Main Course


In a medium-sized Combs Hall classroom, combine one cool professor, a dozen sharp summer-school students and a dash of inspiration. Blend well. That’s the recipe for UMW Professor of English Colin Rafferty’s seminar, Let’s Eat: Writing About Food. Designed to whet appetites for wielding together words, the tantalizing course takes a novel approach to two topics we often take for granted. When it comes to food – and writing – we devour the finished product with little thought of the tedious decision-making that went into them. Students analyzed the rhetoric of cooking shows, read works by famed food authors and – perhaps everyone’s favorite – wrote odes to beloved dishes, paired with samples to share. The communal essence of mealtime fosters an atmosphere of creativity and collaboration. “By bringing food into the classroom as a subject, we engage the critical thinking skills,” said Rafferty, who’s taught the five-week writing-intensive course since arriving at UMW in 2008. … [Read more...]

Deep Secrets


She was bound to a tree, beaten, and worse. Court records call her an “old Baptist colored woman.” Though we don’t know her name or much more about her, archaeologist Lauren McMillan ’08 believes it isn’t too late to learn. “Not everyone leaves a written record, but everyone leaves trash,” said McMillan, who led a recent dig at Sherwood Forest in Stafford County. “One thing we’re trying to do out here is give a voice to the voiceless. We’re digging up these people’s trash, and we’re going to tell their stories.” Hunkered down with trowels and dustpans, McMillan and her Field Methods in Archaeology students at the University of Mary Washington look like kids in a sandbox. But every clank of a tool against debris in the dirt is serious business. Each bit of broken glass, each rusty nail and battered button, could shed light on lives that played out in the shadows. One 5-by-5 square at a time. One careful layer after another. It’s tedious work, and it’s a race against time. … [Read more...]

High Flyer


Air travel guru Marion Blakey ’70 racks up corporate connections faster than frequent fliers collect miles. So when the soon-to-retire president and CEO of jet-engine giant Rolls-Royce North America asked her to lunch last winter, she took it in stride. “I thought it was just part of the ongoing discussions I tend to have with him and others,” said Blakey, who realized during the course of the meal she was being courted for the job. “You could’ve knocked me over with a feather.” She took the reins this month, the first woman to lead the London-based company that employs 9,000. It’s just one of the boundaries Blakey has broken in a high-flying career that’s made our skies – and our country – more secure.   Back in 1966, she opted to travel by land, boarding a northbound train from her Gadsden, Alabama, home to an all-women’s college. She reached Fredericksburg before the sun that summer morning, steamer trunk in tow. Making her way to Mary Washington, she … [Read more...]

Mental Notes

Rebecca Brown '15

UMW graduate Becky Brown '15 has been baring her soul onstage for what seems like forever – through the strings of her harp. A recent piece she created put that honesty to the test. “A lot of the subject matter turned out to be very personal,” Brown blogged about her electroacoustic composition, Hold Still. “Opening up to a room full of strangers is daunting.” She claimed her voice, though, at last month’s Research and Creativity Day, revealing her senior project – and much of her persona – to a roomful of students and faculty. An intimate tangle of technology, poetry, music, and more, it taps into Brown’s deep pool of talents … and also her soul. It’s the ultimate self-portrait, painted with No. 2 pencils and modern effects, a mixed-media masterpiece of her innermost thoughts. A camera captures the picture of Brown’s drawing, while her original poetry and spoken-word compilation play simultaneously on two different tracks. Her words swirl around her as she works, leading … [Read more...]

Celebrating Acceptance


Nicole Dobson can’t keep her fingers off her hot pink iPhone. In the few minutes’ walk from her room in Willard Hall to the ITCC, the UMW senior’s Facebook “likes” have revved up. “182,” she says, eyes glued to the screen in her hands. “183!” Dobson’s mid-March post? “BIG DAY – I have been accepted to … Columbia University.” Rewind nearly a decade to another big day. “I faced things no 13-year-old should have to face,” said Dobson, who was asleep in the backseat of her family’s minivan when an 18-wheeler slammed it from behind. She was thrown through a window and 30 feet from the car; suffered a traumatic brain injury, 11 broken bones, and a punctured lung; and spent three weeks in a coma. As she pushed through therapy, learning to walk, talk – and think – all over again, the young field hockey player from Santa Fe realized she’d never be the same. Now, UMW and its Center for International Education (CIE) have proven her right. Just not in the way she’d … [Read more...]

