August 15, 2020

UMW Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Americans With Disabilities Act

When UMW junior Lueden Sheikhnureldin arrived at Simpson Library that early fall morning, something felt off. The old-style wooden chairs in the study area where she’d crammed for so many exams had been replaced by sleek gray-and-green seats.

UMW’s Office of Disability Resources offers access to students in need, with 12 percent of students registered to receive its services. This month, the University is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

UMW’s Office of Disability Resources offers access to students in need, with 12 percent of students registered to receive its services. This month, the University is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

“I couldn’t concentrate,” said Sheikhnureldin, whose ADHD can cause sensitivity to details like a chair’s texture and feel. “I thought, ‘This is confusing. Everything is changing. I can’t do this.’” She retreated to her Madison Hall room, instead, to study for a biology test.

An English major pursuing a degree in education, Sheikhnureldin is one of hundreds of UMW students with disabilities ranging from ADHD and autism to issues with vision, hearing and movement. “There really isn’t a category that isn’t represented here,” said Jessica Machado, director of the Office of Disability Resources (ODR), which provides services, accommodations and access.

It’s one of the most utilized offices of its type in Virginia, Machado said, with 12 percent of Mary Washington’s more than 4,000 students registered. That’s particularly poignant this month, while the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrates its 30th anniversary. UMW officials like Machado are using the milestone to recognize three decades of strides toward equality for the disabled and also the work left to do.

“We must directly challenge the assumptions and effects of ableism and work to ensure that every member of the UMW community can realize their goals and aspirations here, and that all of us together thrive and flourish,” Provost Nina Mikhalevsky wrote in an email to campus. Read more.

Summer Science Symposium Showcases Student Research

Senior Allison Grant explains how climate change has disproportionately affected redlined communities, a project she’s worked on under the guidance of Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science Pamela Grothe. Grant was one of 19 UMW students who presented their research yesterday over Zoom as part of Mary Washington’s Summer Science Symposium.

Senior Allison Grant explains how climate change has disproportionately affected redlined communities, a project she’s worked on under the guidance of Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science Pamela Grothe. Grant was one of 19 UMW students who presented their research yesterday over Zoom as part of Mary Washington’s Summer Science Symposium.

Temperatures soared yesterday, but Allison Grant was cool and calm as she explained how climate change has disproportionately affected low income neighborhoods that are impacted to a greater degree by heat.

“Redlining was outlawed over 50 years ago,” said the UMW senior, citing the discriminatory lending practice that prevented minorities from purchasing homes. “Yet it continues to have a damaging impact on current communities, especially African Americans.”

Grant was among the 19 students who participated in the University of Mary Washington’s Summer Science Institute (SSI), which engages undergraduates in an intense 10-week research experience – in collaboration with their professors and peers – and provides a jumpstart on projects they’ll continue throughout the school year. The SSI Research Symposium, held virtually over Zoom for the first time, gave these young scientists the chance to explain their methods and findings to a wider audience.

Students from six concentrations – biology, chemistry, Earth and environmental science, computer science, mathematics and physics – displayed giant posters and delivered oral presentations. They discussed real world topics, from the reduction of carbon emissions during the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of statistical models to predict weather patterns, to pollinator insect diversity and more effective ways for computers to multitask.

“SSI is about providing an authentic research experience, and we’re fortunate that we can continue to give this to our students,” said Associate Professor of Chemistry Davis Oldham, who coordinated this year’s program with Assistant Professor of Mathematics Jeb Collins. “They’re still learning new skills, receiving faculty feedback and getting opportunities they could not get in a classroom setting.” Read more.

‘COVID-19 in Context’ Course Highlighted on Education Blog

UMW’s eight-week “COVID-19 in Context” course was highlighted in a post on Bryan Alexander’s blog, “Academia Next: The Futures of Higher Education.” The article primarily focused on private liberal arts institutions – singling out the University of Mary Washington as a public liberal arts university.

