As the University of Mary Washington welcomed students to campus last week, President Troy Paino expressed “true joy” as he gathered with many of his colleagues for the first time since March of last year. Speaking in Dodd Auditorium last Monday, Paino was visibly moved as he delivered his all-University address in person to more than 100 faculty and staff, while those still teleworking watched on livestream.
Paino, who wore a mask in adherence to UMW’s indoor face coverings policy, shared his concerns about the Delta variant. But having witnessed the campus community’s commitment to mitigating the spread of the virus, he said he was confident in Mary Washington’s resilience and ability to adapt. “Our capacity to serve our students and fulfill our mission” will be renewed and strengthened after the adversity we’ve all faced, he said.
Touting a 90 percent vaccination rate among students and employees, Paino said the University will continue to monitor the situation and follow guidance from local and state health authorities. Finishing the last academic year among schools with the lowest number of cases, Mary Washington has been a model for the Commonwealth, he said. Furthermore, Chief of Staff Jeff McClurken, who managed UMW’s pandemic response with Interim Provost Tim O’Donnell, was asked to chair a team of COVID directors from Virginia colleges and universities.
Flanked by banners declaring the values that matter at Mary Washington, Paino announced that more than 7,000 members of the UMW community helped create “a collective expression … that is authentic to who we are.” Mary Washington will continue to collaborate with Atlanta-based firm Mindpower to refine and reinforce the Matter brand to tell our story to prospective students and their families, he said.
He also encouraged faculty and staff to focus on fostering connections with current students, especially those who came to UMW during the pandemic. “Individualized attention … the human interaction with our students inside and outside the classroom,” he said, “that’s the Mary Washington experience.”
The president also provided updates on construction projects, including the newly renovated Virginia Hall, which new students began moving into last week; the anticipated spring 2022 completion of Seacobeck as the new home of the College of Education; and the Maxine and Carl D. Silver Hillel Center, which will serve as a hub for UMW’s Jewish students. Funds have been secured from the General Assembly to start planning for a new theatre, Paino said, as well as a revitalization of the duPont, Pollard and Melchers arts complex.
Mary Washington has begun a nationwide search for a new chief diversity officer to succeed Sabrina Johnson, who retired earlier this year, Paino said. Citing UMW’s recent rankings on the Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges and Washington Monthly’s list of institutions that serve a public good, he added that Mary Washington is on the verge of hiring a full-time sustainability coordinator.
Paino concluded his address with praise for faculty and staff, emphasizing their role in helping UMW students discover what matters most to them. “I wish you well as we welcome our students back to campus,” he said, “and be reminded of the important work we do together.”