October 1, 2020

UMW Presents Top Faculty Awards

The University of Mary Washington bestowed honors on several professors at the general faculty meeting on Monday.

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss received the 2020 Waple Faculty Professional Achievement Award.

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss received the 2020 Waple Faculty Professional Achievement Award.

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss received the 2020 Waple Faculty Professional Achievement Award, presented by College of Arts and Sciences Dean Keith Mellinger.

Established in honor of 1952 alumna Shirley Van Epps Waple, the nomination-based award recognizes instructors who have made significant contributions to their scholarly or creative area of expertise. The recipient must be a full-time faculty member for at least seven years.

“Exemplifying the UMW teacher-scholar model,” Liss has coauthored published research with more than 40 students in her two decades at Mary Washington, presented at numerous professional conferences and written several books, Mellinger said. “In the words of her department chair, Liss’s ‘ongoing record of stellar and consistent professional activity places her in the very top tier of our talented faculty.’”

Professor of History and American Studies Allyson Poska received the J. Christopher “Topher” Bill Award.

Professor of History and American Studies Allyson Poska received the J. Christopher “Topher” Bill Award.

Professor of History and American Studies Allyson Poska received the J. Christopher “Topher” Bill Award for her contributions to the University and her involvement and leadership in the greater community. Since 2003, this award has been presented annually to a member of the full-time teaching faculty who has served at UMW for at least seven years and has a significant record of service accomplishments.

In her 28 years at Mary Washington, Poska has served on or chaired over 20 university committees, said Assistant Professor of Biology Parrish Waters, who presented the award.

She also helped establish UMW’s Women’s and Gender Studies major, serving as chair for six years. Poska “elevated the program’s stature through impactful speakers, a student research forum and making it an integral and essential part of the UMW experience,” Waters said.

In the community, Poska “brings a strong voice to advocate for those who may otherwise go unheard,” said Waters, citing her service to local organizations like Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault, Empowerhouse and the Fredericksburg Food Bank.

Associate Professor of Computer Science Stephen Davies earned the Grellet C. Simpson Award.

Associate Professor of Computer Science Stephen Davies earned the Grellet C. Simpson Award.

Several awards traditionally given at Commencement were also presented, with the exception of the Mary W. Pinschmidt Award, which will later be selected by the Class of 2020.

Associate Professor of Computer Science Stephen Davies earned the Grellet C. Simpson Award, the institution’s most prestigious honor for excellence in undergraduate teaching, given to a senior faculty member.

Known for “extremely challenging but exceptionally creative courses,” Davies creates materials and assignments tailored specifically for his students, said Provost Nina Mikhalevsky, who presented the annual award. He’s also authored three textbooks that have been adopted by other UMW instructors for their classes, she said.

“He treated my knowledge with respect and curiosity,” said one of Davies’ students, “driving home for me the important lesson that the most learned people always seek to expand their knowledge and are humble about whom they learn from.”

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences April Wynn received the UMW Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award.

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences April Wynn received the UMW Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award.

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences April Wynn received the UMW Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award, presented annually to an exceptional member of the faculty who has served the institution for at least two years but no more than five.

Praising Wynn’s empathy and enthusiasm as both a faculty member and director of UMW’s First-Year Experience, Andrew Dolby, University Faculty Council chair, presented the award to his colleague. “[Wynn] is thoughtful, diligent and meticulous in carrying out every service or obligation she agrees to take on,” Dolby said.

“She is a fantastic professor and a truly wonderful person,” said one of Wynn’s students. “Her classes are streamlined, organized and hyper-efficient – but boy, are they fun!”

John Burrow, a lecturer in the College of Business (COB), was recognized with the Graduate Faculty Award, showcasing an exceptional full-time faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in graduate teaching and professional leadership in a graduate program. The person selected must have served in a full-time position at UMW for at least two years.

John Burrow, a lecturer in the College of Business, was recognized with the Graduate Faculty Award.

College of Business Lecturer John Burrow was recognized with the Graduate Faculty Award.

Presenting the award, COB Dean Lynne Richardson quoted a recent student, who said that “everyone respects and thinks highly of Burrow.”

At UMW, Burrow has established relationships with local organizations to provide real world challenges for his students, Richardson said. He also helped create a project management certificate and MBA opportunities for cohort classes at the Dahlgren Campus, she said, “extending the reach” and “enhancing the brand” of both UMW and COB.

Erchull, Liss Win Award for ‘Psychology of Women and Gender’ Textbook

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss

Professor of Psychological Science Mindy Erchull

Professor of Psychological Science Mindy Erchull

Professors of Psychological Science Mindy Erchull and Miriam Liss, along with co-author Kate Richmond, won the 2020 Distinguished Publication Award from the Association for Women in Psychology for their textbook published last year by Norton: Psychology of Women and Gender.

