There are many paths to a college degree. Meet three soon-to-be graduates who will celebrate years of hard work and dedication Sunday at Mary Baldwin College’s 171st Commencement.
A Well-Rounded Leader
Victoria Barrett will be the first in her family to earn a college degree. Though simply graduating wasn’t enough for this 21-year old international relations major from Chesapeake.
For three out of four years at MBC, Barrett earned the highest grade point average in her class. She is graduating with honors and is earning minors in history, anthropology, and leadership studies. She has been tapped for Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most respected society honoring liberal arts students of genuine academic and personal accomplishment. She is well rounded — a member of both the Fighting Squirrels’ cross country and softball teams and is a top cadet in the college’s Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL).
“Most of my memories [from MBC] are centered around the VWIL program and the cadets that I have made life-long friendships with,” Barrett said. “The biggest life lesson that I learned is that even if you fall down and make a mistake, you have the ability to pick yourself back up and work toward redemption.”
While attending college on a four-year Army scholarship, Barrett earned the top Strength and Endurance Test score in her class. She is the top woman out of all the senior military colleges on the Army Order of Merit List. Barrett will commission into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant. Airborne qualified, she has been selected to go to Rigger School with an assignment at Fort Bragg.
“As Commencement approaches I’ve become excited and nervous for the future,” Barrett said. “I am blessed to already have my first years after graduation planned out in the U.S. Army, but the unknown is scary. Mary Baldwin College, however, has given me the tools that I need to be successful as I move on into unfamiliar waters.”
Tenacity and Desire Help Student Beat the Odds
Tisha Blackwell-Carlesco‘s path to Commencement day looks nothing like she expected. When the 41-year-old Richmond resident crosses Barbara Kares Page Terrace on Sunday to receive her diploma, she will complete a journey she began as a “traditional” student at Mary Baldwin College in 1990.
“I am excited and feel a sense of accomplishment,” she said. “It’s something like crossing the finish line of a race and knowing that I have realized a significant goal in my life. In some ways, it almost seems surreal.”
Blackwell-Carlesco left MBC after just one semester as a teenager. She eventually married and moved to Richmond but returned to Mary Baldwin in 2009 as a student in the Adult Degree Program. Soon afterward, her husband died unexpectedly. During this difficult and challenging time, Blackwell-Carlesco said she found “support, compassion, and encouragement not only from family and friends, but from my professors and advisor here at MBC. The faculty took action, allowed me extensions to complete that semester’s course work and enabled me to continue with my program. This sense of community reinforced that I had made the right choice in my academic endeavors.”
Blackwell-Carlesco decided to pursue a business degree, which strongly appealed to her sensibilities as a corporate social responsibility director at Altria. According to her advisor, Associate Professor of Business Catherine McPherson ’78, Blackwell-Carlesco has been a strong student and was able to access 12 semester hours prior learning credit for work experience and parlay a summer experience through the University of Virginia toward exemption for a Environmental Issues in Biology course.
“I have been a full-time student while working a full-time job for the past three years,” Blackwell-Carlesco said. “I am excited to have my time back — the greatest gift of all. Admittedly, I will miss the course work and the educational process of learning about topics such as religion, art, and science that are not always a part of my everyday educational opportunities.”
After Commencement, she plans to take some time off — pursuing her interest in art and catching up with family, friends, and her golden retriever — and then explore graduate school opportunities.
“We are all so much more capable of doing and overcoming challenges than we will ever realize. My confidence level since enrollment with Mary Baldwin has soared. I know that I can do anything I conceive and desire, and thankfully I have received a well-rounded liberal arts education that substantiates my declaration.”
Translating Scholarship into a Career
When Christina Ramirez returns to her home state of New Jersey after graduating from Mary Baldwin College, she’ll continue the skills she has honed as a social work major into a job with the Episcopal Service Corps program.
