Taking on Twitter

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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. For novices to the Twitter sphere, a Twitter bot is an automated software program that posts content or tweets to the online social network Twitter. For instance, the bot @everyword spent seven years tweeting every word in the English language, while @EnjoyTheFilm posts spoilers in response to the tweets of unsuspecting movie-goers. Since the fall, Holster and Zimmerman have collected an innumerable number of tweets using a Web application that they built. Then they developed a … [Read more...]

Smashing a Warlord

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If you want to fight a warlord in Africa, you might rally the armies of local nations. Or you might smash pumpkins. At least that’s what Robin Brazier, president of Invisible Children at the University of Mary Washington, did to join the organization’s campaign against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Central Africa. A senior and geography major, Brazier became interested in Invisible Children as a freshman. Founded in 2004, Invisible Children is a charity and lobbying organization working to bring awareness and an end to the abduction of children into the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Central Africa. In 2003, three filmmakers traveled to Africa in search of a story and found that Joseph Kony, leader of the resistance army, was kidnapping and abusing children, forcing them to serve as soldiers in his army. UMW’s chapter of Invisible Children holds awareness and fundraising events to support the campaign against Kony. The chapter is best known on campus for its annual date … [Read more...]

World Ready

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Sequoi Phipps has been fascinated by cultures since she can remember. Born into a colorful Caribbean family, she’s intrigued by traditions around the globe. She got hooked on geography when she took a world regions course her freshman year at the University of Mary Washington. From her laptop screen on the Fredericksburg campus, she traveled online with UMW Professor Donald Rallis as he hop-scotched from one exotic site to another, visiting places such as Istanbul, Rwanda, Johannesburg, Malaysia, Cambodia and China. “We didn’t just look at geography and the architecture and the people,” she said. “We looked at the culture and how people interacted with other cultures. Dr. Rallis made you think from so many angles.” Now a junior geography major, she has found her niche in urban planning. From Spanish style architecture on the West Coast to Victorian-style downtown buildings, she is amazed by the influence a nationality can have on the design of a city. “I am interested … [Read more...]

Standing Up Against Sexism

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Ask Chris Kilmartin what his ideal stage would be, and he may divulge a secret wish to appear on “The Daily Show” trading barbs with political funny guy Jon Stewart. Still, Kilmartin, a part-time stand-up comedian and full-time University of Mary Washington psychology professor, says he is just as happy making an impact in the classroom and on the national stage—shattering stereotypes about gender psychology and bringing attention to the serious issue of sexual violence. A 20-year-plus UMW veteran, he’s the author of “The Masculine Self,” and co-author of “The Pain Behind the Mask: Overcoming Masculine Depression,” which have been translated for overseas markets. And he’s touring the country with his revived solo show, “Crimes Against Nature,” a humorous, compelling and personal look at the pressures, absurdities and contradictions of masculinity.   Kilmartin has made a career of navigating difficult topics in a way that makes the taboo approachable and opens … [Read more...]

Munching the Numbers

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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...]

Cataloging Clues

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Paul Murphy spends his days discovering clues to America’s past. Surrounded by a magnifying glass, latex gloves and a hand-held dusting brush, the University of Mary Washington historic preservation major sorts through a box of seemingly innocuous objects to identify and catalog bits of history. He spies a small sherd of ceramic, perhaps part of a bowl or plate once used by Native Americans; a triangular chipped rock, probably a prehistoric spear or an arrow; and a smooth piece of stone, likely used by hunters to skin animals. “It’s not like being a historian where you read what somebody else wrote and then write your ideas about it,” said Murphy. “It’s something new. You’ve found it, you’ve excavated it, and you interpret it to study how other people lived.” Murphy is one of 11 veterans working at The Veterans Curation Program in Alexandria – an employment and training program for wounded, disabled and recently separated veterans who served during the Iraq and Afghanistan … [Read more...]

The Color of Science

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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...]

Cross-Country Chronicles

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Stickers plastered to the frame of Adam Hunter’s bike tell the tales of his freewheeling cross-country adventures. Ask Hunter about the white Montana decal that declares "I am an Adventure Cyclist," and he'll tell you about being mesmerized by the expansive blue sky while biking across the nation's fourth largest state. The green heart surrounded by an Oregon-shaped border reminds him of stopping to look back at Washington as he crossed the state line after a two-week visit, and the tan bison-pictured Yellowstone National Park sticker reminds him of the steepest part of his journey in Wyoming where he pedaled from an elevation of 3,500 to 9,000 feet. After flying from Virginia to California, the University of Mary Washington senior began his journey with UMW alum Chris Marino ’11 in Santa Cruz by dipping the two tires of his Raleigh Sojourn classic touring bike into the Pacific. He then traveled 4,200 miles east to Virginia Beach where he culminated his adventure by … [Read more...]

Learning Lab Redefined

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There is a new student in Professor Woodrow Richardson’s Tuesday afternoon principles of management class. Meet Farrah, a Labrador and golden retriever mix and service dog in training. Farrah is one of two dogs in the University of Mary Washington’s chapter of Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), founded by UMW juniors Rebekah Selbrede and Abigail Hannell. Selbrede and Hannell started the program in the fall 2014 semester after a year of planning that culminated with an overnight trip to New York to pick up Dragon and Farrah in June. Having grown up with dogs, both girls were eager to put their love of animals towards a meaningful cause. As service dogs in training, Dragon and Farrah will eventually be paired with someone in need of help with a physical or hearing disability. Both students were quick to admit that it’s not quite the same as having a pet. “It’s like having a child,” said Selbrede. “It’s a big responsibility to train these dogs.” Over the next year … [Read more...]

Spring Training

Crawford’s experience helped her to learn what it would be like to work on the business side of sports. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Dancing the Macarena with a giant squirrel named Nutzy on top of a dugout wasn’t exactly what Kayla Crawford had in mind when she signed up for her summer internship. Nevertheless, it turned out to be the best part of the University of Mary Washington senior’s summer as she interned with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, a minor league baseball team. Crawford, along with 30 other interns from throughout the region, learned about marketing, sales techniques, customer relations and how to interact with coworkers and supervisors, all while having a great time. “It’s a really fun environment, very lively, a lot of people,” said the business major. “I like being interactive with people and I like being on the field; you feel special and important. You’re in charge of creating that fun.” Crawford is among more than 100 UMW students who completed internships for credit this summer for organizations ranging from Mary Washington Healthcare to the Edgar Allen Poe Museum. Each year, … [Read more...]