Boldly Baldwin word mark

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.

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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.


A leader in the field of education for many years, Mary Baldwin College is adopting a new model for its undergraduate and graduate education programs, elevating a longstanding academic strength into a flagship program.

In launching the College of Education this fall, MBC consolidates management of financial resources, deployment of faculty and staff, and development of curriculum for one of its most popular disciplines. The move enables the college to serve students at all levels more effectively and to better support faculty. It also positions the college for future growth.

The new College of Education includes four pathways that have been part of education at MBC for several years, but administered through different academic units: an undergraduate degree with teacher licensure available to students in the Residential College for Women as well as the Adult Degree Program, the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) and Master of Education (MEd) graduate programs, post-baccalaureate teacher licensure (PBTL), and non-licensure certificate and professional development offerings.

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“Our most important goal is to deliver the highest quality instruction possible through the most effective and efficient programs, and to make the path clear for all of our education students,” said Rachel Potter, longtime educator and administrator who has been chosen as dean of the new College of Education.

Also new is an interdisciplinary major, liberal arts and educational studies, which will help clarify for undergraduates the courses needed to meet Mary Baldwin’s general education requirements as well as those needed to earn Virginia teacher licensure. The major likely will be most attractive to students seeking an elementary education endorsement who will need to teach a broad range of subjects.

MBC also plans to soon offer an add-on endorsement in English as a second language, which is a growing need in the Shenandoah Valley. Among the rich array of options in the MEd at MBC is Environment-Based Learning, which regularly garners media attention. Recent expansion has included new concentrations in adult and higher education and applied behavior analysis.

In the coming year, MBC administrators will explore a physical relocation of College of Education offices, which will centralize operations and improve visibility. There is also potential to add instructional spaces — including those designed to mimic an elementary or secondary classroom — with such a move.

 New Faces in Education

The College of Education welcomes two new faculty members this fall. Pamela Bailey, assistant professor of education, holds a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia State College in secondary mathematics education. She also earned a MA in education, specializing in diverse learners, from the University of Phoenix. Her PhD is from George Mason University where her degree was in mathematics education leadership with a minor in administration and supervision.



Prior to coming to MBC, Bailey worked at George Mason University as an assistant professor, teaching courses in mathematics education and secondary mathematics education. She also worked for several years as the secondary mathematics coordinator in Spotsylvania County schools and as a secondary math teacher in Stafford and Westmoreland Counties.

Emily Ely is an assistant professor of reading education at Mary Baldwin College. In addition to teaching, Ely advises graduate students and is developing a reading endorsement program. She also conducts research on teacher education and literacy instruction, and presents findings at conferences such as the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).

Prior to joining the faculty at MBC, Ely taught kindergarten in an extended foreign language program in Miami, trained K-5th grade teachers as a reading coach, instructed undergraduate and graduate level courses at the University of Virginia (UVa), supervised student teachers, and taught music to preschoolers. She served as chair of the scholarship and professional development committee of education council at UVa through which she organized events to improve teacher readiness and promote transfer of research into the classroom. Additionally, she volunteered her time training teachers in Rwanda.



Ely earned her BA in elementary education and her MEd in reading education K-12 from the University of Miami and her PhD in special education from UVa. Through teaching and research, she aims to improve the outcomes of students at-risk for or with learning disabilities by enhancing the quality of reading instruction in economically and culturally diverse settings. In 2013, the teacher education division of CEC granted her an Outstanding Publication Award.

Mary Baldwin College faculty and staff welcomed numerous new members of the community August 27 at the annual state of the college address in Francis Auditorium.

Academic Affairs

Full-time faculty: 

Pamela Bailey, assistant professor of education

Emily Ely, assistant professor of education

Barbara Merk, assistant professor of biology

Patricia Ryan, instructor of health care administration

Administrative appointments:

Lisa Brown, assistant director of the Spencer Center

George Guba, instructional designer


Anaya Jones, information literacy librarian

Paula Kiser, instruction and electronic services librarian


Kimberly D. Robinson

Business and Finance

Physical Plant:

Deborah Allen, housekeeper

James Daggy, groundskeeper

Darren Dawson, housekeeper (MDCHS)

Susan Martz, housekeeper (MDCHS)

Charles Reed, maintenance technician (MDCHS)

Houston Rohr, campus support

Cindy Smith, housekeeping supervisor

Dustin Smith, assistant grounds supervisor

Adam Sprouse, groundskeeper (MDCHS)

