May 28, 2020

Q&A Session Focused on Recruitment and Retention

UMW faculty and staff tuned in yesterday to a Zoom presentation and Q&A session centered on fall enrollment and retention in the time of COVID-19. Facilitated by Chief of Staff Jeff McClurken, the hour-long event included Vice President for Enrollment Management Kimberley Buster-Williams, Director of Undergraduate Admissions Melissa Yakabouski, Executive Director of Continuing and Professional Studies Kimberly Young and Director of Graduate Admissions Christy Pack.

Vice President for Enrollment Management Kimberley Buster-Williams

Vice President for Enrollment Management Kimberley Buster-Williams

Buster-Williams and Yakabouski, who together have worked half a century in college admissions, said that the recruitment-related woes they’ve faced throughout their careers have been trumped by unemployment rates, health concerns and other disruptions caused by the current pandemic.

COVID-19 has taken an increasingly competitive college-enrollment landscape to new heights, the administrators said, forcing them to re-imagine strategies for recruiting and retaining students, and pose innovative solutions. At the time of the talk, first-year deposits stood at slightly more than 100 less than anticipated, according to Buster-Williams. This mirrors a downward trend across the country, she said. Mary Washington, like other schools, has extended the enrollment deposit deadline to June 1.

“We find ourselves in the midst of a recruitment crisis, and the outpouring of support has been truly appreciated,” she said of faculty, staff, alumni and other members of the Mary Washington community who are pitching in to help yield a strong incoming class.

Director of Undergraduate Admissions Melissa Yakabouski

Director of Undergraduate Admissions Melissa Yakabouski

After working for years to build a 2020-21 UMW undergraduate cohort – visiting schools, attending college fairs, reading applications and more – “our entire operation went online,” Yakabouski said. Without the overwhelming support, she said, “we could not have pivoted as quickly or as well.”

Among incoming students’ top concerns, she said, are a need to connect and a desire to know if Mary Washington will be able to meet its goal of providing in-person learning this fall or if the coronavirus crisis will force courses back online.

Pack and Young said they also have been “sorting through uncertainties” to meet the changing demands of adult learners by enhancing testing and pathway options, and financial support opportunities.

Director of Graduate Admissions Christy Pack

Director of Graduate Admissions Christy Pack

Together, Pack said, the two have hosted virtual sessions throughout the past six weeks for 150 students interested in enrolling in UMW’s MBA, M.Ed., MSGA, BSN, BLS, GIS-certification and other professional development programs.

“Uncertainty means we have hope,” said Young, who is keeping a close eye on the ways in which UMW can help meet the changing needs of area industries, such as offering COVID-19-influenced courses required of educators.

Participants posed a host of questions about such topics as how other schools’ decisions impact UMW’s admissions operations and what unique enrollment strategies are being considered.

“We are making sure we’re being really brilliant at the basics,” Buster-Williams said.

Executive Director of Continuing and Professional Studies Kimberly Young

Executive Director of Continuing and Professional Studies Kimberly Young

In answer to Professor of Chemistry Nicole Crowder’s question on how the entire UMW community can continue to support this crucial effort, Yakabouski suggested being responsive to inquiries from prospective students and their parents, and sharing innovative ideas.

“Recruitment isn’t just about the four of us on this panel,” Young said. “It’s about all of us.”

Watch the May 20 Q&A session on YouTube.

UMW Opens ‘COVID-19 in Context’ Course to Community

Those who think they’ve heard everything that can be said about COVID-19 can guess again.

UMW faculty will share their perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic in a free eight-week online summer course open to incoming and current students, faculty, alumni, staff and the broader community.

UMW faculty will share their perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic in a free eight-week online summer course open to incoming and current students, faculty, alumni, staff and the broader community.

Experts at the University of Mary Washington are sharing their perspectives through COVID-19 in Context, an eight-week online summer course starting June 1 that will be open free of charge to not only UMW students, faculty, alumni and staff, but also the broader community. The 16 classes will be delivered right to cell phones, tablets and computers via Zoom. All participants need is Internet access.

Each session will look at the coronavirus pandemic from a different angle – the effect on climate change, the history of pandemics, the potential impact on our upcoming presidential election, the chemistry of disinfectants, and even how COVID-19 has influenced the fine and performing arts.

