September 16, 2021

President Paino Focuses on What Matters Most in UMW Address

As the University of Mary Washington welcomes students to campus this week, President Troy Paino expressed “true joy” as he gathered with many of his colleagues on Monday for the first time since March of last year. Speaking in Dodd Auditorium, Paino was visibly moved as he delivered his all-University address in person to more than 100 faculty and staff, while those still teleworking watched on livestream.

UMW President Troy Paino. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

UMW President Troy Paino. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Paino, who wore a mask in adherence to UMW’s indoor face coverings policy, shared his concerns about the Delta variant. But having witnessed the campus community’s commitment to mitigating the spread of the virus, he said he was confident in Mary Washington’s resilience and ability to adapt. “Our capacity to serve our students and fulfill our mission” will be renewed and strengthened after the adversity we’ve all faced, he said.

Touting a 90 percent vaccination rate among students and employees, Paino said the University will continue to monitor the situation and follow guidance from local and state health authorities. Finishing the last academic year among schools with the lowest number of cases, Mary Washington has been a model for the Commonwealth, he said. Furthermore, Chief of Staff Jeff McClurken, who managed UMW’s pandemic response with Interim Provost Tim O’Donnell, was asked to chair a team of COVID directors from Virginia colleges and universities.

Flanked by banners declaring the values that matter at Mary Washington, Paino announced that more than 7,000 members of the UMW community helped create “a collective expression … that is authentic to who we are.” Mary Washington will continue to collaborate with Atlanta-based firm Mindpower to refine and reinforce the Matter brand to tell our story to prospective students and their families, he said.

 

 

He also encouraged faculty and staff to focus on fostering connections with current students, especially those who came to UMW during the pandemic. “Individualized attention … the human interaction with our students inside and outside the classroom,” he said, “that’s the Mary Washington experience.”

The president also provided updates on construction projects, including the newly renovated Virginia Hall, which new students began moving into this week; the anticipated spring 2022 completion of Seacobeck as the new home of the College of Education; and the Maxine and Carl D. Silver Hillel Center, which will serve as a hub for UMW’s Jewish students. Funds have been secured from the General Assembly to start planning for a new theatre, Paino said, as well as a revitalization of the duPont, Pollard and Melchers arts complex.

Mary Washington has begun a nationwide search for a new chief diversity officer to succeed Sabrina Johnson, who retired earlier this year, Paino said. Citing UMW’s recent rankings on the Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges and Washington Monthly’s list of institutions that serve a public good, he added that Mary Washington is on the verge of hiring a full-time sustainability coordinator.

Paino concluded his address with praise for faculty and staff, emphasizing their role in helping UMW students discover what matters most to them. “I wish you well as we welcome our students back to campus,” he said, “and be reminded of the important work we do together.”

 

A message from President Paino

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

On Monday, I recorded this video as a year-end message of appreciation and encouragement for all of you. At that time, we had no idea when a verdict would be rendered or what to expect in the trial of Derek Chauvin. Now that we know the outcome, my sentiments expressed here take on even more poignancy and meaning. We must continue to strive to be better and to hold ourselves and our nation accountable as a place where all can live with dignity, purpose, and acceptance.

When I consider all the visible and unseen challenges each of you has confronted this past year, I realize that this year has come at a great price, but also with tremendous reward. The way that this great community continues to overcome the unimaginable fills me with a sense of hope for the future.

Wishing you all the best,

Troy Paino
President

 

Democracy is not a state

Monroe Hall after a snowfall. A message from the Office of the President. 

“Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”

John Lewis

The New York Times, July 30, 2020

 

To members of the UMW Community:

Like you, I watched with shock and horror as a mob attacked our nation’s Capitol on Wednesday afternoon. I struggled that night and Thursday with what, if anything, to say to the Mary Washington community in the wake of this travesty. Adding my voice to the chorus of condemnations from across the globe seemed gratuitous.

On the other hand, given our mission, proximity to DC, and the reality that this event, along with the stress of the pandemic, has impacted all of us in a very real and profound way, does the Mary Washington community need to hear from me at this time?  At the very least, I do feel compelled to give voice to our calling and mission in the face of such a national disgrace.

Wednesday was a manifestation of a dangerous undercurrent that has been a part of our national story since its beginning. As we have learned, it does not take much to unleash that destructive force. As if we needed to be reminded, the biggest threat to our nation’s future is from within; it always has been.

Mary Washington’s mission calls us to be nothing less than a counterforce to the darkness and self-interest that can lie in the human spirit and to make sacrifices for the common good. As a public, liberal arts institution, UMW’s purpose and community values are grounded in and defined by the fundamental principles of a democratic civil society.

