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Two Mary Baldwin professors spent Spring Break developing connections that will enrich classroom and on-site learning thanks to a new funding stream administered by the Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement.

spencer_patinoBrenci Patiño, assistant professor of Spanish, and Doris Dodson, visiting assistant professor of social work and field work coordinator, are the first recipients of grants from the new High-Impact Engaged Education Fund. The fund accomplishes one of several goals of the Spencer Center Endowment, created as a priority of the college’s current multi-million-dollar fundraising effort, Ever Ahead: The Campaign for Mary Baldwin College.

Patiño, who joined Mary Baldwin in 2011 and has taught U.S. Latina/o Literature and Culture for three semesters, will use her grant to refine the itinerary for a proposed new Spring Break or May Term course to explore Latino culture in New York City. Patiño traveled to the Big Apple in March to scope out potential locations for her class to visit, including neighborhoods such as Manhattan’s Loisaida and Washington Heights, and cultural centers such as El Museo del Barrio and The Mexican Cultural Institute of New York. She also envisions students attending lectures at Columbia University and the City University of New York as well as a live performance at Repertorio Español.

“My hope is that students will further understand the complexity of Latino histories in the United States, as well as their varied and unique cultural contributions,” Patiño said.

“It could also be an ideal opportunity for Latina MBC students to engage with communities that represent their homelands, without leaving the country,” she said.

Dodson returned just days ago a trip to Haiti, during which she started a network of contacts to lay the foundation for a proposed social work field practicum in that country. Social work students often express an interest in international activities, Dodson said, and Assistant Professor of Social Work Mary Clay Thomas established a successful program in Honduras a few years ago by. Dodson’s goal is to create a long-term relationship with the community of Cherident, Haiti, which will be key to an effective practicum program.

spencer_dodson1“This Spring Break trip was invaluable in helping me consider how we can customize our future field practicum,” said Dodson, who traveled with two current social work students, MBC Director of Physical Therapy Kai Kennedy, and other Mary Baldwin students and faculty.

Dodson’s own experience provides a compelling testimony for the value of studying abroad.

“I participated in a service-learning trip to Mexico as an undergraduate, and it was life-changing. It was during that trip that I became determined to be a social worker,” she said. “Field instruction is the signature pedagogy of the bachelor of social work. This kind of opportunity increases students’ confidence in working with diverse populations and helps promote the MBC value of global citizenship.”

Steve Grande, executive director of the Spencer Center, is encouraged by the generous gifts that made it possible to offer these inaugural grants. As the endowment grows, funds will also be employed to sustain study abroad and civic engagement scholarships for students as well as to enhance the artist-in-residence program.

“The goal of the fund is to support the creativity that our faculty brings to their teaching by providing resources that will allow them to connect innovative experiential elements with their courses,” Grande said. “The range of grant applications reflected our faculty’s desire to continually seek creative approaches to helping students engage with complex topics.”

Ariel-Ehlenz.Girls-Girls-GirlsJust a few years after its launch as the country’s only online creative journal run by undergraduates for undergraduates, Mary Baldwin College’s Outrageous Fortune has collected national accolades and bolstered students’ skills and confidence. The current issue of plain china, a widely respected anthology of the best undergraduate writing and art in the United States, features two works from Outrageous Fortune, marking the second time that the MBC journal has been included as one of the best of the best.

“It is truly a campus organization that provides students with an outlet for creative expression and experiences that reward them with marketable skills,” said Sarah Kennedy, professor of English and Outrageous Fortune’s faculty advisor.

Kennedy oversees the interns who work on the magazine and offers advice when staffers seek her out, but she solidly credits the club’s student leaders with supplying creative direction and managing day-to-day operations such as maintaining a database of national contacts, selecting works from hundreds of submissions, and sending acceptance or rejection letters for the publication.

“They are the ones who have earned the recognition. They have made a name for Outrageous Fortune and Mary Baldwin,” she said.

