Judy and Mark Winters of Virginia Beach are the parents of Madison ’18 and members of the Parent Leadership Circle. UMW Parent & Family eNews sat down with Judy to get her perspective on being a college parent.
UMW: Tell us about Madison’s academic journey as a Mary Washington student.
Judy: Madi started at Mary Washington in 2013 with plans to become a physician, like her father. She has since changed her focus is now double-majoring in biology and creative writing. Her addition of the creative writing major was inspired by her 2016 participation in “UMW in Scotland and Wales,” a summer program offered through the Center for International Education. During her time abroad, Madi worked on a video game design and became passionate about the creative-writing side of game development. The added major and a semester off due to a serious knee surgery meant that she needed extra time to complete her coursework, so she will graduate in December 2018.
UMW: What was your reaction to Madison’s decision to add a major and change her career path?
Judy: We have always been supportive of Madi’s decisions, and this was no exception. As a parent, it has been exciting to see how her enthusiasm has skyrocketed with the addition of the creative writing major. She shares her writing with us, and it’s wonderful to be part of it. Seeing her engagement in this new major really shows us that this was the right choice for her, and we’re glad she had the opportunity to study abroad and discover her passion.
UMW: What were some of the early lessons you learned as a college parent?
Judy: Initially, it was the difficulty of the separation. That was the hardest at first because she’s an only child. But we listened to the advice presented by Student Affairs at Orientation and encouraged her to stay on campus every weekend through Thanksgiving break. We came up for Family Weekend, of course, but other than that she was on her own. She was on the Rowing team at that point, and it was great for her to have the support of her teammates. She built a network of friends on campus and started making her way, and she was better off for it. These networks and her increased independence gave her the confidence to take on new opportunities like working with the NEST program and eventually becoming a program coordinator.
UMW: What were some of the challenges Madison faced, and how did they affect you as a parent?
Judy: Her biggest challenge was dealing with roommate issues freshman year. Dean Rucker was very helpful in resolving the situation, and we were comforted by that. His involvement and support showed us that UMW’s faculty and administrators are really there for students. Today she realizes that dealing with a challenging roommate situation was a great learning experience, and we’re glad she had the opportunity to address it on her own through the proper channels.
UMW: Are you and Mark still the first people Madison turns to when she needs to make a decision?
Judy: She turns to us about half of the time, and the other half she turns to peers, especially her roommates. She has learned to rely on the sound judgment of her peers to work through issues, and she has grown in her reliance on them as she has progressed through college.
UMW: What do you count among the most valuable things Madison has gained through her UMW experience?
Judy: I think the most valuable aspects are independence, her love of the University, and the new family of friends she has gained.
UMW: What advice would you give to a new UMW parent?
Judy: Take the advice of the Orientation staff and let them have wings. Learn to be their advisor, rather than their manager. Encourage them to advocate for themselves and take advantage of the resources on campus.
To learn more about the Parent Leadership Circle and opportunities to get involved, please contact Beth Hunsinger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-654-2068.