Boldly Baldwin word mark

Most years, Mary Baldwin College sees one or two students landing spots for undergraduate research internships at other institutions. This year, there were six.

Though the science faculty has increased awareness of such opportunities, it is ultimately up to the students to search for the research sites and host institutions that dovetail with their interests.

“These are very prestigious internships, very competitive, and they pay pretty well,” said Louise Freeman, professor of psychology, adding that the summer experience, called REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates, often funded by government research agencies) helped the six seniors learn more practical applications in their major and helped them be more focused when doing thesis projects.

Three of the students who participated in REUs will present their work to the community over the next few weeks. Senior Sophia Stone — who also participated in an REU at Oklahoma State University in 2013 evaluating endurance exercise and estrogen in  — kicked off the series on October 15 with her presentation, “Cofactor interactions in myogenic and neurogenic programming via MyoD and NeuroD2 transcription factors.”

Sophia Stone performs work in a lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Sophia Stone performs work in a lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Stone’s most recent REU research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle involved treating cancer cells with certain compounds that encourage those cells to transform into completely different, non-cancerous cells. Such promising research could go a long way forward understanding how cancer cells behave.

“I think it is important in my own projects to think about the consequences for patients in the future, and to remember that long-term development of treatments for diseases is the result of many, many basic scientific and translational research efforts,” she said. “Hopefully this project has or will lend some sort of contribution to help reach these aims.”

It’s possible that students who have a positive summer experience could influence others to apply.

“What we’re seeing right now is how contagious this can be,” Freeman said. “They’ll talk to their classmates about their experience and maybe we’ll have nine or 10 [REU] students next year.”

Freeman noted that the REU experience demonstrates well the professional application of the liberal arts and sciences. With such experience under their belts, students may be better positioned to land jobs, such as a research technician, or find other professional positions that can lead to a rewarding career.

In addition to the three science students, three math seniors were also selected for REU work over the summer. Natalia de la Torre conducted research at Arizona State University in the mathematical modeling of a needle exchange program in drug treatment therapy. Aria Doughtery’s work at Kansas State University related to quantum theory while Jessica Walker used mathematics to study the dynamics of lasers at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Both Dougherty and Walker presented their work at the Shenandoah Mathematics and Statistics Conference at James Madison University.

Jessica Walker

Jessica Walker

“I absolutely loved the [RIT summer] experience,” Walker said. “It taught me so much more about mathematics and gave me invaluable research experience to utilize in graduate school research. This REU also gave me a jumpstart in thinking about my senior thesis plans by introducing me to bifurcation theory. Even now I’m still learning more and more about bifurcation theory’s physical applications as well as its connections with other fields of math that I’ve studied, and I am actually writing my senior thesis on Hopf bifurcations in dynamical systems.”

Walker will present her work in January in San Antonio at the Mathematical Association of America and American Mathematical Society’s joint conference, dubbed the largest mathematics meeting in the world.

Several students have also found rewarding research opportunities right here on the Mary Baldwin campus. Thanks to the Summer Research Fellows program and the faculty members who introduce important topics to explore, students have translated their work into rich senior theses and posters at national conferences.

For example, four chemistry majors with biochemistry emphases are working on senior projects related to autoimmune diseases like lupus, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis — conditions in which the immune system responds in a harmful way to stray components of cell nuclei. In the last decade, a short protein molecule called LL-37 has been found to carry DNA from extracellular fluids into cells, where it triggers an immune response intended for bacteria and viruses. The interaction of LL-37 with DNA is an important aspect of this process, and research conducted in Pearce Science Center investigates this interaction. Understanding the role of LL-37 in autoimmune diseases can offer insight into future treatments.

After spending the summer 2013 in the lab with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Maria Craig, Irmamarie Avelsgard continues research on this autoimmune disease for her senior project. Other students working on senior projects on LL-37 include Stone, Celine Brooks, and Kaela Kelly, whose REU funded by the National Science Foundation took her to the University of North Carolina this summer.