Theatre major Laura Wise ’14, art and drama editor, agrees with Kennedy  that involvement in Outrageous Fortune serves as career preparation.

“My work has given me realistic expectations about the standards of professionalism in the working world,” Wise said.

The journal accepts previously unpublished poetry, short stories, chapters of novels, one-act plays, essays, photographs, and artwork from undergraduates in the United States. The staff is considering expanding to seek international submissions.

Senior Mikhaila Moynihan has enjoyed shaping and reshaping the journal since her freshman year. After working as fiction editor, managing editor, and editor-in-chief, she now serves as editor-at-large and considers training the club’s next leaders her top priority.

“It is so difficult — but necessary — to be published in the literary world today,” Moynihan said. “The ability to give other students a chance to showcase their work is fulfilling and interesting. I want to ensure that our journal continues to be strong and respected.”

She is also impressed that the editorial staff is comprised of students with a wide variety of majors and interests.

Managing Editor Jasmine-Kelly Chavis ’15 said her tenure with Outrageous Fortune has sharpened her business and mediation skills.  She is a big fan of the Open Mic events that the staff hosts a few times each semester — the next one is slated for February 20 in the Nuthouse and is open to all MBC students.

“I love seeing the creativity of our campus blossom at Open Mic nights. I love that I am part of an organization that provides an outlet for others to express themselves,” Chavis said.

Although there is a steady stream of submissions to Outrageous Fortune from colleges and universities nationwide, Kennedy and the staff hope to encourage more works from Mary Baldwin students. They would also like to see more submissions from MBC alumni, who are the only non-undergraduate contributors accepted into the journal.

“I’m constantly amazed by the creative ways people have explored various forms of art,” Wise said.

Front photo, “The Americana,” featured as cover art for the spring 2014 edition of Outrageous Fortune, by Olivia Samerdyke ’14.

Interior image, “Girls, girls, girls,” from the spring 2014 edition of Outrageous Fortune, by Ariel Ehlenz.

Mary Baldwin College’s Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL) Corps of Cadets marched January 11 in Governor Terry McAuliffe’s inaugural parade. The parade , which followed McAuliffe’s swearing-in ceremony, began at Richmond’s Capitol Square and traversed some of the state capitol’s historic districts. The VWIL corps and marching band – which includes non-cadet students as well – has been invited to participate in several gubernatorial parades. Photos by Woods Pierce.

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A new year. A renewed focus on health and wellness at Mary Baldwin College. Mary VanNortwick feels the momentum.

“I’m so encouraged by the conversations I have had with many people about their personal wellness goals and ideas for programs that promote a healthy campus community,” said VanNortwick, MBC wellness and nutrition coach.

In October, 125 faculty, staff, and spouses participated in the first on-campus health assessment by the college’s new healthcare management provider, Viridian. Those employees and family members learned their blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and other basic health measures on the spot. A few weeks later, they received detailed information about their mental and physical wellbeing and potential risk factors.

In response to student suggestions, VanNortwick plans to offer a similar health assessment to students in fall 2014.

news_wellness2Viridian’s approach involves more engagement than previous programs, giving participants more ownership of their overall health and creating a culture of support, VanNortwick said. In addition to working with individuals, she is working on a series of “Well by Choice” posters that feature faculty, staff, and students and coordinating group activities that address a wide range of health topics such as weight loss, tobacco cessation, and physical activity.

VanNortwick also worked with a class to create The Skinny on Local Dining, a flyer that identifies healthy dishes at local restaurants.

Last week, VanNortwick followed up to let each person know how he or she can earn the monthly health insurance deduction that comes with participation. She noted that most MBC members fall in the low-risk category, meaning that they need to have a consultation session either with a Viridian professional or VanNortwick, a general physical check-up, and take part in in four additional wellness activities by the end of the calendar year. Tracking participation is made easy by checking in with VanNortwick or using the electronic form.

