Abruptly, in mid-March – as the coronavirus pandemic began its rampage – Cosette Veeder-Shave ’22 had to leave Mary Washington and return to her home in New York. She could no longer physically be with her professors or her classmates; she just saw tiny images of them on her computer screen as she continued her courses online.
Meanwhile, sickness and death surrounded her. “So many of my family and friends were in the hospital,” she said. “I felt so helpless.”
So, she turned – virtually, of course – to three of her fellow staffers at UMW’s Writing Center who also were experiencing anxiety and discouragement. One of them, Piper Giannini ’21, suggested they do something to “bring smiles to people’s faces, even if short-term.”
The Positivity Post was born. The first issue came out April 13, and it has faithfully landed in 100-plus subscribers’ inboxes each Monday since then. This weekly dose of glass-half-fullness is distributed as a Google document that lacks high-tech touches but brims with heartfelt material.
Each edition features an uplifting photograph, a day-brightening story (a recent one was about customizing creative face masks) and news from around Mary Washington in a section called “Kindred Eagles.” There’s at least one highlighted pet, a faculty profile and “POGOs,” described by The Positivity Post as “Positive Gossip – messages that members of the UMW community send [anonymously] to others to show appreciation or recognition.”
One of the editors, Eli Keith ’23, described the newsletter as “universally positive” and a true team effort. To come up with content and delegate duties, he said, the four-member staff, which also includes Chloe Martin ’22 – is in “nearly constant dialogue.” Working on the newsletter has lifted their spirits, all four agree, and brought them closer together while cloistered in their homes.
“The Positivity Post is just a little reminder that there is good in the world in spite of what we hear in the news most days,” said Writing Center Director Gwendolyn Hale, who serves as the group’s advisor and chief cheerleader. She is confident they will continue the newsletter after they return to campus.
One of the greatest outcomes, Hale said, is that the publication is “shining light on people in the campus community who do such great things.” She added, “Whether it is a POGO to a staff member who smiled and helped you or a faculty/staff highlight to showcase what people are doing on campus that is meaningful but may go unnoticed, there is genuine love and affection for the UMW community.”
Take, for example, a sample of some recent POGOs, many of which have singled out President Troy Paino. I know these are tough times, and you probably hear a lot of negatives. I often wonder if your feelings get hurt. I just want to thank you for leading the school during this time. You do not get enough credit.
Registrar Rita Dunston. This woman may have the hardest job on campus. She really helped me with a registration disaster one semester. I will graduate on time because of her.
UMW cleaning staff. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for cleaning up after us students (we are pigs!), especially during this scary time with the virus. I am not sure if people think about you all putting your health in danger for us. You deserve to be thanked a million times over.
UMW. Stay strong. We are bigger than a virus. This school is made up of awesome people. I am so glad to attend and can’t wait to come back. I miss you, UMW!!
Subscribe to The Positivity Post to receive weekly issues.