“I will be a part of NEWARK ACTS, a service-learning program for young adults that will emphasize social justice, community service, spiritual formation, and communal living,” said the 22-year-old. “I will be able to express and use the education I have received at Mary Baldwin.”
Ramirez’s experience over the past four years has prepared her for a job that helps others. During spring semester, Ramirez worked in Honduras for her final field placement in international social work. One of the ways she helped residents of that Central American country was by motivating her classmates in Staunton to fundraise for a school mural project at a Honduran high school.
“An important life lesson that I will take from MBC is to expect the unexpected,” Ramirez said. “I have learned to use all the resources I have and take full advantage of all opportunities that come my way.”
She has served as a campus tour guide, resident assistant, and a peer mentor to international students. She is a member of the President’s Society, Social Work Club, and the Phi Alpha honor society.
For demonstrating respect for all people and valuing diverse perspectives of others; engaging in service to the campus, community, nation, or world; effecting positive change; showing a commitment to diversity; and embracing all members of the community with compassion, Ramirez earned Mary Baldwin’s Global Citizenship Award for 2012–13.
“There have been many moments that have defined my time here, but I think the one moment that has really made a great impact was the moment I recognized my transformation while here at MBC — the change in my wishes and goals that I had as a college student,” Ramirez said. “I went from being a normal college student to feeling empowered and wanting to do everything I could and strive for my greatest and best. Mary Baldwin has really allowed me to show my true potential and thrive as a woman and as a student.”
Two years after their own graduation from Mary Baldwin College, members of the Class of 2011 are leaving their mark. Their class gift, an ornate walnut lectern, will debut Sunday at the college’s 171st Commencement.
“We wanted the gift to be something that would be used and remembered for years to come … something that would be special and had never been done before,” said Candace Klementowicz, president of the Class of 2011.
Taylor & Boody Organbuilders of Swoope — which also created the mace and baton carried by faculty marshals at Commencement — designed and crafted the ceremonial lectern. Central to the design is the superbly detailed college seal, which is framed by panels decorated with relief carvings of walnut branches, leaves, and nuts. The stand is anchored on each side by columns that echo the architecture of Mary Baldwin’s historic campus. A life-sized squirrel at the base of one column nods to the college mascot.
Margaret Churchman Moffett ’47 donated black walnut lumber from her family farm in Augusta County to construct the lectern.
Klementowicz and her classmates discussed several ideas in meetings and through email surveys. The students eventually leaned toward the idea of producing a commemorative lectern after hearing Director of Facilities Brent Douglass describe a similar gift at Dartmouth College, his alma mater.
“I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the finished lectern since we discussed the idea for the first time in January 2011,” Klementowicz said. “I just kept reminding myself that good things come to those who wait. It is beautiful piece of art that could be used for the Boldly Baldwin women that will be attending Mary Baldwin College for many years to come.”
Klementowicz plans to return to MBC for the Commencement ceremony.
“Being invited back by President Fox is a true honor,” she said. “I immediately knew I had to be there to see the completed lectern and to see it being shared with my fellow, soon-to-be alumnae. To have our gift be a part of the Commencement ceremony for many years to come is just a wonderful way to share our love and appreciation for Mary Baldwin College.”
Photos courtesy of Brent Douglass.
A grant from the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC) will allow a Mary Baldwin College professor to continue her work with the Plains Apache community through old photographs taken of the tribe by anthropologist J. Gilbert McAlister.
The Maurice L. Mednick Memorial grant will support Assistant Professor of Anthropology Abby Wightman‘s plans to introduce McAlister’s photographs — taken during the 1930s — to members of the contemporary Plains Apache community. The purpose is to gather their perspectives and determine the fate of the images, which are archived at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Natural History Museum. Possibilities include repatriation to the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma and a digital exhibit with the museum.
According to Wightman’s grant application, the photographs represent an important component of Plains Apache heritage and cultural patrimony, especially because their community tends to define its cultural uniqueness and talk about the past through the lens of kinship. This project will facilitate an increased understanding of Plains Apache kinship patterns and historical memory, in addition to serving a more practical purpose in bringing together anthropologists, museum officials, and community members to help determine the fate of McAllister’s photographs.
