August 12, 2022

UMW Chooses Alum to Fill Key Communications Role

Amy Jessee ’06 will step into UMW’s Executive Director of University Communications role in June.

Amy Jessee ’06 will step into UMW’s Executive Director of University Communications role in June.

Incoming Executive Director of University Communications Amy Jessee has already mapped out her first days on the job.

As chief communicator for the University of Mary Washington, Jessee will begin by listening – to students, staff, faculty, administrators, alumni, community supporters and others with a stake in telling the university’s stories in the ways that matter most.

When she arrives on campus in late June, she won’t have to start from scratch. Jessee is a 2006 graduate of UMW, where she majored in business administration and English and earned the Colgate W. Darden Jr. Award, bestowed on the undergraduate with the highest grade-point average. She holds a master of arts degree in professional communication from Clemson University. Read more.

Fifth Annual Mary Wash Giving Day Breaks Records

Giving Day recap graphicThe numbers are officially in! Last month, the University of Mary Washington community came together on Tuesday, April 5, in celebration of the fifth annual Mary Wash Giving Day, a 24-hour fundraising extravaganza to support UMW students, faculty and programs.

Now that all online, mailed and phoned-in contributions have been counted, the day’s official results show that this year’s total broke previous Giving Day records: $670,811, from 2,882 gifts made by 2,093 supporters, including 479 first-time donors.

Generous donations were made by alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students and friends to 122 different areas across the University, including academic, arts, athletic, service, career and cultural programs. “It really highlights how broad interests are at Mary Washington,” Director of Annual Giving Shelby Orlando ’14 said. “Our supporters can give anywhere their passion lies.” Read more.

Business Class: Alums Name Classroom for Beloved Professor

Professor Emeritus of Business Galen deGraff stands with Rob Strassheim ’96 in the doorway of the newly named Galen deGraff Classroom in Woodward Hall. Photo courtesy of Rob and Sarah Strassheim.

Professor Emeritus of Business Galen deGraff stands with Rob Strassheim ’96 in the doorway of the newly named Galen deGraff Classroom in Woodward Hall. Photo courtesy of Rob and Sarah Strassheim.

For Rob Strassheim ’96 and his wife, Sarah Gildersleeve Strassheim ’01, the idea to honor one of their favorite faculty members began with a passed note. Not in class, Rob says, but during a meeting nearly a decade ago about naming classrooms in Woodard Hall, now home of University of Mary Washington’s College of Business, or COB.

“I remember it vividly,” says Rob, who serves on UMW’s Board of Visitors. He recalls slipping a piece of paper to his wife with the name of someone who made a tremendous impact on both of their lives and professional careers: Professor Emeritus of Business Galen deGraff.

But the contents of that note didn’t stay secret for long. The couple soon embarked on a fundraising effort to name a classroom after their former professor, who taught business courses, primarily finance, for over two decades at the University until he retired in 2015. COB recently dedicated the Galen deGraff Classroom, thanks to generous gifts made by Mary Washington alumni, friends and former colleagues. The Strassheims also led a fundraising campaign to create an endowed scholarship in Dr. deGraff’s name to help recruit out-of-state students who plan to major in business.

“Dr. deGraff and the University of Mary Washington changed my trajectory,” says Sarah, now global chief financial officer for Merkle, a worldwide customer experience management company. “As a professor, he saw something in me that I didn’t have the confidence to recognize in myself.” Read more.

Mission Complete: Innovation Challenge @Dahlgren a Strong Win for STEM

From left, U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Virginia, and University of Mary Washington’s John Burrow watch as King George high-schoolers Samantha Jones, Susan Randall and Ashton Jones compete in the Innovation Challenge @Dahlgren. Back right are UMW Assistant Professor of Special Education Kevin Good and Dahlgren Campus Director Michael Hubbard. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

From left, U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Virginia, and University of Mary Washington’s John Burrow watch as King George high-schoolers Samantha Jones, Susan Randall and Ashton Jones compete in the Innovation Challenge @Dahlgren. Back right are UMW Assistant Professor of Special Education Kevin Good and Dahlgren Campus Director Michael Hubbard. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Keegan Kearl tapped out calculations on his cellphone while Christopher Ashley and Rodrigo Alexander Veliz hunched over a laptop. All three, along with their Spotsylvania High School teammates, were intent on making a robot do their bidding.

The teens were among more than 70 students representing 12 districts – from Richmond to North Stafford, and throughout the Northern Neck – at last weekend’s début Innovation Challenge @Dahlgren, conceived as an annual event. Fredericksburg Christian School took home the top prize – $3,000, a ginormous trophy and a year’s worth of bragging rights – in the two-day robotics-style competition aimed at boosting STEM learning.

