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...]

In Search of Turtles

Senior Bryan Finch measures a turtle he found near the Fredericksburg Canal.

An uncommon turtle discovery has sparked detective work between a University of Mary Washington professor and his students that will help shed light on the species in the Fredericksburg region. More than two years ago, Professor of Biology Werner Wieland asked students in one of his classes to bring in a local animal. Much to Wieland’s surprise, one student brought in a species of turtle – a yellow-bellied slider – that is not known to occur in the Fredericksburg area. The find brought up questions for Wieland— was this turtle an isolated case or is there a bigger population established? With the help of seniors Yoshi Takeda and Bryan Finch, Wieland has spent the last two summers finding out. Wieland’s project is one of dozens funded through UMW’s Summer Science Institute, a 10-week undergraduate research program started in 1999. The students and professors will present their work at an all-day symposium on Wednesday, July 24. This summer, Wieland and his students … [Read more...]

Conversation and Culture

Maysoon Fayez Al-Sayed Ahmad (center) works with students during her weekly Conversation Hours.

Maysoon Fayez Al-Sayed Ahmad knows all too well that conversation is key to mastering another language. That’s why most Wednesday afternoons during the spring and fall sessions the UMW visiting professor holds a “Conversation Hour” outside of class for her students learning Arabic and for native-born students from Saudi Arabia to learn English. The UMW students range from the first to fourth-year of language experience, while the Arabic-speaking residents are enrolled at the ELS Language Center, located just across the pedestrian bridge in Eagle Village Center. The center, which opened a year ago, partners with UMW to bring international students to the Fredericksburg area to study English. Before the center opened, Al-Sayed Ahmad, a native of Jordan, held the conversation sessions with just her students, as do other faculty members in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages. Then, her students concentrated on their language weaknesses, sought extra help for tests and … [Read more...]

Bringing History to Life

Carrie Schlupp '13 examines James Monroe's apron as part of the "World of James Monroe" history course.

The fifth president of the United States owned an apron, kept two dueling pistols and wrote thousands of letters during his life. University of Mary Washington students are experiencing a rare in-depth look at James Monroe’s life firsthand through the objects that were most important to him. “The World of James Monroe” history course, offered for the first time this semester, provides insight into the late 1700s and early 1800s in an innovative way. “I am endlessly fascinated by historical artifacts, and this course has shown me how much we can learn from them and what kind of new questions they can raise for historians,” said senior Leah Tams, one of 22 students in the class. The course contextualizes objects and documents owned and written by James Monroe and examines the social norms of the early Republic through polite culture, daily life, and expansion. Jarod Kearney, the curator for the James Monroe Museum, regularly brings artifacts from the museum to the class … [Read more...]

Around the Globe in a Semester

Jennifer Greenwood (right) and Vidya Dwarakanath (left) are among more than 100 students in Donald Rallis' online regional world geography course.

Jennifer Greenwood is traveling the globe. Since January, the UMW freshman has visited a medieval cathedral in Worcester, England; interviewed a French student at Sorbonne University in Paris; and surveyed a lush tea plantation outside Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali. Before the semester’s end, she will have journeyed to more than 15 cities in 11 countries—all without ever leaving the Fredericksburg campus. She is one of 115 University of Mary Washington students touring the world with Associate Professor of Geography Donald Rallis through an online regional world geography course. “It’s like I’m there with Dr. Rallis,” said Greenwood, who plans to major in geography because of Rallis’ class.  “It’s amazing to be able to interact with someone who is across the globe. I’m able to connect on a personal level. I’m learning while he’s learning.” The ambitious course is the first of its kind at the university, and, to Rallis’ knowledge, may be unique throughout academia. The … [Read more...]

Pursuing Preservation

Michael Spencer demonstrates use of the borescope to Jen Sustar, Krysha Snyder, Linda Eckley and Victoria Leonard.