Dining Services:

Tyler Burch, cook

Patty Ergenbright, catering manager

Matthew McGann, dining room orderly

Security and Switchboard: 

Kathy Orebaugh, security officer

Albert Tkacik, security officer (MDCHS)

Victoria Wiles, switchboard operator

David Zullig, security officer

Administrative Support:

Liz Hylton

Enrollment Management

Whitney Altizer, admissions counselor

Alison Burch, campus visit coordinator and customer service representative

Matthew Jones, admissions counselor

Tory Maupin, admissions counselor

Tanisha Paegar, admissions counselor

Institutional Advancement

Kim Hutto, director of alumane/i engagement

Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences

Allison Ellington, instructor and director of clinical education, occupational therapy

Sherry Secrest, assistant professor and director of clinical education, physician assistant program

Drew Strong, associate professor and director, RN to BSN

Lisa Burns, assistant professor, occupational therapy

Bess Maxwell, assistant professor, physical therapy

Administrative Support:

Shannon Brown, contracts and administrative support

Miriam Burrows, executive assistant

Office of Information Technology

Michael Dunaway, MDCHS technology support specialist

Michelle Gregory, data integration analyst

Lee Reid, data integration analyst

Laura Sheffey, MDCHS technology support specialist

Office of the President

Brig. Gen. Teresa Djuric, commandant, Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership and special assistant to the president

Lois H. Williams, vice president of enrollment management





Highlighting the achievements of the past year and providing a glimpse into the future, Mary Baldwin College President Pamela Fox officially opened the 2014-15 academic year August 27 with the annual State of the College Address. This year’s theme was “Deep Roots, Bold Future: Our Next Chapter.” (Read the text of Fox’s speech.)

“The deep roots of our legacy and your commitment anchor us firmly to embark on our next chapter,” Fox told the crowd of staff and faculty gathered inside Francis Auditorium. The president used the event to debut the college’s new strategic plan, Mary Baldwin 2020.

“The plan proclaims our ongoing conviction that an education grounded in the liberal arts is in the 21st century still the best foundation for a life well lived,” she said. “The plan affirms our core values: first and foremost, teaching and learning that is academically rigorous, that is personalized, that transforms lives, and that fosters productive and ethical citizenship and leadership development.”

After the address, faculty convened at the new Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences for a retreat. Classes begin on September 1.

Starting from sunrise over the nearby Blue Ridge mountains, photographer Woods Pierce captured the hustle and bustle of the opening day at Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences.

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OT, PT Students Start Class in State-of-the-Art Facility

Just two and a half years after announcing that it would pursue graduate programs in health sciences, Mary Baldwin College on June 16 welcomed its charter class of occupational and physical therapy students to the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences at a brand-new satellite campus in Fishersville.[C]WP_MurDem_TEMP_03-W

All 70 students started the day having breakfast with MBC President Pamela Fox and other MBC administrators inside the building’s spacious atrium. Throughout the daylong orientation, students also heard from Vice President for Health Sciences Linda Seestedt-Stanford, met with faculty and staff, and learned the basic information they’ll need as classes begin. The day ended with tours and a reception at the main MBC campus in Staunton.

Fox talked with students about the history of the college, its degree pathways and special programs, and the lasting legacy of the institution — devotion to each student, across all programs. “You can help us forge the next chapter for Mary Baldwin College,” she said.

“We always pride ourselves on maintaining the cutting edge of what our programs, our students, and our society needs,” Fox said. “You coming here to begin your classes this week is just one very important manifestation — yet again — over the 172-year history of the institution.”

On June 17, students began class in the human anatomy lab, where they’ll spend much of their summer study learning critical, fundamental information about the human body.

The state-of-the-art lab is just one component of the 55,000-square-foot health sciences facility that will prepare student for successful careers. Classrooms are outfitted with large screens to help enrich faculty and student interaction. A simulation suite offers important insight into real-world patient care. A life skills laboratory will help students visualize the needs of future clients in their homes. There are plenty of collaborative learning spaces throughout the three-story building as well, lending to an interprofessional focus among the disciplines, which, in 2015, will include physician assistant studies and a degree-completion program for nurses.