As Congressman Lewis’ final words instruct, we must act in the face of this unraveling. It is easy to gain notoriety and even political support by sowing seeds of division, hate, and resentment toward those with whom you disagree. It is much more difficult to work with those on the other side of the political divide, to listen to dissenting views and counterarguments, to love your enemies, and sow seeds of hope despite all the reasons to feel hopeless.

What we need now more than ever, though, is just that – the moral courage of both leaders and citizens to confront inconvenient truths and work together toward solutions with humility, grace, empathy, and an eye toward the common good. This is what can heal a divided nation. It is UMW’s mission to prepare a generation to do just that, to do its part to build a nation at peace with itself.

Let’s get back to work.

Sincerely,

Troy D. Paino
President

An end-of-semester message from President Paino

A message from the Office of the President.

To the campus community:

What a year this has been! While there are many aspects of it I’m happy to move beyond, I believe we also learned a great deal about ourselves and our ability to overcome unimaginable challenges.

As 2020 draws to a close, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for all you have done to persevere and project positivity during this pandemic. While many people went to extraordinary lengths to prepare for our return, ultimately the success rested on each individual’s decision to put the good of this community above personal interest. All of you showed resilience, dedication, and adaptability as we encountered hurdles and faced unknowns.

I’m deeply grateful to you; your sacrifice and sense of responsibility for each other allowed us to have a successful fall. Your commitment to this community was inspiring, and the people of UMW demonstrated that it was possible to continue living and learning in the midst of COVID. My pride in this student body, faculty, and staff is difficult to articulate, but I invite you to watch this video message for all members of this community.

With hopeful news of a COVID vaccine on the horizon, I look forward to a 2021 full of promise and possibilities. Meanwhile, I wish you a warm, healthy, and relaxing winter break.

Troy

 

Virginia Business Profile on UMW

Lee Hall

President Troy Paino, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Keith Mellinger and Professor of Communication Anand Rao were interviewed for a Virginia Business profile on the University of Mary Washington entitled, “The Mother of Innovation.”

Don’t try to be something you’re not.

That’s one way to sum up the approach that Troy Paino has taken to guiding the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg since assuming the school’s presidency in July 2016.

“I knew as an outsider that Virginia had a crowded and competitive marketplace for higher education,” says Paino, who previously served as president of Missouri’s Truman State University. “I don’t think I fully appreciated it until I got here.” Read more.

 

UMW Proceeds With Plans for In-Person Learning

Welcoming students back to campus is the right decision for Mary Washington. That’s what UMW President Troy Paino said in a video released late yesterday, in which he announced that, following a three-week delay of in-person classes, students will begin returning to campus on Sept. 10 and to limited in-person learning on Sept. 14.

UMW President Troy Paino
UMW President Troy Paino

“I will state the obvious,” Paino said in the nearly 19-minute video. “There is no consensus on how to proceed.”

He said he made the painstaking decision after conferring with medical experts, presidential colleagues, parents and others, always keeping the health and wellbeing of students, faculty, staff and area residents foremost in mind. He made the call, he said, for two primary reasons: his belief in the commitment of UMW students and University community members to make personal sacrifices for the greater good, and his confidence in a strong and adaptable plan thoroughly developed by faculty, staff and administrators throughout the past six months.

With an effective, widely available vaccine as far away as 18 months, Paino said, he was forced to weigh the risks of bringing students back to Mary Washington against those of going fully remote, foregoing the meaningful relationships and self-discovery that come with campus life.

“We cannot put this generation on hold for that long,” said Paino, the father of a college student and a recent college graduate. “They need to see that despite the challenges this virus presents, we can move forward with our lives.” Read more.

President Paino: UMW Will Persevere Through Pandemic

A situation easily seen as short on hope is filled with it because of the hard work and dedication of faculty and staff, University of Mary Washington President Troy Paino said Monday morning during an all-University address delivered on YouTube and Zoom.

UMW President Troy D. Paino

UMW President Troy D. Paino

From the early clearing of campus last spring to the recent delay of in-person classes, employees have shown resilience throughout the COVID-19 crisis, he said, working together to pursue UMW’s primary mission of serving students. Visibly moved by the months-long effort, he expressed personal gratitude to individuals, departments and the collective community, and pledged that the preservation of jobs will remain a top priority.

Despite challenges that lie ahead – from public health and economic crises to political upheaval and a renewed focus on achieving racial equity – Mary Washington should emerge stronger than ever, according to Paino. That’s because of the institution’s bedrock principles. “Our care, compassion, empathy and commitment hold us together in the face of all those forces that could have divided us,” he said.