Another summer research project, funded by the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges, earned Inna Kirilyuk an undergraduate research award in Denver at the American Physical Society’s annual meeting. Kirilyuk worked with Assistant Professor of Physics Nadine Gergel-Hackett to build memristors — small, flexible electronic chips that retain memory without power. A better understanding of the physics behind how they work could eventually revolutionize technologies such as artificial intelligence and computing.

Junior Mwazomela Mwebe will also present the results of her summer research in Denver this spring at the American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition after working with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Peter Ruiz-Haas to develop methods to destroy Bisphenol-S, or BPS, with UV light. BPS is used in many plastic products as a safer alternative to BPA but may also be just as harmful.

Kaela Kelly

Kaela Kelly

Upcoming student presentations covering topics in chemistry, biology, and psychology:

  • On October 23, Alana Rister will present “Printing Drugs on Edible Substrates” at 12:15 p.m. in Francis.
  • On October 27, Nhi “T” Nguyen will present “Molecular Interactions Between Peptides and Molecular CLIP” at 7:30 p.m. in room 301 of Pearce Science Center.
  • On November 6, Kaela Kelly will present “Neuregulin-1 and Neonatal White Matter Integrity in the Fornix” at 12:15 p.m. in Pearce 301.

It started with a dodge ball game.

Apple Day 2014, dubbed “House of Pearls” by the event hosts in the sophomore class, included all the revelry and tradition of recent years. After Apple Eve dodge ball and a dance, students spent Apple Day gleaning apples at Woodbine Farm in Strasburg, participating in community service activities, enjoying a special brunch in Hunt Dining Hall, and celebrating at the afternoon carnival.

Senior Cassandra Matondo compiled some of the on-campus revelry in this video:

Artist-in-Residence and master percussionist Srinivas Krishnan is back on campus this week to share his global rhythms with the Mary Baldwin College community.[C]WP_434_APPLE_DAY_2014-W

This year’s visit from the Miami University professor of music has already included a screening of the film Million Dollar Arm, the soundtrack for which was composed and performed by Krishnan’s frequent collaborator, Academy Award winner A.R. Rahman. Krishnan also spoke at an International Café at the Spencer Center, about “The New Future of India and Implications for the U.S.”

Krishnan was also spotted in the orchard gleaning apples with students on Apple Day.

On Friday, October 10, Krishnan will help celebrate the 7th anniversary of the Spencer Center and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, October 11, Krishan’s Global Rhythms 2014 concert will explore “Deep Roots of Music Connecting Cultures.” Special guests from India include Sathish Pathakota on the kanjira and mridangam, Narasimha Kikkeri on the violin, and vocalist Pranav Kikkeri. The event is free and open to the public.

For years, Mary Baldwin College Dining Services has sourced more and more of its ingredients from area farms and producers. So it’s only fitting that the college is the site of this year’s Food Day celebration, which brings together local food, drink, and live day logo

“Students will have the opportunity to engage with local farmers and community members while these neighbors and growers can see first hand that we can and do partner with local farms and vendors with a great deal of success,” said Tracy Hiner, director of dining services.

The celebration kicks off at 4 p.m. October 23 in front of Lyda B. Hunt Dining Hall with a free mini-farmers market and food fair. A cash bar will be set up in the new Cross Talk space inside Hunt Hall (formerly known as the Nuthouse) featuring spirits from Queen City Brewing, Bold Rock Hard Cider, Devils Back Bone, Red Beard Brewing, and Barren Ridge and Ox Eye vineyards.

Vendors at the outdoor market will include Aleta Springs, Cool Breeze Stables and Farm, Dancing Star Farm, Malcom’s Market Garden, Mt. Crawford Creamery, Nu-Beginning Farm, True & Essential Meats, White Barn Company, Sunrise Farm, Buffalo Creek, and Jan’s Jams Inc.

Dinner will be served from 4–7 p.m. inside the dining hall with a menu featuring locally sourced ingredients. Tickets for the meal are $8 and can be purchased at the door or in advance at Bookworks.

