Boldly Baldwin word mark

Instructors are bringing varied experience as the newest members of the Mary Baldwin College faculty.

donovan branche

Donovan Branche

For Donovan Branche, returning to teach residential and adult degree students at Mary Baldwin after experiencing the school as an adult student is “a dream.” She joins the Health Care Administration (HCA) Program with a variety of academic interests, including health care disparities, implications of the Affordable Care Act, leadership diversity and leader emergence, feminist studies, and black feminist standpoint theory. Originally from Orange County, Branche earned her undergraduate degree in HCA from MBC, an MPA and PhD in strategic leadership studies from James Madison University. In her spare time, she cooks, converting traditional soul food recipes into healthier versions; hikes occasionally; travels; binges on television shows; and frequents “junktique” shops. “I’d love to learn to play the guitar, and become a famous black and white film photographer, a blacksmith, and a yoga guru,” she says.


Beth Easterling

Originally from Roanoke, Beth Easterling joins the criminal justice and sociology departments with a focus on the impact of incarceration on families and other issues related to corrections, including homelessness, poverty, and mental illness. She earned her BA in economics at Roanoke College, her MS in applied sociology at the University of North Florida, and a PhD in sociology with a concentration in criminology at the University of Tennessee. In her spare time, Easterling enjoys running, reading, and spending time with her daughter; husband, who is a Marine; and two rescue dogs. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to teach criminology/criminal Justice in a liberal arts environment,” she says. With a background in Sociology and having gone to a small, liberal arts college myself, I strongly believe in the benefits of a liberal arts education. The Criminal Justice Program at MBC allows me to play a role in educating our future Criminal Justice System workers and leaders, sharing my passion for Criminology and exploring various perspectives, research, and theories with other women who are entering a male-dominated field.  I like the small class sizes so I can get to know my students individually, allowing me to better support them in achieving their educational and career goals.”


Mary Jane Epps

Originally from Albemarle County, Mary Jane Epps returned to Virginia to write her dissertation after earning an undergraduate degree at Duke University and a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona. The subject: interactions between fungus-feeding insects and mushroom assemblages. The setting: Mountain Lake Biological Station in Giles County. “I find interactions among species to be endlessly exciting, especially those that involve plants, insects, and fungi,” Epps says. “My current projects include studying how fungal-insect interactions are shaped by climate change, and exploring how ants can affect forest fungi to shape forest decomposition and nutrient exchange. I also study the unusual pollination ecology of azaleas.” Epps loves music, and plays traditional Appalachian fiddle and banjo. She also enjoys spinning and dyeing wool with wild plants, gardening, and raising heritage livestock. “I’m most excited about getting students involved with research, and taking students out into the field to explore some of our local wild places and learn about biology first hand.”

Marty Fontenot received his doctor of physical therapy in 2006 from the University of Delaware, where he also completed a one-year sports residency following graduation. He comes to Mary Baldwin’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences (MDCHS) from the physical therapist assistant program at South University in Richmond. In addition to his teaching experience, Fontenot has a strong clinical background and is a certified orthopedic and sports clinical specialist, bringing a highly sought-out specialty in orthopedics and sports medicine to the program. He will be teaching the Musculoskeletal course content in the physical therapy program.

Assistant Professor Gregory Hansen joins the MDCHS occupational therapy program.

Jennifer Hunt completed her master’s in medical science in physician assistant studies in 2009 at Arcadia University. After graduation, she joined Lima Memorial Physicians group as a family practice and occupational medicine PA.  While at Lima Memorial, Hunt was asked to join the EMR committee and helped develop clinical templates and implement the use of electronic medical records in all of the outpatient clinics. As one of the few clinicians on the EMR committee, she developed educational materials for her fellow clinicians and streamlined the processes of EMR use. With a passion for wellness and preventive medicine, in addition to her clinical practice, Hunt became the Lima wellness coach and helped develop the hospital’s insurance wellness program and community worksite wellness programs. She was also an integral liaison between the ever-changing push toward wellness and prevention in health care and the affected patients and medical providers. Prior to joining MDCHS, Hunt worked with Hometown Urgent Care and Occupational Health in Columbus, Ohio.

