March 3, 2021

Mary Talks: “Farmer Legacy: 2020 & Beyond”

Join us ONLINE for the next Mary Talk of the 2020-21 academic year!

In January 2020, UMW launched Farmer Legacy 2020: A Centennial Celebration and Commitment to Action to recognize what would have been the 100th birthday of Dr. James Farmer, national civil rights icon and Mary Washington College professor from 1985 to 1998. While the pandemic changed the direction of our yearlong commemoration, it did not shake our commitment to honor Dr. Farmer and to realize his vision for a more equitable America. Our next Mary Talk will explore Dr. Farmer’s life and legacy and his ongoing impact at Mary Washington today.

This Talk will be presented by Farmer Legacy co-chairs Dr. Sabrina Johnson (Vice President for Equity and Access) and Dr. Juliette Landphair (Vice President for Student Affairs) along with Jason Ford ’20 (leader of the Black Alumni Affinity Group). They will discuss Dr. Farmer’s impact and UMW’s ongoing commitment to inclusive excellence. We will hear from alumni who recall Dr. Farmer as a remarkable historian and teacher. We will recount our trip with President Troy Paino and others to Capitol Hill to visit the legendary Representative John Lewis, who participated in the Freedom Rides with Dr. Farmer and served as the Farmer Legacy’s honorary Chairperson. We will examine the context of Dr. Farmer’s life and legacy as well as our progress in equity and inclusion efforts at UMW.

Wednesday, December 9
7:30-9:00 p.m.

To watch the Talk online, register here. You then will receive a link to the streaming video, which can be watched live or at a later time. You also will have the opportunity to submit questions to be asked of the speaker at the end of the Talk.

Note: Online viewing is the only option for this Mary Talk, as we are not conducting any in-person events at this time.

We look forward to seeing you online!

Forum Reveals Reality of Racial Issues at UMW

Do you have to be a person of color to be offended by a racial epithet? No, according to Alexandra Polymeropoulos, a junior at the University of Mary Washington. During a lively discussion Wednesday evening in a session of Mary Washington’s U.S. Race & Reality Forum, Polymeropoulos said she is riled every time she hears […]

Social Justice Summit Spurs Students to Action

When junior Mandy Byrd came to the University of Mary Washington, she got involved in the James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) and the University’s new NAACP chapter. These organizations helped open her eyes to a wide range of social justice issues, she said, and “just how powerful this kind of work can be.” Her goal […]

Landphair Pens Column on John Lewis in Richmond Times-Dispatch

Vice President of Student Affairs Juliette Landphair

Vice President of Student Affairs Juliette Landphair

Vice President of Student Affairs Juliette Landphair, who is the Farmer Legacy 2020 co-chair, penned a column in The Richmond Times-Dispatch on the late Rep. John Lewis’ legacy and the impact that he and Dr. James L. Farmer Jr. have had on the University of Mary Washington and its students.

Sixty years ago, much like today, many American young adults were on fire to dismantle racial discrimination. U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who recently passed away as an international icon for civil rights and public service, was one of them. Born in 1940 into a tenant farming family in Pike County, Ala., where half of their cotton crop’s earnings went to the white landowner, Lewis grew up in a poor, rural part of the nation completely alien from stereotypical recollections of 1950s consumerism and suburbanization. As historian Dr. Andrew Lewis recalls, John Lewis’ childhood “conjures up a world that the twentieth century seemed to have passed by.”

While in college at American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tenn., Lewis became active in civil rights protest. Over a few critical months in late 1959 and early 1960, he and other young activists, including the extraordinary (and not enough remembered) Diane Nash, attended workshops on nonviolence and its philosophical roots, taught by the minister James Lawson. Principles such as the power of the collective and the redemptive community settled into Lewis’ conscience and remained the rest of his life; he later described “crossing over” into a lifelong commitment to the movement in 1960 while participating in the Nashville sit-ins.

At my institution, the University of Mary Washington (UMW), Lewis figures prominently in our story. We like to think it is a special bond, but of course, Lewis made all admirers feel important. In 1961, Dr. James Farmer, leader of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), who later became a Mary Washington College professor, helped recruit the 21-year-old Lewis to join 12 others on the Freedom Rides. They would travel on two buses through several Southern states challenging interstate transportation facilities. During the Rides, Lewis was attacked by angry whites in South Carolina and Alabama.

More recently, Lewis agreed to serve as honorary chair of Farmer Legacy 2020, UMW’s yearlong celebration of the 100th anniversary of his friend Dr. Farmer’s birth. This past November, in his official acceptance of his chairperson role, Lewis met with a small UMW delegation in his Capitol Hill office for nearly an hour. I was fortunate to be among the attendees. With his celebrated warmth and humility, he spent nearly an hour with us, asking about UMW and our lives, and sharing stories. He especially was attentive to Jason Ford, our Student Government Association president who, as a black man himself, knew he was in the presence of a giant on whose shoulders he stood. Read more.