Noting the faculty’s lightning-speed, four-day transition last spring from in-person to online instruction, Paino singled out creative feats like UMW Theatre’s impromptu livestream production of Much Ado About Nothing and the fiscal maneuvering of a budget cut by millions. With nearly 2,000 attendees across the globe and dozens of facilitators, the COVID-19 in Context course, launched by College of Arts and Sciences Dean Keith Mellinger and Professor of Communication Anand Rao, spoke to the University’s resilience, Paino said, and helped make sense of the world.

A COVID-19 task force, directed by Chief of Staff Jeff McClurken and Associate Provost for Academic Engagement and Student Success Tim O’Donnell and splintered into working groups involving more than 100 faculty and staff, was charged with preparing for the return of students this fall. The entire UMW community, Paino said, from frontline workers to alumni, “did not skip a beat,” rising to meet the demands of a rapidly shifting reality while maintaining care and concern for one another and for students.

The COVID-19 in Context course, launched by College of Arts and Sciences Dean Keith Mellinger and Professor of Communication Anand Rao, spoke to the University’s resilience, Paino said, and helped make sense of the world.

In his all-university address, President Paino said UMW’s popular COVID-19 in Context course spoke to the University’s resilience, and helped make sense of the world.

“It’s uncertain when the uncertainty will be behind us,” said Paino, adding that UMW will continue to monitor the virus’ spread, testing capacity and other factors before reaffirming its plan to begin welcoming students back onto campus Sept. 10. He reinforced the decision to issue pro-rated room and board discounts to compensate for reduced time on campus and re-iterated his resolve to save jobs. “We want to do everything we can, we want to look under every rock, before we ever get to that point.”

A renewed focus on its core values, including civic engagement, and diversity and inclusion, will help see UMW through the pandemic, Paino said, acknowledging the unwelcome interruption of the yearlong Farmer Legacy 2020 celebration. The commemoration recognizes not only the 100th birthday of the late civil rights icon and Mary Washington professor James Farmer but also the centennial anniversary of women’s right to vote and the 30-year mark of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The recent renaming of Trinkle Hall in honor of Farmer, Paino said, demonstrates UMW’s commitment to continue the commemoration.

New initiatives like ASPIRE Speak, emphasizing respect, empathy and civility in discourse, and the student-led Day on Democracy, aimed at encouraging and enabling all to exercise their right to vote, he said, will serve to keep the University moving in the right direction. He also emphasized the need for the entire Mary Washington community to adhere to the mantra of the #ForwardUMW MMDC campaign: monitor, mask, distance and clean.

Plans for fall in-person learning to end before Thanksgiving, and students’ return to campus in late January, 2021, will give the University ample time to prepare for what will hopefully be a full spring semester and two May Commencements, for the Classes of 2020 and 2021.

“If we’re able to get there, I cannot think of a more joyous occasion for the Mary Washington community,” Paino said. “On the other side of this pandemic … I see a stronger and more self-assured UMW. This has brought us together in a powerful way, and now it is up to us to stay together.”

President Paino’s All-University Address

The following message is from the Office of the President.

As is his tradition, President Paino will launch the upcoming semester with an all-University address on Monday, August 17, from 9 to 10 a.m. This session, however, will not be in Dodd Auditorium; it will be via your computer screen. Please plan to access the live address via Zoom or YouTube. Neither platform requires registration, and the YouTube recording will be available afterward for those unable to join Monday morning.

A message from President Paino about the start of on-campus instruction

A message from President Troy Paino:

 

To our faculty and staff,

Like you, I have been closely following recent trends with the COVID-19 virus. It goes without saying that the increase in the number of cases in Virginia and across the country gives us pause. We had hoped and believed, just a month ago, that we were headed in the right direction. However, after careful study of the most recent data, a thorough discussion of our options with the COVID-19 Implementation Team, consultation with our local public health and health care officials, and deliberation with my senior leadership team, we have made the decision to delay move-in and the start of on-campus instruction.

This means that we now aim for the following:

  • All classes will still begin on Monday, August 24, but in-person and hybrid courses will be conducted remotely for the first three weeks.
  • Residential students will return to campus by Monday, September 14 (move-in will take place September 10-13).
  • Classes on September 10 and 11 will be cancelled to support residential student move-in.
  • Residential students will still return home on Friday, November 20.
  • As previously announced, classes will resume remotely on Monday, November 30, and the semester will conclude with exams the week of December 7.

What has caused us to adjust our plans? Since we completed our plan – #ForwardUMWand shared it with you at the beginning of July, the pandemic’s impact has worsened, both here in Virginia and around the country. The number of daily cases has gone up, as have hospitalizations and test positivity rates. We remain fortunate that our region (the Rappahannock Health District) has not witnessed the increases in cases and hospitalizations that are cause for alarm in other areas of our commonwealth. In addition, our health care partner, Mary Washington Hospital, continues to report that the demand remains low for intensive care beds – a key measure of hospital surge capacity. Nonetheless, we have observed that both here and nationally the availability of tests has tightened, while the return time on results has lengthened. Both of these conditions – trends in public health and the ability to test adequately – are critical to our ability to return fully to campus this fall. Today’s announcement provides a little more time to monitor and evaluate these conditions.

