Learning to Change Lives

Laura Dick ’13 left high school with the credentials of a scholar and her choice of colleges. She was looking to study international development, maybe at Swarthmore or Haverford College. Then the St. Louis native heard of Mary Washington and its Alvey Scholarship for out-of-state students. Its full tuition, fees, room, and board turned her head. "It wasn’t just about awareness – it was about engaging with the world." – Laura Dick Dick visited campus and met Christine Exley ’09, who was also passionate about development. Exley was a Washington Scholar, the in-state equivalent of an Alvey. She had studied with Shawn Humphrey, associate professor of economics, and was about to graduate in math and economics. While Exley was an undergrad, she and Humphrey had started La Ceiba microfinance institution and the $2 Challenge. Exley showed Dick around the economics department and introduced her to the faculty. “She really loved the school,” Dick said of Exley, who now is finishing a Ph.D. … [Read more...]

Honoring the Ordinary

Though they lived more than two centuries ago, the people Allyson Poska calls “my peasants” experienced day-to-day drama that rivals any TV reality show. The UMW professor of history spins juicy tales of intemperance, extramarital liaisons, and murders, naming names and making connections. The Shirley Van Epps Waple Professor has made their business her business: enriching the historical record. “I study ordinary people,” Poska said of her career and of her latest research on the lives of Spanish peasant women who were brought to colonize the Argentine region of Patagonia in the 1780s. “In my profession, that’s really different.” Poska has spent hundreds of hours in archives in South America and Spain, poring over manuscripts in early modern Spanish. Deciphering letters, court papers, and other documents, the UMW Waple professor mines the intimate details of lives uprooted by the Spanish government to populate an area coveted by England. The resulting book, the working title of … [Read more...]

Teaching to Learn

Assistant Professor of Accounting Dave Henderson ’95 wants his students to learn about accounting practices and information systems. But the Shirley Van Epps Waple Professor seeks to impart a more profound lesson, one that will see the undergraduates through every facet of their lives. He helps them learn to keep learning. That’s a skill Henderson believes UMW is uniquely poised to impart. He’s his own case study. As a Mary Washington undergraduate, Henderson envisioned using his economics and business double major to ascend the ranks of the corporate world. But his liberal arts classes challenged him to learn in unexpected ways – to figure out how to identify a location by one photograph, for example, or to recognize a composer by just a few bars of music. That ability to learn from seemingly unconnected sources helped Henderson shape a career in financial analysis, accounting, and information systems. Ultimately, it gave him the flexibility to trade corporate-world … [Read more...]

Planning for the Future

STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – gets a lot of love these days in educational circles, but Professor of Education George Meadows believes the “E” part of the acronym is due more attention. The Shirley Van Epps Waple Professor, who teaches future elementary through high school science teachers, knows that the Virginia Standards of Learning emphasize the traditional sciences of biology, chemistry, and physics. But change is inevitable, and he wants schools, teachers, and the students themselves to be ready. Traditional sciences have labs, Meadows said. “What does engineering have? It has a makerspace.” That is, a space where users collaborate to employ and improve 3D printers and their increasingly adept MakerBot offspring. As a Waple professor, Meadows has devoted time and money toward equipping Fredericksburg-area elementary schools with the fast-evolving technological tools. He’s built support among teachers, parents, and administrators, … [Read more...]