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...]

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...]

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...]

Exploring Education

Environmental science student Katy Chase works with Professor George Meadows to create several portable environmental education kits. Photo by Bob Martin.

Katy Chase has bug viewers, digital microscopes, binoculars and GPS navigation systems at her disposal when she shares her knowledge about environmental science with the community. Using two recently purchased environmental science kits, Chase is one of 15 University of Mary Washington students teaching local families at the England Run Library as part of a partnership with UMW. She aims to ignite in them a similar passion and appreciation for science that she holds dear. “In schools teachers might be a little afraid of science and kids aren’t always exposed to different tools and materials related to the sciences. They learn a lot from textbooks,” said the environmental science and Master of Science in elementary education student. She’s already spread her love for science to Brazil, where as an intern, she taught environmental science in public schools. After she graduates, Chase plans to continue in the classroom, either home or abroad. Using the kits, Chase creates … [Read more...]

Coloring Outside the Lines

Photo by Leigh Williams '14

A bin of orange bouncy balls caught Sidney Mullis’ eye during a routine trip to Wal-Mart.  The University of Mary Washington studio art major snapped up a plastic ball and pondered the creative possibilities. She transformed the cheap childhood toy into wearable art that she later filmed for a performance art piece called “Straight.” The coming-of-age work earned her the Melchers Gray Purchase Award  at UMW’s annual student art exhibition in April, ensuring the work a place in UMW’s permanent art collection. Mullis, already an accomplished artist as a 2014 graduate, often traverses the line between art and theatre in her work. She isn’t afraid to take risks, and admits she doesn’t fit neatly into conventional categories. “I don’t really know where I sit in between the two [disciplines], and I’m actually happy about that,” she said. “I think there is something more interesting to me when I don’t know. I think that goes into my working process, too.” With “Straight” and … [Read more...]

Creative Critics

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A small circle of University of Mary Washington students scrutinized the printed sheets of poetry resting on their laps. Lost in their lively deliberation the amateur literary critics seemed oblivious to the bitter cold outside the Combs Hall window. “I really want to like this poem,” said senior Abbey Doherty. “I think I love what it’s pursuing.” “I just love the way the poet used the pomegranate,” fellow student Greg Chandler said from across the circle. “I can see this.” “This isn’t the typical divorce poem,” Visiting Assistant Professor of English Elizabeth Wade explained to the group after further discussion. “OK, let’s vote.” The group readied for the ballot—five thumbs up; one down—signaling acceptance in the Rappahannock Review, a new online literary journal created and published by UMW students. With 138 submissions just in the month of February, the Rappahannock Review is a burgeoning publication with plans to publish at least two issues a year and includes … [Read more...]

Research Rocks

(from left): David Phillips '14, Carter Moore '14, and Chiara Tornabene '14 are working on research projects with Professor Neil Tibert (standing, left) and Professor Jodie Hayob.
Photo by Kimmie Barkley '14

Faculty and students at the University of Mary Washington are breaking ground, literally, at historically significant geological sites. This past July, Associate Professor of Geology Neil Tibert and Professor of Geology Jodie Hayob ventured with students to the Atlantic Canadian province of Nova Scotia for data collection and study on two different research projects. Tibert’s work focuses on sedimentary rocks that contain microfossils providing insight into the evolution of coastal and lake ecosystems of eastern North America, while Hayob is studying volcanic rocks that formed when the Atlantic Ocean was rifting open. “The world changed significantly at this time,” Tibert said. Tibert has roots in Nova Scotia dating back to childhood. He completed undergraduate and graduate programs at Dalhousie University in Halifax, in pursuit of research that two of his students are now tracking two decades later. Senior geology and classics major and Italian international student … [Read more...]

Speaking Intensive

Professor Anand Rao teaches courses in small group communication, visual rhetoric and social media.

Anand Rao came to the University of Mary Washington more than a decade ago with one goal in mind: to teach students to communicate effectively. “Strong communication skills are essential to succeed in every area of life,” said Rao, associate professor of communication and director of the Speaking Intensive Program. In his role with the Speaking Intensive Program, Rao has influenced most every UMW student, since undergraduates are required to take at least two speaking intensive courses to graduate. “The purpose of the speaking intensive requirement is to help students find ways to express themselves and build relationships,” said Rao. The ability to communicate well is crucial not just for excelling in classes, but for relationships and the work place, he said. Speaking Intensive courses are offered in nearly every major, from math to historic preservation. Students learn how to become proficient in speaking skills that are specific to their individual majors. Within … [Read more...]