August 25, 2019

RISE Mentor Receives Citizenship Award for Diversity Leadership

Nehemia AbelRising senior Nehemia Abel’s path to Mary Washington started with a refugee camp in eastern Africa. Wanting their children to have a better future, his parents applied for resettlement in the United States. Though his family was one of the few who were fortunate to be chosen, they still endured hardships along the way. Those […]

Rising UMW Senior Goes Global at Pathfinder Summit

Rahima Morshed ’20 is beginning her summer break by changing the world. The rising senior is one of 50 civic-minded young Virginians convening in Charlottesville this week for the Global Pathfinder Summit. This prestigious event gives emerging leaders the chance to hear from dozens of internationally renowned speakers discussing topics pertaining to today’s youth and […]

Multicultural Fair Brings Culture to Campus

Once a year the whole world comes to the University of Mary Washington. The 29th annual Multicultural Fair will bring a crisscross of cultures from around the globe to campus this Saturday. Think bellydancers and breakers, gospel and blues, tacos and funnel cakes, tapestries and tie-dyes. The event is one of the largest Mary Washington […]

29th Annual Multicultural Fair on Saturday, April 13

The University of Mary Washington hosts the 29th annual Multicultural Fair in Ball Circle on Saturday, April 13 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine. Exemplifying UMW’s commitment to enhancing multicultural awareness, the Multicultural Fair provides an entire day devoted to multicultural entertainment, children’s activities, international and American food, and ethnic craft vendors. This event is free and open to the public.

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LaWanda Simpkins: Courageous Conversations

LaWanda Simpkins signs her emails with a quote by the late Civil Rights icon and former UMW professor James L. Farmer: “Courage, after all, is not being unafraid, but doing what needs to be done in spite of fear.”

LaWanda Simpkins, James L. Farmer Jr. Post-Doctoral Fellow in Civil Rights and Social Justice

It’s particularly meaningful, given that it was Farmer whose legacy brought Simpkins to Mary Washington three years ago on a post-doctoral fellowship that bears his name.

It’s also fitting because Simpkins is the first in a new series called “Courageous Conversations” that features UMW faculty exploring topics of diversity and inclusion. In her video, Simpkins says that approaching others with openness and honesty and being intentional with communications can help break down social barriers.

Simpkins, who holds a Ph.D. in cultural studies and a graduate certificate in women and gender studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, is no stranger to these provocative and powerful discussions. She has them every day with her students in courses about women of color feminists, social justice and intersectionality.

“We have robust conversations about how this field came about,” said Simpkins, whose students often come to class with little background in the subject area. “It is exciting to see their confidence build and their perspectives become shaped. People bring their own different identities – race, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, etc. – and experiences to class, and it helps them connect more closely to the material.”



Q: What led you to this field of study?
A: One of the glaring things I noticed during my graduate and doctoral studies was that there were not many students who looked like me. The curriculum didn’t align with who I was as a Black woman. That is what caused me to study feminism in the way that I did and understand that there are gaps in the field. I’m intentional about saying I identify as a Black feminist. In fact, in my Women of Color Feminism class, the whole course is geared toward students figuring out who they are as a feminist.

Q: Are there any lessons or projects that you particularly enjoy teaching?
A: My students create vision boards by choosing and researching five women of color feminists who speak to who they are. They’ve made everything from homemade comic strips to puzzles to paintings – things that would blow your mind at the level of creativity. I cannot wait to get those projects. I’m like a kid in a candy store because it’s limitless.

Q: Who are the feminists that speak to you?
A: Patricia Hill Collins, Michele Wallace, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Angela Davis and Michelle Obama.

Q: What’s a typical day like for you?
A: Busy! I wake up before my kids to get myself together so that I can give them my full attention before I leave for work. This includes making bottles, washing dishes and making lunches. After office hours and teaching classes, I go home and straight into mommy mode.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your profession?
A: Seeing students having their “aha” moments and knowing that I could potentially have an impact on their thought trajectory for the rest of their lives.

Q: What is the most challenging?
A: The politics of academia.

Q: Who or what inspires you?
A: My students who are living in their absolute truths.

Q: What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
A: I watch reality television and probably know most music on the radio. I actually love hip-hop  ̶  the good kind of course!

Q: Are there any mottos that you live by?
A: “I am what I am not yet.” ~Maxine Greene

LaFayette to Deliver Keynote for UMW’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

Dr. Bernard Lafayette

Dr. Bernard Lafayette

“Institutionalize and internationalize nonviolence.” These are the orders Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. bestowed on Bernard LaFayette Jr. in 1968. Still devoted more than 50 years later to carrying out the edict for nonviolent social change, LaFayette will deliver the University of Mary Washington’s MLK Jr. Celebration keynote address Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 7 p.m., in the University Center’s Chandler Ballroom.

The speech is part of a series of events hosted by UMW’s James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) to recognize the life – and assassination – of the great civil rights leader. Activities include a MLK Jr. Kid’s Day for Fredericksburg area children, Day of Service for UMW students to get involved in community projects, and documentary film viewing and discussion.

A minister, educator and lecturer appointed by King to national leadership positions in the civil rights movement, LaFayette led the 1961 Freedom Rides alongside longtime civil rights leader James Farmer, who taught history and American Studies at UMW from 1985 to 1998. King named LaFayette to national roles as program administrator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and coordinator for the Poor People’s Campaign. LaFayette also co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Nashville Movement lunch counter sit-ins, and directed the 1962 Alabama voter registration project in Selma, Alabama.  Read more

Campus Community Invited to Cross Cultural Barbecue Aug. 30

The Cross Cultural Barbecue, sponsored by S.E.E.D and the James Farmer Multicultural Center, will be held at 4 p.m., Aug. 30 on Ball Circle (Rain Location: Chandler Ballroom, University Center).

The Cross Cultural Barbecue generates an opportunity for the entire campus community to become affiliated with the multicultural student groups at UMW, all while enjoying free entertainment, various foods, appetizers, and drinks related to particular cultures and sub-cultures.

PRISM Leader Receives Diversity Leadership Award

Erin Shaw ’19 was once content to keep to herself. Then she came to the University of Mary Washington, where a club meeting ultimately connected her with people from all walks of life. Soon, she was on the executive board of People for the Rights of Individuals of Sexual and Gender Minorities (PRISM), advocating for […]

Fiske College Guide Names UMW Among Nation’s Best

The University of Mary Washington has once again been recognized among the nation’s best colleges by the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2019. This is the ninth consecutive year UMW has received the distinction from the prestigious publication, the nation’s top-selling college guidebook. Mary Washington is among public and private institutions recognized for delivering outstanding academics […]

Kwanzaa Celebration, Nov. 30

BSA and JFMC present Kwanzaa

BSA and JFMC present Kwanzaa

Don’t miss the Kwanzaa Celebration on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 6 p.m. in Chandler Ballroom of the University Center. Enjoy free food and live entertainment! The event is free and open to the public. The event is co-sponsored by the James Farmer Multicultural Center and the Black Student Association