Each Monday and Wednesday through July 22, at 4 p.m., faculty from varied disciplines across the University, from psychology and communication to geography and economics, will broadcast a 30-minute lecture followed by an interactive Q&A session. The inaugural class, on June 1, will be a biologist’s look at the virus itself. Read more.

UMW Libraries’ Collection Captures COVID-19 History

UMW Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives team is collecting and digitizing a variety of COVID-19 related materials, from diaries to photos to social media posts. Anna Billingsley, associate vice president for University Relations, submitted a screenshot of her personal blog, “Coronavirus Captivity,” chronicling her experiences working remotely and living during the pandemic.

UMW Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives team is collecting and digitizing a variety of COVID-19 related materials, from diaries to photos to social media posts. Anna Billingsley, associate vice president for University Relations, submitted a screenshot of her personal blog, “Coronavirus Captivity,” chronicling her experiences working remotely and living during the pandemic.

Reference Librarian Peter Catlin was set to get married in Virginia Beach in May. But the state’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order canceling public gatherings put a kink in his wedding plans. Instead, after many attempts, the couple got special permission from Fredericksburg’s clerk of circuit court, who married them on the sidewalk outside the city courthouse.

The nuptials marked the beginning of a life together and, when Catlin typed up his story, something else – a special UMW Libraries initiative named Call to Contribute. “It was a very cool start to the project,” said Records Coordinator Sarah Appleby ’06.

The University’s archiving team likes to dig deep in the past, but its mission is also to gather current experiences so future historians can better understand today. To do that, they are asking the UMW community to help create a record of what lives look like in these days of quarantine, remote learning, hand-sewn masks and Zoom meetings.

“We see history happening, and we have to do something to make sure that doesn’t just go away,” Appleby said of the effort.

The team – Carolyn Parsons ’83, head of Special Collections and University Archives; Angie Kemp ’11, digital resources librarian; and Appleby – will collect and digitize a variety of COVID-19 related materials, from diaries and blogs to artwork and photography. They encourage anyone affiliated with Mary Washington to contribute. Read more.

UMW to Graduate Class of 2020

Class of 2020 graduate Camryn Molnar tosses her cap in front of Monroe Hall and the Palmieri Fountain. She’s among the 1,309 UMW graduates who will participate in commencement in the fall. The combined undergraduate and graduate ceremony is currently scheduled for October 24. Photo credit: dpan.visuals on Instagram.

Class of 2020 graduate Camryn Molnar tosses her cap in front of Monroe Hall and the Palmieri Fountain. She’s among the 1,309 UMW graduates who will participate in commencement in the fall. The combined undergraduate and graduate ceremony is currently scheduled for October 24. Photo credit: dpan.visuals on Instagram.

The University of Mary Washington will confer degrees upon a total of 1,309 students during its 109th commencement ceremony in the fall, rescheduled due to COVID-19. For the first time, the University will hold a combined ceremony for both undergraduate and graduate students, currently scheduled to take place on the Fredericksburg Campus’ Ball Circle on Saturday, Oct. 24.

The University will award five Master of Geospatial Analysis degrees, 35 Master of Business Administration degrees, 95 Master of Education degrees, 40 Master of Science in Elementary Education degrees, 455 Bachelor of Arts degrees, 550 Bachelor of Science degrees, 48 Bachelor of Liberal Studies degrees and 53 Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees.

Candidates for degrees are listed as of April 15, 2020. Degree candidates are subject to final review. All degrees will be officially conferred on May 15, 2020. We regret any errors that may inadvertently appear in this listing. Read more.

 

Though we were unable to celebrate on Ball Circle this spring, we are proud to honor our remarkable Class of 2020 via this YouTube video, which conveys from various perspectives the traditions we hold dear.

 

 

Trio of Darden Winners Receives Virtual Acclaim for Perfect Grades

Three graduating seniors – Hannah Frederick, Meryl Menezes and Aleksandra Shtabnaya – earned the Darden Award, achieving a perfect GPA of 4.0. Their names were announced via a Zoom call.