“It has been challenging trying to maintain a research relationship with the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma while living and working in Virginia, and this grant provides an opportunity to initiate research in a way that prioritizes community perspectives and interests in the development of the project,” Wightman said.
The Mednick fellowship was created in honor of a young Norfolk industrialist who had a strong interest in higher education. Administration of the Mednick Memorial Fund is vested in the VFIC to encourage the professional development of college teachers and improve their academic competence through fellowships for research and advanced study. Founded in 1952, the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges is a nonprofit fundraising partnership supporting the programs and students of 15 leading independent colleges in the Commonwealth.
Previous recipients of the Mednick award include Associate Professor of Education Tamra Willis, Assistant Professor of Spanish Brenci Patino, Associate Professor of Biology Paul Deeble, Associate Professor of Shakespeare and Performance Paul Menzer, Professor of Art History Sally James ’69, and Associate Professor of Art Marlena Hobson. A list of recipients from the past 30 years is available online.
Mary Baldwin College has tapped Nikki Maples, a former assistant coach from Reinhardt University in Waleska, Georgia, as the Fighting Squirrels’ new head basketball coach.
“I feel Mary Baldwin is the perfect opportunity for me to begin my career as a head coach,” Maples said. “One of my goals is to motivate my student athletes both on and off the court. I plan to get the most out of my players on the court while also holding them to Mary Baldwin’s strong academic standards.”
Maples spent the past four seasons as Reinhardt’s assistant coach, aiding in day-to-day operations, managing film exchange and travel arrangements, organizing fundraisers, and working individually with both posts and guards. She also brought in top recruits who received all-freshman team and all-conference team awards, along with many players earning all-academic team honors. In the 2012–13 season Maples led Reinhardt to the conference tournament championship in the Appalachian Athletic Conference. The win earned the university an automatic bid to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Tournament.
Maples was a four-year letter winner as a point guard at NCAA Division III Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, and helped the Scotties finish in the top three in the conference every season during her tenure. As a senior she started all 24 games, averaging 10.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while leading the Scotties in assists (116, 4.8 per game) and free throw percentage (82.4 percent, 84-of-102). She left as the school’s career leader in free throw percentage and three-point field goal percentage and also holds single-season records for assists and free throw percentage. An all-around student-athlete, Maples also played softball and volleyball for the Scotties.
Maples received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Agnes Scott in 2009 and her master’s degree in kinesiology from Georgia Southern University in 2011.
“Coach Maples is a good fit for Mary Baldwin. She has a passion for the game, and has been part of a winning program,” said MBC Athletic Director Sharon Spalding. “More importantly, she sees the value of her own women’s college education at Agnes Scott and how it was a benefit to her life. I see Coach Maples bringing Mary Baldwin to a more competitive place in the USA South as the new leader of our basketball program.”
This summer, six Mary Baldwin College students will spend two months delving into complex research through the Summer Research Fellows Program, covering topics ranging from cell communication to sustainability in Augusta County.
All projects for summer 2013 are funded by a grant from the Margaret C. Woodson Foundation, and Ever Ahead: The Campaign for Mary Baldwin College is raising money to establish endowed funds that will offer future student fellows fruitful, hands-on educational opportunities. The Virginia M. Strickler Research Fund, established in November 2012, is the first endowment to support the program and will begin generating revenue in 2014.
Collaborative faculty-student research is an integral part of a Mary Baldwin education, but projects have typically been funded through one-time grants, creating uncertainty for prospective students interested in undergraduate research. A reliable and consistent funding stream will ensure the continuation of outstanding student research opportunities for years to come.
Director of Sponsored Programs and Undergraduate Research Lydia Petersson believes students in any discipline can benefit from the summer program. “Students who sometimes struggle with abstract concepts in the classroom grasp them when they are grounded in concrete action, and students who find theory easy are challenged to put it into practice,” she said. “Faculty-student collaborative research provides the best kind of career preparation.”
