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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. 

As one of the college presidents attending today’s White House College Opportunity Day of Action, Pamela Fox is putting Mary Baldwin College on the national stage with a commitment to support minority women in STEM fields.

President Pamela Fox

President Pamela Fox


The event — a follow-up to President Barack Obama’s higher education summit in January 2014 — will focus on building networks of colleges to promote degree completion, invest in high school counselors as part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative, create “K–16” partnerships to foster college readiness, and increase the number of college graduates in STEM fields.


It is the latter area of focus where MBC has been selected to serve as a model for other institutions of higher learning. The opportunities available at MBC serve a wide range of minority women including young women who graduate from college as young as 16, older women returning to college, first-generation women, and women commissioning into the military.


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Mwazomela Mbewe in the lab this summer with Peter Ruiz-Haas, professor of chemistry.

“Mary Baldwin’s initiative is not only about degree attainment for underrepresented women in STEM fields,” Fox said. “MBC excels in empowering these women to exceed expectations and graduate in a highly advantageous and accomplished position. They have a demonstrated record of scholarly research in cutting edge areas proven through internships and presentations at national and international conferences. Most importantly, these successful women are committed to research that will have a positive impact in the future.”


MBC’s commitment calls for the launch of a new initiative, Advance Achievement for Minority Women in STEM, which will support persistence, graduation, and preparation for graduate-level work. Through the initiative, MBC will provide scholarships, research collaboration opportunities with faculty mentors, and travel for participation in professional conferences. While 53 percent of this year’s senior STEM majors are minority students, the goal is to increase the total number of minority women graduating with majors in STEM fields by 30 percent within a three-year time frame. Success is due in large part to faculty members who provide students in STEM fields with the crucial ingredients for success, including extensive personal attention, focused academic support, and authentic research opportunities.


“Our science faculty has a most impressive record of mentoring, supporting, and conducting research with students, almost all of whom are women and many of whom are members of underrepresented populations,” said Catharine O’Connell, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college.

Selma Elsarrag

Selma Elsarrag


The initiative builds on the success of Mary Baldwin alumni and students in science and math, including Selma Elsarrag ’14, who performed summer research with a faculty member investigating how a regulatory molecule called Arf6 influences cell migration in human breast cancer cells; Tenea Nelson ’98, who earned her PhD at the University of Rochester and now continues her work at Stanford University; and Mwazomela Mbewe ’16, who will present findings from her research on the oxidative destruction of plasticizers at the American Chemical Society national meeting this spring.


The Day of Action will be held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center and will feature remarks by the President, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Director of White House Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.


The event will be available via live stream at



On Thursday, Dec. 4, Mary Baldwin College President Pamela Fox will join President Obama, the First Lady, and Vice President Biden at the White House College Opportunity Summit. The Summit will bring together colleges and universities, business leaders, nonprofits, and others who are committed to supporting more college opportunities for students across the country.fox_working_group_inside

This year’s summit will focus on building sustainable collaborations in communities with strong K-12 and higher education partnerships to encourage college going, and supporting colleges to work together to dramatically improve retention and increase college completion, especially for first generation, low-income, and underrepresented students.

Twin sisters Carolyn and Kimberly Denny were honored Monday at Virginia Military Institute with national scholarships worth $5,000, representing the best in all of Army ROTC.

The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation and Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association presented the awards to the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL) cadets, both senior sociology/psychology majors from Jacksonville, Florida.

Col. Wesley Fox, a Medal of Honor recipient, presented the Medal of Honor Scholarship to Carolyn Denny and Lt. Gen John Dubia presented a scholarship, founded in his name, to Kimberly Denny.

Carolyn Denny is first captain for VWIL who contracted with the Army in November 2013. Kimberly Denny is public relations officer for VWIL. Both sisters enlisted in the National Guard in June 2012 and are members of the Aviation Club and the Presidents Society, among many activities. The sisters, who want to become pilots, will commission in the Army in May 2015 and have been selected for the Aviation Branch.

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Col. Wesley Fox presents the Medal of Honor Scholarship to Carolyn Denny.

ieutenant General John Dubia, US Army Retired, presented the LTG JOHN A, DUBIA, USA (Ret.) SCHOLARSHIP  to Kimberly Denny.

Lieutenant General John Dubia presented the LTG JOHN A, DUBIA, USA (Ret.) SCHOLARSHIP to Kimberly Denny.

Eric Jones, associate professor of biology, has been named the Caroline Rose Hunt Distinguished Chair in the Natural Sciences.

Eric Jones leads a class during May Term 2013.

Eric Jones leads a class during May Term 2013.

