March 3, 2021

Miriam Liss: Research Persistent

After her first interview for an academic position – at Mary Washington – Miriam Liss knew right away she wanted the job.

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss

“It was so much fun. I loved everything about it,” said Liss, who earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Connecticut. “The people were wonderful. The students were wonderful. The town was charming.”

That was 20 years ago. Since then, she has risen in rank from assistant to full professor in the Department of Psychological Science. This fall, she’ll take on the role of chair.

Along the way, her life has woven itself into her work, which always focuses on students. With them, and with many fellow faculty members, she’s explored and published on myriad topics, from feminist identity and body image to sensory processing and self-injury. When Liss became a mother herself – to Emily, 12, and Daniel, 14 – her research turned toward the subject of parenting.

More recently, she’s embraced the concept of mindfulness. The results of a three-year study – with UMW professors Mindy Erchull, Dan Hirshberg, Angela Pitts and David Ambuel – appear in the current issue of The Journal of Contemplative Inquiry. Their research, a collaboration between the departments of Classics, Philosophy and Religious Studies, along with Psychological Science, found decreased levels of depression and anxiety in students who take UMW’s Contemplative Practice course.

Miriam Liss has pursued a wide range of research at UMW, involving students every step of the way. Results of a recent study conducted with felllow faculty members were published in the current edition of 'The Journal of Contemplative Inquiry.'

Miriam Liss has pursued a wide range of research at UMW, involving students every step of the way. Results of a recent study conducted with felllow faculty members were published in the current edition of ‘The Journal of Contemplative Inquiry.’

Liss hopes to instill the idea of mindfulness, and its effects on mental wellness, at an even earlier age, by collaborating with Mary Washington students and a social worker at Spotsylvania’s Riverview Elementary School to implement a first-grade curriculum. She’s guiding her research team to get the program off the ground and evaluate its effects, and to explore how mindfulness might protect against a variety of mental health outcomes in college students.

From the first course she taught, after that “fun” and fortuitous interview, to the classes she’s teaching, virtually, this semester – Psychology of Women, using the textbook she wrote with Erchull, and Abnormal Psychology – students have remained front and center.

“That’s one of the things I like so much about Mary Washington,” Liss said. “We’re allowed to develop our research agenda in any way we want as long as we’re involving students.”

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Working with students, especially my research students, and allowing their interests, along with my own, to shape what I do. Over the years I’ve worked with so many amazing students.

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: Balancing everything. Sometimes I feel like I have so many balls in the air I’m afraid I’m going to drop one.

Q: Any big plans as department chair?
A: My colleagues and I have been working to develop a course through the Department of Psychological Science to prepare students for careers after college.

Q: What’s the one thing people would be most surprised to learn about you?
A: They might be surprised to know how involved I’ve been with theater. I made my Fredericksburg début in 2015 as the mother in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I love singing. I can do a mean show tune. My true fantasy is to retire and get on the stage.

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: Don’t get so tangled up in your thoughts. Just because you think it, doesn’t mean it’s true. Also, I have a general motto of self-acceptance. We’re all going to mess up. It’s OK. We can still love all the parts of ourselves, not just the great parts.

Barry Quoted in Daily Beast Article

Associate Professor of Religious Studies Jennifer Barry

Associate Professor of Religious Studies Jennifer Barry

Jennifer Barry, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, was recently interviewed and quoted on the online news and opinion site the Daily Beast. The article, titled, “Falwell’s ‘Blame the Woman’ Strategy Goes All the Way Back to Eden” was written by Candida Moss (the Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology at the University of Birmingham, UK).

The article, written for a public audience, draws attention to the recent scandal of the former President of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell, regarding his recent sexual exploitations. Upon discovery of these allegations, he was subsequently removed from his very influential position. Moss was quick to note that Falwell’s deflection and shift to blame his wife was not an unusual tactic and quotes Barry to highlight the long Christian tradition of emphasizing the corrupting behavior of women that ultimately bring down powerful, and seemingly innocent, men.

Barry frequently teaches rhetorical strategies that target public and powerful women in Christian history. She was sought out by Dr. Moss for her expertise and interest in the study of gender, sexuality, and religion. And much of the material quoted stems from her most recent research project on gender-based violence in late ancient Christian texts.

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.

Barry Publishes Article in Journal of Orthodox Christian Studies

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Jennifer Barry

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Jennifer Barry

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Jennifer Barry recently published a peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Christian Orthodoxy. The article, We Didn’t Start the Fire: The Alexandrian legacy within orthodox memory,” is free and available to the public.

An abstract of the article includes the following:

If we think about the past and the way Christians constructed the signs and symbols of persecution, invariably something—or, someone—is on fire. In this article, I argue that the destruction of two significant Alexandrian holy sites, the Great Alexandrian Church and the Serapeum, tells us a great deal about how fifth-century ecclesiastical historians crafted episcopal legitimacy by using familiar tropes that signaled to their readers that a Christian persecution was underway. I conclude that how a bishop played with fire made all the difference in the story of Christian orthodoxy.