Carolyn Moore joined MDCHS after serving as director of the PTA program at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, Tennessee for the last six years. Prior to that position she was in the pediatric neuro-rehabilitation department of the University of Michigan Health Systems (U of M) for 20 years and a part of the pediatric/adolescent traumatic brain injury team. In addition, she served for five years as the supervisor of outpatient therapies at the U of M. She received her PT degree at the University Of Texas School Of Allied Health Sciences, her masters of health sciences at the University of Indianapolis, Krannert School of Physical Therapy, and her doctorate in physical therapy at the University of Tennessee–Chattanooga. Moore has held numerous professional and community service positions and has been involved in international service learning.

With an interest in researching pre-service teacher preparation, teaching in diverse settings, and teaching multilingual students, Stephanie Sebolt says she “looks forward becoming part of the Mary Baldwin College community and working with students as they prepare to become teachers and leaders in education.” She graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a BA in French and NK-4 teaching certification. She earned an MA and PhD in curriculum and instruction at Virginia Tech and is also certified to teach French and English as a second language K-12. She has lived in Virginia since 1979, coming to the commonwealth by way of Ohio, California, and Kansas.

Pam Stephenson earned an OT degree from Ulster Polytechnic in Northern Ireland, a master’s degree in health sciences from St. Georges Hospital Medical School in London, and a post-professional occupational therapy doctorate from Rocky Mountain University. She has 30 years of experience as an occupational therapist and is currently employed in the Augusta County Schools. In 2012, she was co-author of a book chapter “The Use of Psychosocial Methods and Interpersonal Strategies in Mental Health” as part of the third edition of Psychosocial Occupational Therapy: An Evolving Practice. She is active in the Virginia Occupational Therapy Association (VOTA) and served as the Blue Ridge district chair directing the VOTA activities in the region from 2009 until July 2015. Stephenson recently accepted the position of forum coordinator for the AOTA Early Intervention and School Special Interest Section. Her major areas of interest focus on mental health and autism.

Ann Tuzson earned a BS in physical therapy from the University of Illinois and a master’s in biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia (UVa). She earned a doctorate in Kinesiology also at UVa. Tuzson practices as a physical therapist at the University of Virginia Medical Center in acute care. She is also a certified early intervention professional and works part-time at Albemarle Therapy Center. Tuzson has taught at UVa as a graduate assistant and at Hampton University and MDCHS as an adjunct faculty member. She has two publications and has presented nationally. In addition to teaching at MDCHS, she will coordinate the Human Movement Laboratory.

Additional adjunct faculty joining MBC this year are:

Matthew Brooks, music

Yu-Wen Chen, music

Kerry Cooke, English

Lynne Mackey, music

Tonya Menard, music

Colleen Pendry, art

Mike Riddell, math

Malcolm Vaught, biology

Just two months into the new academic year at Mary Baldwin’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, the school is welcoming a new group of students — nurses seeking bachelor’s degrees — into the charter class for its new RN-to-BSN program.

MDCHS RN to BSN Charter Class - August 2015

Twenty-seven local nurses are pursing their bachelor of science in nursing at MBC’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences.

The 27 students enrolled in the new post-licensure program — many from the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia — are already employed in a variety of health care settings, including nearby care facilities such as Augusta Health, Sentara Rockingham Memorial Hospital, Western State Hospital, University of Virginia Health System, Washington and Lee University Student Health Center, Retreat Doctors’ Hospital, and Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community.

The online, asynchronous curriculum allows students to complete the bachelor of science in nursing with a high degree of flexibility, something important to Dylan Fix, a busy mother of three who works full time in the labor and delivery department at Augusta Health in Fishersville.

“The online format is very exciting — I can sit down and do my work at 4 a.m., noon, or 10 p.m. — whatever works for that day rather than having to physically leave the house and go to a class,” Fix said.

