She’s Psyched (and Her Students are Too)

Miriam Liss, associate professor of psychology, leads her classes in role play exercises

Saying Miriam Liss likes psychology would be an understatement. Liss, a licensed clinical psychologist and one of the Princeton Review’s 300 Best Professors, is known for her energy in the classroom and her ability to engage with students. “I love getting students up out of their seats and getting them engaged with the material,” she said. For example, in her personality class she has students role play Erikson’s stages. “Students may forget a lecture about Erikson, but they will never forget the interpretative dance used to illustrate autonomy versus shame and doubt,” she said. In addition to her work in the classroom, Liss is passionate about the independent research projects of her students. She has published more than 10 articles with student co-authors in peer-reviewed journals and has presented with numerous students at national conferences. “Students can get such a unique experience with our faculty,” she said of UMW’s emphasis on undergraduate research. Liss and … [Read more...]

Conversation Starter

Warren 8

For Warren Rochelle, professor of English, a class is a conversation where knowledge goes both ways. “Classes are conversations between students and the professor. Knowledge isn’t static,” he said. “We make and discover meaning in conversation, whether it is a conversation with self, with a text, and in this case, in a classroom, with those who are participating in the class. Students bring knowledge to the table, as does the professor, and then through the give-and-take of a class discussion, through responses to a lecture, through blog posts, meaning is explored and developed.” His goal is for students to achieve mastery of the subject and feel engaged with the material. To make the coursework come alive for his students, Rochelle encourages discussions in small groups. An accomplished science fiction writer in his own right and one of the Princeton Review’s 300 Best Professors, Rochelle’s passion for fantasy and science fiction is evident in his classes. … [Read more...]

Around the World in Nine Apps

Jennifer Polack Wahl 6

Nine applications in a year; thousands of downloads from all over the world; one dedicated UMW professor. Jennifer Polack-Wahl, professor of computer science, leads a small group of student researchers who in just 12 months is making a sizeable impact in elementary schools in the Commonwealth and across the nation. Polack-Wahl and the team, known as S.M.A.R.T. (Student Made Applications and Researching Technology), has created applications, or “apps,” for iPads, iPhones and iTouches specifically geared toward addressing Virginia SOL math and literacy requirements for elementary school students. This semester, the group released an app that focuses on the history of ancient Egypt. Apps on money and life science are in the works. Polack-Wahl is collaborating with the Charlottesville, Va., school district, which is using the apps, to make sure the content and format are effective. And with Apple technologymaking its way into elementary school classrooms, the S.M.A.R.T. team is adding a … [Read more...]

Graduates of Rappahannock Scholars Program Head Toward New Opportunities

(from left) Shanita Mitchell, Charnele Young, Amanda Jenkins and Amber Harris

Amber Harris ranked among the top of her class at Northumberland County High School but she wasn’t sure she’d be able to follow her dream of a higher degree. “If I hadn't received a scholarship, I may not have had the opportunity to go to college," said Harris, a 2012 graduate of the University of Mary Washington. On Saturday, May 12, she walked across the stage on UMW’s Fredericksburg campus to receive her bachelor’s degree in psychology, making her the first in her family to graduate from college. Harris is one of four inaugural graduates of Rappahannock Scholars, a program that mentors and provides financial aid to promising underserved students from the Northern Neck region of Virginia. She and fellow graduates Shanita Mitchell, Amanda Jenkins and Charnele Young have excelled at UMW and each has carved a distinct niche for herself. Harris has worked as an aide in the Admissions Office since her sophomore year.  She recently presented her semester-long research about the … [Read more...]

There’s No Place Like Home

Leslie Martin 2

Leslie Martin has honed in on housing and homelessness in the Fredericksburg area community. And so are students taking the freshman class seminar taught by the assistant professor of sociology. The students work at a local homeless shelter, assist with community dinners and tutor through programs around Fredericksburg. This integral community involvement helps shed light on area housing issues that undergraduates tackle in Martin’s seminar, “No Place Like Home: Housing and Society.” Martin leads discussions on housing and homelessness, using examples from her ongoing research on the rhetoric of homeless service providers. One such discussion in her urban sociology class focused on how the presence of homeless people in the downtown area impact local businesses. The timely issue illustrates how communities address inequality and poverty, Martin said. Martin, who has served on affordable housing and homelessness task forces, sees a connection between how agencies and other … [Read more...]