The University of Mary Washington – that unusual thing, a public liberal arts university – also taught/teaches a summer seminar on the pandemic. Topics include biology, policy, communication, elections, climate change, social justice, art, literature, chemistry, geography, history, and finance. Professors of communication and math facilitate. Read more.

A message from President Paino regarding ICE decision on international students

The University of Mary Washington is alarmed by the recent decision from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency barring international students from entering or remaining in the United States in the event that they are able to enroll only online this fall. UMW has and will continue to welcome international students as valuable members of our community. These changes to student visa policies are arbitrary and damaging to the University, our students, and our region.

While the University is and will continue to monitor the situation, ongoing developments, and current legal actions, UMW is also taking specific steps in response:

  • The University, with the assistance of the Attorney General’s Office, is exploring how best to support the Harvard/MIT lawsuit challenging the forthcoming rules that bar online study for international students.
  • The University’s Director of the Center for International Education, Dr. Jose A. Sainz, is closely following developments and has been in communication with and providing support to all UMW students likely to experience impact from these policy changes.
  • International students may continue to avail themselves of academic and social support services such as advising, virtual access to the library, the James Farmer Multicultural Center, and the Talley Center for mental health as long as they are enrolled at UMW.
  • As part of UMW’s plan to reopen this fall, and as documented in our submission to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), UMW has committed to materially supporting international students in meeting federal guidelines for self-quarantine following entry into the United States prior to the start of classes.

To start the 2020-2021 academic year, UMW intends to offer courses delivered in multiple modalities: online, hybrid, and face-to-face. The process of deciding which courses will be taught in which modality is ongoing and evolving as circumstances change. Such choices will always be made in the interest of public health, the well-being of our faculty, staff and students, and our commitment to high quality instruction.

A particularly pernicious aspect of the Department of Homeland Security’s decision is that it irresponsibly pressures institutions to make decisions about teaching modalities that have nothing to do with health or pedagogy. Institutions of higher education must remain flexible in order to best respond to trends in public health data and the wellbeing of students and employees. If circumstances warrant, courses that are currently scheduled to meet face-to-face on campus must have the ability to go online without derailing the educational attainment of international students.

Fall 2020 is clearly an exceptional one for the entire world. Higher education has repeatedly assured students and other stakeholders that this environment is an anomaly and adversity mitigated only when we share responsibility and work together as a community. Yet this ruling seems to indicate that international students are secondary contributors to American education. It is a misguided framework, and most educators will attest to their experience that international students stand equal with U.S. students in their intellectual, social, and financial impact. The richness and diversity of thought brought by a variety of cultures are crucial to a global perspective that benefits all students and this nation. Either we stand together during this pandemic or we are all fundamentally weakened and vulnerable.

UMW Supports K-12 Teachers in Online Teaching

After doing their best to teach remotely for three months due to the global pandemic, Virginia’s K-12 teachers got word in June that they likely would return to teaching this fall – and at least some of it would be online. The sudden switch in spring had been hard enough; few of the state’s teachers had been trained in remote education or in keeping off-site students engaged.

They needed help. That’s when the University of Mary Washington’s College of Education (COE) stepped up. In collaboration with Continuing and Professional Studies (CPS) at UMW, a Summer Virtual Teaching Series quickly emerged.

“It has been an exciting opportunity to share the experience and knowledge of the College of Education faculty with local schoolteachers,” said Kristina Peck, UMW’s Director of Clinical Experiences.

In just four weeks, based on local educators’ input, UMW prepared six one-credit professional-development courses providing best practices in online instruction. Despite the tight schedule, UMW didn’t sacrifice quality, said Kimberly Young, CPS executive director. The classes had to meet the same standards as other COE courses. Read more.

Quarantine Can’t Quash UMW’s Spirit of Service

Senior Heather Strother is among the Mary Washington students who are contributing in their communities this summer, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Friends of the Rappahannock volunteer, she’s participating in socially distanced river clean-ups.