Aaron Caine has a new appreciation for the old white clapboard cottage a stone’s throw from the stately Belmont mansion in Stafford County. “I can’t believe I never noticed this house,” said Caine, a senior historic preservation major at the University of Mary Washington who grew up in the area.  “I’ve driven by here many times and never realized that it was here.” Assistant Professor Michael Spencer understands the oversight. The tenant house is dwarfed by Belmont, the impressive Georgian estate on the hillside once owned by 19th century artist Gari Melchers. Very little archival information is available about the Falmouth cottage referred to in historical documents only as “the house across the road.” The building, which is part of the Melchers estate administered by UMW, makes an ideal study for Caine and the seven students in Spencer’s “building forensics” class who have spent the semester building on previous research and documentation skills, honing old and new … [Read more...]

Homework Helpers

Education student

Math homework stumped one local Fredericksburg second-grader. She was puzzled by the number sequence problem in the evening assignment, and the more she tried to work the problem, the more exasperated she became. UMW senior Ciara Norquist sensed her frustration and convinced her to take a break from her studies. They built charts and focused on finding patterns. Within minutes, the student returned to her homework and completed it with ease “For the kids, it’s like having a second teacher. The one-on-one time is important,” said Norquist, who is among 31 UMW tutors who have volunteered with the Hazel Hill Homework Club. The club, which started fall semester, began as a way to help UMW students fulfill their service-learning requirement in an “Elementary Social Studies Methods” class, taught by John Broome, assistant professor in the College of Education. Students in Broome’s class are required to complete 10 hours of service and many opt to volunteer as tutors for the … [Read more...]

Culturing Independent Inquiry

Bio Research_gm

In the tissue culture lab in the University of Mary Washington’s Jepson Hall, Chloe Fusselman donned a white lab coat, put on gloves and carefully picked up a beaker of liquid. She was practicing her sterile lab techniques with her adviser, Professor of Biology Deborah O’Dell, since the methods are critical to her research project this semester. Fusselman and fellow senior biology major Kara Arbogast are both researching the chemical bisphenol A, known as BPA, in separate projects. Both students received undergraduate research grants from UMW for their work. Fusselman’s project looks at the effect of BPA, a chemical found in many everyday household products, on healthy prostate cells. BPA, O’Dell explained, mimics the hormone estrogen and is frequently linked to breast cancer. “In the literature, there are some references that BPA could be linked to prostate cancer, too,” O’Dell said. Research like Fusselman’s will help scientists find out. As Fusselman developed her … [Read more...]

Growing a New Generation of Educators

Laurie Abeel

Grades aren’t foremost on the mind of Laurie Abeel. The College of Education associate professor focuses more on the journey for her graduate-level students. “My approach in every single class deals with growth, not grades,” said Abeel, who teaches gifted education courses. “I’m more concerned with ‘do they understand what I’m trying to teach’ and ‘have they shown growth by the end of the course?’” Some of her students have gone on to use her strategies and methods in their own classrooms. Abeel credits much of her classroom philosophy to her involvement with Destination Imagination, known as DI, an international program focused on the creative process, critical thinking, leadership and team work. For almost the past decade, she has served as Virginia affiliate director of DI, volunteering to coordinate Virginia’s programs and the state tournament. “It influences almost everything I do. All the skills we try to teach the kids [in DI], I use in my classes,” she said, … [Read more...]

Seeking Feathered Friends

Andrew Dolby 4

For Andrew Dolby, a stressed-out bird is a big deal. Dolby, professor and chair of the biology department, is researching the stress response in birds, specifically, the Tufted Titmouse. During the spring semester he worked with three students to catch birds on UMW property and at sites in southern Stafford County. They took their measurements and vital signs and collected small blood samples for fellow biology professor Deborah O’Dell to perform heat shock protein analysis in the Jepson Hall labs. Heat shock proteins, similar in function to stress hormones, are indicators of chronic stress. Sources of chronic stress for a bird might be habitat deterioration, parasitism, or long-term food shortages.  Dolby and O’Dell received a grant from the Virginia Society of Ornithology for the unique project. “Only two other laboratories in North America are using heat shock proteins to study stress in free-ranging birds,” Dolby said. Since the proteins are found in almost every organism, … [Read more...]