The launch of the RN-to-BSN program at Murphy Deming was timed perfectly for Fix, who had planned all along to earn her bachelor’s degree, but first wanted to acquire real-world experience. After nine and a half years working in the field and bolstered by tuition reimbursement from Augusta Health, she’s ready.

“I want to obtain a BSN for my own gratification, and I also know that if I plan to change career directions at any time, an applicant with a BSN is going to be more desirable than an associate-degree prepared nurse. There are also nine other co-workers from labor and delivery who are also starting this adventure, so having that support is amazing,” Fix said. “It is exciting to be a part of the charter class for RN to BSN. I think we are already counting down to graduation in May 2017.”

The RN-to-BSN curriculum consists of 34 credits and is initially being offered in a part-time, five-semester track, according to Drew Gogian, program director. “A full-time, three-semester track will also be offered beginning in fall 2016. Completion time will vary based on student preference, as the program allows students to take courses at their own pace as needed.”

"MDCHS RN to BSN Charter Class - August 2015"

New students in the RN-to-BSN program explore the electronic classroom with program director Drew Gogian.

The new students — who are joining first- and second-year physical therapy and occupational therapy classes at Murphy Deming — had a one-day, face-to-face orientation session on August 21, which included multiple sessions by various representatives from student services as well as a comprehensive information technology presentation with initial set up and participatory learning activities. Most importantly, Gogian said, the orientation day provided ample opportunities for socialization.

“Students and faculty had a wonderful lunch together on the back patio, and a charter class picture was taken in front of MDCHS,” she said.

It was an affirming experience for Mallory Utz, a registered nurse at Western State Hospital in Staunton.

“After attending orientation, I am positive I have made the right choice as to where I will receive my bachelor’s,” Utz said. “I am excited to be a part of history in the making and making the new program a success.”

Through its Adult Degree Program, Mary Baldwin College is partnering with Dabney S. Lancaster Community College (DSLCC) to offer a convenient path toward a bachelor’s degree in social work.dabney

Students will be able to satisfy lower-division course requirements through DSLCC and enroll in junior- and senior-level courses through MBC, completing them without travel to the Staunton campus or any other satellite locations. This program will be available on DSLCC’s Clifton Forge campus and at the DSLCC Rockbridge Regional Center in Buena Vista.

Two social work courses are scheduled this fall: Introduction to Social Work and Social Work Practice I. Both courses begin the week of August 31. Contact Kari Frenz at for information. Anyone who is considering earning a bachelor’s degree in Social Work or other major is encouraged to attend this session.

Celine Brooks ’16, of Big Stone Gap, is one of only four students nationwide to receive the GEICO/Psi Chi Undergraduate Scholarship, which provides students with financial assistance toward education-related expenses such as tuition, books, and fees.Celine Brooks Picture.1

Major funding was given by insurance company GEICO and Psi Chi members who gave to the organization’s Steps to the Future fund. Students were selected based on financial need, merit, and academic performance.

“There were many deserving students,” said Evan Zucker, chairman of Psi Chi’s scholarship review committee. “Pairing the pool from 152 to four was not a particularly easy task.”

Chandra Mason, assistant professor of psychology, said Psi Chi is underscoring what faculty at Mary Baldwin College already know about Brooks, who will graduate in May.

“By every measure, Celine is an exceptional student; not only does she consistently outperform her classmates in even the most challenging courses in the psychology major, but she does so with an endearing and charmingly upbeat attitude, and an intrinsic motivation and passion to learn that is seemingly boundless,” Mason said.

While at MBC, Brooks has had several opportunities to research and present at conferences.

“Doing research has provided me with a knowledge of a variety of techniques and laboratory skills that I will be able to build upon in graduate school, and that will help prepare me for  a career in research,” Brooks said.

After graduation, Brooks plans to earn a doctorate degree in biopsychology and eventually hopes to perform research at a university or for the government.


Mary Baldwin College is one of 24 institutions opening its doors July 27–August 1 for Virginia Private Colleges Week, providing a special opportunity for prospective students to tour campus, attend information sessions, and learn about the high quality and affordability of a private education.

front_campusCampus visits are a critical part of the college search process. It’s all about finding the place where students will feel comfortable and can begin to forge their futures, according to admissions officials.

