December 4, 2022

Ballot-topia: UMW Students Praised for Voter Participation

Junior philosophy major and Campus Vote Project Fellow Kate McDaid (front, left) works with UMW Votes to help freshman Emma Goehner prepare to head to the polls. Seventy-nine percent of UMW students (more than the national average) cast their ballots in the last election. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Junior philosophy major and Campus Vote Project Fellow Kate McDaid (front, left) works with UMW Votes to help freshman Emma Goehner prepare to head to the polls. Seventy-nine percent of UMW students (more than the national average) cast their ballots in the last election. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Wearing a white slicker and black rain boots, University of Mary Washington senior Caroline Mowdy approached a tent set up outside George Washington Hall. She needed a ride to the polls. Soon, she was in psychology major Christian Lyman’s blue Toyota Scion and on the way to her voting site, Dorothy Hart Community Center in Fredericksburg.

“As an environmental sustainability major, protections and regulations are important to me,” Mowdy said. “In almost every class I’ve been in, I’ve learned that it all comes back to politics.”

With key Virginia appointments at stake, UMW students like Mowdy braved today’s cool, drizzly weather to get to the polls. It’s the Mary Washington way. Seventy-nine percent of UMW students – more than the national average – cast ballots in the last election, according to the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE) report, released last week. Today, UMW Votes, a group that encourages engaged citizenship, lined up a cavalcade of cars, vans and even a trolley to transport students to polling sites and make sure their voices were heard.

“It’s really important, no matter who they vote for,” said sophomore historic preservation major Vivian Reinhardt, who cast her absentee ballot weeks ago but worked with UMW Votes to help those who’d waited until Election Day. “We need more turnout from every age and demographic possible.” Read more.

Head Start Gift Box Drive 2021

Hello, UMW Faculty and Staff!

COAR’s annual Head Start Gift Box Drive is back this year, and happening right now!

During this drive, we fill wrapped shoebox-size boxes with small toys and necessities for three- to five-year-old students in the Head Start program at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania schools. The boxes will be delivered to the students by Dean Rucker (dressed as Santa) and COAR staff during finals week. Each box should include a small toy, hat, gloves, toothbrush, toothpaste, coloring book/stickers, and markers or crayons. A list of required, recommended, and prohibited items is available on our Facebook page and Instagram, as well as inside the boxes.

We will be tabling at the University Center lobby from 11:00 AM-2:00 PM Monday-Friday beginning on November 8 and ending on November 19. Boxes may be checked out at our table or in the Center for Community Engagement during 9:00-5:00 office hours. We are also happy to deliver them to you anywhere on campus – just email us and let us know how many you would like. COAR staff will also be making the rounds in the next two weeks to various academic buildings, so you can pick one up then. We ask that you return any and all boxes by Tuesday, November 23th at 5 PM to the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) Suite 320 in the University Center.

If you are interested in checking out a box (or a few) please do not hesitate to reach out or stop by our table at the UC!

Best,
Carleigh Rahn
COAR Staff Director
coarumw@gmail.com

Updates from the Center for Community Engagement

Hi y’all, happy fall – Here are some upcoming events from our corner of the community:

  1. a. Interested in including community engagement in your courses, but not sure how to connect with a community partner?

On Thursday, Oct 14th at 4pm, please join the Center for Community Engagement for a panel on Establishing Community Partnerships!

Are you interested in exploring community engaged teaching or research, but wonder how to create a good partnership with a community organization? How do you look for possible partners? What are good strategies for approaching them? What types of communication help keep the wheels turning smoothly (or “smoothly”)? What are crucial things to know in starting & maintaining a relationship?

Come hear from an interdisciplinary panel of faculty as they describe their experiences, and then settle in for some Q/A and discussion.

Meeting via zoom; please register through this form, and we will send you a link.

  1. Looking for new opportunities to support some of our community members?

Fredericksburg City Public Schools are looking for volunteers this year to help in the classrooms. They are eager to find people to help out in the Kindergarten classes at Hugh Mercer Elementary School, but have other opportunities available as well. Please fill out this form and we will be in touch to set up your volunteer times.

Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement program is working hard to welcome a large number of refugees from Afghanistan. They are looking for some passionate volunteers who could commit to a 10 hours training, and 3 hours/week of work, helping families do important things like registering children in school, seeking housing, etc. Does this sound like you? If so, complete this form, we will connect you with their coordinator.

  1. THANK YOU for all of your support of the school supply drive for Loisann’s Hope House sponsored by University Staff Council. Back packs and school supplies overflow the donation boxes!!

We are still collecting donations of menstrual supplies, in partnership with Women’s, Gender & Sexuality studies – to give to FCPS teachers, for students in need. Donation boxes are outside the Center for Community Engagement on the 3rd floor of the UC, Combs Lobby, and Monroe 340.

  1. Don’t forget election day is Tuesday Nov. 2nd. Early voting is open! UMW Votes will be providing rides to the polls and information tables on election day, and keep your eyes open for Day on Democracy programming on campus.
  2. If you, or folks you know, are in need of financial assistance the Rappahannock United Way ALICE fund can provide assistance with one-time/short term housing needs, car repair, child care needs, or other types of crisis assistance.

Hope you’re all well – please holler if we can be of help.