Three graduating seniors – Hannah Frederick, Meryl Menezes and Aleksandra Shtabnaya – earned the Darden Award, achieving a perfect GPA of 4.0. Their names were announced via a Zoom call.

It doesn’t take a 4.0 to figure out how to get on a Zoom call.

But three of the participants in a mid-morning call yesterday have 4.0 grade averages, and because they have mastered distance learning during the concluding weeks of their final semester at University of Mary Washington, they and their family members seamlessly accessed Zoom.

The three recipients of the 2020 Colgate W. Darden Jr. Award are Hannah Frederick, a math major with minors in data science and computer science; Meryl Menezes, a psychology major with a minor in Spanish; and Aleksandra Shtabnaya, a computer science major with minors in data science and digital studies.

“Each of our Darden winners completed their studies at UMW with perfect 4.0 grade point averages. All are graduating summa cum laude, and all have been inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious academic honor society,” said Provost Nina Mikhalevsky, who led the virtual presentation that also included deans and faculty members who had worked with the winners. “As a group, the Darden winners took 105 different courses in 23 different subject disciplines and completed six separate individual study or undergraduate projects.”

Mikhalevsky also praised each recipient for “persevering during a pandemic.” Read more.

Twenty Ways the Class of 2020 Stands Out

The Class of 2020 stands out in many ways. Read about 20 of them below.

The Class of 2020 stands out in many ways. Read about 20 of them below.

Each UMW graduating class is unique, a one-of-a-kind collection of dedicated students determined to earn their degrees and change the world. With all they’ve been through – from the thrill of Orientation and the First-Year Experience to political turmoil and a global pandemic that cleared campus – the Class of 2020 stands out in a big way.

More than 1,000 students strong, this group of graduates faced change head-on, proving to be a resilient and formidable force. From in-person learning to virtual classrooms, from one-on-one consults with faculty members to scheduled Zoom meetings, from on-campus events to celebrations that played out on Instagram, this class truly has its own story to tell.

With the unprecedented chaos caused by COVID-19 and academic expectations still high, they stuck with it. They honored the commitments they’d made and didn’t give up. They did it!

They won’t turn their tassels at Commencement on Ball Circle Saturday as they had planned, but later, at a ceremony currently rescheduled for Oct. 24. Then, they will celebrate together the lessons they’ve learned through these past weeks, in perseverance, adaptability and grit – a punctuation point on a liberal arts education that aims to do the same thing.

It’s time for these Eagles to leave the nest. It’s their time to fly! Read more.

Read ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ with the Mother of All Book Clubs

Looking for a way to stay connected to other alumni during this challenging time? We are beginning the second round of reading in our online literary group–the Mother of All Book Clubs!

Alumni read and discuss via a private Facebook group, so only approved members can see posts or participate in the discussion. This is informal and low-pressure–read along with us and chime in on the discussion as much or as little as you like.

Our next selection is Dear Evan Hansen, by Steven Levenson. “A letter that was never meant to be seen, a lie that was never meant to be told, a life he never dreamed could be his. Evan Hansen is about to get the one thing he’s always wanted: a chance to belong. Deeply personal and profoundly universal, Dear Evan Hansen is a groundbreaking American musical about truth, fiction, and the price we’re willing to pay for the possibility to connect.”

Dear Evan Hansen was UMW’s Common Read experience for 2017 and is an ongoing Broadway hit. This book should prompt some good discussions about ethics, mental health, and the impact of social media on our society and relationships. It also is uplifting and warm, with an award-winning soundtrack. Recently, the UMW Theatre department adapted a song from the soundtrack and released it on social media, where it received praise on the show’s social media as well.

Please note that we are reading the actual screenplay of the Broadway production. There are other publications, including a novelization, by the same name. Use the links here and confirm the author to ensure you obtain the correct text.

Pick up a copy of the book and start reading–we will begin posting discussion questions on Monday, May 25. You might have a small-business bookseller you like to support, or you might want to try your local library system, as many offer ebook rentals. But if you need the book shipped, below are some links to larger online providers.

We look forward to reading with you!

All the best,
The Alumni Relations Team

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Target

Join Us for a Virtual Shabbat Service and Happy Hour

All alumni are invited to join the Jewish Alumni Affinity Group for Shabbat service and happy hour!