“They are looking for the right fit,” said Lois Hicks Williams, vice president for enrollment management at MBC. “Parents want to know that they are making a solid investment and students want to be able to picture themselves in college. A good campus visit will answer important financial questions, provide that experience, and hopefully make the decision easier.”

Tours will be held Monday through Friday at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. and at 9 a.m. on Saturday. MBC admissions officials will be on hand to talk with prospective students and dispel common myths about private education, including the notion that private colleges cost significantly more than public colleges.

In fact, the difference is far less than many families assume, thanks to significant institutional, merit and need-based grants, and the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant. According to a recent study by the Human Capital Research Corporation, the average price gap between a Virginia private and public college is only $4,700.

In addition to its historic hilltop campus and classical architecture, Mary Baldwin is home to programs and opportunities that students won’t find elsewhere, including the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership, the only all-female cadet corps in the country; partnerships with the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and the American Shakespeare Center; the chance to engage in undergraduate research projects; and new graduate programs in health sciences.

Students who visit at least three participating colleges during the week will receive three application fee waivers. The annual event is hosted by Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV). Register online.

A note from President Fox:

In March when we heard the news of Sweet Briar’s closing, we were deeply saddened, and we offered Sweet Briar students the opportunity to find their new home here at Mary Baldwin College. We were very glad to hear the recent news that Sweet Briar will now remain open.

We have contacted all Sweet Briar transfer students to let them know that we will refund their enrollment deposits should they choose to return. We stand ready to assist students as they consider this new opportunity before them, whether they choose to enroll at Mary Baldwin or return to Sweet Briar.

On behalf of the Mary Baldwin community, we extend best wishes.


Pamela Fox

Starting in fall 2015, Mary Baldwin College students can shop for textbooks and course materials and place orders anytime, anywhere through a mobile optimized online bookstore and pic 1

The college is announcing a new partnership with Akademos, Inc., a leader in providing affordable textbooks and digital learning tools for schools.

“We are confident that Akademos’ online bookstore platform is the right choice to connect Mary Baldwin students with the course materials they need to thrive academically,” said Carey Usher, associate professor of sociology, associate dean of the college and faculty director of the first-year experience. “Students will get the right textbooks, at the most competitive prices, and on time.”

Students will be able to order course materials through the new school-sanctioned online bookstore and seamlessly choose between new, used, marketplace, rental, and eBook options, dramatically expanding their access to lower-cost textbooks. At the end of each term students will have the option to sell back their textbooks through the Akademos peer-to-peer marketplace to recoup some of their cost.

“I am pleased to welcome Mary Baldwin College to Akademos and look forward to teaming with students, faculty, and administrators to lower the cost of course materials, to enhance textbook adoption efficiencies, and ultimately to achieve our mutual goal of improving learning outcomes for students,” said Akademos Chief Executive Officer John Squires. “Our solution will encourage students to use the school-sanctioned bookstore website by offering competitively priced textbooks and a mobile-optimized easy-to-use shopping experience.”

akademoslogoThe online bookstore will also give students, parents, alumni, and others a way to order apparel and other MBC-branded merchandise on the go. The move allows MBC to close the bookstore in Pannill Student Center and open a new retail space in the heart of campus. The space will be constructed inside the Nuthouse in Hunt Dining Hall.

Shifting the bookstore space from Pannill to Hunt also opens up much-needed interim office space for the College of Education.

More information about the online textbook offering will be available throughout the summer.

Commencement at Mary Baldwin College in recent years has become an avenue to celebrate tradition that honors the school’s diversity. In recent years, the institution has added military ceremonies to recognize the inclusion of the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership and Ajani, to honor those who have shown a commitment to diversity. lavender ceremony 2

This year, the college held a lavender graduation May 8 in an overflowing Miller Chapel, joining the ranks of colleges and universities around the country who honor college seniors who have dedicated a significant part of their college tenure to supporting and advocating for the LGBTA community.