“This is an opportunity to show how important these skills and capabilities are,” University of Mary Washington College of Business Lecturer John Burrow told the competitors at the start of the contest, held at UMW’s Dahlgren Campus. “Your goals are important to the nation, the region and the community.” Read more.

‘It’s Gonna Be May’: Alum’s Meme Celebrates a Decade

A decade ago, UMW alumna Kianna Davis ’13 created the famous ‘It’s Gonna Be May’ meme, which has since become a cultural phenomenon. Here, she shows off her April 2012 calendar from her junior year, which includes Mary Washington events such as Mortar Board and the Leadership Awards. Photo courtesy of Kianna Davis.

A decade ago, UMW alumna Kianna Davis ’13 created the famous ‘It’s Gonna Be May’ meme, which has since become a cultural phenomenon. Here, she shows off her April 2012 calendar from her junior year, which includes Mary Washington events such as Mortar Board and the Leadership Awards. Photo courtesy of Kianna Davis.

University of Mary Washington alumna Kianna Davis ’13 was in her Westmoreland Hall second-floor room, a year away from graduation, when she created her first-ever meme.

Within 24 hours, the image she shared of a young, fresh-faced Justin Timberlake – emblazoned with a now famous play on the song lyrics to It’s Gonna Be Me – had earned tens of thousands of social media interactions. Even her friends, family and fellow Eagles were sharing it, unaware that Davis had made it.

“I had been planning my busy April calendar and posted it as a joke to my friends,” said Davis, who majored in business at UMW and helped plan concerts and other campus events through Giant Productions and the University Programming Board. Still a dedicated fan of Timberlake’s former boy band, *NSYNC, she “had no idea what the meme would become.” Read more.

Research & Creativity Symposium Spotlights Student Achievement

Senior Jasmine Villanueva presents “Mastering English and a Home Language: The Truth Behind English as a Second Language Instruction” during last week’s Research & Creativity Day Symposium. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Senior Jasmine Villanueva presents “Mastering English and a Home Language: The Truth Behind English as a Second Language Instruction” during last week’s Research & Creativity Day Symposium. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Nearly 300 student presenters took part in the 16th annual University of Mary Washington Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium on Friday, the last day of classes.

Posters, oral presentations, creative writing – even an art exhibit and play – represented a year’s worth of work in science and math, education and business, history and foreign language, and everything in between. Students, faculty and staff, proud family members and friends gathered in the Hurley Convergence Center and other spaces throughout campus to share and discuss.

“It’s an opportunity for students to see our peers doing amazing work,” said senior Keegan Fredrick, a political science major. “It provides an avenue for students to share what we’ve been working on for all these months.” Read more.

Beloved UMW Tradition ‘Devil-Goat Day’ is Back!

UMW held its first in-person Devil-Goat Day since the pandemic. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

UMW held its first in-person Devil-Goat Day since the pandemic. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

A uniquely UMW tradition brought an electric vibe to campus yesterday, with the revival of Devil-Goat Day.

“It’s the first time back since the pandemic,” said senior Carleigh Rahn. “There’s a new energy.”

Music was pumping on Jefferson Square, where a sea of students dressed in red (Devils, who graduate in odd years) and green (Goats, who graduate in even years) gathered for a high-energy, full-spirit competition that dates back to the 1920s. The event, which had been held virtually for the past two years due to COVID, returned in-person. And students were ready!

“Seeing everyone out here, it’s just so euphoric,” said senior Arianna Rodriguez, whose class hadn’t been able to gather for the end-of-the-academic-year ritual since 2019. Read more. 

Marketing Assignment Puts Immersive Learning on the Menu

The first episode of the ‘Shelby’s Sweets’ podcast, created by UMW student Shelby De Jong, features a tutorial on making mini-pumpkin pies. The YouTube video is part of a Podcast Kitchen assignment, giving marketing students real-world experience and a creation they can share with potential employers.

The first episode of the ‘Shelby’s Sweets’ podcast, created by UMW student Shelby De Jong, features a tutorial on making mini-pumpkin pies. The YouTube video is part of a Podcast Kitchen assignment, giving marketing students real-world experience and a creation they can share with potential employers.

Something’s been cooking at the University of Mary Washington.

The Podclass Kitchen experience has marketing students whipping up their own online culinary productions and walking away with an appetite for more.