Juliette Landphair column: John Lewis: The soul of America (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Call for Move-In Volunteers

A message from the Office of Student Affairs. 

Dear Colleagues:

As you know, the University of Mary Washington will be reopening our residence halls starting with first-year students on Thursday September 10. We need your help! We typically count on scores of Move-In volunteers; however, so far this year the response from staff and faculty has been lower than usual, which certainly makes sense given the public health emergency and other pandemic realities.

Please know that 2020 Move-In will be very different. We will have very strict guidelines in place for our Move-In volunteers and the students and families moving in. This year, our staff and faculty volunteers will assist with traffic flow, answering questions, and guiding students and families across campus.

The Move-In dates are next week, September 10-13. We will have a brief Zoom training for our volunteers ahead of time.  If you’re interested in volunteering during Move-In, please go to our volunteer page on Sign-Up Genius.

Please direct any questions to Michelle Brooks,

For our new students especially, the first few days and weeks at UMW are particularly important for the rest of their time in college. Many new students and their families are hopeful and excited about being back on campus. Thank you in advance for assisting us with this significant student experience.


Juliette Landphair
Vice President of Student Affairs
University of Mary Washington .

Livestream Session Addressed Return-to-Campus Culture

Faculty and staff attended a live Q&A webinar via Zoom yesterday, as the state entered Phase 3 of the governor’s “Forward Virginia” reopening plan. Called “Commitment to Community,” the session focused on how the University will help students prepare for and commit to behavioral and social expectations and requirements when they return to campus next month.

UMW Chief of Staff Jeff McClurken moderated the livestream event, which featured panelists Vice President for Student Affairs Juliette Landphair, Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker, Assistant Dean for Residence Life and Housing David Fleming, and University Physician and Director of the Student Health Center Nancy Wang.

“We know how much our students want to come back to campus,” Landphair said. “They want to resume their holistic Mary Washington experience as much as possible.”

Landphair explained that establishing a culture of compliance – an environment that encourages adherence to sound public health principles and a purposeful intent to prevent the spread of disease – is a “gating requirement,” or prerequisite to re-opening. In that vein, UMW’s Return to Campus Plan will be submitted to SCHEV for approval and shared with campus on Monday, July 6.

The plan, panelists said, focuses on moving forward the core mission of Mary Washington and builds on existing codes of conduct, as well as the University’s statement of community values, known as ASPIRE.

“We don’t want to see a situation where individuals feel stigmatized in any way,” said Rucker, who has spent the past several weeks speaking with incoming students. “That’s why ASPIRE is also important. We want to celebrate everyone but also make sure that everyone is committed to ensuring that the academic process moves forward as smoothly as possible.”

Students, faculty and staff will be asked to complete training modules focused on “MMDC” – monitoring, masking, distancing and cleaning – and all individuals must pledge to uphold the guidelines.

Among their many questions, employees who tuned in to the hourlong session asked how faculty and staff will be expected to enforce behavioral guidelines, how claimed health exemptions to regulations will be handled and how the University is collaborating with city officials.

The Return to Campus Plan will address many of yesterday’s topics of concern, such as quarantine and isolation, testing and tracing, and communication of positive cases, McClurken said. If questions still exist after reading the document, he encouraged employees to restate them at next week’s livestream Q&A event on Wednesday, July 8, at 3 p.m., via Zoom or YouTube.

Watch yesterday’s Q&A below.



March and Resolution Demonstrate Mary Washington’s Stance

Several hundred University of Mary Washington students, faculty and staff marched from Campus Walk to Market Square in Fredericksburg last week in support of racial equality and Black Lives Matter. Photo courtesy of Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker.

Several hundred University of Mary Washington students, faculty and staff marched from Campus Walk to Market Square in Fredericksburg last week in support of racial equality and Black Lives Matter. Photo courtesy of Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker.

Eight minutes and 46 seconds.

After walking from the University of Mary Washington campus to downtown Fredericksburg’s Market Square, a contingent of several hundred UMW protesters became silent as march organizer Kyree Ford ’21 set the timer on his iPhone. He directed the marchers to quietly observe the length of time a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on George Floyd’s neck, ultimately terminating his life.

Unimaginable, is the way Ford, incoming president of the UMW Student Government Association (SGA), described it. The UMW Board of Visitors, in a meeting yesterday, shared that sentiment in a resolution stating that on May 25 “for eight minutes and forty-six seconds an officer knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck, as Mr. Floyd called out for his life saying, ‘I can’t breathe.’”

