Hands-On History


It almost sounds like a Nike commercial – if you want to do it, just do it. And that’s exactly how five University of Mary Washington students ended up conducting preservation work on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House in Alexandria, under the supervision of alumna Audra Medve. “You can learn terminology in the classroom,” said Medve. “But if you want to learn how to take care of buildings, then you need to actually take care of buildings.” As the preservation manager for the Pope-Leighey House, Medve invited Michael Spencer, director of UMW’s Center for Historic Preservation, and his students to help with the first part of a three-step process that would remove buildup from the exterior walls of the house and protect and stain the wood. Dressed head-to-toe in white chemical protection suits, UMW students spent two days preserving the wood by first spraying it with a biological chemical cleaner to remove the debris and then rinsing it down. “It’s not every day … [Read more...]

Analyzing Antarctica

Katie Mulrey in Antarctica with the ANITA balloon

It turns out that life in Antarctica is quite similar to life in college. Just ask Katie Mulrey, a University of Mary Washington alumna studying cosmic rays through NASA’s ANITA collaboration in Antarctica. Now in its third campaign, ANITA is a scientific balloon that detects radio signals from neutrinos and cosmic rays, the highest energy particles in the universe. Following her undergraduate degree in physics and mathematics, the 2008 UMW graduate went straight into her Ph.D., studying high energy particle astrophysics at the University of Delaware.  During the first year of the program, students choose a research project, and ANITA provided an opportunity for travel. “Traveling to remote parts of the world to do science is my cup of tea,” said Mulrey, who is originally from Merrimack, New Hampshire. The project includes 30 team members representing 10 institutions in the United States and abroad, although Mulrey was one of just 12 who traveled to Antarctica’s U.S. … [Read more...]

Lights, Camera, Passion

Dan Wolfe

The job Dan Wolfe ’84 landed after graduation brought a paycheck, but it also brought nightmares. In them, 20 years had passed; he was in his late 40s, still scuffing along in car insurance. Then came the call. His 26-year-old former University of Mary Washington roommate, John Heath ’84, had died in a car crash. Shaken, Wolfe drove to the campus they’d called home. He’d been coasting, he realized, even back then – a business administration major on “the four-plus-year plan.” But Mary Washington wasn’t giving up on Wolfe yet. He thought of his friend and how he’d loved movies, especially "The Big Chill"; they’d seen it together. As Wolfe strolled Campus Walk, reliving his past, he came face-to-face with his future – a flier for film school on a bulletin board outside Lee Hall. “Once I got over my fear of failure, things started happening,” said Wolfe, now executive vice president for Worldwide Creative Operations at NBC Universal. “I realized I was holding myself … [Read more...]

‘All In’ the Game

Caitlin Moore (center

Caitlin Moore stood on the sidelines of University of Mary Washington’s Battleground Complex at a recent Friday afternoon lacrosse practice.  She confidently surveyed the 27 athletes in front of her. Preparing for game day with her whistle poised, the UMW women’s lacrosse coach studied her team, encouraging them as they ran plays until they looked seamless, breaking only for instructions and pep talks where all eyes were glued to their energized mentor. The next day, the team would go on to beat their opponent 22 to six. Moore’s accomplishments as an undergraduate student at UMW combined with her new “all in” motto as a coach, give motivation to the women’s lacrosse team, evident in the team’s success on the field and their focus in practice. A two-time alumna who received All-America status her senior year, Moore was UMW’s career points leader and record-holder for points and assists both in a single season and in a single game. Her two degrees from UMW –a … [Read more...]

Digital Native

Caitlin Murphy '12 works at PBS in Washington, D.C.

