Experience Inspires Spaniard to Guide Students Abroad

As a teenager studying abroad in the U.S., Jose Sainz ate his first American meal at Burger King. Now, as UMW’s first director of the Center for International Education, the Spanish professor would like to give all Mary Washington students the chance to experience a different culture. Photo by Norm Shafer.

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Couple Stays Up In the Air

Mark Pieklo and Laura Smith are Boy Throws Girl, an aerial act they performed for years with the French Cirque Plume. Last year, the couple left the contemporary circus to join English dance company Tilted Productions, which tours the United Kingdom and France. They live in a renovated 1850s church
in Cévennes, France, with their twin toddlers.

After years as a circus acrobat, Mark Pieklo ’94 still feels the pressures of putting on a show – the glare of the spotlight, the eyes of the crowd, the need to nail every performance. “Imagine all that, only you have to do backflips at the same time,” said Pieklo, a longtime aerialist with the French contemporary circus Cirque Plume. In Boy Throws Girl, the act he performs with his wife, Laura Smith, Pieklo must climb to a perch high above the circus floor, toss a somersaulting Smith into the air, and catch her again. And they do it all without safety lines. Taking chances comes naturally for Pieklo. He earned a bachelor’s degree in math from Mary Washington but bypassed a conventional career, opting instead to audition for the National Circus School in Montreal. Two decades later, he’s still flipping, twisting, and bouncing his way into audience members’ hearts. But to realize his dream, Pieklo – now 41 and the father of twin toddlers – would turn once again to his alma … [Read more...]

Jack Bales

Photo by Norm Shafer

Jack Bales treats his library-research classes like musicians treat rock concerts. He tries to be “enthusiastic” and “energetic” and “on.” “I tell myself that no matter how I’m feeling, I have to be the Mick Jagger of the library world,” said Bales, UMW reference and humanities librarian. When he isn’t onstage in the classroom, he’s helping students find the best ways to investigate research topics – from Alzheimer’s to Zimbabwe. In more than three decades at the Simpson Library reference desk, he’s heard them all. “Students come by the reference librarians’ offices and email us,” Bales said. “That’s the best part of my job, helping students locate research information for their classes and papers.” Growing up in Aurora, Ill., the eldest of nine, Bales was enchanted by books. In grade school, he once was too busy reading to notice his classmates had gone out to recess. By fifth grade, he’d started two things – a paper route and a savings account. He paid his way through … [Read more...]