June 17, 2021

Betsy Southern: Quarantine Mom

Betsy Southern, manager of Athletic Business Operations and COVID care coordinator

Betsy Southern, manager of Athletic Business Operations and COVID care coordinator

Betsy Southern came to the University of Mary Washington four years ago to manage business operations for the Department of Athletics. When the pandemic halted competition and travel last spring, she stepped into the role of COVID care coordinator.

Now, after more than a year of nurturing UMW students required to isolate due to coronavirus exposure, she’s earned yet another title: “Quarantine Mom.”

“I love it,” Southern said. “Being a mother is my greatest role, and it motivated me to do all I could for students navigating the virus.”

Southern, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in her hometown of San Diego, came to Mary Washington after a job at the Department of Environmental Quality in Woodbridge. Not only did she shorten her commute, but she also gained an opportunity to work with her eldest son, Thomas, a UMW assistant athletics trainer.

She oversees the Department of Athletics budget, spending and procurement, as well as other projects that pop up throughout the year. Her job requires “a flexible schedule and can-do attitude,” Southern said, which made her a natural fit for COVID care coordinator.

Assisted by a student team, Southern transferred impacted students in and out of isolation rooms, delivered meals, stocked supplies, arranged cleaning, brought her dog by for visits and made quarantine life as pleasant as possible for temporary residents. She took on the additional role of contact tracer this spring, while managing her athletic responsibilities as teams began competing and traveling again.

Her hard work was rewarded last month when Southern received the Giving Tree Award at the 2021 virtual Eagle Awards. She was nominated by Sarah Bazemore, one of the first students she cared for in quarantine.

“I felt truly honored just to be nominated and even more so to receive the award,” Southern said. “Sarah definitely went above and beyond to show me I was appreciated.”

 

Betsy Southern with son Thomas, a UMW assistant athletic trainer (top); daughter Kelly; and son Matthew (holding their dog, Ollie), a recent UMW graduate.

Betsy Southern with son Thomas, a UMW assistant athletic trainer (top); daughter Kelly; and son Matthew (holding their dog, Ollie), a recent UMW graduate.

Q: Congratulations on your son’s graduation from UMW! What was it like to watch him walk across the Commencement stage?
A: I can’t believe my youngest is a college graduate! I’m so grateful we had an in-person graduation so he could be recognized for his hard work.

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job? Most challenging?
A: Athletics is both rewarding and challenging, because no day is the same. I guess I could say that about COVID care, too!

Q: Did you play sports while growing up?
A: I played soccer and rode horses. Being part of a military family and moving around so much, I found sports was the best way to meet people.

Q: What might people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I have my black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I’ve also lived in or visited every state except Alaska and spent three years in Japan.

Q: Outside of work, how have you kept busy during the pandemic?
A: We moved into a new house downtown right before COVID hit, so I’ve spent some time renovating and exploring Fredericksburg.

Southern keeps her children's art projects in her office to remind her of when they were small.

Southern keeps her children’s art projects in her office to remind her of when they were small.

Q: What’s your favorite thing in your office?
A: My display of art projects my children made for me. I love looking at them, remembering the good times and being proud of the adults they have all become.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Treat others as you would want to be treated.