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...]

Feeding Their Brains


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Global Goodwill


Nabil Al-Tikriti doesn’t just teach about the Middle East, he lives it. Aboard the Bourbon Argos rescue ship this month, the University of Mary Washington professor has seen the desperation of Eritrean, Bangladeshi, Palestinia, and Syrian refugees and migrants making the perilous Mediterranean crossing from North Africa to Greece and Italy.  As a relief worker in Somalia, he witnessed how famine ravaged millions in the country during the ’90s. As an official observer, he experienced the emotional 2014 presidential election in Ukraine in the aftermath of the country’s violent revolution. “I feel I can lecture more effectively about countries I’ve worked in,” said Al-Tikriti, associate professor of history and American studies who has taught at UMW since 2004. “You can learn a lot quite quickly when you’re there.” An Iraqi American and consummate New Orleanian, Al-Tikriti has traveled to more than 50 countries as professor, election observer and relief worker. “I guess you … [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...]

Every Vote Counts


Voting is a way of life for most people. Regaining the right to vote poses no easy task for convicted felons who have served time in prison. Benjamin Hermerding aims to turn that around. A political science major at the University of Mary Washington, Hermerding interns with the Commonweath’s Restoration of Rights Department  that restores voting rights to convicted felons who have served their prison time. Within the past few years, the Richmond Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office division has granted them more rights than in any other time in Virginia’s history, according to Hermerding. In a given day, he looks at approximately 150 applications requesting off probation or parole, the first step in the process. The overwhelming amount of work serves only to make him more determined. “I think the most rewarding thing, and what drives me, is that voting is such an important part of our democracy,” said Hermerding, who has been interested in political science since he was a … [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...]

Scrutinizing Solidarity

Kristen Powell

Standing outside of Nelson Mandela’s prison cell, senior Kristen Powell had a thought: how is it possible that the apartheid regime came to exist? The University of Mary Washington anthropology major returned from an environmental sustainability trip to South Africa last January inspired to explore answers to her question – and her senior thesis provides her the platform to do just that. Apartheid, a word meaning “the state of being apart,” was a system of racial segregation in South Africa in the latter half of the 1900s. For Powell, the question revolved around why people would identify with   a regime such as apartheid or a sub-cultural group premised on racial supremacy and segregation.    With groups such as American Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan continuing to thrive in the 21st century, Powell argues that these questions must be explored to address the root forces behind racism in our society. “I started looking into all of the reasons people were drawn to these … [Read more...]

Scanning Through History

Joe Romero_HP

It’s the ultimate combination of old and new. Decked out in full body armor as a gladiator from the ancient Roman Empire, Senior Harry Rol clamps on his helmet and steps onto a 3-D printing scanner in the University of Mary Washington’s 21st century classroom known as the ThinkLab. “You really look the part,” said Associate Professor of Classics Joe Romero, as Rol strikes a pose, knees bent with shield and sword at the ready. Rol, a classics and computer science major, is one of 10 students in UMW’s inaugural course known simply as 3-D Pompeii. The class combines the study of ancient history with cutting edge 3-D printing technology. Students design their own historically accurate replicas and print three- dimensional miniature models. As a final project, the class will create and print a 3-D version of the ancient city of Pompeii before it was buried in volcanic ash in 79 A.D. The unique classroom brings together students from the varied disciplines of computer … [Read more...]

A Palate for Poverty

Jeff Paddock, Two Dollar Challenge 2015

The human body can go three weeks without food – a fact that most people hope to never test. Yet University of Mary Washington senior Jeffrey Paddock is certainly on his way. No stranger to hunger, the international affairs and philosophy major has joined the Two Dollar Challenge at UMW all four years of his college duration. He’s even lived on two dollars a day for a full month while studying abroad in Peru. And this April, Paddock has added a four-day fast as part of his last challenge at UMW. The Two Dollar Challenge is a five-day program, founded in 2006 at UMW, that challenges college and high school students across the United States to live on just two dollars a day—as nearly half the world’s population does—in an effort to raise awareness of global poverty. Participants buy food, hygiene products and other necessities from two dollars each day while following other rules designed to simulate obstacles faced by people living in poverty. Paddock first learned about … [Read more...]