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As the Virginia General Assembly is in full swing, members of the Mary Baldwin College community traveled to Richmond recently to lobby on behalf of students and issues important to them.

Director of Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences physical therapy program Lisa Shoaf (front row, center) attended the Annual Virginia Physical Therapy Association Lobby Day at the Virginia General Assembly on January 21 accompanied by six students in MBC’s charter class. The group was lobbying on behalf of a bill that would improve patient access to physical therapy services.

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Several MBC students traveled to Richmond with Vice President for Communication, Marketing, and Public Affairs Crista Cabe (far right) and Virginia Women’s Institutional Leadership (VWIL) Commandant Terry Djuric (far left) to thank state legislators (including Del. Richard P. Bell, center) for their support of the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant and to promote continued funding for VWIL. TAG grants provide all in-state students with $3,100 toward tuition for the 2014–15 academic year.

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Mary Baldwin College senior Shekira Ramdass won the prize for best undergraduate student paper at the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), Southeast Chapter’s annual conference January 16–18 at the University of Virginia.

Director of Student Activities Erin Paschal presents Shekira Ramdass with the

Director of Student Activities Erin Paschal presents Shekira Ramdass with the 2014 Global Citizenship Award. Ramdass earned top honors for her a paper she presented  this month at an Asian studies conference.

Ramdass presented her paper — her 2014 senior thesis in Asian studies, “The Socio-Economic Impact of HIV/AIDS on Indian Women” — at the three-day conference in Charlottesville. She received a certificate and $100. The southeast region of the AAS consists of institutions from the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

It is the fourth time a Mary Baldwin College student in Asian Studies has won the top undergraduate prize at the regional conference.

Ramdass, a double major in Asian studies and international relations from Mount Rainier, Maryland, earned MBC’s 2014 Global Citizenship Award. She spent a semester studying at Lady Doak College, MBC’s sister school in India; has twice held summer internships at the State Department in Washington DC; has served as an active teaching assistant; and taught four sessions of Professor of Asian Studies Daniel Métraux’s Asian Women class while he recruited students in Japan and Korea. Ramdass also has given talks on Indian women and AIDS at the International Café series organized by the Spencer Center.

Already a champion of connecting children and educators with nature, Mary Baldwin College Associate Professor of Education Tamra Willis has landed a $200,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to help launch a new initiative with Staunton City Public Schools to help bridge food supply, student well being, and the environment.


The Seeds of Learning program is in its infancy, and Willis, who heads up MBC’s popular Environment-Based Learning (EBL) program, is just beginning to meet with local school administrators and partners in the Allegheny Mountain School and Project GROWs, but eventually, the project should provide plenty of service-learning opportunities for MBC students through work with K–12 students in city schools.

Local schools will investigate food systems and study the relationship among the health of students, local water, and the Chesapeake Bay. Students will problem-solve food supply and waste issues and grow food for their cafeterias in schoolyard gardens.

“We expect to have kids digging in the dirt and planting veggies for their own cafeterias, so it should be a fun learning experience for all,” Willis said. “A study of food systems very naturally connects to content in all subject areas. This kind of project-based approach is a fantastic way to increase student motivation for learning.”

noaa_whiteWith the three-year project, area teachers will take graduate courses in the EBL program while MBC students will participate in service-learning activities, thanks to the Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement and Allegheny Mountain School connections. The timing is fortuitous as the college welcomed this semester Emily Sullivan, an Allegheny Mountain Institute senior fellow, who will work with Willis on the Seeds of Learning initiative in addition to helping raise awareness around local food and maintaining the student gardens, among other duties.

Willis procured a three-year NOAA grant for watershed study in Mary Baldwin’s Master of Arts in Teaching program in 2003 and another $360,000 NOAA grant in 2009 on behalf of the EBL program to continue learning and teaching about the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Having spent 30 years in business before transitioning to academia, Assistant Professor of Business Administration Joe Sprangel structures his courses, in large part, around the work done in the “real world.”

BUAD students in artful giftsIt was serendipitous then, that local shop owner and artisan Lisa Jacenich had recently reached out to Mary Baldwin College to benefit from the knowledge and eagerness of students to help develop strategies for boosting business at her store Artful Gifts, located in Staunton’s wharf district. The interaction resulted in real-world experience for students in Sprangel’s fall semester Sustainability and Strategy in Business Decisions class and beneficial advice for Jacenich.

“I realize what an incredible resource the students are,” Jacenich said. “And the ability for students to work with a micro-manufacturing business as well as a retail business is an incredible opportunity for them.”