“It was basically like starting our own business, and we did it hands-on,” said UMW junior Florina Aliu, who launched Cook Boss on YouTube. The first episode walks viewers through the creation of a Margherita pizza made with stone-fired flatbread and her mother’s homemade mozzarella. “I learned a lot more actually doing it than just reading about it.”

The Podclass Kitchen curriculum management system takes students from theory to practice, as they complete a series of lessons on brand identity, marketing strategy and content creation. The final dish? A short video that’s the start of an actual podcast on the trendy topic of cooking, and a polished product they can share with prospective employers.

“It gives them direct experience with social media promotion,” said College of Business Professor Lance Gentry, who recently incorporated the educational interface into his Principles of Marketing course. “Some of them are really getting into it with professional quality output.” Read more. 

Professors Receive Top Faculty Awards

The University of Mary Washington bestowed honors on two professors at the general faculty meeting on Wednesday, April 20.

Professor of English Chris Foss received the 2022 Waple Faculty Professional Achievement Award.

Professor of English Chris Foss received the 2022 Waple Faculty Professional Achievement Award.

Chemistry Professor and Honors Program Director Kelli Slunt received the second annual Board of Visitors (BOV) Faculty Leadership Award, and Professor of English Chris Foss received the 2022 Waple Faculty Professional Achievement Award.

Established a decade ago as a gift from the estate of Shirley Van Epps Waple ’52, the Waple Award recognizes a faculty member who has made outstanding contributions to their scholarly or creative area of expertise. The recipient must have been a full-time faculty member for at least seven years.Foss, who has been at Mary Washington for 23 years, is the author of numerous scholarly publications and academic conference papers. His particular emphases within his specialty area are British Romantic and Victorian literature. Award presenter Kyle Schultz, associate professor in the College of Education, noted that for the past 16 years, Foss has also become internationally known as an expert in the field of disability studies.

A member of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies’ editorial board, Foss has been instrumental in establishing UMW’s disability-friendly environment and has served as a key advocate for the establishment of a disability studies minor.

Chemistry Professor and Honors Program Director Kelli Slunt received the second annual Board of Visitors (BOV) Faculty Leadership Award.

Chemistry Professor and Honors Program Director Kelli Slunt received the second annual Board of Visitors (BOV) Faculty Leadership Award.

Established in 2020 by the UMW Board of Visitors, the BOV Leadership Award is designated for a faculty member who advances the mission of UMW by spearheading a major institutional initiative or program. On the 10th anniversary of UMW’s Honors Program, it was fitting that Slunt receive the award, said presenters BOV Vice Rector Devon Cushman ’93 and Marty Abbott ’72, chair of the BOV’s Academic and Student Affairs Committee.

A 1991 graduate of Mary Washington, Slunt has become the face of the Honors Program, molding it into a significant recruitment and retention tool. According to her nominators, she always puts students first. Cushman said of the program’s inaugural director, “Kelli Slunt makes sure the Honors Program matters.” Read the story on the UMW news site.

Eagle Awards Celebrate Campus Leaders, Dean Rucker

Senior Brianna Reaves received the Grace Mann Launch Award at the recent Eagle Awards ceremony, while Dean Cedric Rucker received the new Eagle Beyond Compare Award. Photo by Kayla Zegada.

Senior Brianna Reaves received the Grace Mann Launch Award at the recent Eagle Awards ceremony, while Dean Cedric Rucker received the new Eagle Beyond Compare Award. Photo by Kayla Zegada.

University of Mary Washington senior Brianna Reaves was presented with the Grace Mann Launch Award during the annual Eagle Awards last Thursday. Held in person for the first time since the pandemic, the event honored more than a dozen campus leaders in the University Center’s Chandler Ballroom. A newly established award was presented to Cedric Rucker, associate vice president and dean of Student Life, who will retire this June.

“Every class is amazing, but looking out at the students gathered here tonight – you’ve led our community through one of the most difficult times in its history,” UMW President Troy Paino said. “You embody the Mary Washington spirit.”

Rucker, visibly emotional throughout the ceremony, presented Reaves with the $6,900 award. “With tireless initiative, integrity, institutional investment … her leadership is deeply respected across all sectors of the University community,” said Rucker, acknowledging Reaves’ achievement as the first Black female student to become UMW Student Government Association president.

Grace Mann was a UMW leader and social justice activist who died seven 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.

Reaves, a sociology major and social justice minor, began her Mary Washington experience by becoming elected class president during her freshman and sophomore years. After participating in a 2018 Social Justice Fall Break Trip through the James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC), she made it her mission to make UMW a more inclusive and welcoming community. Read more.