The Distinguished Publication Award is given in recognition of significant and substantial contributions of research and theory that advance our understanding of the psychology of women and promote achievement of the goals of the Association for Women in Psychology (AWP). Every year since 1977, AWP has given one or more awards for books and/or articles published the prior year that make a significant contribution to feminist psychology. The book by Erchull, Liss and Richmond is the most recent in a body of distinguished publications to merit such an honor. The authors have also been invited to present an award address at the 2021 virtual AWP conference. Learn more about the award here:  https://www.awpsych.org/distinguished_publication.php.

Liss’ Intensive Parenting Study Featured in Refinery29.com Series

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss

Psychology Professor Miriam Liss’ study on intensive parenting was featured in an article on Refinery29.com as part of a series entitled “No Bad Moms.” The article states that modern mothers are chastised whenever they speak openly about being the “center of their own world”

Not only is this narrow definition of motherhood stifling, it’s also harmful. In a study on the effects of intensive parenting — a style of over-involved parenting where moms and dads heavily involve themselves in all the decisions and aspects of a child’s life, leaving little space for the parent to exist outside the child — University of Mary Washington psychologist Miriam Liss found that women who believed parenting should be child-centered had reduced life satisfaction. Read more.

Selfies and Mental Health (WVTF)

Liss, Erchull Study on Selfies and Self-Objectification Featured on WVTF

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss

Professors of Psychological Science Miriam Liss and Mindy Erchull’s recent study into selfies and self-objectification among young women was recently featured on WVTF 88.3 Radio IQ.

YouTube is loaded with videos advising young women on how to take a good selfie.

“You just have to find your good side. Like this is my good side, but this side is a no!” says one.

Professor of Psychological Science Mindy Erchull

Professor of Psychological Science Mindy Erchull

Which is why psychology professor Miriam Liss chose to take a closer look. She and her colleague Mindy Erchull studied 165 female students at their school – the University of Mary Washington. They found some girls took as many as 30 selfies before posting one.

“They’re thinking ‘How does my body look? Is my tummy looking big, are my arms flabby, does my nose look too big?’” she explains. “We’re often putting ourselves in a state of self-objectification.”

And that could lead to serious psychological problems: eating disorders, depression, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, a loss of a sense of flow, which is the ability to be in the moment and enjoy what you’re doing. Read more.

Why Is Social Media So Addictive? (Gizmodo)

Liss Discusses Social Media Addiction in Gizmodo Article

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss was recently interviewed by a reporter for Gizmodo in an article entitled, “Why is Social Media So Addictive?”

Social media is so addictive because it plays on one of the most fundamental aspects of what it means to be human—our need for social connection with others. We post and wait for other people to like or comment on our posts. We like and comment on other people’s posts as an act of social reciprocity, and it feels as though we are connecting to others.

The rewards are intermittent and unpredictable—we never know when we log on whether we have gotten more likes, comments, or followers. It is well known that intermittent and unpredictable rewards are the most addictive—think about slot machines. The anticipation while the app loads heightens the excitement and addictive nature. Features like streaks in Snapchat play on our desire not to let other people down (and break a streak) as well as the idea that the more time and investment we have put into something (known as sunk costs) the more investment we have in keeping it going.

Interestingly, our desire for social rewards can make us act in ways that undermine the value of those rewards. We often present only the partial truth about ourselves and manipulate our stories or photos in order to make ourselves look better to increase our likes and positive comments. When we do that, however, the likes and positive feedback can seem hollow and make us feel bad. I recently published a study with my colleague and students that linked photo manipulation on Instagram to feelings of depression through a sense that one was being disingenuous about what was posted. 

Read more.

Liss, Erchull Study Highlighted in Psychology Journal

Professor of Psychological Science Miriam Liss

Professor of Psychological Science Mindy Erchull

Professor of Psychological Science Mindy Erchull

Psychological Science Professors Miriam Liss and Mindy Erchull’s research on selfie behaviors, self-objectification and depressive behaviors in women was recently published in the psychology journal, Sex Roles. Women are given the message that they are valued for their physical attractiveness above other qualities, and the study examines how self-objectification interplays with online behaviors.

“I have been collaborating with Mindy Erchull on issues related to objectification theory for several years. I had also begun to be interested in the effects of social media on people’s experiences and had recently taught a senior seminar on the topic,” said Liss, the study’s lead author.

“[We] became interested in how objectification relates to experiences with social media — particularly Instagram, which is a platform that is based on posting visual images. Other studies on the topic had largely looked at how feelings of self-objectification can be a consequence of social media. We wanted to look at how self-objectification can change how one behaves when taking and posting selfies.” Read more.

Instagram selfie photo manipulation linked to depressive symptoms in women (PsyPost.org)

Is Santa real? Here’s advice on how to handle a difficult question when kids ask (Naples Daily News; Wisconsin State Farmer)