The Class of 2022 began freshman year like any other, swept up in longstanding University of Mary Washington traditions like Move-In Day, Eagle Gathering and Honor Convocation.
That all changed when they were sophomores. Classes went online, study abroad trips were postponed and everything – activities, internships and volunteer experiences – became virtual. But these students still worked hard, made connections with professors and peers, and persevered. And this spring, a sense of normalcy returned, as did beloved UMW milestones, once again held in person: Devil-Goat Day, Grad Ball and the ultimate goal, this weekend’s Commencement.
Next, these soon-to-be alums will move on to careers, graduate school and long-awaited excursions abroad. Here, in part one of a three-story series, several 2022 grads share their achievements, future plans and how Mary Washington has prepared them for life after college.
When Lu Sheikhnureldin first toured UMW, she gave the school an A+.
“I knew Mary Washington was the place for me, because of how friendly and welcoming the students, faculty and staff are here,” she said. An English major, Sheikhnureldin said she also enrolled because of the outstanding reputation of UMW’s College of Education, where she plans to pursue a master’s degree.
She has been a class act, spending the last four years working to ensure the University is inclusive and accessible to everyone who comes onto campus. She recently earned the Prince Woodard Outstanding Leader Award for her work leading DiversAbility, Women of Color, Students Educating and Empowering Diversity, and PRISM, as well as serving as an inaugural Farmer Fellow with the James Farmer Multicultural Center.
She became a First-Year Seminar peer mentor, coordinated publicity for Student Activities and Engagement, and joined the WMWC Radio club. And she helped the disabled community on and off campus, serving as president of UMW’s Best Buddies chapter and performing an accessibility audit for Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault.
With plans to teach high school in Fredericksburg, Sheikhnureldin hopes her future classroom will be as warm and embracing as the community she found at UMW. “My most important takeaway from Mary Washington is that there is always a place for you – you just need to find it.”
Gabriel Matteson’s UMW interests can be summed up in two words: war and peace.
Majoring in international affairs and anthropology, he combined his academic passions into an independent study focused on the socio-cultural constructions of security policy.
“It challenged me as I learned about the real-world consequences that can happen in this field,” said Matteson, who delved into topics like drone warfare and the global war on terror. With a minor in security and conflict studies, he further explored the subject for his Honors thesis and in a study abroad experience in Berlin. His hard work also earned him the department’s Outstanding International Affairs Major Award and spots in the Pi Sigma Alpha and Phi Beta Kappa honor societies.
But peace is always his goal, he said, so he found other meaningful pursuits to engage in at Mary Washington, including cofounding and leading UMW’s Zen Garden club. He served as a Center for International Education peer advisor, Political Science and International Affairs department representative and Weekly Ringer staff writer – and he’s involved in a half-dozen other organizations dedicated to finding cultural common ground at UMW and around the world.
Matteson plans to pursue a career as a changemaker, but he leaves this advice before he goes global: “At UMW, seize every opportunity that comes your way.”
The first time Maggie Mrowka visited Mary Washington, she said it felt like home. Or maybe a homerun.
Mrowka spent all four years playing varsity softball, leading UMW’s team as captain for the last three, which she said was one of her finest achievements. On the field, she was pitch-perfect, finishing in the top 10 in Mary Washington softball history for career triples, homeruns and hits.
She also covered all the bases when it came to academics, serving as a key player in UMW’s College of Business. Mrowka was named president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and inducted into the athletic honor society Chi Alpha Sigma.
A business administration major and digital studies minor, she was active in Mary Washington’s Women in Business club and completed local marketing internships with the Fred Nats minor league baseball team and Stafford Printing. She even found time to foster nine pups through the Fredericksburg SPCA and become a certified personal trainer.
Her next career win? Pursuing a master’s degree in sports management and recreation studies at George Mason University. But she said she’ll always hold on to memories made at Mary Washington. “From study sessions and hanging out to bonding with my team on and off the field, my friends are what I’ll miss most about UMW.”
Gabriel Matteson is the recipient of privately funded scholarships. To learn more, visit UMW’s Scholarship Opportunities page.