On Campus

Hoarders Star Comes Clean About Success

Garbage guru Matt Paxton ’97 shared his struggles and successes with a standing-room-only crowd in Monroe Hall on Feb. 1. “I wouldn’t be the best trash dude in the world if I hadn’t screwed up,” said Paxton, author of The Secret Lives of Hoarders and extreme cleaning expert on the A&E television show Hoarders. The business administration major displayed a photo of himself and his Mary Washington roommates in Bushnell Hall, looking like typical ’90s college students. After graduation, however, his life took several unexpected turns. Paxton, who owns the Richmond-based company Clutter Cleaner, spoke openly about his struggles with unemployment, failed business ventures, and the death of his father. All, he said, led him to his gig on an Emmy-nominated reality show. He shared hard-earned wisdom with today’s students. “Suffering is awesome,” he said. “Don’t be afraid of rock bottom.” And, “There is opportunity in everything.” He also stressed maintaining a … [Read more...]

Virginia Commission for the Arts Recognizes Great Writing

As a child, Steve Watkins was shocked to learn from a librarian that books don’t appear like magic. They are actually written – by people. “As dumb as it may sound,” he told Front Porch Fredericksburg magazine, “I thought books just were.” Now a UMW professor of English and an award-winning novelist, Watkins got another kind of literary surprise in December as one of four fiction writers to receive a $5,000 fellowship from the Virginia Commission for the Arts. The award recognizes and supports pursuit of artistic excellence. Watkins won acclaim for The Black O: Racism and Redemption in an American Corporate Empire, his 1997 nonfiction account of America’s largest employment discrimination class-action lawsuit. Since then, he has produced a steady stream of celebrated fiction, including the short-story collection and Paterson Fiction Prize finalist My Chaos Theory in 2006 and the Golden Kite Award-winning Down Sand Mountain in 2009. He also wrote the young adult novels What … [Read more...]

UMW Holiday POPS: A Down-Home Christmas

UMW’s 2011 Philharmonic Holiday POPS concert warmed the spirits of Fredericksburg music lovers, and if things go as planned, it will do the same for folks across the country. The footage is in the running to be part of a PBS television holiday special. Emmy-winning producer Jim Brown corralled cameras, crewmembers, and bright TV lights inside Dodd Auditorium to film A Down-Home Christmas, featuring husband-wife folk duo Jay Ungar and Molly Mason. Also onstage was next-generation husband-wife folk duo Ruth Ungar Merenda and Michael Merenda. In Ungar’s practiced hand, the bow glided over violin strings, producing haunting melodies including Ashokan Farewell, the title theme from Ken Burns’ Grammy-winning PBS documentary The Civil War. Mason joined in on vocals, bass, and mandolin in a sampling of songs from the couple’s recent release, The Pleasures of Winter, featuring traditional Appalachian, Quebecois, and Shetland Island numbers. The duo, their family, and the UMW … [Read more...]

Prize Crowns Seay’s Queen

For her collection To See the Queen, Allison Seay ’02 has received a royal honor. The 2012 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize in Poetry ensures publication of Seay’s manuscript and comes with a stay in a 15th-century castle in the Italian countryside. Seay, who is teaching advanced poetry and creative writing at UMW this semester, is serving as Arrington Poet-in-Residence while Pulitzer Prize-winning Professor of English and Arrington Distinguished Chair in Poetry Claudia Emerson is on sabbatical. A writer and editor, Seay has taught at Greensboro and Lynchburg colleges and at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she earned a master of fine arts degree. She is the winner of last year’s prestigious Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship, and her work has been featured in The Southern Review, Crazyhorse, and Poetry. The Lexi Rudnitsky award was named for a 32-year-old graduate student whose first poetic manuscript had been accepted for publication when she died of cardiac … [Read more...]