Kathy McCleaf, professor of health and studies of gender and sexuality, delivered the keynote address, inspiring 20 MBC seniors, numerous guests, faculty, staff, and family members with an extraordinary historical account of MBC’s path towards embracing the LGBTA community. She recounted the first meeting of SOULS (Sisters Out and Understanding and Loving Sisters) in 1994, MBC’s Coming Out Week in 2006, the establishment of the sexuality and gender studies curriculum in 2013, among other milestones.

“Identity development, personal growth, learning about others and oneself, visibility, alliance, facing oneself in a way that allows one to comfortably face others with authenticity, and pride are the components connected to the phenomenon of standing under the rainbow,” McCleaf told the crowd. “The rainbow symbolizes hope — hope after a storm, the pot of gold, and the colors of the universe and stands as a representation of a people’s passion for life lived to the fullest. LGBT pride is displayed when the rainbow flag is flown.”

lavender ceremony 1Students Alexandra Ellmauer and Nichole Kennedy were bestowed the Community Engagement Award, which honored their meaningful contributions to the Mary Baldwin College community and creative approaches to resolving conflict. Kristia Vasiloff was awarded the Academic Achievement Award due to her unwavering academic advocacy and continued research on behalf of transgender youth. Abagail Ramey was also honored during the ceremony for her diligent work throughout her senior year to plan and implement the lavender graduation program.

Finally, the crowd stood to honor McCleaf as she was awarded the Project Safe Zone Award and was named an honorary lavender graduate. Each graduate was given a lavender pin to be worn during Commencement.

“It was superb,” said Professor of Philosophy Rod Owen, about the program. “Not only was it exceptionally well organized with attention to many logistical details, but it was also imbued with the best spirit of Mary Baldwin College.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, lavender is a combination of the pink triangle that gay men were forced to wear in the concentration campus and the black triangle designating lesbians as political prisoners in Nazi Germany. The LGBT civil rights movement took these symbols and of hatred and combined them to make symbols and color of pride and community. Ronni Sanlo, a Jewish lesbian, created the lavender graduation ceremony after she was denied the opportunity to attend the graduations of her biological children because of her sexual orientation. It was through this experience that she came to understand the pain felt by her students. Encouraged by the Dean of Students at the University of Michigan, Sanlo designed the first lavender graduation ceremony in 1995.

Mary Baldwin College celebrated the retirements of seven faculty and staff members May 14 during a special reception at the President’s House.

Faculty slated to retire this year are (from left to right) Ken Beals, Dan Metraux, Sally Ludwig, Lowell Lemons, and Eric Jones.

Faculty slated to retire this year are (from left to right) Ken Beals, Dan Metraux, Sally Ludwig, Lowell Lemons, and Eric Jones.

Director of Enrollment Technology for Admissions and Financial Aid Gail Auen came to MBC in 1997 as a network associate for computer information systems. An alumna of both Blue Ridge Community College and MBC, Auen made the beautiful quilts that hung in her office.

Kenneth Beals, assistant professor of philosophy and religion, said he is looking forward to more travel time in retirement, especially to see far-flung family. He will continue reading, hopefully write on interfaith issues, and continue teaching part-time at MBC. Of the things that Beals said he would miss most is the interaction with great colleagues and great students.

Field naturalist and a muddy boots plant ecologist Eric Jones, associate professor of biology, will take with him the relationships with students forged during his nearly 30 years at MBC. “You the students are what makes it worthwhile, watching you grow, watching a light dawn on your faces in a class, a random hug in a hallway, many memories that I will carry in my heart forever,” he said. “I taught for you, to be able to share a joy in knowing, to see it catch and take hold in my academic children, and I do think of all of you as my children, gives meaning to life. May all of you find the joy in what you do that I have found in teaching.” In retirement, Jones plans to overhaul and update wildflower web site, add 100 additional species, and recode to fit modern adaptive standards.

Reflecting on his favorite memories of working at MBC, Professor of Education Lowell Lemons recalls traveling with practicum students during May Term — three times to New Zealand and once to a Navajo reservation — so they could experience classrooms in other cultures; conversations with colleagues Jim McCrory and Jim Harrington; and walking to class from Edmondson House early in the morning, topping the hill by Hunt and looking over the campus, “a great way to start the day.”

