic decisions.” In addition, the state’s mandates, while costly, will benefit the University’s infrastructure. “I am especially grateful that our elected officials recognized that our employees warrant compensation adjustments,” Paino added.

The University is required to match all state compensation commitments. It will also absorb additional costs related to health insurance premiums, minimum wage increases, new state required software, and other mandates. The President noted that mandates, existing contractual obligations and unavoidable costs will exceed projected revenue for the coming year. In order to fulfill these commitments, the University will choose to look at other cost savings measures, rather than pass the costs to students and families.

“Fortunately, state support will offset all but $1.7 million of the coming year’s budget shortfall” said Vice President of Finance and Business Affiars and Chief Financial Officer Paul Messplay. “We will still have to plan judiciously and make difficult decisions to reach a balanced budget, and we must exercise careful cost containment next year, but it is worth it to be able to award raises to all employees and avoid penalizing students.”

Rector of the Board Heather Crislip acknowledged the extraordinary circumstances of the past year. “The Board realizes this decision will call for some sacrifices from the entire University in order to achieve a fiscally responsible and balanced budget. While we are deeply attuned to the University’s budgetary limitations, as well as the necessity of making quality-enhancing investments, in this environment we concur that holding the line on costs to families is paramount.”

UMW anticipates finalizing and presenting its 2021-22 budget to the Board of Visitors for approval in June. The University receives approximately 25 percent of its total revenue from the state, with the remainder coming primarily through tuition and fees.