Jones earned a BS from Bucknell University and his MS and PhD from The Pennsylvania State University. Since he joined the Mary Baldwin faculty in 1986, Jones has been an active member of the college community, and currently serves as chair of the School of Science.

The self-described “muddy boots” professor was anonymously nominated for this honor by a colleague who said “Thanks to him, thousands of young women have graduated from Mary Baldwin with a special appreciation for the unique plants, animals, and ecosystems of our region.” An alumna, also wished to remain anonymous, said “Dr. Jones was the first professor I met when I came to visit the campus and one of the big reasons I decided to stay at MBC.”

The distinguished chair in the natural sciences is named in honor of Caroline Rose Hunt ’43, co-founder and owner of Lady Primrose’s Royal Bathing and Skin Luxuries, honorary chairman of Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, and a member of the Texas Business Hall of Fame.

For the eighth year in a row, Mary Baldwin College has earned a spot on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll; but this time, MBC is recognized “with distinction” for its interfaith cooperation and community service.presidents honor roll2

This is the first year that one of the four categories of the president’s honor roll recognizes schools that include interfaith engagement as an intentional component of community service.

The MBC Office of the Chaplain, a “secular safe zone” where a diverse group of students interact on a daily basis, figured prominently in MBC’s 2014 honor roll application, as did the Quest program for academic and programmatic interfaith and spiritual exploration, and the Interfaith Explorations Gateway for first-year students. MBC’s observation of Islam Awareness Week, an annual Faith Fair, and a recent trip to the Yogaville ashram were also noted in the report.

Increased institutional awareness of interfaith engagement has led to student organizations contacting and including Chaplain Katherine Low in interfaith programming on campus projects — from students with interest in Indian religion and culture planning a Diwali celebration on campus to Muslim students arranging for a demonstration of Eid. Such connections have led to service opportunities such as a campus-wide shoe drive and Hunger Awareness Week.

MBC’s strong participation in the CROP Walk — a major fundraising event for Church World Service, a global non-profit organization that works to eradicate hunger and poverty — helped elevate the college’s interfaith service profile as well.

President Fox at the White House with Christian Peele '05, who is the White House Deputy Director of Operations. Fox attended the President's White House Forum on Interfaith and Community Service.

President Fox at the White House with Christian Peele ’05, who is the White House Deputy Director of Operations. Fox attended the President’s White House Forum on Interfaith and Community Service.

The distinction tied in with the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge National Gathering at Georgetown University, where students, staff, and administrators shared experiences, learned from experts, and met administration officials who share a commitment to community service with an interfaith component. The conference included a smaller forum at the White House for about 50 college and university presidents, including MBC President Pamela Fox.

The event recognized 98 institutions of higher learning for their leadership in developing programs in interfaith community service. Thirty-eight, including Mary Baldwin College, were recognized “with distinction.”

According to MBC’s application, 433 students engaged in academic service-learning in 2013–14 and performed 35,375 hours of community service hours.

Other community service projects that helped distinguish MBC included Doenges Scholar Aurora Robson’s May term course Intercepting the Plastic Waste Stream: Art that Engages, which involved students transforming waste material into works of art and raising money for Friends of the Middle River; an alternative spring break event focused on food insecurity in the local community; and the Threads of Desegregation storytelling project with alumni from the all African-American Booker T. Washington school in Staunton.

Mary Baldwin College is recognizing the rich cultural heritage of Native Americans with an array of campus programs throughout November. native-american-poster_3

Events include a lecture with Santina Knight, professor at Central Virginia Community College, and Sharon Bryant, tribal chief of the Monacan Indian Nation who will present “Disowning and Reclaiming Native American Identities” from 6 to 8 p.m. November 20 in Lyda B. Hunt Gallery. A reception will follow in the Spencer Center.

Other events include a presentation from the anthropology club and a drumming and dance performance.

See the Native American Heritage Month events poster for more information.

Black Baby Doll Drive is in its 17th Year

Mary Baldwin College students in the Ida B. Wells Gateway and PERSIST program are collecting black baby dolls for local children through December 3 in an effort to boost confidence and self esteem.

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Student Megan Edwards drops by the Office of Inclusive Excellence with donated baby dolls for the 2014 Black Baby Doll Drive at MBC.

“The dolls should look like the average African-American child,” said freshman organizer Kaelyn Dickinson. “They should have black or brown hair and black or brown eyes.”

Sounds easy enough? Not really. At least, not for many young black girls who are looking for dolls that look like them. Many dolls today are covered in tattoos, are scantily clad, or have exaggerated features. Research shows that this phenomenon is perpetuating a negative image among black girls.

