March 1, 2024

UMW Presents Top Faculty Awards

Professor of Religion Mary Beth Mathews earned the Grellet C. Simpson Award, the University of Mary Washington’s most prestigious honor for excellence in undergraduate teaching, established in 1972 and presented to a senior faculty member.

Professor of Religion Mary Beth Mathews

Professor of Religion Mary Beth Mathews

She was one of several professors honored at the fall semester’s opening faculty meeting. Most awards generally are presented at Commencement; this year, limited attendance at graduation ceremonies deferred some presentations.

As the most recent recipient of the award, Mathews was praised for her “spellbinding” lectures. She “challenges a broad community of students to think critically and reflect, both in and beyond the classroom,” said Associate Professor of Linguistics Janie Lee, chair of UMW’s Sabbaticals, Fellowships and Faculty Awards committee.

Mathews, who has taught at Mary Washington for 21 years, is a leading scholar of American – particularly African-American – and European religious history. She has led the charge to create UMW’s interdisciplinary African American studies minor and will serve as the program’s first director, beginning this year.

Described by Lee as a “pioneer in digital pedagogy and distance learning,” Mathews has team-taught a digital course, Divided Houses: Secession and Separatists Movements, and taught the Race & Revolution and Religion & Social Movements in the U.S. First -Year Seminars.

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

Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Rao’s “university and college service alone fills more than a page of his CV,” Lee said. In his 19 years at Mary Washington, he has held critical leadership roles on and off campus, serving twice as University Faculty Council chair and leading the Faculty Senate of Virginia. Rao also launched UMW’s Communication and Digital Studies major and department, which he currently chairs.

During the pandemic, Rao participated in the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Education Response and Recovery work group and co-facilitated UMW’s popular COVID-19 in Context and Life After COVID courses.

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science Pamela Grothe ’06 received the UMW Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award, given annually to an exceptional faculty member who has served the University for at least two years but no more than five.

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Pamela Grothe

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Pamela Grothe

Grothe returned a decade after her graduation to serve as a professor at her alma mater, where she has excelled in the areas of teaching, research and service. She “truly goes above and beyond,” Lee said, citing Grothe’s willingness to mentor students, manage her department’s social media accounts, serve on various university committees, and engage with current and prospective students, as well as alumni.

In addition, Grothe has developed a new study abroad course for students and secured a Virtual Library of Virginia grant to teach courses with Open Access Resources, Lee said, all while managing a heavy teaching load.

Among faculty who received awards during Commencement week earlier this year were Professor of Mathematics Janusz Konieczny, who earned the Waple Faculty Professional Achievement Award; and Professor of Marketing Kashef Majid, recipient of the Mary W. Pinschmidt Award, annually presented by the graduating class. Professor of Biological Science Andrew Dolby received the inaugural Board of Visitors Faculty Leadership Award.

UMW Celebrates Division III Week, April 13-19

UMW Women's Basketball participates in a read-aloud with local students.

UMW Women’s Basketball participates in a read-aloud with local students.

Dear UMW Colleagues,

Last week marked the NCAA’s Division III week, April 13-19, our student-athletes are not able to practice or compete. So rather than focus on what the student-athletes and their coaches accomplish on the field or court, I will take this opportunity to recognize their incredible devotion to a key part of our ASPIRE values—engagement through service.

As you may know, our student-athletes receive no athletic scholarships whatsoever. They chose the DIII model because it combines a love of the game with the chance to concentrate on academic achievement as well. Here at UMW, our varsity athletics teams pride themselves on not just their GPAs and win/loss records, but also how much and how often they can find opportunities to volunteer for a myriad of causes and groups in the Fredericksburg area. The Eagles have been working hard all year in a friendly competition to amass the most volunteer hours, and even though their Spring seasons and service events were abruptly ended, they managed to make substantial contributions.

UMW student-athletes participate in a clean-up of the Rappahannock River.

UMW student-athletes participate in a clean-up of the Rappahannock River.