People of all faiths are invited to join us for a virtual Shabbat service and happy hour on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.

We will have the Shabbat service at 6:00 p.m., followed by a happy hour where we we can meet and chat with each other. This event will occur on the holiday Shavuot, celebrating the Torah being given to the Jews on Mount Sinai. One of the themes of Shavuot is “milk and honey,” with the associated tradition of eating dairy products like cheese blintzes or cheesecake. If you have a knack for baking, feel free to bake a tasty dessert and show it off to everyone!

Friday, May 29
6:00-8:00 p.m.
Online

As always, people of all faiths and religions are invited to join; feel free to share this event with other alumni! If you are not already receiving communications re: the Jewish Alumni Affinity Group, and would like to, opt in here.

Register here. On the day before the event, you will receive the link to the Zoom meeting. We hope to see you online!

UMW Faculty Teach “Chemistry in the Kitchen”

Join us online for virtual programming from UMW Alumni and UMW’s chemistry faculty

UMW chemistry professors will present “Chemistry in the Kitchen” in three Lunchtime Learning sessions. These sessions will feature chemistry experiments that you can do yourself at home in your kitchen. Watch and enjoy, or conduct your own experiments along with us–we will send a supply list ahead of time so you can join in, if desired.

Each session will focus on a different topic:

Tuesday: Intermolecular Interactions with Dr. Leanna Giancarlo

Wednesday: Polymers with Dr. Kelli Slunt

Thursday: Sustainability with Dr. Janet Asper

Tuesday-Thursday, June 2-4

12:00-1:00 p.m. each day

Online

These experiments are designed for children in fourth-eighth grades, but likely will be entertaining for children outside that range as well.

Join us for one, two, or all three sessions–just pick which you want in the registration form. After you register, you will receive a confirmation email that includes a link to the Zoom sessions. You also will be sent a supply list in advance of the program.

We look forward to seeing you online!

Q&A Addressed Employee Concerns

Faculty and staff tuned in yesterday afternoon for a Q&A session livestreamed on Zoom. During the hourlong video chat, Chief of Staff Jeff McClurken, Provost Nina Mikhalevsky, Vice President of Student Affairs Juliette Landphair and Executive Director of Human Resources Beth Williams answered an array of questions about their respective areas.

“I just wanted to say thank you for all you’ve done,” McClurken said at the start of the session. He pointed to moving pieces – state budget calls, fall enrollment figures, government health orders and SCHEV suggestions – that will inform future decisions.

Grades are in, and face-to-face education is still the plan for the fall, McClurken said, reminding participants of President Paino’s task force designed to wade through the uncertainty and decipher how the details of in-person learning might play out.

“We know our students want to be here,” said Landphair, who stressed that UMW’s academic mission and its responsibility to maintain safety on campus are inextricable. Departments like dining, athletics and housing, she said, are already drafting plans for multiple scenarios in the fall.

The past few weeks have revealed the strengths of our community, said Landphair, who shared examples of parents’ positive feedback on University-issued communications.

Mikhalevsky praised faculty. “You all have done an absolutely incredible job and we have the data to prove that,” she said, referencing an upcoming open forum for faculty members.

Williams echoed that positivity, adding that she has found it “inspiring” to be part of the UMW workforce, with employees who have been “adaptable and flexible,” during this time of turmoil due to COVID-19. She issued reminders about the May 15 open enrollment deadline for health benefits; Employee Appreciation Day on Monday, May 11; and ongoing open Staff Advisory Council chats on Thursdays at 11.

Q&A participants raised questions about the ability to revamp course descriptions as circumstances become more clear, the status of funding for travel and its impact on tenure-track faculty, and how furlough and salary-reduction situations could play out if they become necessary. Other inquiries delved into current enrollment numbers, where branding efforts stand and the availability of personal protection equipment (PPE) .

The panelists addressed questions to the best of their ability. McClurken’s response to the question about PPE could have been applied to many inquiries. “I promise you, we are exploring the options,” he said. “I absolutely understand your concern, and we will bring that info to you as soon as we have it.”

Learn more by viewing the May 6, 2020, Q&A session on YouTube.