Jeff Quinones watched as University of Mary Washington Professor of Education George Meadows swept an iPad around the room to show how 3D printing can be used to create almost anything. Even a type of weapon? Quinones asked.
That kind of concern is paramount to Quinones on his job with the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration, where he supports colleagues by monitoring and maintaining equipment, like X-ray imaging machines, designed to keep them safe. It’s a job he hasn’t been able to do for nearly a month.
“You feel a sense of purpose supporting the agency,” he said. “In a furlough situation, when you’re considered non-essential, it’s a little demoralizing at first.”
Quinones was among nearly 100 people who registered for yesterday’s Day of Learning, hosted by the University of Mary Washington for federal employees affected by the lingering government shutdown. UMW faculty and administrators led workshops on everything from professional development and leadership philosophies to art and poetry during the free, daylong event.
The impromptu session came together in a flash – and gained national media attention – after UMW began brainstorming ways to support affected workers toward the end of last week.
“I am amazed and grateful that the UMW community came together so quickly to support this group of people at their time of need,” said Executive Director of Continuing and Professional Studies Kimberly Young. “The faculty responded with topics and showed up fully to teach and share their passions with the participants.”
Complimentary refreshments and a “brown bag” lunch supplied by UMW food services company Sodexo gave out-of-work government employees a chance to network.
Clifton Jackson of Arlington, a videographer and web designer, was among furloughed workers who turned out for the event, held at Mary Washington’sStafford Campus. The 26-year-old Department of Justice employee said that while some might consider shutdown free time a blessing, it’s also been a curse. He misses his colleagues, he said, and worries about the backlog of work waiting for him back at his Crystal City office.
“It’s been a time of reflection for me,” said Jackson, who saw UMW’s Day of Learning as “an opportunity to add value to my life.”
Faculty from Mary Washington’s trio of colleges – Arts and Sciences, Business (COB) and Education (COE) – joinedstaff and administrators to host a series of professional- and personal-enrichment workshopsofferingleadership lessons, workplace tutorials, creative outlets and more.
COB Dean Lynne Richardson laid out a 15-day plan for pulling scattered financial records into one convenient place in her presentation, “Getting Your Financial House in Order.” COE assistant professors Christy Irish and Melissa Wells teamed up to teach “Blackout Poetry,” giving participants an artistic way to relieve stress by turning news articles into flowing prose.
Elva Tolson of Stafford County, on furlough from her job with Border Patrol, grabbed a copy of The Richmond Times-Dispatchand went to work transforming a business story into a personal poem. “For me, it’s just a way to do something different,” she said of the workshop, and the entire day. “This is a moment to relax. This is Elva’s time.”
UMW Executive Director of Human Resources Beth Williams helped participants explore their unique leadership philosophies.Associate Provost for Academic Success and Student Engagement Tim O’Donnell shared secrets to success in a multi-generational workplace. Others covered Italian Renaissance art, the sights and sounds of Sicily, audience engagement techniques and more.
“We care about all of you,” UMW Provost Nina Mikhalevsky told the group during the opening session, saying Mary Washington felt “privileged” and “honored” to host the event. “You are our community. We want to do whatever we can to support you.”