December 7, 2022

Rao Named to Richmond Forum Board of Directors

Professor of Communication and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Professor of Communication and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Professor of Communication Anand Rao joined the Board of Directors of the Richmond Forum this summer and will serve a three-year term to support the work of The Forum and its Speech and Debate Initiative. Rao, who serves as chair of UMW’s Department of Communication and Digital Studies, has presented at dozens of national and international academic conferences, and regularly serves as a consultant and workshop leader for academic programs in the United States. He has more than 25 years of experience with speech and debate at the high school and college level and served as a consultant on a documentary about the National Debate Tournament.

The Richmond Forum is the largest nonprofit lecture series in America and produces five programs each year. The biggest and most influential names in the world have taken the stage at The Richmond Forum, including past U.S. presidents, sitting heads of state and leaders from the sciences, arts, business and more. In 2018, the Richmond Forum created the Speech and Debate Initiative with the goal of having high-performing speech and debate activities in every public middle and high school in the Richmond region by 2025, the 250th anniversary of Patrick Henry’s historic speech. National Speech & Debate Association Executive Director Scott Wunn recognized the importance of this initiative, stating “the Richmond Forum has the potential to spark a national trend in which independent nonprofits work closely with local school districts, statewide organizations and the NSDA to strengthen speech and debate in their communities.”

Rao has regularly contributed to Richmond area debate student workshops and this August was an invited speaker for The Forum’s inaugural coaches workshop training 25 new speech and debate coaches in the region.

UMW Presents Top Faculty Awards

Professor of Religion Mary Beth Mathews earned the Grellet C. Simpson Award, the University of Mary Washington’s most prestigious honor for excellence in undergraduate teaching, established in 1972 and presented to a senior faculty member.

Professor of Religion Mary Beth Mathews

Professor of Religion Mary Beth Mathews

She was one of several professors honored at the fall semester’s opening faculty meeting. Most awards generally are presented at Commencement; this year, limited attendance at graduation ceremonies deferred some presentations.

As the most recent recipient of the award, Mathews was praised for her “spellbinding” lectures. She “challenges a broad community of students to think critically and reflect, both in and beyond the classroom,” said Associate Professor of Linguistics Janie Lee, chair of UMW’s Sabbaticals, Fellowships and Faculty Awards committee.

Mathews, who has taught at Mary Washington for 21 years, is a leading scholar of American – particularly African-American – and European religious history. She has led the charge to create UMW’s interdisciplinary African American studies minor and will serve as the program’s first director, beginning this year.

Described by Lee as a “pioneer in digital pedagogy and distance learning,” Mathews has team-taught a digital course, Divided Houses: Secession and Separatists Movements, and taught the Race & Revolution and Religion & Social Movements in the U.S. First -Year Seminars.

Professor of Communication Anand Rao received the J. Christopher “Topher” Bill Award for his contributions to the University and involvement and leadership in the greater community. Since 2003, this honor has been presented annually to a full-time member of the teaching faculty who has served at UMW for at least seven years and has a significant record of service accomplishments.

Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Rao’s “university and college service alone fills more than a page of his CV,” Lee said. In his 19 years at Mary Washington, he has held critical leadership roles on and off campus, serving twice as University Faculty Council chair and leading the Faculty Senate of Virginia. Rao also launched UMW’s Communication and Digital Studies major and department, which he currently chairs.

During the pandemic, Rao participated in the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Education Response and Recovery work group and co-facilitated UMW’s popular COVID-19 in Context and Life After COVID courses.

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science Pamela Grothe ’06 received the UMW Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award, given annually to an exceptional faculty member who has served the University for at least two years but no more than five.

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Pamela Grothe

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Pamela Grothe

Grothe returned a decade after her graduation to serve as a professor at her alma mater, where she has excelled in the areas of teaching, research and service. She “truly goes above and beyond,” Lee said, citing Grothe’s willingness to mentor students, manage her department’s social media accounts, serve on various university committees, and engage with current and prospective students, as well as alumni.

In addition, Grothe has developed a new study abroad course for students and secured a Virtual Library of Virginia grant to teach courses with Open Access Resources, Lee said, all while managing a heavy teaching load.

Among faculty who received awards during Commencement week earlier this year were Professor of Mathematics Janusz Konieczny, who earned the Waple Faculty Professional Achievement Award; and Professor of Marketing Kashef Majid, recipient of the Mary W. Pinschmidt Award, annually presented by the graduating class. Professor of Biological Science Andrew Dolby received the inaugural Board of Visitors Faculty Leadership Award.

UMW Offers Free Course to All: ‘Life After COVID’

Building on the enthusiastic response to last year’s COVID-19 in Context course, the University of Mary Washington is offering another free, open-to-all series in June. Life After COVID, delivered to homes, backyards and porches via Zoom and YouTube, will run Tuesdays and Thursdays, June 1 to July 1.

Life After COVID artwork featuring a man on a ladder leaning on a coronavirus cell, looking through a telescope. “We view opportunities such as the Life After COVID course as part of our mission as a public liberal arts and sciences institution,” said UMW College of Arts and Sciences Dean Keith Mellinger, who is co-facilitating the course with Assistant Dean Betsy Lewis and Communication and Digital Studies Chair Anand Rao.

