Reinventing UMW

Task Force Navigates Pandemic Challenges

By Neva Trenis ’00 Soon after UMW sent students home at the start of the pandemic, President Troy Paino created a task force to figure out how to bring them back to campus more safely. He charged Jeff McClurken ’94, chief of staff and clerk of the board, and Tim O’Donnell, associate provost for academic engagement and student success, to form the COVID-19 Implementation Team. The co-coordinators brought together hundreds of members of the Mary Washington community to pose and answer questions about how to proceed with academics, student life, dining, work life, testing, public health, lab and studio courses, mental health, isolation, quarantine, and more. “We were literally reinventing Mary Washington,” McClurken said. “And we kept asking ourselves, ‘How do we retain those things that are most important about the Mary Washington experience when the pandemic makes it so hard, makes it dangerous even for us to be together as we normally are?’ ” President Paino set out five … [Read more...]

‘Compelling Courses’

Professors Join Forces to Teach Better Online

By Jill Graziano Laiacona ’04 Professors often spend their breaks on scholarly research, but last summer dozens of UMW faculty members went back to school instead. Through a faculty learning community called Compelling Courses, representatives from nearly every academic department taught one another how to deliver dynamic virtual lessons and incorporate the best of the UMW experience into distance learning. When the pandemic hit last March, UMW professors – many of whom had never taught online – abruptly had to shift to a new method of teaching. The succeeding months gave instructors time to tinker with tools so that they were fully prepared to teach fall courses virtually or in combination with in-person meetings. “We believe teaching can be excellent regardless of medium,” said Professor of Economics Steve Greenlaw, who launched the group with Professor of Communication Anand Rao. “It all depends on how you design the course.” The community was an offshoot of the ongoing … [Read more...]

COVID Class Breaks Records

Online Offering Was UMW’s Largest Ever

Future academics may study the COVID-19 pandemic, but UMW’s professors didn’t wait to learn from hindsight. As the coronavirus swept the United States and the world in late spring, the College of Arts and Sciences devised an online course to examine the pandemic in real time, from multiple academic perspectives. In June and July, UMW’s COVID-19 in Context lecture series explored every aspect of the pandemic, from the science of the coronavirus itself to its economic, social, political, and artistic impacts. Created as a for-credit student class but offered for free to all, it quickly became UMW’s largest course ever. More than 1,900 people participated from 39 states; Washington, D.C.; and foreign countries including Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Japan, and Ghana. “It’s an amazing opportunity to showcase the university at this very critical time,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Keith Mellinger, who facilitated the course with Anand Rao, chair of the … [Read more...]

Mary Washington Reaches Out

College of Education Helps K-12 Teachers Navigate Change

By Neva Trenis ’00 After doing their best to teach remotely for three months due to the global pandemic, Virginia’s K-12 teachers got word in June that they likely would return to teaching for the fall semester – and at least some of it would be online. The sudden switch in spring had been hard enough; few of the state’s teachers had been trained in remote education or in keeping off-site students engaged. They needed help. That’s when the University of Mary Washington’s College of Education (COE) stepped up. In collaboration with Continuing and Professional Studies (CPS) at UMW, a Summer Virtual Teaching Series quickly emerged. “It has been an exciting opportunity to share the experience and knowledge of the College of Education faculty with local schoolteachers,” said Kristina Peck, UMW director of clinical experiences. In just four weeks, based on local educators’ input, UMW prepared six one-credit professional-development courses providing best practices in online … [Read more...]

President Outlines Careful Return

Watch President Paino's September talk about coming back to campus.

In September, President Troy Paino shared his rationale for inviting students to return to campus – with measures in place to mitigate risk of COVID-19 transmission –  for most of the fall 2020 semester. Find out more here. … [Read more...]