May 24, 2024

Aminrazavi quoted in FLS on Jefferson Descendent Speaking at UMW

Race and Religion flyerProfessor of Philosophy and Religion Mehdi Aminrazavi was quoted in a Free Lance-Star article entitled, “Jefferson descendent to speak at UMW” that ran in advance of Shannon LaNier’s keynote address on Tuesday to open UMW’s Race and Religion Conference, sponsored by the Khatib Program in Religion and Dialogue. A Houston-area news anchor and social media influencer, LaNier is the sixth great-grandson of the third U.S. president, descended through Sally Hemings, one of the founding father’s enslaved workers.

Mehdi Aminrazavi, director of the Khatib Program and professor of philosophy and religion at UMW, said he is excited to have LaNier speak at the event.

“I like what he had to say,” Aminrazavi said. “(There’s a) perception of our founding fathers and the reality of the (lives) they lived and I thought it would be good for our students to learn different understandings and narratives of Thomas Jefferson.”

Read more.

Romero Serves on COPLAC Panel on DEI at AAC&U Annual Meeting

Professor of Classics Joe Romero joined COPLAC Panel on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence at the Annual Meeting of AAC&U on January 20, 2022.

Professor of Classics Joe Romero joined COPLAC Panel on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence at the Annual Meeting of AAC&U on January 20, 2022.

Transforming Historical Biases – Creating Safe and Brave Spaces: Joseph Romero (Professor of Classics and Chair, CPRD) joined colleagues from several COPLAC institutions in person to present a set of tools for advancing the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion at this year’s annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges and Universities. The panel was entitled, “Collaborative and Community-led Approach to Sustaining Racial Equity within Public Liberal Arts Institutions” and presented to higher education leaders from across the country. Plans are in the works to present it again in an entirely digital format to for the COPLAC community.


Death of a retired faculty member

The following message is from the Office of the Provost.

David Cain, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Religion

David Cain, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Religion

David Cain, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Religion, passed away on Saturday, July 31, at the age of 79, after a lengthy illness.

Dr. Cain arrived at Mary Washington College in 1970 following undergraduate and graduate study at Princeton University, where he completed his A.B., M.A., and a Ph.D. in systematic theology. His educational journey also included stops at Northwestern (School of Liberal Arts), King’s College (religion-arts) and Yale Divinity School, where he completed a master of divinity degree. In addition to his teaching duties, he was an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ.

During more than four decades of service to Mary Washington, Dr. Cain was a popular professor who was well regarded by his students, particularly those who delighted in his legendary course, “Suffering and Evil.” His classes were playful, intense, adventurous, and filled with energy and enthusiasm.

In 1992, he was a recipient of the Grellet C. Simpson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the University’s most prestigious faculty award. In 1994, he was recognized by the Board of Visitors as Distinguished Professor of Religion for consistently performing with distinction and having provided long and faithful service to Mary Washington.

Dr. Cain was a formidable Kierkegaard scholar with an international reputation, having published many articles and manuscripts at the intersections of religion and theology. He served as president of the Søren Kierkegaard Society from 1997 to 1998. In addition to Kierkegaard studies, his special interests included Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Georges Bernanos, Elie Wiesel, the films of Federico Fellini and Giulietta Masina, religion and literature, theodicy, atonement, and dialogue among religions. In 1997, he published An Evocation of Kierkegaard and edited several volumes of the work of theologian and philosopher Arthur C. McGill.

During Dr. Cain’s celebrated career, he was the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and a Danforth Fellowship, and he also served as a visiting senior scholar at the Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre at Copenhagen University.

He was a founding member of the department of Classics, Philosophy, and Religion (CPR), incorporated in 1979. He designed the department’s logo in a confident calligraphy. His collegiality and passion for documenting the life if its faculty and students in photographs will be remembered affectionately. His friendships and rich conversation will long survive him.

Dr. Cain was an important part of the life of the UMW and surrounding communities; he loved theater and took part in many Mary Washington drama productions over the years, including a memorable turn as Feste in Twelfth Night. He also served for many years as an announcer for the Multicultural Fair and performed in follies to raise funds for Mary Washington Hospital.

Condolences to his surviving spouse, Marlyne, may be sent to her residence, 921 Spartan Drive, Spearfish, South Dakota 57783. Dr. Cain is also survived by his two daughters, Sarah Cain Naylor of Raleigh, N.C., and Kristin Cain Geary, of Salisbury Mills, N.Y.

Dr. Cain will be buried in St. Louis, Missouri, in a private service. An obituary in the local paper will appear soon, and plans to celebrate Dr. Cain’s memory in the UMW community will be communicated as soon as possible.

Romero Convenes International Conference on Social Justice in Classics

Joseph Romero (CPRD) convened a conference for Classicists across the globe to address the past, present, and future of the discipline.

Romero Convenes Conference on Classics and Social Justice

On March 20, 2021, Joseph Romero (CPRD) collaborated with Hannah Čulík-Baird (Boston University) to present a second online conference in an ongoing series entitled, Res Difficiles, which attracted over 300 registrants from across the globe to engage in difficult conversations about the past, present, and future of the discipline. Our keynote speaker was the esteemed classicist, Dr. Patrice Rankine (Professor of Classics, Dean of Arts and Sciences, University of Richmond). The papers are now posted on the conference website: Romero and Čulík-Baird have been invited to guest edit a selection of papers from the ongoing series for the online Classics journal, Ancient History Bulletin in this and the coming year. A third installment of the popular series is planned for 2022.

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.