The opening of Murphy Deming is the result of several years of studying and planning and by the hard work of Trustees, administrators, faculty, and staff. The construction of the building — located at the heart of the Augusta County medical corridor — was accomplished in just two years by the construction firm Kjellstrom + Lee. The project was made possible by a $15 million gift from Bertie Murphy Deming Smith ’46.


Mary Baldwin College has hired a new vice president for enrollment management to oversee admissions across the institution, including the Residential College for Women; non-residential adults and online students; and the graduate programs in education, health sciences, and Shakespeare and Performance.

Lois Hicks Williams, who comes to MBC from Catawba College in North Carolina, will begin her new role on the MBC campus in Staunton in early August.

MBC officials are eager to welcome Williams, who brings comprehensive experience in undergraduate residential liberal arts recruitment, retention, and financial aid; experience with adult and non-traditional students on campus and in off-site centers; as well as graduate recruitment.lois_williams

“This is an unusual combination of successful experiences that matches the distinctive array of programs at MBC,” said MBC President Pamela Fox. “Moreover, Lois is committed to the personalized, transforming education that is the core of our mission, and she understands the connection between the liberal arts and career preparation as the strongest preparation for life in our current world. We are very eager to welcome her.”

After earning her degree in mass communications at Emory and Henry College, Williams earned a master’s degree in counseling and human development from Radford University.

She has demonstrated a continuous progression of responsibilities and accomplishments at several liberal arts colleges during her career, beginning at her alma mater, Emory and Henry, where she began as admissions counselor and later served as director of financial aid and registrar. She served as director of financial aid at Pfeiffer University in North Carolina, and subsequently as dean of admissions and financial aid at Stetson University in Florida before assuming her position at Catawba in 2009, where she assisted the college in reaching record enrollment.

Mary Baldwin College’s one-day social media fundraiser engaged 541 donors and raised $74,000 for the Baldwin Fund, which helps retain outstanding faculty and advisors, supports maintenance of MBC’s historic campus and regional centers, awards academic scholarships, and enriches student life.

The Day to Lead the Way on May 13 reached thousands of friends of the college via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and included hourly incentives and giveaways such as tickets to the Blackfriars Playhouse; campus prints; restaurant coupons; and books written by MBC faculty, staff, and alums.DayToLead FINAL

In addition to posts on the Mary Baldwin social network, supporters heard throughout the day from alumni “ambassadors,” who encouraged giving on their own social media channels.

One such ambassador, Lindsey Lieberman ’04, convinced friends beyond the Mary Baldwin network to support her alma mater.

“While I’m not an MBC alum, I gave so that other young ladies can have a chance to become women of poise and purpose,” posted Lieberman’s friend, Jes Schneider.

Many donors gave in appreciation of a specific MBC program or in honor of a professor who inspired them. Joanna Vickery Herath ’96 paid tribute to the Health Care Administration program and its leader Steve Mosher, while Kristy Wheeler Tannehill ’01 gave in support of the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership.

“I am overjoyed by the response to our first Day to Lead the Way, and we are extremely thankful for the support of such a generous and engaged community of alumnae/i and friends,” said Vice President of Institutional Advancement Sherri Mylott. “Not only did we raise $74,000, we also increased giving participation and engaged new donors.”

Among those who gave were 104 new donors, leading to a 1 to 2 percent increase in the college’s overall giving participation rate, which helps MBC’s overall ranking among other institutions and can lead to improved opportunities to receive grants. The online campaign also attracted a significant number of young donors as about 40 percent of gifts were from alums and students from class years 2000 to 2016.


Mary Baldwin College, the Heifetz International Music Institute, and the greater Staunton community were shocked to learn that Russian cellist Dmitry Volkov — who was nearing the end of his yearlong, successful classical music outreach — passed away May 10 from a heart attack, while visiting friends in Baltimore. The world-renowned musician was only 26 years old.


Courtesy of the Heifetz Institute

The first ever MBC/Heiftetz artist-in-residence greeted students in Hunt Dining Hall, spoke in MBC classrooms, performed for nearby civic groups, and introduced classical music to scores of local elementary students. Before his arrival in Staunton, the Heifetz alumnus attended the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University. He won numerous scholarships and awards and performed in several of the most prestigious concert halls in Europe.

Daniel Heifetz, president and founder of the institute, will accompany Volkov’s body as it is flown home to his family in Russia. He wrote the following tribute:

Rarely does a bright star come into the lives of a person, a family, a school, a community and flash for only a short period of time. Such a star was the amazing cellist, Dmitry Volkov.