“In my experience it is difficult for African-American girls to find dolls that fit the criteria,” said Dickinson, who is black. “The Clark Doll Test shows that when some African-American children were asked what doll was the prettiest and smartest they chose the Caucasian doll. Some of the African-American children thought the ugly and stupid doll was the African American one.”

Dickinson continued, it’s difficult for black girls to see that “they are just as beautiful and intelligent as others who look different,” when the vast majority of black baby dolls have unrealistic features.

“It was difficult for my parents and for me to find dolls that looked like me,” said student organizer Kirsten Goodman ’18. “The dolls either had accentuating features or they were some type of fairy or had different color eyes. The difference for me was that even though I played with an array of dolls — black, white, or princess dolls — I was fortunate enough to have supportive parents who constantly uplifted me. However, that isn’t the case in every home. ​Not only is it difficult to find the dolls we are looking for, they are often more costly.”

“This effort really resonates with me because I have experienced first-hand young African-American girls dealing with issues like self-confidence and low self esteem due to what our society deems ‘intelligent’ or ‘beautiful,’” Goodman said. “I think giving dolls is not only a great way to give back to the community, but also presents an opportunity where we can uplift young African-American girls.”

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Student Alayah Austin with baby dolls that will inspire local children.

Organizers are asking members of the community to donate African-American dolls who have “basic” features: no blue or green eyes, no piercings, no highlights in the hair, and no princesses or fairies. The dolls must be fully clothed and must not come with cell phones. The purpose of these very specific regulations, Goodman said, is to show black girls that they are beautiful in their own skin. The students are also collecting monetary donations for purchasing appropriate baby dolls.

Participants in the drive can give dolls or monetary donations to any Ida B. Wells member or drop them off at the Office of Inclusive Excellence. Dolls can also be donated at the Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement, where they will eventually be displayed. The goal is to collect or purchase 400 baby dolls, which will be distributed around the Christmas holiday to children from low-income families and to African-American girls who don’t come from lower-income families, but who simply want a doll that looks like them.

Mary Baldwin Associate Professor of Philosophy Edward Scott has been named recipient of the 2014 H. Hiter Harris Jr. Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, given by the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC). He will be honored at a luncheon in Richmond today.Ed_Scott

A member of the MBC faculty for nearly 25 years, Scott’s primary interests are the history of philosophy, hermeneutics, phenomenology, aesthetics, and African-American thought. He is well-respected among colleagues and students alike, commanding “the affection and respect of this community to an unparalleled degree,” wrote Catharine O’Connell, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college, in a nomination letter for the award.

“It is fair to say that Edward is a force on this campus; he holds us all to the highest standards and reminds us of our duty one to another,” O’Connell wrote. “His students are amazed by him — a little intimidated too, at least at first. From his general-education introductory Philosophy classes to his upper-level specialized courses, Dr. Scott offers students the best that the liberal-arts tradition has to offer.”

Professor of Philosophy Roderic Owen has worked alongside Scott throughout Scott’s time at MBC, which includes service as department chair and assistant dean of the college. President Pamela Fox also appointed Scott interim vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college for three academic years before O’Connell arrived at MBC in 2009.

“[He] embodies the abilities and attitude that bring ethical commitments to the forefront, that make it right to seek both knowledge and the ‘good life,’ and that reveal the power of public speaking directed toward an empowering liberal education,” Owen said of his colleague.

Scott’s work also extends outside the MBC campus. He has served on the Staunton City School Board, the board of advisors for the local branch of the Salvation Army, and as a member of the board of trustees for the American Shakespeare Center. He is also devoted to the ordained ministry of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

His influence has also resonated with hundreds of MBC alumni, including Aubrey Sparks ’13.

“He seamlessly integrated life into teaching and teaching into life until the sun in my window in the morning reminded me of Plato and the tree changing colors outside of our classroom window inspired me to contemplate Kierkegaard,” Sparks said. “He incorporated his own experiences into his lectures, letting us learn from him in both an academic as well as a personal sense, while also allowing us to understand philosophy through the world so that we could understand the connections between education and experience.”

Scott earned his BA in philosophy from Slippery Rock State University and his MA and PhD at Duquesne University. His first teaching job in philosophy was in 1977 at an urban satellite for the Community College of Allegheny County. He also taught at the University of Calabar in Nigeria; Carlow College in Pittsburgh; Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio; and Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois.

The H. Hiter Harris Jr. Award, which includes a stipend to support the recipient’s scholarly research or professional development activities, was created at the VFIC in 2008 through an endowment gift from the family of the late Hiter Harris Jr., a leading Virginia banker who was a member of the VFIC’s board from 1973–98. His son, H. Hiter Harris III, joined the board in 2000.