Every fall, University of Mary Washington students gather with loved ones on campus for exciting events and activities that showcase Eagle life.
Now in its 47th year, Mary Washington’s Family Weekend is going virtual for the first time. Even in the digital realm, this beloved tradition, held Oct. 29 through Nov. 1, promises families ample opportunities for quality time together while apart.
“Virtual Family Weekend allows families the flexibility to decide when they want to engage together,” said Marissa DiMeo, of the Office of University Events and Conferencing. Much of the digital content will be available around the clock, thus “eliminating the stress of missing out on events that occur at the same time.” And there’s no need to worry about the weather.
This is the first time Amy Blondell will attend, usually preferring to spend time with daughter Nia, a junior, when fewer visitors are on campus. “It’s actually perfect for people like me, who aren’t as inclined to engage in conventional events.”
That was true of UMW’s StayHomecoming last week, which drew significantly more attendees online than past in-person Homecoming events. Participation peaked at 12,000 unique social media accounts representing Mary Washington alumni, according to the Office of Alumni Relations.
DiMeo is hoping for the same kind of success for Family Weekend. Many activities have been transformed, she said, including a virtual tour of Brompton, home to every Mary Washington president since the 1940s. Recorded prior to the pandemic, the tour is led by UMW student guides, Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker, and Brompton’s current residents, President Troy Paino and wife Kelly. DiMeo said, “We think it will be a big hit, and we intend to keep it as part of our future programming.”
Families can learn about Mary Washington history and traditions through a lecture presented by Professor Emeritus of History William B. Crawley, director of UMW’s Great Lives Series. The Historic Preservation Club will also host a virtual Civil War tour of the campus.
A number of live and prerecorded events are featured, including James Farmer Multicultural Center’s live Taste of Asia celebration and a Zoom version of beginner yoga hosted by Campus Recreation. Families can enjoy a musical performance by Quimbao, recorded for Latino Identities Month, as well as a magic show put on by the chemistry department.
Faculty will give a timely presentation, “COVID-19 – the Curve, the Markets and the Numbers,” while this summer’s popular “COVID-19 in Context” course can be viewed online.
On the cusp of Election Day, Political Science Professor Stephen Farnsworth, who directs UMW’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies, will present a lecture inspired by his most recent book, Late Night Humor & the American Presidency.
Coaches will provide an update on UMW’s sports teams, sidelined this fall, and the Center for International Education will host a live Q&A, with study abroad alums sharing their pre-pandemic travels.
For students, there’s a rubber duck scavenger hunt for Saturday’s Rock-tober Fest. Students can also mail letters to their families, and in return, parents can send free Halloween candy grams.
For families of first-year students, like Lisa Young and son Ethan, the weekend offers the chance to form stronger connections to the UMW community. Her son’s college experience may not look quite like they expected, Young said, but for now, she’ll get to know Mary Washington from afar, taking advantage of nearly every activity that Virtual Family Weekend offers.
“We have to be strong in these trying times,” she said, “But, hopefully, this too will pass.”
For more information, including a schedule of events and details on registering, visit Family Weekend 2020.