For example, the men’s soccer team led all others in total service hours with 320.5. Off the pitch, they helped set up and break down equipment for the Make-a-Wish Foundation’s gymnastics event, served community dinners at the Fredericksburg Baptist Church, and assisted an elderly Fredericksburg resident with her move. The next closest team was men’s and women’s swimming, at 256 hours, followed by women’s basketball with 233. These teams participated in COAR Into the Streets and community dinners. But total service hours for a team is only one way the student-athletes compete. The women’s basketball team holds the record for most hours per individual student-athlete with an average of 15.52 hours. And the entire Athletics Department participated in a Capital Athletic Conference food drive during the Fall semester, collecting a whopping 6395 pounds of food to donate to the Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank. That total beat the nearest CAC competitor—CNU—by almost two tons.

All teams provided volunteers for special events like blood drives, reading clinics with grade school children, cleaning up the Rappahannock River, present wrapping for COAR, and assisting with Special Olympics events. These activities build camaraderie, but they also allow the volunteers a chance to learn about the needs of the local community and take an active role in helping others.

While we’re all anxious to get back to our usual routines, I hope you’ll join me in thanking the student-athletes and their coaches for their dedication to making our world just a little bit better.

Best wishes,

Mary Beth Mathews

UMW Faculty Athletics Representative, Professor of Religious Studies

Mathews Presents Paper at Harvard University Symposium

Professor of Religious Studies Mary Beth Mathews

Professor of Religious Studies Mary Beth Mathews

Professor of Religious Studies Mary Beth Mathews presented an invited paper, “Doctrine, Race, and Education: The American Baptist Theological Seminary and Jim Crow,” at Harvard University’s Symposium on Religion and Public Life in Africa and the Americas, sponsored by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. She argued that African American theological seminaries in the American South are a neglected but necessary avenue for understanding how African American evangelicals negotiated racial barriers to education and constructed autonomous spaces for theological development.

UMW Religion Professor to Discuss New Book

Mary Beth Mathews, associate professor of religion at the University of Mary Washington, will discuss her new book, Doctrine and Race: African American Evangelicals and Fundamentalism between the Wars, on Wednesday, March 22, at 4 p.m. in Trinkle Hall, Room 242. The event is open to students, faculty, staff and the public. By presenting African American […]

Cuccinelli Will be Keynote Speaker at Fredericksburg’s Religious Freedom Celebration (The Free Lance-Star)

Four UMW Faculty Present at 2013 Lilly Conference

Suzanne Sumner explains her presentation during the 2013 Lilly Conference. Photo courtesy of Ian Franczak.

Suzanne Sumner, professor of mathematics, Mary Beth Mathews, associate professor of religion, Kathryn Loesser-Casey, professor of biology, and Debra Hydorn, professor of mathematics, gave presentations at the 2013 Lilly Conference on College and University Teaching. The theme of this year’s conference was “Evidence Based Teaching and Learning.” Professors Sumner and Mathews gave a poster presentation on “The ‘Race and Revolotion’ First-Year Seminar: Reclaiming the University of Mary Washington’s Social Justice.” Professors Hydorn and Loesser-Casey gave a workshop on “A New Course to Develop Students’ Scientific Reasoning and Practice Skills.” The conference took place in Bethesda, Md., from May 30 – June 2.

Mary Beth Mathews Presents at Yale

Mary Beth Mathews, associate professor of religion, presented “‘What is the Matter with White Baptists?’ : African Americans’ Initial Encounters with Fundamentalism” at the International Fundamentals: Early Fundamentalism and the American Century Conference at Yale University.

Dreiss, Tweedy & Mathews Participate in Humanities Conference

Three UMW faculty participated in the recent Virginia Humanities Conference at Christopher Newport University on Friday, March 16. Professor of Art History Joseph Dreiss presented a paper, “The Landscape Interventions of Any Goldsworthy,” while Associate Professor of English Danny Tweedy delivered a paper entitled, “Faith and Ecology: Spirituality versus Eco-collapse in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.”  Mary Beth Mathews, associate professor of religion, served as UMW’s delegate to the VHC.

Mary Beth Mathews Offers Opinion in Fredericksburg Newspaper

Mary Beth Mathews, associate professor of religion, wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Friday, Dec. 9 issue of The Free Lance-Star. The article, “U.S. Voters Do Care What Candidates Believe,” argues that American voters are interested in political candidates’ religious beliefs and practices.