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 three of a three-story series, several 2022 grads share their achievements, future plans and how Mary Washington has prepared them for life after college.
Alexia Inge came to UMW to play on the varsity women’s soccer team, which she’s done for the last four years. But her goal as a freshman was to explore interests beyond sports, she said.
“I couldn’t imagine attending school anywhere else,” said Inge, an aspiring lawyer who joined the mock trial team and pre-law club, and served on the Student Conduct Review Board. She did it all, while achieving an impressive GPA and earning a spot in three academic honor societies.
Inge, a political science major and practical ethics minor, recently completed an Honors thesis analyzing how public opinion impacts a president’s decision to intervene in humanitarian crises. She also worked closely with Professor Rosalyn Cooperman, researching women policymakers in Virginia’s legislature. Then, Inge scored an internship with Delegate Kathy Tran, purely out of a passion for public service.
This fall, she’ll kick her studies into high gear once again in the state capitol – this time as a law student at the University of Richmond.
Inge shares these words of wisdom to incoming UMW student-athletes: “Being involved on campus while maintaining a great academic record was challenging, but if you’re committed, it’s definitely possible to succeed.”
UMW initially wasn’t on Ivy Sanders’ radar. But since their mother was covering the cost of college application fees, “I had to apply to at least one school she chose for me,” they said.
As it turns out, a campus tour propelled Mary Washington to Sanders’ top choice. “I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else,” they said. Earning scholarships to perform with the UMW Philharmonic, Sanders secured spots as first-chair contrabass and head music librarian, and served as the music department’s student representative for Admissions events.
A high note, they said, was getting the chance to copy-edit a new critical edition of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Princess Ida. Working alongside Music Department Chair Brooks Kuykendall, Sanders compared the original 1884 instrumental score to the publishing company’s 500-page draft, generating pages and pages of needed corrections before publication.
Sanders, who also worked in Simpson Library for three years, plans to take a gap year and find a position as a music librarian for a university or symphony before pursuing a master’s in library science. Playing it by ear, they’re also considering a graduate degree in musicology.
“UMW gives students the chance to explore different passions inside and outside the classroom,” Sanders said. “The constant encouragement of our campus community has helped me embrace my academic and personal interests, as well as the person I truly am.”
Physics major John Wood wasn’t even sure that academia was for him. Now, the soon-to-be grad is making a quantum leap, finishing up a master’s degree in engineering next year thanks to one of UMW’s pathway programs.
At Mary Washington, he learned what mattered most – getting the chance to work closely alongside faculty.
“I was so thankful that they noticed and appreciated my work,” said Wood, who began research with Professor Maia Magrakvelidze during UMW’s Summer Science Institute in 2019. Then, he spent the next two years with Professor Varun Makhija, laser focused on modeling molecules that are exposed to an ultra fast pulse of light – through an actual laser – to take pictures of electrons.
The Department of Defense took notice of his work, granting Wood admission into its Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship-for-Service program, which awarded him tuition dollars, an annual stipend and employment. His classified work has to remain hush-hush, Wood said, but it was “cool to use some of their equipment.”
It also helped him begin a graduate program in data analytics engineering at George Mason University, which he’ll complete next spring. An unstoppable force, Wood already has a job waiting for him at the Missile Defense Agency. And he’s ready. “The faculty at Mary Washington, especially in the physics department, encouraged me to perform at my best. That’s what I’ll miss the most.”
Ivy Sanders is the recipient of privately funded scholarships. To learn more, visit UMW’s Scholarship Opportunities page.