I discovered Dmitry seven years ago when he sent me an audition tape to gain entrance into the Heifetz International Music Institute. Upon hearing his DVD, I immediately accepted him and arranged for him to have full scholarships for every one of the three summers he was a student with us.

As an alumnus, he continued to come to the summer institute as an artist in residence and ultimately, this past year, as the institute’s first full academic year artist in residence at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia. His work as our first yearlong artist in residence was nothing short of heroic. He performed throughout the Shenandoah Valley for more than 4,000 people in venues ranging from concert halls to Rotary clubs to senior centers to schools. He inspired students from elementary age to college students. He went into the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind and had students hold his cello and feel the vibrations as he played. He touched and inspired audiences throughout the Shenandoah Valley, in addition to almost every citizen, young and old, of Staunton.

When I first brought Dmitry to the institute, he had not been to America. After a few weeks, he came to me with tears in his eyes. He said that, until then, he had never experienced being free to play music in a personal way that expressed what was in his own heart. In Russia, he was forced to play music only in the way his teachers told him to play.

For me, Dmitry was like a son. For his father, Vadim, mother, Natalya, and brother, Evgeny, he was a shining light in their lives. In all my years of teaching, I have rarely brought a young musician so close to my heart. My wife and I loved him! Chairman of the Heifetz Institute Board of Directors Gary Abramson and his wife, Pennie, brought him into their family. Several of the institute’s board members supported him financially throughout his life in America, even loaning him a beautiful cello on which to play.

After several summers at the Heifetz Institute, after earning a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from the Moscow Conservatory of Music, after earning an artist diploma from the Peabody Conservatory of Music where he studied with the great Israeli cellist Amit Peled, he was the winner of international cello competitions. He also won international chamber music competitions with his newly formed “Russian Trio,” comprised of Heifetz Institute alumnus violinist Nikita Borisevich and pianist Katherine Harris Rick.

Dmitry Volkov was poised for a truly exciting future. As an artist, Dmitry was brilliant, with complete mastery of the cello. As a human being, Dmitry had charm, charisma, a great sense of humor, personality, warmth, and sensitivity. Whoever met him loved him. Wherever he performed audiences acclaimed him.

The only way I know how to cope with our tragic loss is to feel grateful I had the honor and privilege to have known and experienced, for any amount of time, this bright star in our lives.

There are many paths to a college degree. Meet a few soon-to-be graduates who will celebrate years of hard work and dedication Sunday at Mary Baldwin College’s 172nd Commencement.

Residential College for Women

Berra Kabarungi

Four years after Berra Kabarungi left Rwanda to study at Mary Baldwin on a full scholarship, she plans to return to her home country not only with a degree in social work, but also with critical thinking skills developed through liberal arts education.

berraAt MBC, Kabarungi enrolled in a wide variety of courses and took advantage of every available opportunity to deepen her understanding of social work, including completing a field placement at the United Way of Greater Augusta. While determining additional needs and gaps in local services, Kabarungi “helped us find common ground for public action and ways to work together to build a stronger and more engaged community,” said United Way CEO Cynthia Pritchard. “Her significant research and work on financial stability have translated to initiatives in our region.”

Under her leadership from 2004–10, the Rwanda chapter of Women for Women International flourished. Although her career path is uncertain, Kabarungi will be well prepared when she returns to her home country.

“My graduation is a very different situation, but, in some ways, I now understand better what those who completed Women for Women International programs felt upon earning their graduation certificates,” Kabarungi said. “The pride, the accomplishment, and the overwhelming gratitude.”

Selma Elsarrag

When 18-year-old Selma Elsarrag receives her diploma at Commencement, it will list three majors — biology, chemistry, and mathematics — making official her love of science that has been honed by hard work and patience and with the help of science faculty members.Selma Elsarrag

“The faculty members who work in Pearce Science Center have inspired me while here at MBC,” Elsarrag said. “They have taught me the key critical thinking and writing skills that I believe made me a successful student and budding scientist. More importantly, they’ve all kept my enthusiasm for science and learning alive over the years.”

Elsarrag won top honors in the posters category for her senior project — Supramolecular Interactions between Peptides and a Glycouril-Based Molecular Clip: A Computational Study — at the Capstone Festival May 8, which celebrates the best of undergraduate research at MBC.