Serious about Art

Katie Rosinski

When Katie Rosinski '12 works on an idea for  a piece of art, she opens her sketchbook and writes words, lists and word associations – what she calls “mind maps.” “Concept is very important to me, so I consider layers of content and what the materials and scale of the piece are saying,” she said. Her detailed artistic process has paid off – Rosinski is a two-time winner of the prestigious Melchers Gray Purchase Award, given annually by the UMW art department. Her most recent award is for her 3-D mixed media piece, “Housed,” that will become a part of the university’s permanent collection. “To have my pieces now part of the permanent collection is extraordinary and very fitting,” she said. “UMW is so important to me and so I couldn’t be happier that my pieces are now living here.” Rosinski’s success at Mary Washington comes as no surprise to Carole Garmon, chair of the Department of Art and Art History. “From the moment Katie stepped into the halls of Melchers, she let everyone … [Read more...]

History in the Making

Bruce O'Brien 4

Some might say Professor of History Bruce O’Brien is stuck in the Middle Ages – he might thank you for the compliment in Old English. O’Brien is leading an international collaborative effort called the Early English Laws Project, which aims to re-edit and translate all 150 of the early English laws issued between 600 to 1225 and make them accessible to the public through an online database. In light of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the project takes a new resonance. “This will make early law codes accessible to anyone,” he said, noting that laws like the Magna Carta have influenced some of the most important legal documents in history, including the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. O’Brien is the academic lead of the project, a collaboration between the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London and the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London. The initial launch of the project in January marked the … [Read more...]

Fun and Learning Foremost at UMW Play Lab

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When Laura Johnson '12 registered for classes for her last undergraduate semester at the University of Mary Washington, she added one that wasn’t required—the Play Lab, an education course that gives students hands-on experience working with disabled students. Johnson, who majored in historic preservation and elementary education with a focus in museum studies, thought the class would be beneficial to her as a teacher. “You can’t control who comes into your classroom,” she said.  “As a teacher, you’re responsible for giving every student the best education that you can, so I thought it was part of my responsibility as a teacher.” The Play Lab, in its third semester at UMW, is a parent resource and clinic for children with developmental delays, such as autism and intellectual disabilities. Bolstered through community donations and grant awards, the course has been cited as a model program by Virginia Commonwealth’s Center for Autism Excellence. UMW students spend seven weeks in … [Read more...]

Ask Me Why I’m Living on $2 a Day

UMW Two a day

  More than 30 UMW students, along with Associate Professor of Economics Shawn Humphrey, participated in the annual $2 a Day Challenge, an experiential learning exercise aimed at raising awareness and funds for poverty-related causes. For a week at the beginning of April, they lived in a self-made structure on Ball Circle and spent only $2 each day on food and other expenses. In the process, they hoped to raise more than $2,000 for La Ceiba, a microfinance institution, while shedding light on poverty issues. The $2 a Day Challenge, founded by Humphrey, is in its sixth year at UMW. The program is part of the larger TDC organization, which also includes the Month of Microfinance movement and the Poverty Action Conference. This year, several other universities, including Wake Forest and Elon, are holding $2 a Day Challenges. … [Read more...]

UMW Alumna’s Research is “Eye-Opening” Experience

Shirin Afsous (right) is assisting Leila Asadi with human rights research

For Shirin Afsous, the problem of sex trafficking in the Middle East hits home. The 2012 graduate of the University of Mary Washington was born in Iran and grew up making occasional visits to the country with her family. When Afsous learned that human rights activist Leila Asadi wanted help with research on gender and sexuality issues, Afsous jumped at the opportunity. Asadi is visiting professor at UMW this semester, where she’s continuing the research she began in the Middle East. Although hundreds of UMW students study abroad every year, undergraduate research like Afsous’ work with Asadi provides a way for students to make global connections without ever leaving the Fredericksburg campus. In Iran and other Middle Eastern countries, Afsous explained, research has shown that, in some cases, girls as young as 12 years old are engaged in prostitution rings. Some girls may see it as their only way out of poverty. Asadi, herself, fled Iran after one of her friends was arrested in … [Read more...]