Jacenich’s shop is the only mechanized fiber studio in Virginia, so the experience was one of a kind. She makes cloth felt from the raw fiber of sheep’s wool and turns that into naturally water-repellant clothing for men, women, and children.

Students conducting a strategic plan for Artful Gifts realized that Jacenich was tapping into a niche market and wanted to not only increase profits but also raise awareness for how sustainable her product is.

“We suggested that the best way for her to achieve her goals was to implement an effective marketing strategy,” said Charleen Frederick ’15, a business management major from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Students also advised Jacenich on improving signage and placement of product to encourage a better flow within the store.

“It is very rewarding to know that you can have such a significant impact on the business community,” Frederick said. “[The experience] showed that possibilities are endless with the knowledge that we have gained. It gave me the necessary tools and experience I would need to enter into the business world.”

In addition to the work on Jacenich’s business plan, some of Sprangel’s students focused on ways to increase foot traffic for the stores in the wharf district. Another group developed a plan for training nomads in Mongolia to make felt, as Jacenich has been invited by the Mongolian government to help their felters become mechanized.

“It was exciting to know that we were able to actually have an impact on a real business since this is what most of us are going to school to learn how to do,” said senior business major Amanda Slemaker, who added that the student team suggested Jacenich “reach out to a younger audience, as her product is incredibly sustainable and younger generations find these sustainable products to be somewhat of a commodity.”

The partnership has spilled over into senior projects, and Sprangel hopes students next fall may continue to work with Jacenich. Senior Blake Herendeen is working with Jacenich this semester to improve marketing and communications for Artful Gifts, including creating a social media presence.

The growth in the students from the beginning of the class to the client presentations was significant, Sprangel said. “I am sure the students thought that I had lost my mind at times as I pushed them far beyond what they thought was reasonable of them. Once again the ‘real-world’ application of the course content taught them skills that cannot be replicated in the classroom.”

Turning Glass Shakespeare, the 2014–15 Master of Fine Arts company of Mary Baldwin College’s Shakespeare and Performance graduate program, in association with the American Shakespeare Center, announces the third production in their four-show season: William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, directed by guest director Lisa Wolpe.

One of Shakespeare’s romances, The Winter’s Tale blends tragedy and comedy in a story of family, loss, and redemption. Leontes, King of Sicilia, is convinced that his pregnant wife, Hermione, is having an affair with his childhood friend, Polixenes, the King of Bohemia. In his anger, he wrongly imprisons Hermione, banishes Polixenes, and orders his servant to kill his newborn daughter. As a result, Leontes’ wife and older son both die of extreme grief. It seems all is lost until it is revealed that Leontes’ servant does not kill his daughter, Perdita. She survives and becomes, unbeknownst to her, the last hope for Leontes’ redemption.

Turning Glass Shakespeare’s production is set in the 1920s, when European nations were rebuilding after World War I, jazz music reigned, and women all across the Western world fought for the right to vote. It promises to be a powerful, funny, and thought-provoking evening of theatre.

The Winter’s Tale will play at the Blackfriars Playhouse at 8 p.m. on February 9–11. All performances are Pay What You Will.

Wolpe is the founder and artistic director of the Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company, an all-female, multi-cultural theatre company that Los Angeles Magazine has called “one of the 10 coolest things to do in Los Angeles.” She is also an accomplished actor, especially noted for her acclaimed portrayals of Shakespeare’s leading male characters.

At a time when the national conversation is focused on race relations, Mary Baldwin College is co-hosting with the larger Staunton community a series of events to foster discussion on campus and throughout the area.Slavery_by_Another_Name_(book_cover)

“Lift Every Voice: Conversations About Race” includes the screening of the 2012 PBS film Slavery By Another Name at 7 p.m. January 18 in Miller Chapel and a dialogue with Douglas Blackmon, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the book that inspired the PBS documentary at 7 p.m. January 28 in Francis Auditorium. Both events are free and open to the public.

Blackmon is a much-sought-after lecturer on race, history, and social memory. In Spring 2010, he was invited by Attorney General Eric Holder to present to senior Department of Justice officials in Washington D.C. He also has lectured at Harvard School of Law, Yale University, Princeton, the New School, Emory University, Vanderbilt School of Law, the Clinton and Lincoln presidential libraries, and many other institutions.