Still working out her post-retirement plans, adjunct associate professor of business administration Sarah H. “Sally” Ludwig knows what she’ll miss most about MBC: the professional association with the dedicated faculty, staff, and administration of the college and the opportunity to interact with remarkable students. Ludwig, who started at MBC in 1992, offered her courses as independent tutorials for ADP students and served as pre-legal advisor for students interested in law school or law-related careers.

Professor of Asian Studies and International Relations Dan Metraux leaves behind a strong legacy in the Asian studies department, having led 17 international May Term trips, created and/or further developed partner relationships with five schools in Asia, and wrote several books on Japanese, Chinese, Burmese politics and religion, as well as many book chapters and journal articles. Most of all, Metraux said he’ll miss working with students, but looks forward to teaching courses online, writing books and articles, and traveling to visit family.

Supervisors say Tom Thorne, with custodial services, is always reliable, conscientious, helpful and easy-going. He began at MBC in 2006 and in 2014 was promoted to interim lead worker for event set-ups and served in that capacity until his retirement. He worked as a floor tech and housekeeper, worked on vacuum cleaners, did mail runs and filled in at the shop when needed.

The threat of rain did not dampen the joy of graduates at Mary Baldwin College’s 173rd Commencement exercises Sunday morning on Page Terrace. In fact, the sun made an appearance during the ceremony, mimicking the joy of hundreds of family members and friends who came to celebrate the Class of 2015.


Christian Peele ’05, this year’s keynote speaker.

Keynote speaker Christian Peele ’05 — herself familiar with reaching milestones at a young age as an alumna of MBC’s Program for the Exceptionally Gifted — reminded the soon-to-be graduates to be open to all the changes that life brings.

“Living with eyes wide open to what’s seen and what’s not seen yet, has been one of the greatest challenges of my life,” Peele said. “And, I’ve found, in all my adventures, that the specific work I do with my hands never matters nearly as much as much as the work I do with my eye — a mind’s eye that works furiously and intensely to see the here and now and the canvas that is yet unseen — the smoldering red of something new — the moving lines of a dream dreamed—the humongous frame that shows poverty, violence, and oppression reversed — so close our backs can almost touch it.”

Peele — the youngest person to earn a master of divinity from Duke University Divinity School at age 20 — worked on President Obama’s White House staff and now oversees development activities at one of New York City’s premier churches.


Sophia Stone receives her diploma from President Pamela Fox.

Before the graduates walked, several were singled out and honored for their achievements, including Sophia Stone, this year’s Martha Stackhouse Grafton Award winner — a triple major and cross country standout who is headed to the University of Washington next year to pursue an MD/PhD.

The college conferred an honorary doctor of humane letters upon Margaret E. “Lyn” McDermid ’95. The former Board of Trustees chair is chief information officer at the Federal Reserve Bank.

Bethany Zaiman and dean emeritus and professor emeritus of English Jim Lott were presented this year’s Algernon Sydney Sullivan awards, the top honors presented at Commencement recognizing unselfish service, noble character, and spiritual qualities.

For a group of grads in the Master of Arts in Teaching program, the day began on an especially sentimental note as classmate Brittany Baker received a marriage proposal from beau Brandon Cash while taking the class photo on North Court. (She said yes!)

At the post-commencement reception in front of the Administration Building, newly minted alumni rang the new 14-inch, 44-pound bronze bell — their gift to MBC—and started a new campus tradition.


Commencement award winners:

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award: Bethany Zaiman

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Non-Student Award: Jim Lott, dean emeritus and professor emeritus of English

Martha Stackhouse Grafton Award (highest GPA): Sophia Stone

Adult Degree Program Outstanding Student: Shawna Mills Franklin

MLitt/MFA Ariel Award for Outstanding Program Service and Leadership: Marshall B Garrett

Graduate Teacher Education Outstanding Student: Mariah Dittrich


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More information about the awards given at MBC’s Commencement.

Remarks by Commencement speaker Christian Peele ’05.