This fall, she will enter the combined MD/PhD program at Baylor College of Medicine. She hopes to receive a PhD through the Structural and Computational Biology and Molecular Biophysics program and an MD from the medical school in pursuit of a career as a physician-scientist.

“I feel excited to have achieved this important milestone in life and ready to move forward in my education,” she said. “Nonetheless, I’m preemptively nostalgic for the familiarity of Mary Baldwin and all of the good memories I’ve had with friends here.”

While she has excelled in the academic arena, Elsarrag looks back fondly on the little moments of friendship, campus life, and student leadership that have also defined her time at MBC.

“Working with friends on late-night homework assignments, thinking through a research problem with a professor, taking on student leadership roles as part of the American Chemical Society branch at Mary Baldwin and as an Honor Council Representative, or even just sitting outside and enjoying the scenery are all moments that have made my time at Mary Baldwin special,” Elsarrag said.

Astrid Salarda

Houston high school standout Astrid Salarda ’14 almost did not make it to Mary Baldwin College for a visit during Future Freshmen Weekend in spring 2010. But Texas alumna Cynthia Weir ’68 was convinced that a trip to campus would seal the deal for Salarda, so she and her husband paid for the trip. Four years later, the bright, socially conscious business major will graduate as a member of the Sigma Beta Delta honor society with an internship, a fellowship, and a Capstone project under her belt.astrid salarda

“They took a chance on me,” Salarda said of the Weirs, “and I’m glad that I have made the most of the opportunity and my education here.”

For most of her MBC tenure, Salarda worked closely with Assistant Professor of Business Joe Sprangel, who connected her with a changemaker internship at Rebuilding Together Greater Augusta and guided her during a summer fellowship project that examined a local non-profit organization. Sprangel and Salarda were the only undergraduate pair invited to present their paper generated from that fellowship at the New York University Stern Conference on Social Entrepreneurship.

“Astrid is an example of MBC education at its best,” Sprangel said. “She worked with the faculty and staff to determine what she wanted upon graduation. This led to her leveraging her coursework, community engagement, internships, and faculty collaborations to set herself up with the best opportunity to land her dream job in the non-profit sector.”

In June, Salarda will continue her sustainable business and marketing studies as a participant in George Mason University’s Social Innovation Program. Scholarships from Mary Baldwin’s Spencer Center Endowment and George Mason’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship are helping with her tuition. In the meantime, the Philippines native plans to apply for jobs with non-profit organizations in the Houston area.

Monique Burgess

At Honors Convocation this spring while awarding Monique Burgess the annual Charlotte Forten Grimké award, Associate Vice President for Inclusive Excellence Andrea Cornett-Scott summed up the senior’s campus involvement, a hallmark of her time at Mary Baldwin.

moniqueburgess“She never fell off the radar,” Cornett-Scott said. “She never got lost with a case of senioritis, not for one minute. No matter the hardship or the constraint of time, she has been ‘in place.’”

Originally from Salisbury, Maryland, Burgess has demonstrated a rich commitment to learning and service, having volunteered in several minority programs on campus, as a peer advisor, and as president of the social work club.

“I will never forget how to help other women and encourage them to reach their goals,” Burgess said. “I am happy to be graduating from MBC. It will be a bittersweet moment, but I do feel prepared to start my career. I am grateful for my college experience.”

Her academic record earned her the highest honor in the social work department as well as induction into Omicron Delta Kappa, Alpha Lambda Delta, and Phi Alpha (the social work honor society). Burgess’s plans include working as a mental health counselor at Foundations Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program in Baltimore.

Andrea Holman

Sunday will mark a triumphant milestone for Andrea Holman, a young woman whose life has been filled with dramatic highs and lows.

The sociology and psychology double major from Croatia will be the first in her family to earn a degree from an American university. Fourteen years ago, they emigrated to the United States after war devastated their homeland.

andrea holmanThousands of miles from where she was born, Holman has learned even more about the world, thanks to the opportunities and international connections MBC has afforded. Fulbright-Nehru Visiting Scholar Triveni Mathur inspired Holman this fall, and became her “mother away from home.”

“Dr. Mathur believed in me and pushed me to my full potential, just as my mother has done my entire life,” she said. “I have not met such an intelligent, inspirational, strong — and most importantly, kind — person such as Dr. Mathur in a very long time.”