Astrid Salarda ’14 will participate in a longitudinal study of sustainability in greater Augusta County with Joseph Sprangel, assistant professor of business. “As a student fellow, I hope to broaden my understanding of statistical data analysis by tracking survey completion through phone, email, and/or in person,” she said. “The project will not only enhance my academic aspirations, but the well-being of the community as well — presented with valuable information, executives will be able to manage their businesses more effectively.”
Paul Deeble, associate professor of biology, will work with rising senior Sophia Stone on a research project investigating communication between cancer cells and the immune system in hopes of developing a biomarker for detecting advanced prostate cancer. “Because of the level of sophistication and dedication that Sophia brings to our project, I am looking forward to this summer in the research lab more than any other time in my career,” Deeble said.
The robust research projects this summer are sure to keep student fellows busy. Here is a sneak peek at each project:
- The Role of Arf6 in Regulating β1-integrin Expression and Facilitating Cell Migration
- Faculty Mentor: Anne Allison, assistant professor of biology
- Student Fellow: Selma Elsarrag ’14
- Investigation of Interactions Between the LL-37 Peptide and DNA
- Faculty Mentor: Maria Craig, assistant professor of chemistry
- Student Fellows: Irmamarie Avelsgard ’15 and Michelle Radford ‘14
- The Human Cathelicidin Antimicrobial Peptide LL-37 in Prostate Cancer
- Faculty Mentor: Paul Deeble, associate professor of biology
- Student Fellow: Sophia Stone ’14
- Enabling Memristor Fabrication In-House at Mary Baldwin College
- Faculty Mentor: Nadine Gergel-Hackett, assistant professor of physics
- Student Fellow: Inna Kirilyuk ’14
- Longitudinal Study of Sustainability in Greater Augusta County
- Faculty Mentor: Joseph Sprangel, assistant professor of business
- Student Fellow: Astrid Salarda ’14
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine visited the Mary Baldwin College campus this week to meet with college officials and cadets in the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership. Kaine praised corps members, telling the group “you’re part of the armed-services mission” of the United States. A member of both the Senate armed services and foreign relations committees, Kaine is introducing a bill — the Troop Talent Act — that would ease the transition of service members from active duty to the civilian workforce. It’s a goal MBC shares in its work with veterans in the college’s Adult Degree Program, which offers flexible, distance-learning opportunities and provides credit for previous military experience. This marked the second time of the academic year the college has hosted a member of U.S. Congress. Sen. Mark Warner spoke with students and administrators during an October stop in Staunton.
Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences hosted an open house April 20 at the Augusta Health Community Care Building in Fishersville, giving prospective students an opportunity to learn more about Mary Baldwin College’s developing graduate programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and physician assistant studies.
For the fourth time since Mary Baldwin College joined the USA South Athletic Conference in 2008, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) has announced that MBC has won the athletic conference’s sportsmanship trophy.
Mary Baldwin earned the 2013 accolade after picking up the Sportsmanship Award in four sports during the 2012–13 academic year: softball, women’s soccer, volleyball, and women’s basketball.
There is a Sportsmanship Award for 11 of the 14 conference-sponsored sports. For each sport, all players vote for the team they think has demonstrated the best overall sportsmanship throughout the season. The team garnering the most votes receives that sport’s Sportsmanship Award. The school that wins the most individual sport awards wins the overall USA South sportsmanship trophy. The award came about through SAAC’s commitment to maintaining a sportsmanlike environment on each campus.
LaGrange College was the only other school to win multiple (three) Sportsmanship Awards during the past academic year. Single Sportsmanship Award winners last year were Agnes Scott College, Averett University, Ferrum College, Methodist University, and William Peace University.