Senior Heather Strother is among the Mary Washington students who are contributing in their communities this summer, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Friends of the Rappahannock volunteer, she’s participating in socially distanced river clean-ups.

Maria Rhoads was worried when COVID-19 first hit. But the UMW senior decided fear shouldn’t stop her from serving her community.

“I’m low risk as a young person,” said Rhoads, whose first task as a Medical Reserve Corps volunteer was assisting with safety and sanitation at a local voting precinct. “Because of everything that’s happening in our world, I think it’s important for someone like me to help others.”

While many people are staying home, the pandemic hasn’t paused UMW’s passion for service. From encouraging civic participation to feeding families in need to socially distanced river clean-ups, Mary Washington students and alums are stepping up, using the skills and experiences they’ve acquired in college to give back – both in person and remotely – to their communities.

“Our students went from doing their planned work on campus this spring to recognizing a need to help others in the face of the pandemic,” said Leslie Martin, faculty director of UMW’s Center for Community Engagement. “The ethos of civic responsibility has really taken root, and they’re finding new ways to support their neighbors even in situations of such uncertainty.” Read more.

Student Publication Spreads Positivity During Pandemic

Created by UMW students under the guidance of Writing Center Director Gwendolyn Hale, The Positivity Post spreads uplifting news and some much-needed cheer to the Mary Washington community. Photo by Katrina Wright on Unsplash.

Created by UMW students under the guidance of Writing Center Director Gwendolyn Hale, The Positivity Post spreads uplifting news and some much-needed cheer to the Mary Washington community. Photo by Katrina Wright on Unsplash.

Abruptly, in mid-March – as the coronavirus pandemic began its rampage – Cosette Veeder-Shave ’22 had to leave Mary Washington and return to her home in New York. She could no longer physically be with her professors or her classmates; she just saw tiny images of them on her computer screen as she continued her courses online.

Meanwhile, sickness and death surrounded her. “So many of my family and friends were in the hospital,” she said. “I felt so helpless.”

So, she turned – virtually, of course – to three of her fellow staffers at UMW’s Writing Center who also were experiencing anxiety and discouragement. One of them, Piper Giannini ’21, suggested they do something to “bring smiles to people’s faces, even if short-term.”

The Positivity Post was born. The first issue came out April 13, and it has faithfully landed in 100-plus subscribers’ inboxes each Monday since then. This weekly dose of glass-half-fullness is distributed as a Google document that lacks high-tech touches but brims with heartfelt material.

Each edition features an uplifting photograph, a day-brightening story (a recent one was about customizing creative face masks) and news from around Mary Washington in a section called “Kindred Eagles.” There’s at least one highlighted pet, a faculty profile and “POGOs,” described by The Positivity Post as “Positive Gossip – messages that members of the UMW community send [anonymously] to others to show appreciation or recognition.” Read more.

Livestream Session Addressed Return-to-Campus Culture

Faculty and staff attended a live Q&A webinar via Zoom yesterday, as the state entered Phase 3 of the governor’s “Forward Virginia” reopening plan. Called “Commitment to Community,” the session focused on how the University will help students prepare for and commit to behavioral and social expectations and requirements when they return to campus next month.

UMW Chief of Staff Jeff McClurken moderated the livestream event, which featured panelists Vice President for Student Affairs Juliette Landphair, Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker, Assistant Dean for Residence Life and Housing David Fleming, and University Physician and Director of the Student Health Center Nancy Wang.

“We know how much our students want to come back to campus,” Landphair said. “They want to resume their holistic Mary Washington experience as much as possible.”

Landphair explained that establishing a culture of compliance – an environment that encourages adherence to sound public health principles and a purposeful intent to prevent the spread of disease – is a “gating requirement,” or prerequisite to re-opening. In that vein, UMW’s Return to Campus Plan will be submitted to SCHEV for approval and shared with campus on Monday, July 6.