Leslie

Faculty Director, Center for Community Engagement
Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Mary Washington

Students Make a Difference Through ‘Into the Streets’

From left to right, Aniya Stewart, Kaylee Deardorff and Cassidy Richardson assemble lunches for Micah Ecumenical Ministries. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

From left to right, Aniya Stewart, Kaylee Deardorff and Cassidy Richardson assemble lunches for Micah Ecumenical Ministries. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

On a balmy September morning, a group of University of Mary Washington students gathered on Ball Circle. Donning shirts emblazoned with a quote from author James Baldwin – “The world is before you, and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in” – they were ready to make a difference.

“It’s still important to volunteer and serve people in need, even in a pandemic,” said senior Elizabeth Lopez, who was among the 100-plus students who participated in Saturday’s Into the Streets. Hosted by Community Outreach and Resources, or COAR, the annual tradition provides an array of service projects, including weeding gardens, picking up trash and organizing the Eagle Resource Closet for students in need. A group also used chalk to adorn Campus Walk with inspirational messages promoting UMW’s spirit of service.

“Mary Washington students returned to campus with such a renewed sense of commitment to serve those in our broader Fredericksburg community,” said Sarah Dewees, associate director of UMW’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE). 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.

Day on Democracy Encourages Voting and Civic Engagement

Held on Election Day, the inaugural Day on Democracy, a campus-wide celebration organized by Mary Washington students and alums, encourages civic education and participation and makes voting easier for UMW students.

Held on Election Day, the inaugural Day on Democracy, a campus-wide celebration organized by Mary Washington students and alums, encourages civic education and participation and makes voting easier for UMW students.

Ashley Utz was a freshman at the University of Mary Washington when she registered to vote. To cast her ballot, she needed to find time during her busy class schedule and figure out which polling place was hers.

“My inexperience with the voting process made it all the more challenging,” said Utz, now a senior, who has spent the past two years working with fellow students and Marina Castro-Meirelles ’18 to launch UMW’s inaugural Day on Democracy, making voting easier for Mary Washington students. Cancelling lecture classes on Election Day is just one aspect of this nonpartisan celebration – the first student-initiated event of its kind at a public, four-year institution in the United States – filled with civic education and political participation opportunities.

At the same time, in response to a polarized election season, the University is reminding students to honor others’ opinions and uphold UMW’s community values through ASPIRE Speak, a new initiative that promotes civility and respectful discourse.

“UMW attracts civic-minded students, and research shows that close relationships with faculty, like the ones formed at Mary Washington, often have a positive impact on voting rates,” Castro-Meirelles said. Nearly 87 percent of UMW students were registered to vote in 2016, exceeding the national average, according to a report released by the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement. Read more.

COAR’s 2020 Box Drive

2020 Box Drive

Community Outreach and Resources’ (COAR) 2020 Box Drive works to serve the children and teens of low-income families in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Boxes will be filled with art supplies, outdoor toys, gloves, hats, etc. and delivered to kids in the community. COAR is working in collaboration with some of our local community partners, such as Hope House and the Thurman Brisben Center to provide an opportunity for UMW faculty, staff, and students to support local families and youth. Although the modality of our annual box drive has changed, our passion to serve Fredericksburg has not gone anywhere. Our presence in the community is more important now than ever before. Please consider picking up a box to fill at the CCE Suite (UC 320) now through November 2nd, open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please email questions to coarumw@gmail.com.

Service Project Takes UMW Students ‘Into the Streets’ to Build Community

From right to left: Caroline Mowdy, Paige Beidelman and Lance Whitesel spread mulch with Tree Fredericksburg on Saturday as part of COAR’s Into the Streets. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

From right to left: Caroline Mowdy, Paige Beidelman and Lance Whitesel spread mulch with Tree Fredericksburg on Saturday as part of COAR’s Into the Streets. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Early Saturday morning, a group of University of Mary Washington students gathered on Ball Circle. Wearing masks and social distancing, they came together on that crisp fall day to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty, completing outdoor service projects for Into the Streets. The autumn tradition is hosted by UMW’s COAR (Community Outreach and Resources), whose mission is to provide structural support for community engagement, volunteerism and service.

“At a time when we are all unable to do many of the things that give us joy, satisfaction and focus,” said Leslie Martin, faculty director of UMW’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE),  “volunteering reminds us that we are all still connected and able to work together for the betterment of our shared community.”

The Center, which opened last fall, helps build bridges – and strengthen existing ones – between Mary Washington and organizations in the greater Fredericksburg area. Several of CCE’s community partners are navigating budget cuts and layoffs as a result of the pandemic, Martin said, so “our community needs us now more than ever.” 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.

Eagles Fly High During Virtual Awards Ceremony

Senior Nehemia Abel received the Grace Mann Launch Award during the virtual Eagle Awards ceremony on Friday.

Senior Nehemia Abel received the Grace Mann Launch Award during the virtual Eagle Awards ceremony on Friday.

University of Mary Washington senior Nehemia Abel received the Grace Mann Launch Award during the annual Eagle Awards ceremony, presented virtually Friday evening. This event honors student leaders and outstanding campus organizations. New this year was the James Farmer Defining A Legacy Award.

As one of the emcees for the video awards ceremony, Brianna “Breezy” Reaves put it: “Though we cannot be together, we will come together in spirit. During this very uncertain time, we want to take every opportunity to appreciate everyone who makes UMW the place we like to call home.”

Abel, a first-generation student from Fredericksburg, paid it forward by becoming a mentor with the RISE program (Resources Inspiring Student Excellence). A RISE mentor had helped him adjust to life as a college student, Abel said.

In presenting the Launch Award, Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker described Abel as “an outstanding advocate for change” and an ambassador for “doing the good Grace would have done.” Read more.