The holistic program makes sense to Carey Usher, associate professor of sociology and associate dean of the college.

“When I think about wellness, I think of the ability to really be who you are, to appreciate who you are, to take good care of that individual in every way to maximize your gifts and talents,” she said.

As co-director of the First-Year Experience, Usher recognizes how significantly wellness messages can influence Mary Baldwin’s student body.

“It doesn’t take long to turn a behavior into a habit,” she said. “If we can expose students to healthier ways of living, thinking, and working while they are adjusting college life, it will be easier for them to develop healthy habits.”

The Healthy Lifestyles Gateway continues to be one of the most effective ways for students to weave wellness into college life. Designed for first-year students who want to practice and promote healthy and active lifestyles, participants complete wellness assessments, create individualized life-vision maps, and prepare a nutritious Thanksgiving dinner together, among other activities.

Former Healthy Lifestyles Gateway leader Irene Sarnelle, associate professor of health and physical education, said that often the biggest obstacle to achieving wellness — for students, faculty, and staff — is making a time commitment to a healthy activity.

“It sounds cliché, but if you take the time to do something that makes you healthier, you truly are more effective and efficient in other areas of your life. You don’t feel like you’re ‘losing’ that time,” Sarnelle said.

She advises people to try just one new activity at first until it becomes part of a routine. Sarnelle is a big fan of the monthly MBC contra dances, which she has helped organize for many years.

“The dances are a unique event in the area,” she said, “and they are heart-pounding exercise, smoke- and alcohol-free, and family-friendly.”

On-campus activities that help students, faculty, and staff stay healthy this semester — many of which qualify for the 2014 wellness incentive program — include:

  • My Wellbeing Forum: A series of five fast-paced discussions based on the bestseller Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements. Meets 12–12:45 p.m. on 1/16, 2/20, 3/20, 4/17, and 5/1, SAC Clubroom.
  • Muscle Hustle: Thursdays 4:30–5:20 p.m., PAC Dance Studio.
  • Hydration Challenge: Participants focus on drinking 64 ounces of water each day from January 13 to 31 with chances to win prizes.
  • Zumba:  6–6:50 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, PAC Dance Studio.
  • Spring Contra Dances: 1/25, 2/15, 3/15, and 4/19. Dance workshop 7:30 p.m., dance 8–11 p.m., PAC Dance Studio.
  • Flu Shot Clinic: Visit the MBC Health Center between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • My Healthy Weight: A checklist-style series designed to get participants started on weight-loss goals. Meets 9 –9:30 a.m. on 1/14, 1/21, and 1/28, SAC Clubroom.
  • Recreational Yoga: Tuesdays 4:30–5:20 p.m. and Wednesdays 12–12:50 p.m., PAC 213.
  • Financial Wellbeing: A three-part series that examines how financial health affects total health. Meets 9-9:30 a.m. on 2/11, 2/18, and 2/25, SAC Clubroom.
  • Relay for Life: American Cancer Society event April 5 and 6, PAC.
  • Walking Incentive: Look for information about a pedometer program in April.
  • For more wellness ideas and information, visit

news_OT_insideJust a week after the physical therapy program at Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences (MDCHS) reached another important accreditation benchmark, the college’s Occupational Therapy Doctoral Program has also earned candidacy status. The announcement from the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy (ACOTE) allows Mary Baldwin to accept students into the occupational therapy program, keeping the timeline on track for first classes to begin in June 2014.

“I am exceptionally pleased with the feedback we received regarding our candidacy application,” said Linda Seestedt-Stanford, founding vice president of health sciences.

Mary Baldwin has steadily received applications for its PT and OT programs since July, and each program will accept approximately 30 students into its inaugural class. Some prospective students have had the opportunity to meet directors and faculty from the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences at graduate school fairs, open houses, and information sessions.

“We are thrilled and excited about the quality of our applicants and look forward to seating the class of 2017,” said Nathan “Ben” Herz, program director for occupational therapy, who has started informing prospective students about the development.