After dinner, winners of the Agriculture Cultivates Resilient Economies, or ACRES, grants will be recognized.ACRES is a collaboration between Food Day co-sponsors Valley Conservation Council and the Staunton Creative Community Fund, which provides business training, support, and grant funding to allow conservation-oriented local foods businesses in Augusta and Rockingham counties to expand their capacity.

Staunton Creative Community Fund hosted a similar food day event downtown last year, Hiner said, but because MBC is recognized as a community leader in partnering with local farmers and vendors, the college was invited to consider hosting this year’s event on campus.

Ticket stubs from dinner can be brought downtown to participating restaurants on Friday, October 24 for 10 percent off purchases. The event is tied to the nationwide recognition of Food Day, which was created to inspire Americans to change their diets and the nation’s food policies.

On the Menu:

Bar #1

  • Braised local chicken in sauce chasseur
  • Wild rice
  • Fresh roasted brussel sprouts
  • Local artisan breads

Bar #2

  • Roasted pork loin with fall fruit compotedining hall salad
  • Roasted sweet potatoes
  • Sautéed green beans with shallots

Bar #3

  • Gnocchi with butternut squash sauce garnished with sage
  • Asian pear salad with bleu cheese crumbles

Bar #4

  • Braised local beef tagine
  • Ras el Hanout couscous with raisins

LGBTQ conference insideEight Mary Baldwin College student leaders attended the 10th Anniversary National LGBTQ & Ally College Student Career Conference from September 26–28 in Washington DC.

Career Services Director Julie Chappell spearheaded the trip, during which MBC students participated in breakout sessions, workshops, and keynote speeches presented by companies, organizations, and individuals leading the way in LGBTQ workplace inclusion. Students met and networked with several national leaders, such as, the Rev. George B. Walker Jr., manager of diversity and inclusion at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Joe Solmonese, former president of the Human Rights Campaign; Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color Of Change; and Amanda Simpson, who works in the U.S. Department of Defense and is the executive director of the Army Energy Initiatives Task Force.

The conference gave students an opportunity to discuss being out and open in various industries, organizations; being out on resumes; being out in interviews; and being out on social media. The PRIDE Career Fair at the conclusion of the conference included more than 30 companies from a variety of industries promoting their career and internship opportunities, giving every student leader the chance to interview for potential jobs and internships.

MBC Dining services is hosting it’s very own version of the popular Food Network program “Cutthroat Kitchen” at noon September 24, featuring three student competitors, mystery dishes, cooking and grocery stations inside Hunt Dining Hall-East. Dining Services Director Tracy Hiner will judge the competition, alongside a student judge and a faculty/staff judge.

micheal clay serving spaghetti

Chef Michael Clay serves up a delicious plate of spaghetti in Hunt Dining Hall, site of MBC’s version of Food Network’s popular show “Cutthroat Kitchen.” Photo courtesy of The News Leader.

Just like on the television show, competitors must prepare a dish on the fly with a twist. Each contestant starts out with money (and in the dining hall’s version, play money) which can be used to pay for the privilege of handicapping their competitors. For example, one student may choose to spend a quarter of her money to force one of her classmates to cook while wearing oven mitts the entire time. According to Executive Chef Michael Clay, there will be two rounds. Students interested in competing have been submitting their names to be drawn within the next few days.

For Professor of English Sarah Kennedy, writing the second book in her historical novel series The Cross and the Crown was completely different from writing the first. City of Ladies debuts next

“I’d [already] gone through the agony of trying to figure out how to plot events and manage historical detail and dialogue while maintaining readability,” Kennedy said, who is now writing the third novel, The King’s Sisters. “I thought that this time it would be easier yet. Wrong. The third book has been the hardest. I know the main characters pretty well now, and I can hear them talking … but plotting a third novel has been a killer. I guess it just goes to show you that a writer’s work is never quite done.”

The series is set in Tudor England during the dissolution of religious communities by King Henry VIII. Kennedy’s first novel, The Altarpiece, debuted in spring 2013, and introduces heroine Catherine Havens, a young nun who is about to be evicted by the king’s officers.

City of Ladies picks up a couple of years after the end of The Altarpiece, when the convent is closed and Catherine has married.

