The UMW historic preservation students were on a mission. As part of a 2019 study abroad trip to Paris, they were determined to find the grave of James Monroe’s daughter, Eliza, and make sure it was in good shape.
Success. After clearing away some plant growth, the students were able to report that Eliza Monroe Hay’s grave marker was intact. This trip benefitted not only the students but also the University’s James Monroe Museum.
Similarly, geography students brought prestige to UMW when they won the World Geography Bowl last year at the Southeastern Division of the American Association of Geographers competition in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Study abroad, domestic trips for research, unpaid internships – all of these beyond-the-classroom opportunities, some of which are unique to Mary Washington – greatly enhance students’ education. But they often come with a price tag.
During the 2019-20 academic year, more than 250 UMW students applied for grants to support supplies and travel related to internships and undergraduate research projects. Sadly, their requests exceeded available funds by close to $100,000.
The coronavirus pandemic abruptly halted student travel, while also tightening all university budgets. Even so, said College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Dean Keith Mellinger, “students needed money for lab equipment and studio projects, books and subscriptions, and some were also still looking for funding for day-travel to places like Washington, D.C., to visit museums or archives.”
The CAS Beyond the Classroom Endowment endeavor was born, marking the first such effort at UMW. The endowment distinguishes the University as a place that offers the support necessary to deliver unparalleled undergraduate learning opportunities.
According to Mellinger, with fluctuating circumstances and budgets, an endowment is “a means of providing ongoing support for a core mission of the institution: providing very high-quality and high-impact learning experiences.” He added, “This will provide us with a sustainable model.”
Launched as the fall 2020 semester began, the endowment has an ultimate goal of $1 million. That would enable CAS to provide about $40,000 annually for student research and learning. The immediate target is to raise $100,000 for the endowment by year end. Mellinger hopes Giving Tuesday – the global generosity movement that takes place tomorrow – will provide a substantial boost to the approximately $64,000 already raised. “The CAS Alumni Advisory Board just announced that they will match all donations tomorrow, dollar-for-dollar, up to $10,000,” he said.
The CAS Facebook page describes many student experiences that possibly would not have happened without university funding. Meryl Menezes, who graduated this year with a major in psychology and a minor in Spanish, had the opportunity to continue her UMW research in Spanish by visiting Princeton University. There, she analyzed author José Donoso’s original manuscripts firsthand.
Senior Sam Shahinian, a theatre major, was able to experience Broadway for the first time through a 10-day Department of Theatre pre-pandemic trip to New York City. She expressed gratitude to UMW for the opportunity to see not one, but 16 plays, and “for making the trip accessible to a student like me.”
Learn about the endowment, and watch a video of Mellinger describing it, on the CAS website.