Weather Whammy Welcomes UMW Freshmen

Nearly 1,400 students, orientation aides, and others gathered to learn what it means to be a UMW Eagle. Photos by Norm Shafer

As if the first week of college can’t be hair-raising enough for freshmen, Mother Nature slung some serious surprises at hundreds of new students who converged on the University of Mary Washington in August. A magnitude-5.8 earthquake; a dangerous, havoc-wreaking thunderstorm; and a category-3 hurricane came not so neatly wrapped inside a span of just five days.

On Tuesday, Aug. 23, the quake, with an epicenter just southwest of Fredericksburg, caused campus buildings to be evacuated and the University to close early. On Thursday, Aug. 25, just one day after freshmen moved in, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell issued a state of emergency under threats of a severe thunderstorm that shut down power on the Fredericksburg campus, merited a University-wide student alert, and postponed the Honor Convocation scheduled for that evening. Two days later, Hurricane Irene swept in from the Atlantic, releasing a fury that delivered more than 4 inches of rain and 40-mph winds; the very first day of classes was canceled.

In the end, the whirlwind of natural events meant an extraordinary level of bonding among the new and diverse group of students.

Of the 982 people in the 2011 UMW freshman class, 145 are from 22 states outside of Virginia; they come from New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Maine, New Hampshire, Texas, and Colorado.

Twenty-two percent identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska native, black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or Asian.

Members of the freshman class performed well on SATs, with the middle 50 percent scoring between 540 and 630 in critical reading, 510 and 600 in math, and 530 and 610 in writing. The middle 50 percent scored between 23 and 26 on the ACT and graduated from high school with a grade-point average between 3.28 and 3.84.