UMW’s largest course ever, last year’s COVID-19 in Context event reached nearly 2,000 participants in 39 states, plus Washington, D.C., and countries across the globe, including Canada, England, France, Switzerland, Japan and Ghana. Like its predecessor, the course this summer will bring together current and incoming students, alumni, parents, community members, faculty and staff to explore timely COVID-related topics, Rao said. “It’s a big tent for academic discussion, which is the best model of what higher education can provide in today’s world.” Read more.

Rao Interviewed About Gandhi’s Influence on James Farmer

Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

The legacy of Mahatma Gandhi goes well beyond the Indian Freedom Struggle. He has influenced countless movements and struggles for freedom and democracy around the world, decolonization struggles, including the civil rights movement within the United States.

The Metta Center for Nonviolence interviewed P. Anand Rao (Professor of Communication, Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies) to discuss Gandhi’s influence on Dr. James Farmer and the American Civil Rights Movement. The interview is part of the Metta Center’s podcast, “Nonviolence Radio,” and the interview was conducted by UMW alum Stephanie Van Hook. The interview can be found at:

Rao Pens Editorial on Gandhi for ‘Great Lives’ Lecture

Professor of Communication and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Professor of Communication and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Professor of Communication and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao penned an editorial on the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi, in The Free Lance-Star in advance of his ‘Great Lives’ lecture on Thursday, March 11. The lecture can be watched here.

WHILE touring India in 1959, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Mani Bhavan, the house where Mahatma Gandhi had lived in Mumbai. It was in this home that Gandhi launched his Indian movement for truth and nonviolence, called satyagraha.

The home had been turned into a museum, and the upstairs room where Gandhi had slept still held his mattress and shoes. When King visited, he asked if he could spend the night in that room, saying, “I am not going anywhere else. I am going to stay here, because I am getting vibrations of Gandhi.”

The curators pulled two cots into the room, and Rev. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, spent the night next to Gandhi’s mattress. Soon after, King told All India Radio that he had decided to adopt Gandhi’s methods of civil disobedience as his own.

Gandhi’s philosophy of satyagraha inspired development of our own civil rights movement. Dr. King returned from his trip to India committed to employing a Gandhian strategy of nonviolence.

But Dr. King was not the only civil rights leader to follow Gandhi’s philosophy. While Dr. King was introduced to Gandhi and his practice of nonviolent protest in the late 1940s, James Farmer started following the teachings of Gandhi as early as 1940. Farmer employed the techniques and practice of satyagraha in the first civil rights sit-in in Chicago in 1942. Read more.

UMW Faculty Learning Community Publishes Online

Eleven UMW faculty from a variety of disciplines worked together in 2020 as the Advocacy, Deliberation, and Civic Engagement Learning Community. The group was led by Leslie Martin and Anand Rao, representing the Center for Community Engagement and the Speaking Intensive Program. The goal of the group was for the participants to work together to develop course materials that incorporate advocacy and deliberation activities to support civic learning in their courses. Modeled after a similar initiative at VCU, the UMW faculty learning community met through the Spring 2020 semester to study the ways that advocacy, deliberation, and debate, could be used in class, and the faculty then developed materials, including activities, assignments, and rubrics, for use in college classes. The materials were collected and were recently published online through UMW Eagle Scholar. The publication is titled “Supporting Advocacy, Deliberation, and Civic Learning in the Classroom,” and includes contributions from the following faculty: Leslie Martin (Sociology), Anand Rao (Communication), Adrienne Brovero (Communication, UMW Debate), Gonzalo Campos-Dintrans (Spanish, FSEM), Steve Greenlaw (Economics, FSEM), Pamela Grothe (Environmental Sciences), Jason Hayob-Matzke (Philosophy), Jodie Hayob-Matzke (Environmental Sciences), Christine Henry (Historic Preservation), Joseph Romero (Classics), and Andrea Livi Smith (Historic Preservation).

Subramanian on With Good Reason

Assistant Professor of Communication Sushma Subramanian

Assistant Professor of Communication Sushma Subramanian

Sushma Subramanian, assistant professor of journalism, appeared on a special Valentine’s Day episode of With Good Reason to talk about her new book on the sense of touch, which was released this week

Subramanian Published in Elle Magazine – “Your Husband Cheated. Should You Be Able to Sue His Mistress?”

Elle Magazine – Feb 4, 2021

Sushma Subramanian, assistant professor of journalism, published a story in Elle Magazine’s February issue covering a North Carolina case involving “alienation of affection,” a legal term used to describe the breakup of a marriage by a third party. It asks questions such as: Is marriage a contract just like any other, or is it mostly an emotional affair? Read more here:

Subramanian Published in Elle Magazine

Assistant Professor of Communication Sushma Subramanian

Assistant Professor of Communication Sushma Subramanian

Sushma Subramanian, assistant professor of journalism in Communication and Digital Studies, wrote an essay for the October issue of Elle Magazine about what she learned about herself by joining massage school and how it relates to living through a pandemic. The story also promotes her forthcoming book “How to Feel: The Science and Meaning of Touch,” which recently received a positive review from Publishers Weekly.

Subramanian Published in The Atlantic

Assistant Professor of Journalism Sushma Subramanian

Assistant Professor of Journalism Sushma Subramanian

Sushma Subramanian, assistant professor of journalism in the Communication and Digital Studies Department has written a piece for The Atlantic about endangered pink river dolphins in Brazil. The story explores what the myths surrounding these dolphins can teach us about ourselves and is based on her travels in the Amazon. Read more.