A Degree of Balance


It’s 2 a.m. when Joshua Bailey slides behind the wheel of his car, the last one left in the star-lit mall lot. He checks his phone for missed texts. “Hey JB, we’re going out …” “Josh, you able to chill tonight?” By now, though, at the end of the UMW senior’s late shift at Splitsville, most of his classmates have called it a night. One of nine children, Bailey knew he’d have to work to pay his way through college, but Double Drive wasn’t his first stop. Like many of the 234 transfer students UMW admitted last semester, he got his start at community college. A star business student, he’ll earn a bachelor’s degree this summer. But with a 50-hour job, 20-minute commute, 12 credit hours, and one fiancée, it’s been a balancing act. “You have to be conscious of what you do with your time. How much TV do you watch? How many video games do you play?” Bailey said. “You have to take a bullet in that area.” Growing up, his large family ran on teamwork. He shared a room with … [Read more...]

All In


Christian Hughes flings Eagle gear into the crowd on Ball Circle and adlibs a joke into the mike. The UMW junior’s perfectly comfortable onstage as a Family Weekend emcee, with no memorized material. Just confidence. That’s all he brought with him to college – no pictures, no posters, no high school pals. He saw Mary Washington as a place to start fresh and try different things. Determined to soak it all in, he joined many of the University’s more than 120 student organizations, finding new friends, new interests, and a new sense of self. “A light bulb went off in my head that what you do here will define the rest of your life,” said Hughes, a double major in political science and economics. Growing up in Charlottesville, he was the kind of kid who took charge, planning an alternate high school prom and launching his own landscaping company. His school principal mother and fire captain father met as undergrads and cast so much school spirit onto their children Hughes knew … [Read more...]

Face of Feminism


Paige McKinsey was in middle school when the March for Women’s Rights played out on Capitol Hill. But there she was, rallying with her mother and tens of thousands of others. “That was the first time I ever experienced the word ‘feminism,’ ” said McKinsey, a UMW senior majoring in women’s and gender studies and international relations. “It was a really important experience, participating in the system at such a young age.” She could make a difference, she realized, just by showing up. Not that McKinsey, now a full-fledged feminist, “just shows up” for anything. If she isn’t touting equal rights at Lee Hall, she’s tweeting the dangers of adopting Greek life or rallying for the ERA in D.C. She’ll take that passion with her to West Africa when she enters the Peace Corps this spring. But the strides she’s made for Feminists United will remain at Mary Washington. “She’s taken them out of the shadows to be a real, critical part of campus life,” said Women’s and Gender Studies Chair … [Read more...]

Munching the Numbers


Debra Schleef’s students got a sweet assignment this fall. And, if you don’t think learning about univariate statistics sounds sweet, think again. Chocolate changes everything. “I’m pumped to get started on this,” said senior sociology major Lauren Boyle, who tore into a bag of M&M’s in a late-morning lab in Monroe 114. Each October Schleef, professor of sociology, turns her Quantitative Research Methods and Analysis course into the tastier “Candy Lab.” M&M’s add color to the curriculum and whet students’ appetites for concepts, like random probability sampling, that might otherwise seem tedious. Working in pairs, Boyle and her classmates ripped open bags of the button-shaped morsels and set aside 50 pieces. Schleef let them slurp up the extras – with one caveat. “Randomly eat them,” she said. “Don’t eat only one color, or you’ll ruin the results.” They counted the green, red, yellow, brown, orange, and blue M&M’s in their bags, while Schleef drew … [Read more...]

The Color of Science


Isabelle Malouf was so into science she wore it to prom. The gown that she made with organza and sequins had a bubble-type skirt that resembled a bacteriophage. A dress and a virus, it was part of the Daring Night Attire – or DNA – collection she created for a high school design class. “It was fun taking something like that and making it pretty,” said Malouf, a University of Mary Washington senior. “A lot of molecular biology stuff is gorgeous.” These days, rather than fashion, she channels her passion for science into zebrafish. Through them, she’s studying an herbicide that’s been linked to cancer. Her research, along with her hair color – she changes it weekly –make Malouf a standout on campus. And, as a face in UMW’s new branded photos, she hopes to make science seem more accessible, especially for women. “Girls aren’t expected to be good at science,” said Malouf, a biology major with a chemistry minor. Growing up in Boston, she learned to expect the unexpected, … [Read more...]