Further, stated the Board resolution, “around the world people from all nationalities, ethnic and racial backgrounds, and walks of life have assembled to protest, march and rally to mourn Mr. Floyd’s death and express their outrage with the social injustice of systemic racism that has led to the deaths of George Perry Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and so many more.”

The resolution, which passed unanimously, resolved that the Board supports the family of George Floyd and “stands with the thousands in our country and around the world, including members of the Mary Washington community, who have engaged in peaceful protests to affirm that Black Lives Matter, and to call for an end to the social injustice and systemic racism that permeates the fabric of our country.”

Ford said he and the SGA Cabinet “felt moved to do something during this very difficult time.” How crazy, he said, that in the midst of a deadly pandemic, “we have to go out and fight for our lives.”

Last Friday’s hastily organized march drew students, faculty, staff and administrators, many carrying signs. President Troy Paino and his family joined in. Ford said he was overwhelmed by the turnout. What that level of participation, even in a time of social distancing, says to him is: “Mary Washington is on the right side in terms of race relations.”

The Board resolution reinforced that sense for Ford. Also impressive, he added, is the step taken by President Paino and his wife Kelly to initiate with a $5,000 challenge gift a scholarship in memory of George Floyd. The scholarship, which has a goal of $100,000, is designed to promote the development of leadership skills for students committed to addressing societal issues disproportionately affecting black and underrepresented communities.

Ford said the SGA has called upon various campus groups to create a video and will plan other events later in the summer and after students arrive on campus. “We want to reaffirm that everyone has a place at Mary Washington.”

Vice President of Student Affairs Juliette Landphair, who participated in the march, praised the activism and initiative of the SGA. “It was a powerful reflection of our community values and the energy of our students.” She added, “As Dr. James Farmer once expressed, ‘freedom and equality are inherent rights in the United States; therefore, I encourage young people to take on the task by standing up and speaking out on behalf of people denied those rights.’”

March and Resolution Demonstrate Mary Washington’s Stance

Eight minutes and 46 seconds. After walking from the University of Mary Washington campus to downtown Fredericksburg’s Market Square, a contingent of several hundred UMW protesters became silent as march organizer Kyree Ford ’21 set the timer on his iPhone. He directed the marchers to quietly observe the length of time a Minneapolis police officer […]

Q&A Addressed Employee Concerns

Faculty and staff tuned in yesterday afternoon for a Q&A session livestreamed on Zoom. During the hourlong video chat, Chief of Staff Jeff McClurken, Provost Nina Mikhalevsky, Vice President of Student Affairs Juliette Landphair and Executive Director of Human Resources Beth Williams answered an array of questions about their respective areas.

“I just wanted to say thank you for all you’ve done,” McClurken said at the start of the session. He pointed to moving pieces – state budget calls, fall enrollment figures, government health orders and SCHEV suggestions – that will inform future decisions.

Grades are in, and face-to-face education is still the plan for the fall, McClurken said, reminding participants of President Paino’s task force designed to wade through the uncertainty and decipher how the details of in-person learning might play out.

“We know our students want to be here,” said Landphair, who stressed that UMW’s academic mission and its responsibility to maintain safety on campus are inextricable. Departments like dining, athletics and housing, she said, are already drafting plans for multiple scenarios in the fall.

The past few weeks have revealed the strengths of our community, said Landphair, who shared examples of parents’ positive feedback on University-issued communications.

Mikhalevsky praised faculty. “You all have done an absolutely incredible job and we have the data to prove that,” she said, referencing an upcoming open forum for faculty members.

Williams echoed that positivity, adding that she has found it “inspiring” to be part of the UMW workforce, with employees who have been “adaptable and flexible,” during this time of turmoil due to COVID-19. She issued reminders about the May 15 open enrollment deadline for health benefits; Employee Appreciation Day on Monday, May 11; and ongoing open Staff Advisory Council chats on Thursdays at 11.

Q&A participants raised questions about the ability to revamp course descriptions as circumstances become more clear, the status of funding for travel and its impact on tenure-track faculty, and how furlough and salary-reduction situations could play out if they become necessary. Other inquiries delved into current enrollment numbers, where branding efforts stand and the availability of personal protection equipment (PPE) .

The panelists addressed questions to the best of their ability. McClurken’s response to the question about PPE could have been applied to many inquiries. “I promise you, we are exploring the options,” he said. “I absolutely understand your concern, and we will bring that info to you as soon as we have it.”

Learn more by viewing the May 6, 2020, Q&A session on YouTube.