On the cusp of a new decade, the University of Mary Washington is poised to meet the changing needs of a student body that will become even more diverse. President Troy Paino delivered that message Tuesday at an All-UMW Assembly, while also sharing accomplishments, updates and reflections.
Monday’s launch of UMW’s Farmer Legacy 2020 celebration gave him a sense of optimism, Paino told faculty and staff in Dodd Auditorium, but he expressed concerns over how the upcoming election and polarized politics may impact campus life in the coming year. As a public university, UMW must encourage civil debate, he said, asking faculty and staff to reflect on the values of the late Mary Washington history professor and civil rights icon Dr. James Farmer and the University’s yearlong commitment to action in his honor. “We have to remind ourselves of our roles as mentors and advisors to these young people,” he said, noting that many UMW students will be voting in a presidential election for the first time.
Mary Washington is serving a more diverse and underrepresented student population than ever before, Paino said. In an effort to make the external environment more inclusive and reflective of our values, he said, the University will begin exploring and executing the recent recommendations made by the Campus Environment Committee, including a name change for Trinkle Hall.
“We need to look back to understand who we are, but we also can look forward in terms of who we aspire to be,” Paino said.
Adapting to changing demographics in Northern Virginia and throughout the country is key, he added. Recent partnerships with Germanna Community College, K-12 schools and other institutions are becoming increasingly important, he continued, as the University strives to meet the educational needs of students in our region.
Strengthening UMW’s position in the marketplace and improving its brand must be a main focus, said Paino, who summarized the results of the survey sent out last fall by Atlanta branding firm Mindpower.
Nearly 6,500 respondents – students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni and friends of Mary Washington – participated, he said, adding that results show the highest priorities included maintaining academic excellence and continuing to make the campus more welcoming to underrepresented students.
In terms of public perception, UMW has a “very positive reputation,” giving us a position of strength, said Paino. “We just need more people knowing about us.” To combat the lack of recognition, he is charging Mindpower – and the rest of the campus community – to “think big” and to “make a bold case for Mary Washington.”
He also offered updates on current and planned construction projects, including a totally refurbished Willard Hall, which welcomed students earlier this week, and Virginia Hall, just beginning renovations. Paino also said he is hopeful that increased funding recommended by Virginia’s governor for Seacobeck, which will house the College of Education, will be approved by the legislature. Also in the governor’s budget are planning funds for the Melchers, duPont and Pollard fine arts complex renovations, as well as a new theatre on campus. UMW will continue to ask the state legislature for additional funding for such critical needs as student financial aid and salary increases, he added.
Paino concluded his address by reminding faculty and staff of recent research showing that students with a degree from a liberal arts university are better prepared for success.
“We know what we do has value, not only for today or for tomorrow, but over the course of the lives of these young people,” he said. “We have to believe it, we have to stay committed to it, and we have to get the message out.”
“And we will succeed.”