Construction is progressing on Murphy Deming’s initial three-story, 57,000-square-foot building on the site off Goose Creek Road in Fishersville. Instructional technology for the state-of-the-art facility has also been finalized, including simulation labs, lecture capture capability, videoconferencing, and projection of multiple images on large flat-screen monitors in classrooms. In addition, MDCHS faculty and staff have connected with key community partners through the Augusta Community Forum and the Mary Baldwin College service learning network to develop ongoing projects.

A $15 million gift from longtime MBC benefactor Bertie Murphy Deming Smith ’46 launched the development of the college of health sciences and jump started construction. A master of science in physician assistant studies is also planned to start in 2015.

Find out more about the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences and read more about each program’s accreditation status.


Mary Baldwin College is one of several Staunton landmarks featured in the holiday 2013 window display of Grandma’s Bait, a children’s toy and clothing store on East Beverley Street. When longtime owner Shirley Robinson heard that the theme for downtown window decorating was “A Hometown Holiday,” she knew immediately that she wanted to include the college along with the Blackfriars Playhouse, Stuart Hall School, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, and other unique places in the city. Grandma’s Bait is one of 19 merchants participating in the display, which runs through January 5.

news_CAPTEThe Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences reached a crucial benchmark this week in pursuit of full accreditation by the internationally recognized Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), allowing students to be accepted into Mary Baldwin’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

“The accreditation process is exceptionally rigorous, and for good reason,” said Linda Seestedt-Stanford, founding vice president of the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences. “Accreditation protects the public and ensures that our students demonstrate the required skills and competencies for entry-level physical therapy practice.”

Classes in physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) are slated to begin in June 2014. Earning “candidate for accreditation” status from CAPTE indicates that Murphy Deming leaders have completed a self-study, an initial site visit, and a review by members of the CAPTE board, Stanford said. A similar process is underway to receive accreditation for Murphy Deming’s Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program.

Mary Baldwin has steadily received applications for its PT and OT programs since July, and each program will accept approximately 30 students into its inaugural class. Some prospective students have had the opportunity to meet directors and faculty from the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences at graduate school fairs, open houses, and information sessions.

“We are impressed by the caliber and number of applicants coming in from around the region, state, and nation, and we are eager to admit them into our program,” said Lisa Shoaf, physical therapy program director. “It is exciting to think about welcoming those first students who will experience our innovative curriculum with a focus on interprofessional education that will set us apart in the field.”

In the meantime, construction is progressing on Murphy Deming’s initial three-story, 57,000-square-foot building on the site off Goose Creek Road in Fishersville. Instructional technology for the state-of-the-art facility has also been finalized, including simulation labs, lecture capture capability, videoconferencing, and projection of multiple images on large flat-screen monitors in classrooms. In addition, MDCHS faculty and staff have connected with key community partners through the Augusta Community Forum and the Mary Baldwin College service learning network to develop ongoing projects.

A $15 million gift from longtime MBC benefactor Bertie Murphy Deming Smith ’46 launched the development of the college of health sciences and jump started construction. In addition to the DPT and OTD, a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies is also planned to open in 2015.

Find out more about the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences.


news_koontz_insideDave Koontz was in the office during regular business hours, but he never really stopped working to ensure the online security of Mary Baldwin College. His wife, Ann — who came to MBC herself seven years ago and now serves as campus switchboard operator — recalled Dave monitoring system updates and fielding inquiries while the couple was watching a movie at home or during their annual vacation to Virginia Beach.

“He knew that he was dealing with issues and systems that don’t take breaks,” Ann said. “He didn’t mind the round-the-clock work; he enjoyed being needed and was very committed to doing what he could to keep things running properly and maintaining the best network security possible. He was proud of how tight the system had become.”

Dave Koontz, 51, passed away November 6 at Rockingham Memorial Hospital. His Mary Baldwin tenure began in 1997, and his most recent position was lead systems analyst in the Office of Information Technology.