A defining moment for Holman was in an Evil and Genocide class with Professor of Philosopy Roderic Owen. “I cannot express enough how moving and influential this course and Dr. Owen have been in my life,” Holman said. “I was so inspired to spread awareness about crimes against humanity, and in particular against women and children.”

Her experience at MBC, particularly in Owen’s classes, helped Holman decide to pursue a law degree after graduation so that she may work as a lawyer at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

“MBC has prepared me for higher education and the workforce,” Holman said. “With a little bit of nervousness and a lot more eagerness, I am ready.”

Adult Degree Program

Betsy Daniel

Sixty-six year old Betsy Daniel believes that you should never be so focused on a goal that you forget to enjoy the process of reaching it. “Savor every moment and give your fullest to the task at hand,” she said.

This philosophy has served her well during her 19-year journey in higher education. Like many students in the Adult Degree Program (ADP) at Mary Baldwin, Daniel’s path to Commencement was far from those students with a more traditional college experience.U

In 1995, Daniel enrolled in classes at Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC) and was able to double-track courses so they would apply toward both an associate’s degree from PVCC and a bachelor of arts at MBC. Thanks to the flexibility ADP affords students, Daniel was able to attend class — often one course per term — while working full time in computer services at the University of Virginia. This Sunday she will graduate with a major in computer information systems and a minor in business administration.

“I have a sense of great personal accomplishment, and I owe tremendous gratitude to my advisors and professors who shepherded me on my path along the way,” Daniel said. “My advisors inspired me with their careful attention to my life and my program, and each professor inspired me.”

Now retired, and soon to be armed with her diploma, Daniel is looking forward to “decompressing by reading for pleasure” and catching up with the many friends and family who have stood by her and supported her throughout her academic career. She also plans to continue her involvement in her church.

She is also considering a master’s degree.

 Graduate Teacher Education

Teri Maerki    

In the weeks leading up to earning her own master of education degree, Teri Maerki, assistant advisor in Mary Baldwin’s Adult Degree Program, watched one daughter receive her college diploma and another say her wedding vows. Her daughter, Katelyn, will earn her BA at MBC’s May 18 Commencement ceremony on the same day that Maerki realizes her goal of earning an advanced degree.maerki

“I’m just glad that my son didn’t add a life event to the mix,” laughed Maerki, mother of four.

Interested in becoming an academic advisor, Maerki began on the MEd track in 2011, before it was an official degree at Mary Baldwin. Her thesis project explored whether students who enter a four-year college after earning their associate’s degree are more likely to graduate than those who do not, closely relating to her work at MBC. In completing her degree, Maerki learned how much she loved institutional research.

“I earned my undergraduate degree as an adult student with children at home,” said Maerki, who started her college career in her native California. “I studied between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., so I know what our adult students are up against.”

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Shakespeare and Performance

Riley Steiner

“Since I waited until this late chapter in life to obtain my degree, facing graduation holds both relief and trepidation,” said MFA candidate Riley Steiner. “I am eager to return to my ‘real life’ but at the same time reluctant to leave this oasis from the ‘real world.’”

PhotographerBefore arriving at MBC in fall 2010, Steiner already had a full acting career in Hollywood — with some directing and playwriting gigs — and a daughter studying theatre in college. Thanks to ADP, Steiner found the time and energy to complete her BA in theatre arts and pursue an MFA through MBC’s Shakespeare and Performance (S&P) program. Steiner said she often felt like she was in a heightened version of what her life has been for years: working on a show, prepping for a show, getting over a show. But there were several moments — being in the library close to midnight working on her senior thesis, for instance — that really felt like she was back in school.

“At my little station, I had a pile of books, my laptop, a thermos of tea, a Coke, and a little package of cookies from the vending machine downstairs and I thought, ‘wow, I’m a college student!’”

While at MBC, Steiner directed a Chekhov project, and she and her daughter, Hallie, produced a Strindberg project together and co-directed Ben Jonson’s Volpone for the American Shakespeare Center’s Theatre Camp. She also performed in at least two undergraduate plays, and this year she has had roles in five productions with the MFA company, Rogue Shakespeare.

When Steiner says goodbye to Staunton and the S&P faculty she respects and admires, she will return to Los Angeles for the summer to direct one of her plays and will start looking for teaching jobs.

“It seems like those of us who come back to graduate school later in life, come here with the idea that we have something to prove,” she said. “But I found it more fruitful to think in terms of ‘how can I improve?’ And I think that’s applicable to all stages of life.”