2012–13 Team Sportsmanship Award Winners
Baseball – Methodist University
Softball – Ferrum College & Mary Baldwin College
Men’s Tennis – LaGrange College
Women’s Tennis – William Peace University
Women’s Lacrosse – Agnes Scott College
Men’s Basketball – Averett University
Women’s Basketball – Mary Baldwin College
Football – LaGrange College
Volleyball – Mary Baldwin College
Men’s Soccer – LaGrange College
Women’s Soccer – Mary Baldwin College
Past Sportsmanship Trophy Recipients
2012–13 – Mary Baldwin College
2011–12 – Mary Baldwin College
2010–11 – Ferrum College
2009–10 – Mary Baldwin College
2008–09 – Mary Baldwin College
2007–08 – Christopher Newport University
2006–07 – Averett University
2005–06 – Averett University
2004–05 – N.C. Wesleyan College
Fifty students were inducted last week into Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society in education during a ceremony in Mary Baldwin College’s Francis Auditorium. New members of the organization include Sierra Adkins, Gary Bibens, Lisa Boyce, Katrina Brodrecht, Claire Chandler, Katrina Cook, Sabrina Crummett, Kellie Davies, Rachael Early, Samantha Fowler, Christina Gregory, Rebecca Hall, Brooke Henderson, Erica Hernandez, Elizabeth Jezek, Rebecca Kargman, Emily L’Heureux, Teri Maerki, Laura Massie, Jennifer Patanio, Anna Reilly, Emily Riner, Drew Rutledge, Kay Senator, Stacia Allen, Nicole Boehm, Mary Boyd, Kathryn Brown, Sarah Conrad, Laura Crowder, Gabriela Danuncio, Ashley Davis, Julie Fisher, Cynthia Garrett, Casey Gunter, Courtney Hallacher, Kathleen Hendrickson, Stephen Jackson, Casey Johnson, Britney Lambert, Catherine Lynch, Carolyn Mashbun, Carrie McCrary, Jennifer Ramachandran, Samantha Riggleman, Monica Roth, Kathryn Scott, Shelley Shifflett, and Lauren-Ashley Torbick.
The Capstone Festival, Mary Baldwin College’s annual exhibition of student research, returns to campus next week to highlight the diverse range of study among the school’s top scholars.
Thirty-four students will present papers, multimedia work, audio-visual sessions, and posters during the event May 9, which is open to the general public and represents the culminating work for some of the college’s brightest students, as nominated by their professors.
Asma Shethwala presented a poster on polycystic ovarian syndrome during the 2012 Capstone Festival.
This year’s festival includes three participants — Katharine Given, Meredith Miller, and Aubrey Sparks — who are each nominated for two different projects, a Capstone record. There are also a record-breaking eight Capstone presenters who represent the Adult Degree Program and a record number of men taking part in the festival this year.
A common theme for three Capstone participants is the environmental effects of estrogenic compounds. Angelica Fleming’s poster presentation will explore estrogenic activity of thermal receipt paper; Lauren Green’s presentation with multimedia support will examine the destruction of Bisphenol A, an endocrine disrupter found in waste water, and Bisphenol S through ozonation; and Ben Lacy’s poster presentation will address endocrine-disrupting compounds and instances of intersex in red-breasted sunfish.
“These projects represent an excellent example of interdisciplinary work and cross-collaboration with faculty,” said Assistant Professor of Chemistry Peter Ruiz-Haas. “They involve students and faculty in biology and chemistry, and they all complement and/or intersect one another, either by measuring the possible biological effects of endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) in fish or measuring the amounts of various EDCs in a variety of consumer products and their toxicity on model organisms. A third approach is to find what to do with these substances and treat the water to make it safe. Here is where chemistry comes into play — where Lauren Green seeks to use ozone to destroy these pollutants.”
The tradition of MBC’s Capstone Festival dates back to the 19th century, when all final examinations were held in public, and members of the Board of Trustees and townspeople attended. Today, Capstone underscores MBC’s unique commitment to undergraduate research.