You might be asking, “why shouldn’t we just move the entire semester online at this point?” I understand this perspective. It would be an easier way forward and would provide the certainty that we would prefer to plan our courses, organize our labs, and design our assignments. It is not, at this time, the right approach for our students. Deciding prematurely to forego an on-campus experience for our students would deny them a critical opportunity for growth and development that is optimized through the residential experience. We have invested significantly and developed substantive engagement opportunities at every level of the institution this fall. Therefore, we need to extend, as much as possible, the chance for our students to have an experience that we all recognize as transformational.

To move forward, I have asked Provost Mikhalevsky, to work with the college deans and the leadership of faculty governance to recommend any adjustments to the academic calendar that this delay may require. I expect that those decisions will be made by the end of this week and shared with you as soon as they are final.

I know that for our faculty members who had planned to start their classes in-person, whether face-to-face or hybrid, this is difficult news. While our decision to start with remote learning is not something any of us were seeking, I know that your preparation and talents in the classroom will translate to our students,  regardless of modality. I am well aware of how much we have asked of you these past few months and am so very grateful for your continued dedication and commitment to our students.

And to our staff, who have been working so diligently to provide for an outstanding student experience, irrespective of whether our students are on campus or at home, I know that this is also disappointing news. However, I am confident that your efforts to engage and support students through advising, counseling, activities or events will be realized in new and different ways.

We are all here to welcome our students to the fall semester, regardless of modality or on-campus start date. We know that our students are eager to join us. We also know that their desire for residential living, despite the circumstances, remains high. We will do everything we possibly can to see that this is possible in what will now be a more compact on-campus experience. We do this because we know that residential living provides opportunities for growth, discovery, and personal development that cannot be realized in any other way.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge again what I have said previously, this pandemic has put us – along with our colleagues in higher education across the state and around the nation – in a precarious financial situation. This decision, made in the interest of public health, is the right one for us despite the fiscal challenges that it presents. Difficult decisions often don’t offer simple solutions.

We will continue to provide updates to keep you informed and are planning Q&A sessions with both faculty and staff, as well as students and their families, next week. In addition, we have focused on Tuesday, September 1, as a date to provide further updates about the fall semester.

So many have done so much in support of our return to campus this August, and we have done everything in our control to make this possible. And though we cannot foresee the future, we will continue to adapt and respond as new information is available. While this virus has repeatedly demonstrated that it doesn’t care about our best laid plans, I am confident that the strength of our community will prove resilient and ready.

 

Troy

UMW Chooses New Name for Building: James Farmer Hall

The University of Mary Washington Board of Visitors today voted to change the name of Trinkle Hall to James Farmer Hall. With this action, the Board memorialized a beloved member of the Mary Washington community who spent most of his career fighting injustices.

University of Mary Washington’s Board of Visitors voted to change the name of Trinkle Hall to James Farmer Hall. Dr. James L. Farmer Jr., one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement, spent his final years as a professor of history at Mary Washington. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

University of Mary Washington’s Board of Visitors voted to change the name of Trinkle Hall to James Farmer Hall. Dr. James L. Farmer Jr., one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement, spent his final years as a professor of history at Mary Washington. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

“I commend the action of the Board today,” said Rector Heather Crislip. “We are talking about one of the most beautiful and iconic buildings on campus, and its name should reflect our community and our values.”

The vote to change the name of this building comes at a pivotal time in our nation’s history. Today’s action was precipitated by the exhaustive work of UMW’s Campus Environment Presidential Ad Hoc Committee. That group was charged in 2017 with evaluating campus art, monuments, and other representations of the University’s history and community in order to ensure that Mary Washington is a welcoming environment for all.

In its subsequent 74-page report presented to the Board in November 2019, the committee’s research revealed that certain works of art and artifacts present a one-dimensional interpretation of UMW’s history. The Board unanimously voted to endorse all 17 of the committee’s recommendations for addressing the issues, with the greatest urgency placed upon identifying a new name for Trinkle Hall, named for a former governor of Virginia who was an active proponent of eugenics and segregation. The board further directed that the new name provide an opportunity for celebration, positive growth, and affirmative identity of the campus.

Earlier this year, a Naming Committee of UMW alumni, faculty, staff, and students solicited nominations for consideration. The committee then narrowed the field by tallying the top five nominees, surveyed the community regarding these nominees, and conveyed the results to President Troy Paino, who voiced his support of the committee’s recommendation to the Board. Read more.