Caitlin Murphy ’12 knew she was prepared for a job that combined her history and digital studies degrees and thought a position at PBS would be the perfect fit. Not long after she submitted her application, Murphy got a call from the internationally renowned public broadcasting network. They had reviewed her resume and delved into her online portfolio, which she developed while a student at the University of Mary Washington, and it wasn’t long before she had the job. “When I applied for the position, they said my online portfolio was one of the main reasons they had contacted me,” Murphy said. “It really helped me get a foot in the door. I don’t think I would have gotten called if I hadn’t had the portfolio I did.” Murphy is a program associate at the PBS headquarters just outside Washington, D.C. She screens upcoming programs, like “Masterpiece Theatre” or “Foyle’s War,” to make sure they meet PBS’ standards. The position requires an eye for detail and the ability to … [Read more...]

Flipping the Classroom


At first glance, Jon Meister ’13 looks like a teacher from another time with his handlebar mustache, black satin vest, and thick-framed glasses, but his teaching style – honed at the University of Mary Washington – is anything but old fashioned. For his final research project, Meister explored one of the latest trends in education, a flipped classroom. At its most basic level, a flipped classroom is where students learn a lesson at home via video and then come to class to work on homework. It’s a move away from the traditional classroom where a teacher gives a lecture and then students work on homework problems on their own time. In his final semester at UMW, Meister was a student teacher at his alma mater, Norview High School in Norfolk, Va. He worked with 18 seventh-grade students to flip the way that they learn algebra and geometry. Meister recorded YouTube math lessons that the students watched outside of class time, and then the students worked in the classroom on … [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...]

Overseas Adventures

Bethany Farrell (left) is a Peace Corps volunteer in Bejaad, Morocco

Before Bethany Farrell was old enough to have a driver’s license or board a plane alone, she dreamed of discovering new cultures, helping others and traveling beyond her Williamsburg, Va., home. “When I ended up at [University of] Mary Washington, I was pleasantly surprised that a lot of people at Mary Washington choose the same path,” Farrell, a 2011 UMW graduate, said. Community service and a strong sense of civic responsibility are integral to the fabric of UMW. In fact, UMW ranks among the nation's top small universities for alumni serving in the Peace Coprs. Farrell, one of 21 alumni currently serving in the Peace Corps, is in the midst of a 22-month stint in Morocco as a youth development volunteer. While at Mary Washington, Farrell felt her dream grow and develop, both through her work as a theatre and political science double major and through experiences overseas. As a junior, she left the U.S. for the first time as part of the European Capitals summer study … [Read more...]

Drive to Succeed

Doug Dolton '78, chairman and CEO of San Francisco Motorsports, is serving as UMW's Executive-in-Residence for 2012-2013

Within five years after graduating from the University of Mary Washington, Doug Dolton ’78 went from working as a bank teller to being the chief executive officer of a small bank. Now the chairman and CEO of San Francisco Motorsports, a luxury automotive retailer based out of Northern California, Dolton attributes his success to hard work and a strong sense of personal responsibility. “My philosophy has always been ‘if you do what is right for customers, it will ultimately come back to benefit you,’” he said. “A lot of that was born at Mary Washington. It was a very grassroots kind of place where the philosophy was ‘learn, contribute and be honest.’” Dolton will share his business philosophy during a visit to campus in the spring as part of UMW’s Executive-in-Residence program. He hopes his message of “work really hard and be really honest” will resonate with students. In his more than 30 years in the banking and financial services industries, Dolton said his experience … [Read more...]

Ultimate Honors

Maggie Karrs '16 (center) is one of

When Maggie Karrs researched potential colleges, she was already familiar with the University of Mary Washington. Her two older brothers, Jeremiah Karrs ’09 and Christian Karrs ’12, had raved about the school’s small, interactive classes, its focus on honor and integrity and the multitude of undergraduate research and internship opportunities. This fall, she followed in her brothers’ footsteps. “I was probably slightly influenced to come to UMW because of my family connection, but I also love the atmosphere of the campus, and the school’s great academic reputation,” said Karrs’16. When she opened her acceptance letter to UMW last spring, she was surprised to find that she’d be able to further her education in a different way than her brothers, as one of 73 students in the university’s newly implemented honors program. The creation of the honors program at UMW has become another way for students to enhance their learning experience and further their academic … [Read more...]