The plan, panelists said, focuses on moving forward the core mission of Mary Washington and builds on existing codes of conduct, as well as the University’s statement of community values, known as ASPIRE.

“We don’t want to see a situation where individuals feel stigmatized in any way,” said Rucker, who has spent the past several weeks speaking with incoming students. “That’s why ASPIRE is also important. We want to celebrate everyone but also make sure that everyone is committed to ensuring that the academic process moves forward as smoothly as possible.”

Students, faculty and staff will be asked to complete training modules focused on “MMDC” – monitoring, masking, distancing and cleaning – and all individuals must pledge to uphold the guidelines.

Among their many questions, employees who tuned in to the hourlong session asked how faculty and staff will be expected to enforce behavioral guidelines, how claimed health exemptions to regulations will be handled and how the University is collaborating with city officials.

The Return to Campus Plan will address many of yesterday’s topics of concern, such as quarantine and isolation, testing and tracing, and communication of positive cases, McClurken said. If questions still exist after reading the document, he encouraged employees to restate them at next week’s livestream Q&A event on Wednesday, July 8, at 3 p.m., via Zoom or YouTube.

Watch yesterday’s Q&A below.

 

 

Alumnus Earns Competitive Fellowship to Teach Constitution

2006 graduate Sam Ulmschneider (left), a global studies and history teacher based in Richmond, was recently named Virginia’s 2020 recipient of the James Madison Fellowship.

2006 graduate Sam Ulmschneider (left), a global studies and history teacher based in Richmond, was recently named Virginia’s 2020 recipient of the James Madison Fellowship.

Persistence paid off for UMW graduate Sam Ulmschneider.

The global studies and history teacher was recently named Virginia’s 2020 recipient of the James Madison Fellowship – on his fourth attempt to earn the award.

The $24,000 prize is given to just one recipient per state each year to promote outstanding teaching of the U.S. Constitution in secondary schools. It will allow Ulmschneider to pursue a second master’s degree while he continues to teach gifted high schoolers at his other alma mater, Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School in Richmond.

Two of Ulmschneider’s previous fellowship applications resulted in his being named a runner-up. Undiscouraged, he kept applying, a process that included a lot of essay-writing. “I felt like my students do when they’re filling out their college applications,” he said.

His own education at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School – and the Advanced Placement credits he earned there – allowed him to focus on his academic interests almost immediately at UMW.

“The advising system was wonderful, and it’s one of the things I took away from Mary Washington,” said Ulmschneider, who double majored in history and philosophy with a minor in religion, and joined the University’s club fencing team. Read more.

Doctor Supports Veterans, the Underserved

1999 Mary Washington alumnus Dr. Anthony D. Jones’ military-focused medical career has also allowed him to volunteer his services to those with HIV and other underserved patients. Photo by Clement Britt

1999 Mary Washington alumnus Dr. Anthony D. Jones’ military-focused medical career has also allowed him to volunteer his services to those with HIV and other underserved patients. Photo by Clement Britt.

This story, written by Daryl Lease ’85, originally appeared in the University of Mary Washington Magazine’s spring/summer 2020 issue.

As a pre-med student at Mary Washington, Anthony D. Jones ’99 volunteered at the nearby Lloyd Moss Free Clinic, shadowing doctors as they provided care to low-income residents, including patients with HIV/AIDS. The experience helped set him on a path of serving the underserved.

“Back then, having HIV was more or less a death sentence,” Jones recalled. “The physicians at the clinic showed a whole lot of compassion taking care of HIV patients. That left a good impression on me.”

Today, the physician is chief medical officer of the Military Entrance Processing Station at Fort Lee, Virginia, and works for Veterans Evaluation Services in Richmond, where he conducts compensation exams for veterans, and recently assisted in daily COVID-19 briefings for a division in the Department of Defense.

He also volunteered at a Virginia Department of Health men’s clinic focused on sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Through the nonprofit Minority Health Consortium, he has provided HIV testing and assisted with care coordination for newly diagnosed HIV patients. Read more.