October 26, 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.

UMW CPSC High School Programming Contest

UMW CPSC High School Programming Contest

The HCC Digital Auditorium was buzzing with the next generation of computer scientists on Saturday, February 22, 2020. Eleven teams of 3 or 4 students from high schools in Culpeper, Spotsylvania, and Stafford used their programming skills to attempt to solve 13 problems in 3.5 hours of programming. The winning team, from Riverbend, solved 9 problems, and they won the 14” golden cup, championship trophy. All of the teams solved at least 3 problems. Prizes were awarded to students on 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place teams. The UMW CPSC Department hosted the area High School Programming Contest. UMW CPSC faculty and students worked on the contest for the past year – planning, recruiting sponsors (SimVentions, BCI, and Lockheed Martin), visiting area high schools, describing programming contests, establishing an ongoing practice contest, and collecting contest entries. The all day contest had 67 attendees – high school students, high school teachers, CPSC faculty, and CPSC students. Everyone received a commemorative t-shirt. Snacks, lunch, and beverages were provided throughout the event. Everyone was tired at the end of the day, but there was a great sense of accomplishment for the high school student programmers, the high school teachers, and the UMW hosts.

Controlling the Social Media Juggernaut (Information Today, Inc.)

Crawford, Davies and Griffith Publish Ecological Model in International Journal

Stephen Davies, associate professor of computer science, Alan Griffith, professor of biological science and Michael Crawford from the class of 2014, published their  modeling research article, titled “Predicting metapopulation responses of a tidal wetland annual to environmental stochasticity and water dispersal through an individual-based model.”

The article currently appears in the journal “Ecological Modelling” online and will appear in print in November. The article can be viewed here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304380015003828

Davies, Griffith and Crawford’s interdisciplinary project involved constructing a computer replica of the rare plant Sensitive Joint-Vetch in its native habitat – Virginia coastal wetlands. This detailed model was then simulated to make predictions about the plant’s population dynamics in response to various environmental factors.

Davies and Brown Publish Racial Diversity Simulation Paper

Stephen Davies, associate professor in computer science and UMW alumna Morgan Brown (computer science, mathematics) have had their research paper “Toward an agent-based simulation of the factors impacting diversity within a college student body” accepted to the 47th Winter Simulation Conference, the premier academic forum for simulation research in the world.

The paper describes an agent-based computational simulation that models college students and their social interactions, with particular focus on interracial friendships and the factors that contribute to racial segregation. The ultimate goals of the project are to better understand the dynamics of campus segregation, and to determine the efficacy of possible institutional policies that a university might implement that would encourage racial integration. Such policies, if successful, could decrease the well-documented effect of social alienation that minority students often perceive, and which can impact their academic success.

This paper is a milestone in a project that originated with a 2013-14 UMW faculty research grant and which has involved contributions from three computer science honors students, Leah Cox and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and several other UMW staff members who contributed domain knowledge about various aspects of campus life.

Taking on Twitter

Is it a human or a Twitter bot?

Researchers from the University of Mary Washington and the Naval Surface Warfare Center want to know for sure.

UMW computer science majors Bryan Holster and Chris Zimmerman, under the guidance of Professor Stephen Davies, have teamed with scientists at the center’s Dahlgren division to get to the bottom of this sometimes perplexing social media mystery. The partnership is one of several ongoing collaborations between the University and the Naval Surface Warfare Center.

Taking on Twitter

UMW students team with Dahlgren scientists to conduct research.

UMW Students and Faculty Collaborate with Dahlgren Researchers

Eight University of Mary Washington students have received hands-on guidance this semester from mentors at the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Dahlgren. The students shared the results of their undergraduate research projects during poster presentations on Wednesday, April 30 at UMW’s Dahlgren campus. UMW professors Debra Hydorn, Melody Denhere and Stephen Davies collaborated with the students and mentors on four projects:
  • Statistical modeling and analysis of counts in time – using social network data, students Kim Hildebrand and Candice Benshaw analyzed the number of Twitter messages sent within a county in the U.S. during a given hour.
  • Simulation of a social network graph – students Cody Reibsome and Benjamin Blalock established a model of the collection of individuals that a member follows and the collection of individuals who are followers on Twitter.
  • String edit distance for micro-blogging text – in order to follow trends on Twitter there is a need to be able to account for misspellings. Students Jonathan Blauvelt and Anthony Bell used a distance measure to determine the similarity of tweets.
  • Citation prediction and analysis – students William Etcho and Josiah Neuberger explored methodologies for predicting the number of citations a paper or patent receives or for identifying emerging technologies.
For more information about the projects, contact Hydorn at dhydorn@umw.edu.

Stephen Davies Publishes Research

Stephen Davies

Professor of Computer Science Stephen Davies’ research appears in the August 2012 issue of Computer, IEEE’s flagship publication. The article “Cinefile: A Category-Based Analytic Browser” is co-authored by Davies and two UMW alumni, Stacey Aylor Seal and Jesse Hatfield. Both Seal and Hatfield are graduate students at George Mason University.

Stephen Davies to Feature in IEEE Computer

Stephen Davies, assistant professor of computer science, will have his paper “Cinefile: A Category-Based Analytic Browser” published in IEEE Computer. The paper, co-authored with former students Stacey Aylor ’11 and Jesse Hatfield ’10, discusses a new user interface paradigm for analyzing patterns in a large database, specifically using the IMDB movie database.

The paper will appear on the publication’s website and in the print version later this year.