A Second Chance

Nicole Dobson (center) is president of UMW's Students With Disabilities and Their Allies (SDATA).

Nicole Dobson never saw the truck that changed her life. She was asleep in the backseat when the 18-wheeler slammed into her parents’ minivan, sending it toppling head over tail and tossing Dobson 30 feet from the car. When she woke up three weeks later, the vibrant eighth-grade field hockey player was gone. “I went to sleep perfectly normal that one day,” said Dobson, who broke 13 bones, punctured a lung, and suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash. “I just remember coming to terms with my ruined physical and mental states.” As she pushed through therapy, learning to walk, talk – and think – all over again, she made a decision. She would weave into her future the accident that had nearly stolen it away. Now a Mary Washington junior, Dobson hopes to use her experience to help others deal with their own disabilities – through a career in speech-language pathology and as president of UMW’s Students With Disabilities and Their Allies (SDATA). “Having almost lost life … [Read more...]

Scaling New Heights

Zach Fichter '13 is an award-winning guitarist.

Zach Fichter ’13 aims to be a rock star. The University of Mary Washington music major will get another push in that direction when he interns this summer with Kyle Crosby ’94 at Richmond’s Sound of Music Recording Studios. “My ideal day would be to wake up, make coffee, compose, go to work as a recording engineer, then go out and perform at night,” Fichter said of his obsession with music. An accomplished composer and award-winning guitarist, he’s determined to make the most of his talents. But halfway through his college career, he started to doubt his choice of majors. Two classes would get him back on track. Fichter grew up in Harrisonburg, Va., with a father consumed with classical music and a mother who plays multiple instruments. Song-making was in his soul, but it took him awhile to find it. He was a high school freshman when he picked up his mother’s Aria guitar. One strum on its nylon strings, and he was hooked. He taught himself to play, began composing … [Read more...]

A World Class Education

Jose alternate_web

Jose Sainz was 18 when he left his home in the bustling city of Bilbao, Spain, to live with a host family in a one-stoplight Michigan town. “Being flown out to the middle of Detroit, it was like, ‘Where do I go from here?’ ” Sainz, UMW associate professor of Spanish, said about the start of his experience as an exchange student in the ’80s. But confusion turned to confidence as he got used to American culture and learned to thrive in it. Since he stepped onto the Fredericksburg campus in 2001, Sainz has pushed to give Mary Washington students the same opportunity he had. Each year since, he has led students to his native Bilbao. And in 2011, he established the Center for International Education. Now, as the center’s first director, he wants all UMW students to study abroad. “It really complements their education,” regardless of major, said Sainz, an authority on the history, politics, and culture of 20th-century Spain. He earned a master’s degree in foreign language and … [Read more...]