Conversation Starter

Warren 8

For Warren Rochelle, professor of English, a class is a conversation where knowledge goes both ways. “Classes are conversations between students and the professor. Knowledge isn’t static,” he said. “We make and discover meaning in conversation, whether it is a conversation with self, with a text, and in this case, in a classroom, with those who are participating in the class. Students bring knowledge to the table, as does the professor, and then through the give-and-take of a class discussion, through responses to a lecture, through blog posts, meaning is explored and developed.” His goal is for students to achieve mastery of the subject and feel engaged with the material. To make the coursework come alive for his students, Rochelle encourages discussions in small groups. An accomplished science fiction writer in his own right and one of the Princeton Review’s 300 Best Professors, Rochelle’s passion for fantasy and science fiction is evident in his classes. … [Read more...]

Around the World in Nine Apps

Jennifer Polack Wahl 6

Nine applications in a year; thousands of downloads from all over the world; one dedicated UMW professor. Jennifer Polack-Wahl, professor of computer science, leads a small group of student researchers who in just 12 months is making a sizeable impact in elementary schools in the Commonwealth and across the nation. Polack-Wahl and the team, known as S.M.A.R.T. (Student Made Applications and Researching Technology), has created applications, or “apps,” for iPads, iPhones and iTouches specifically geared toward addressing Virginia SOL math and literacy requirements for elementary school students. This semester, the group released an app that focuses on the history of ancient Egypt. Apps on money and life science are in the works. Polack-Wahl is collaborating with the Charlottesville, Va., school district, which is using the apps, to make sure the content and format are effective. And with Apple technologymaking its way into elementary school classrooms, the S.M.A.R.T. team is … [Read more...]

There’s No Place Like Home

Leslie Martin 2

Leslie Martin has honed in on housing and homelessness in the Fredericksburg area community. And so are students taking the freshman class seminar taught by the assistant professor of sociology. The students work at a local homeless shelter, assist with community dinners and tutor through programs around Fredericksburg. This integral community involvement helps shed light on area housing issues that undergraduates tackle in Martin’s seminar, “No Place Like Home: Housing and Society.” Martin leads discussions on housing and homelessness, using examples from her ongoing research on the rhetoric of homeless service providers. One such discussion in her urban sociology class focused on how the presence of homeless people in the downtown area impact local businesses. The timely issue illustrates how communities address inequality and poverty, Martin said. Martin, who has served on affordable housing and homelessness task forces, sees a connection between how agencies and … [Read more...]

History in the Making

Bruce O'Brien 4

Some might say Professor of History Bruce O’Brien is stuck in the Middle Ages – he might thank you for the compliment in Old English. O’Brien is leading an international collaborative effort called the Early English Laws Project, which aims to re-edit and translate all 150 of the early English laws issued between 600 to 1225 and make them accessible to the public through an online database. In light of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the project takes a new resonance. “This will make early law codes accessible to anyone,” he said, noting that laws like the Magna Carta have influenced some of the most important legal documents in history, including the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. O’Brien is the academic lead of the project, a collaboration between the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London and the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London. The initial launch of the project in January … [Read more...]

Fun and Learning Foremost at UMW Play Lab

Play Lab 4

When Laura Johnson '12 registered for classes for her last undergraduate semester at the University of Mary Washington, she added one that wasn’t required—the Play Lab, an education course that gives students hands-on experience working with disabled students. Johnson, who majored in historic preservation and elementary education with a focus in museum studies, thought the class would be beneficial to her as a teacher. “You can’t control who comes into your classroom,” she said.  “As a teacher, you’re responsible for giving every student the best education that you can, so I thought it was part of my responsibility as a teacher.” The Play Lab, in its third semester at UMW, is a parent resource and clinic for children with developmental delays, such as autism and intellectual disabilities. Bolstered through community donations and grant awards, the course has been cited as a model program by Virginia Commonwealth’s Center for Autism Excellence. UMW students spend seven … [Read more...]