Before he found his niche at MBC, Koontz worked in a variety of positions including video store management and office equipment distribution. Dave’s wife of 23 years said he was “into computers before they were mainstream” and that “there were motherboards all over the house” when he dove into computer rebuilding projects as a hobby. Before Facebook and instant messaging, he created and facilitated a type of chat forum that he referred to as a bulletin board, Ann Koontz said.  He completed several courses and special programs at Blue Ridge Community College to enhance and update his knowledge in the field.

At Mary Baldwin, he worked closely with colleagues to introduce and update the campus email system, roll out an effective ID card system, and ensure security for campus credit card transactions.

Dave Koontz was born in Florida and spent most of his childhood near Dallas. He finally convinced Ann to travel to the city with him in 2011, where he enjoyed reminiscing and attending a Dallas Cowboys game.

A celebration of Koontz’s life is planned for November 23 in the Student Activities Center Ballroom. The event will begin at 7 p.m. and will include a family receiving line, a prayer by former college chaplain Patricia Hunt, refreshments, and an invitation for attendees to share memories.

“Dave was faithful, but not religious in the traditional sense,” Ann said. “I felt like this kind of memorial at Mary Baldwin would be appropriate because of his deep connection to this community.”

Contributions in Koontz’s memory can be made to the Staunton Fire and Rescue Department, 500 N. Augusta St., Staunton, VA 24401 or to the Staunton/Augusta Rescue Squad, P.O. Box 2566, Staunton, VA 24401.

One out of every three women worldwide has been beaten, sexually violated, or abused by a partner, relative, friend, employer, or stranger in her lifetime, according to the Reproductive Health Response in Crises Consortium. Of these crimes, less than 50 percent are reported to authorities.

It is time to Take Back the Night.

From the first documented event in Philadelphia in 1975 in response to the murder of a young woman, Take Back the Night observances in the United States and worldwide have raised awareness of crimes against women. In connection with the international event, Mary Baldwin College (MBC) students and community members are invited to participate in a Take Back the Night ceremony and walk November 14.

Student members of MBC’s PERSIST (Promoting Excellence and Reinforcing Success in Student Traditions) program will sponsor the event and several have roles in the ceremony, which begins at 7 p.m. in Miller Chapel on campus. Guest speaker Nichole Burchette of New Directions Inc. will talk about the services offered at the women’s shelter, located in Staunton. Greater Things Dance Ministry and Anointed Voices of Praise will also perform during the event, which concludes with a candlelight march and procession of banners.

For more information, contact the Office of Inclusive Excellence and Multicultural Affairs at 540-887-7270.

Tamra Willis, associate professor of education and director of the Environment-Based Learning (EBL) program, received the Virginia Resource-Use Education Council’s (VRUEC) Environmental Education Award at Virginia’s Environmental Education Conference on October 17. The prestigious award, known as The Otter, is given annually to an outstanding Virginian who has made major contributions to promoting public knowledge and understanding of natural resources in the state. The award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated state and/or regional leadership in fostering working relationships and programs that benefit the educators and students of Virginia.

Willis has been an inspiration to environmental educators in Virginia for 25 years. She began her career as an elementary classroom teacher, taking students into diverse learning environments whenever possible. Through courses in Mary Baldwin’s Master of Education program, she ensures that the next generation of teachers will take their students outdoors and encourage exploration of the world around them. She is responsible for helping to bring the strategy of using the Environment as an Integrating Context (EIC) to Virginia by leading a grant project with five elementary schools.

Willis is an an active partner in the Shenandoah Valley Environmental Education Alliance and serves as policy co-chair for VRUEC.  She is also co-editor of the Natural Teachers Network, the newsletter for the Children and Nature Network.

Her efforts in the environmental community have been sustained and have had significant impact on environmental education in Virginia, according to a press release from VRUEC.