UMW CPRD and BU Classical Studies Co-host Webinar on Social Justice in the Discipline

US and UK Scholars tackle social justice and the uses/misuses of Classics in Western education

The departments of Classics, Philosophy, and Religious Studies and Classical Studies at Boston University co-sponsored a webinar entitled “RES DIFFICILES: A Conference On Challenges and Pathways for Addressing Inequity In the Ancient Greek and Roman World,” on Friday, May 15, 2020, with American and British scholars and broadcast to nearly 250 attendees in the U.S., U.K., and a dozen other countries from Australia to Russia. The co-hosts, Joseph Romero (UMW Classics) and Hannah Čulík-Baird (BU Classical Studies), assembled a group of scholars to address a critical issue in a discipline that is rapidly transforming itself into a significant contributor in the humanities for social justice. Romero also delivered a paper entitled, “Walking the the Cleopatra Ode (Hor. carm. 1.37), Then and Now.” The conference had originally been scheduled to take place on the UMW campus, but the pivot to webinar after the COVID-19 interruption produced the happy result of convening scholars from all over the world.

Hayob-Matzke to Speak in Presbyterian Church Ecology Series

Professor of Philosophy Jason Hayob-Matzke

Professor of Philosophy Jason Hayob-Matzke

Professor of Philosophy Jason Hayob-Matzke will speak as part of the Presbyterian Church of Fredericksburg’s ecology series this March. The Presbyterian Church of Fredericksburg, at the corner of Princess Anne and George streets downtown, invites visitors, friends and members to participate in the series.

On March 22, Dr. Hayob–Matzke will examine how humans relate to nature. Historically, western tradition has viewed nature as a mere collection of resources, but various religious traditions have adopted a stewardship model, in which humans are the caretakers of God’s creation. Hayob–Matzke will explore the question: What model do we need to move forward in a way that better enables solutions to arise to our current ecological crisis? Read more.

Barry Gives Invited Talk at the University of Pennsylvania

On December 6, 2019, Jennifer Barry, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, was invited to give a talk at the University of Pennsylvania hosted by the Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins. Barry presented material she has been working on during her Jepson Fellowship held for the 2019-2020 academic year. Research from the talk, “A Bad Romance: Domestic Violence in Late Antiquity,” is included in a section of her book that focuses on hagiographical narratives that promote and preserve gender based violence.

A recording of the talk will soon be made available for the public.

Barry Presents at Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion Conference

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Jennifer Barry

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Jennifer Barry

Jennifer Barry, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, recently presented in two panels and moderated a third panel at the national conference for the Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion held in San Diego, CA.

For the first panel, Barry presented new research for her next book project. The paper titled,“Queen Mab visits the Fathers: Fantastic Dreams and Male Desire Revisited,” was presented in the program unit on Religious World of Late Antiquity.

The second panel was held in honor of the esteemed career of Judith Perkins. Barry was asked to contribute her paper, “A Bad Romance: Melania the Younger and the male fantasy,” which builds on many of the important interventions Perkins has made to the subfield of Christian Apocrypha.

In addition to these two panels, Barry organized and moderated a pre-arranged panel on biblical receptions of exile. She now serves as an appointed Steering Committee Member for Exile (Forced Migrations) in Biblical Literature program unit. The pre-arranged panel, Late Antique reception histories of biblical flight: Part I pre-Constantinian period, is the first of two invitational sessions on the reception histories of biblical exile in the long late-antiquity. Many early Christian and non-Christian thinkers looked to biblical text(s) for types and models of flight. Invitees were asked to engage the topic of biblical exile and its reception in the late ancient period. The first session engaged the pre-Constantinian period. A select number of papers will be published in peer-reviewed special journal issue.

She was also elected to serve as a council member on the SBAllies. The informal group is committed to the idea that every scholar, no matter their identity, should be able to participate in a thoughtful and open exchange of ideas without fear or intimidation. Their primary purpose is to inform society members about the SBL anti-harassment policy and to provide information and resources for those who are considering reporting when that policy is violated.

 

Barry Invited to Give Book Talk at Temple University

Jennifer Barry, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, was invited to give a book talk at Temple University on November 14, 2019. Barry presented to the audience material from her recent publication with the University of California Press, Bishops in Flight: Exile and Displacement in Late Antiquity. Barry’s monograph was published in April, 2019 and is published in both print form and is also available via open access through the Luminos Series.

Barry Invited to Workshop at Northwestern University

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Jennifer Barry

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Jennifer Barry

Jennifer Barry, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, was invited to participate in a workshop at the Northwestern University on October 18-19, 2019. The Pro Publica: A Public Classics Workshop met to discuss and develop public facing pieces that seek to make scholarly topics accessible to a wider audience. The workshop was co-sponsored by the Classics department at Northwestern and the Society of Classical Studies.

Barry workshopped a piece on the overlap of gender violence and political propaganda titled, “Lying Women.” This piece ties into Barry’s current recent research on gender violence and late antiquity.