Cambodia Gives Students Something to Blog About

The stories of several UMW students in Cambodia during winter break unfolded through blogs and other social media. Participants took turns posting daily about their endeavors during the 31⁄₂-week study abroad. The group visited a rice farm and a floating village; did fieldwork in the capital, Phnom Penh; attended meetings with the Peace Corps; spoke with survivors of the infamous Khmer Rouge Cambodian genocide; and earned credits toward a UMW degree in geography. Associate Professor of Geography Donald Rallis led the students, and Assistant Dean of Academic Services Amber Huffman ’10 accompanied them. Offered for the first time at Mary Washington, the program is one of only a few of its kind in the country, Rallis said. While in Cambodia on his 14th visit to the Southeast Asian country, the professor posted on Facebook, “It is immensely rewarding and more than a little humbling to see students so engaged, interested, and motivated.” … [Read more...]

Angela Davis Tells Black History in First Person

Angela Davis is still passionate about racial equality, women’s rights, and political issues. And – at 68 – she’s still speaking out for her beliefs. The University invited the activist, author, and University of California Santa Cruz professor emerita to be its James Farmer Visiting Lecturer and keynote speaker for the UMW Black History Month celebration. Four decades ago, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover put Davis on the bureau’s “Ten Most Wanted” list related to charges of murder, kidnapping, and criminal conspiracy. The daughter of Alabama schoolteachers, Davis served 18 months in prison before a jury acquitted her. She twice was a U.S. vice presidential candidate on the Communist Party ticket. Today, Davis’ scholarly work focuses on incarceration and criminalization of the most impoverished and discriminated against. She advocates against what she calls the prison-industrial complex. Other Black History month events included the steel drum music of Ewabo, exhibits, film … [Read more...]

Clinton Global-Change U. Invites Professor to be Mentor

 His Two Dollar Challenge, started at the University of Mary Washington to raise awareness of global poverty, has garnered national headlines and has been repeated on at least a dozen college campuses. In March, Associate Professor of Economics Shawn Humphrey continued his mission of effecting world change as one of 30 “commitment mentors” chosen to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. “Again and again,” Humphrey said, “my students and I have demonstrated our ability to deliver on projects and make a national impact.” Former President Bill Clinton started CGIU to showcase young people’s power to effect change. It unites about 1,000 students from across the globe to discuss solutions to pressing issues – from global warming to human trafficking – with youth organizations, topic experts, and celebrities. As a commitment mentor, Humphrey facilitated discussions with a group of 50 students about resource … [Read more...]

The Buzz About UMW

  The University of Mary Washington’s the leader of the pack when it comes to community service, value, and academic quality – and some big voices are saying so. For the second year in a row, the Peace Corps ranked Mary Washington No. 1 in the nation among small universities for alumni now serving as Peace Corps volunteers. Currently, the University has 30 alumni serving around the world. The Princeton Review listed UMW in its “Best Value Colleges: 2012 Edition.” The University is among 75 public and 75 private colleges and universities with excellent academics selected for the honor. UMW ranks fifth among Virginia’s best values and 44th out of 100 four-year public institutions nationwide when comparing tuition costs, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine’s “100 Best Values in Public Colleges” for 2012. Mary Washington has appeared consistently on Kiplinger’s best value list and has been ranked among its top 50 values since 2006. Kiplinger’s also … [Read more...]

1778 Furlough Signed, Sealed,Delivered – by the James Monroe

A Revolutionary War military furlough, signed by then-Maj. James Monroe at Valley Forge, is now owned by the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library. The small, yellowed paper signed Feb. 23, 1778, by the Founding Father who would be the fifth U.S. president is believed to be the earliest official document bearing Monroe’s signature. The museum was able to purchase the historically significant paper thanks to private donations. Learn more at jamesmonroemuseum.org. … [Read more...]

Debate Coach ‘Exceptional’

 In Adrienne Brovero’s fast-talking world of forensics, most things are up for discussion. But there’s one thing about the head UMW debate coach that is inarguable – her talent. “Adrienne Brovero is one of the best debate coaches in the country,” said UMW Director of Debate Timothy O’Donnell. In November, the National Debate Tournament signaled its agreement with O’Donnell by honoring Brovero with the Ross K. Smith National Coach of the Year Award, reserved for exceptional teachers who have proven their ability to advance the forensic art. The annual award is presented during the Intercollegiate Debate Tournament at Wake Forest University, where Brovero spent much time honing her skills. She twice made it to the National Debate Tournament semifinals while earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Wake. She also coached debate there and at the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, and the University of Richmond. During most of her time at Mary Washington, … [Read more...]