The University of Mary Washington presented its top honors awards during commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 12, and Saturday, May 13.
Rachelle Serena Dambrose of Virginia received the Colgate W. Darden Jr. Award, which is presented to the student with the highest grade-point average (GPA) in the four-year undergraduate program. Dambrose finished with a 3.99 GPA.
Jonathon F. McMillan, assistant professor of art and art history in the College of Arts and Sciences, received the Grellet C. Simpson Award, the institution’s most prestigious annual award for excellence in undergraduate teaching. The recipient is routinely a senior member of the faculty.
Laura C. Wilson, assistant professor of psychological science in the College of Arts and Sciences, received the UMW Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award, presented annually to an exceptional member of the faculty who has served the institution for at least two years but no more than five years.
Surupa Gupta, associate professor of political science and international affairs, received the Mary W. Pinschmidt Award. The winner is selected by the graduating class as the faculty member “they will most likely remember as the one who had the greatest impact on their lives.”
Patricia E. Reynolds, assistant professor in the College of Education, was recognized with the Graduate Faculty Award. The honor showcases an exceptional full-time faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in graduate teaching and professional leadership in a graduate program. The person selected must have served in a full-time position at the university for at least two years.
Rachelle Serena Dambrose
Rachelle Serena Dambrose of Fredericksburg earned a 3.99, the highest grade-point average achieved among all of the 1,035 undergraduates in UMW’s Class of 2017. A commuter student, she earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science, finishing summa cum laude in just three years.
A graduate of Massaponax High School, Dambrose worked as a math tutor and aide, and, is described by a faculty member as “one of our most dedicated math majors.” She also received departmental honors.
In April 2016, Dambrose was inducted to the Mary Washington Chapter of the Pi Mu Epsilon Honor Society. The following April, she was inducted to Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honor society.
She won first place last year for her oral presentation at an undergraduate mathematics and statistics conference of her paper, Numerical Approximation of Poisson’s Equation, and last month, she wrote and defended her honors research thesis in mathematics.
Jonathon F. McMillan
Assistant Professor of Art Jonathon F. McMillan is an award-winning artist who joined the UMW faculty in 2011. His relatively short tenure at Mary Washington makes him unique among winners of the Grellet C. Simpson Award, but he has “established a powerful record in a relatively short time,” said UMW Acting Provost Nina Mikhalevsky.
Students note his patience, enthusiasm for teaching, commitment to mentoring, willingness to be available outside the classroom, and genuine interest in helping them realize their full potentials. As one colleague put it, McMillan’s dedication to students and interdisciplinary research “epitomizes what’s at the heart of the liberal arts experience.” A highlight of his UMW achievements is building a wood-fired kiln on campus, the only such structure of its type at a public Virginia university.
After undergraduate school, McMillan worked for seven years as a full-time functional potter while freelancing as a professional cook. He makes functional and sculptural ceramic artwork, both of which are exhibited widely and have received national and international recognition. He has taught at a range of universities and studios, as well as at ceramics workshops in Houston, Texas, and Vallauris, France, where he undertook a month-long artist residency.
McMillan holds a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in studio arts from James Madison University, where he also earned a minor in art history, and an MFA in ceramics from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
Laura C. Wilson
Assistant Professor of Psychological Science Laura C. Wilson, who joined UMW’s faculty in 2013, was named a “Rising Star” early this year by the Association for Psychological Science. Her Mary Washington students agree, labeling her an “expert pep-talker, advisor, team builder and researcher” and calling her classes “equal parts hard work and laughter.”
Wilson is an expert in post-trauma functioning, particularly in survivors of sexual violence or trauma due to terrorism, mass shootings, combat and the like. Her research – on such populations as combat veterans, sexual assault victims, and child abuse and school shooting survivors – has been widely published in peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. She works to encourage Mary Washington undergraduates toward research, as well, leading teams that present at conferences and co-authoring publications with students.
At Mary Washington, Wilson has studied the long-term emotional, cognitive, social and physical effects of mass casualty events, interviewing first responders to the Sept. 11, 2001, crash of Flight 93 and the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. She is editor of The Wiley Handbook of the Psychology of Mass Shootings, released last November.
Wilson earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology, and in sociology with a concentration in crime and deviance, from Virginia Tech; a master’s degree in general/experimental psychology from the College of William and Mary; and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Virginia Tech.
Surupa Gupta, associate professor of political science and international affairs, came to UMW in 2008. Among the courses she teaches are international relations, international political economy, politics of globalization, comparative politics of South Asia and Indian foreign policy.
Known for going out of her way to foster undergraduate success, she is this year’s winner of the only faculty award selected entirely by students. She has earned a special spot in their hearts as an unfailing resource always ready to help, both inside and outside the classroom.
“It was one of the most constructive experiences I have ever had,” one student said of her experience working with Gupta to edit drafts of her a paper, “especially since I am not a student in her class and the help was for an extracurricular activity.”
Widely published, Gupta’s research focuses include Indian foreign economic policy, India’s role in global governance in economic issues, and the politics of trade liberalization and agricultural policy reform in India. She is the recipient of the 2011 UMW Jepson Fellowship for her work involving farm sector restructuring in India and of the 2015 Asia Studies Fellowship from the East-West Center in Washington, D.C.
Gupta holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in economics and international relations, and a doctorate in international relations from the University of Southern California.
Patricia E. Reynolds
Patricia E. Reynolds, assistant professor in the College of Education, arrived at Mary Washington with a vast wealth of experience teaching in public schools and a desire “to work with the next generation of educators.”
The wisdom and experience she gathered during her time “in the trenches” has helped her bring guidance to her master’s of education students, who note her easygoing personality and commitment to respecting different opinions. As a colleague put it, “Patricia is a brilliant educator who cares deeply about her students and her profession.”
At Mary Washington, Reynolds has taught more than a dozen different courses, transferred many to online delivery and served on or led almost every committee within the university, including the University Curriculum Committee, which she has chaired for the past two years. Perhaps her most laudable achievement is winning a Virginia Department of Education grant to offer a Differentiated Instruction for English Language Learners course – not once but eight times.
Reynolds holds a bachelor’s degree in international economics and Latin American studies from the College of Notre Dame; a master’s degree in Spanish and ESL education from the University of Southern Mississippi; and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Northcentral Universi