“I don’t want to give away too much plot, but her husband is quite ambitious — and completely Protestant — so Catherine’s doubts about the new church in England cause problems for her,” Kennedy said. “The series focuses on how one woman comes to terms with the changes in the country when England breaks away from the Roman Catholic church, which provided a place for female education and power. When the convents closed, many of these intelligent, disciplined women had to find ways to make their livings in a culture that provided them with fewer and fewer options.”

Kennedy is also author of several books of poetry, available directly from Elixir Press, as well as from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

According to The Cross and Crown publisher Knox Robinson Publishing, book three in Kennedy’s series will debut in August 2015. A November 15 launch party for City of Ladies is from 2 to 5 p.m. at Bookworks, 101 W. Beverley St. Both hardcover and paperback versions of The Altarpiece will also be available.

There is a new face at Mary Baldwin College this fall thanks, in part, to the work of the Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement.

Shiny John Vairamon, a chemistry professor from Stella Maris College in Channai, South India, is a visiting faculty fellow this semester. The Spencer Center secured full financial support of her fellowship through the United Board of Christian Higher Education in Asia.

According to Associate Professor of Chemistry Karl Zachary — who, along with Spencer Center Assistant Director Lisa Brown, will be hosting the visiting professor — Vairamon has taught courses across nearly the entire spread of subdisciplines at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Her interests include the inflammatory response and wound healing in diabetic patients.

Among her goals during the visit to MBC, Vairamon hopes to learn more about American liberal arts colleges. As a result, she plans to visit several different programs and offices around campus throughout the coming weeks.


The new director of operations at Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership is no stranger to Staunton or Mary Baldwin College.Jenkins_Paul

“I’m a Staunton native. And I’m very aware of MBC — I had family members go here. I grew up going to First Presbyterian,” said Paul Jenkins, whose interest was piqued when the college advertised for a chief of operations for the corps of cadets.

With experience as an attorney — in the U.S. Navy’s Judge Advocate General Corps, where he still serves as a reserve officer — and as a private-practice lawyer in Charlottesville, Jenkins brings nearly a decade of experience to the college.

“I’m having fun so far,” Jenkins said of his new post, which began September 8.

As director of operations, Jenkins will provide oversight of the co-curricular components of VWIL, ensuring that all cadets have the opportunity to develop leadership skills and understanding in preparation for both military and civilian careers. He will ensure effective operation of the regimental and class systems, work to maintain high esprit and morale among cadets, guide and train student leaders, work with key external constituencies to garner and organize support for the program, and assist in recruiting and retaining capable students.

In addition, Jenkins will oversee the scheduled co-curricular and military components of the VWIL program, including physical training. He will counsel students and coordinate with all college offices that support the cadet-training program.

A new academic year has begun at Mary Baldwin College with a lively group of first-year students, which is great news. But even better news, according to admissions officials, is that members of the Class of 2018 are a better fit for MBC, thanks to new print materials, a revamped website, and refreshed talking points for counselors that focus on MBC’s academic excellence, rich campus life, solid financial aid options, and personal attention from faculty and staff.

selfie postcard

One of several postcards that encouraged prospective students to visualize themselves at MBC.

One of the new, successful tactics developed by the design team in the MBC Office of Communication, Marketing, and Public Affairs involved encouraging prospective students to imagine themselves among the student body by taking “selfies,” during campus visits and eventually during orientation week, sharing those pictures on various social media outlets through #mbcselfie.

This year’s freshman class also brings an improved academic record with an average SAT composite 20 points higher than last year’s class. The Class of 2018 has an average high school grade point average of 3.4. The vast majority of freshmen hail from Virginia, followed by Maryland, North Carolina, and Texas, which enjoys a strong alumni base.

The most popular last name among the Class of 2018 is Williams, and the most popular first name is shared among eight students and spelled five different ways: Breanna, Breeaunna, Breianna, Briana, and Brianna. And Executive Chef Michael Clay may want to serve birthday cake in Hunt Dining Hall on May 13 because six freshmen were born on that day.

There is a 30-year span between the youngest member of the freshman class: a 12-year-old in the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted and a 42-year-old transfer student.