Associate Professor of History Amy Tillerson, who helped organize the events, said she uses Blackmon’s book, Slavery by Another Name — a searing examination of how the enslavement of African Americans persisted deep into the 20th century and the documentary based on his research in her African-American history courses. She reached out to Blackmon to join the dialogue after a group of MBC faculty, representatives from Staunton City Council, and representatives from other local organizations met to plan a community forum in the wake of the shooting of African-American teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

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Local residents attend a race forum in August at city hall in Staunton. (Courtesy of the Waynesboro News-Virginian)

The workshops were designed to discuss issues related to mass incarceration of black Americans and the disconnect between community members and law enforcement organizations. The idea evolved from a series of workshops organized by Staunton Vice-Mayor Ophie Kier and co-moderated by Tillerson. One was in response to the George Zimmerman verdict and another was held to address issues related to public school educational opportunities.

Planning the events has been a team effort. According to Tillerson, there are 14 people on the planning committee that includes a mix of MBC community members, elected officials, local activists, and members of the clergy.

“This is exactly the kind of event that we like to see — one that brings the college and community together for discussion and understanding of issues that affect us all,” said Steve Grande, director of MBC’s Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement, one of the committee members.

“Our committee realizes that racism continues to plague our lives in the United States. We see and feel how deeply its tentacles reach and we are confused, at best, by recent trends to legitimize the myth of a ‘post-racial’ society,” Tillerson said. “While we want very much to live in harmony with people despite racial differences, it is difficult to move past this when those with power and privilege are able to render invisible the realities that so many marginalized, disenfranchised people, typically black and brown, see daily.”

Planners hope the upcoming events will not only present new information and provide different perspectives from which to view historical and contemporary issues but also sustain productive community conversations that include a cross-section of people in this area. They hope to host regular film/documentary viewings and discussions that will provide further opportunities for the community to communicate about issues related to racism.

Blackmon’s book was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. It was a New York Times bestseller in both hardback and soft-cover editions and was awarded a 2009 American Book Award. In addition to that work, Blackmon is a contributing editor at The Washington Post and chair and host of Forum, a public affairs program produced by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. Blackmon has written extensively over the past 25 years about the American quandary of race — exploring the integration of schools during his childhood in a Mississippi Delta farm town, lost episodes of the Civil Rights movement, and, repeatedly, the dilemma of how a contemporary society should grapple with a troubled past. He lives in Charlottesville and Atlanta.

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Service will be held at 7 p.m. January 19 at Central United Methodist Church in downtown Staunton.MLK service archive

The annual community event for peace and justice features the Al Hamilton Community Mass Choir, the Greater Things Dance Ministry, and Mary Baldwin College’s Bella Voce Choir. Contributions are encouraged and will go toward the Bessie Weller Helping Hands Fund, which provides school supplies and meals for children.

The event is sponsored by the Staunton Chapter of the NAACP, MBC’s Office of Inclusive Excellence, the Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement, and the MBC Dept. of Philosophy and Religious Studies.

If there is inclement weather, the event will be rescheduled for January 26.

Each year, a theme unites the Mary Baldwin College community around a central idea that fosters civic and global engagement. The theme gives definition to the academic year and a way to link together the work of students, faculty, and staff from all disciplines and programs.

roots bannerThe Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement invites faculty, staff, and students to submit their ideas for themes for the 2015–16 and 16–17 academic years. Past themes include Voices, Maps, Heart, Place, Power, Wisdom, and Courage. The deadline is February 2. From February 9–13, the Spencer Center will hold an ongoing “Town Hall” where folks can weigh in through the center’s Facebook page or in person at their Spencer Center on the submitted themes.

Both themes will be unveiled at a college-wide forum at 12:15 p.m. February 26 in Francis Auditorium.

The Spencer Center is also accepting students submissions for a contest celebrating the 2014–15 theme, Roots. The student who pens the winning essay and the student who executes the winning creative piece (which may be an original poem, drawing, painting, video, performance, or musical composition) will each be awarded $50.

For more information, contact Lisa Brown, assistant director of the Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement at 540-887-7113 or

Three Mary Baldwin College students attended and presented at the Society for Neuroscience Annual meeting in Washington DC last week. one of the largest scientific meetings in the world with more than 30,000 attendees. Students Kaela Kelly, Sophia Stone, and Kristia Vasiloff presented three posters about research conducted in the psychology department, sought out cutting edge research relevant to other projects in biology and chemistry, and made contacts with potential graduate programs. The students were accompanied by Professor of Psychology Louise Freeman.


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HB-gilmanThe U.S. Department of State has awarded a $5,000 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship (the maximum the program allows) to Lexi Edwards ’17 who will use the funds to study at Kansai Gaidai University in Japan. The Gilman Scholarship program received more than 2,700 applications and more than 800 students were offered awards to study abroad and participate in career-oriented internships eligible for academic credit in countries all around he world this spring.