The Mary Baldwin College chapter of Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology, inducted 18 new members in an evening candle-lighting ceremony on April 1. Dylan Grey ’07, pictured below, gave a rousing induction address, encouraging the new inductees to become “superheroes.” New members include Kimberly Armeni, Delorise Boateng, Autumn Bussavanno, Jaylnn Edwards, Alessandra Gonzalez-Rivera, Marie Jarrell, Joan Johnson, Amy Levandusky, Tory Maupin, Erin O’Hara, Mia Phaire, Avery Prince, Hilary Therit, Jade Traylor, Kristia Vasiloff, Alyssa Webb, Rolonda Williams, and Tisha Wilkerson.
Katherine Low, assistant professor of religion and chaplain of Mary Baldwin College, has been selected from a nationwide pool of nominees to participate in a faculty seminar on the teaching of interfaith understanding. The seminar is offered by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), with support from the Henry Luce Foundation.
Twenty-five faculty members will participate in the five-day Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminar that will take place June 15–19 at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The seminar will be led by two leading scholars, Catherine Cornille, professor of comparative theology at Boston College, and Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard University.
“Strengthening the teaching of interfaith understanding at colleges and universities is a high priority at a time when college enrollment is becoming more diverse — by religion, as well as socioeconomic factors — just as American society is becoming more diverse,” said CIC President Richard Ekman. “Strengthening participation in American life with greater understanding of the distinctive contributions of different faiths is key to America’s future success.”
The seminar is designed to broaden faculty members’ knowledge and strengthen their teaching of interfaith understanding, with the development of new courses and resources.
“This seminar fits my position really well because of the methodological integration of interfaith understanding,” Low said. “It will help me bring understanding to the classroom as well as aid in a deeper focus for my role as chaplain to foster religious literacy and engagement for students.”
Low said her desire to participate in the seminar stemmed from her own experience as an undergraduate studying for a semester in Israel and the West Bank.
“Through that experience, I began to recognize the massive diversity of people who organize around religion throughout the world,” she said.
The Council of Independent Colleges is an association of 744 nonprofit independent colleges and universities and higher education affiliates and organizations that supports college and university leadership, advance institutional excellence, and enhance public understanding of private higher education’s contributions to society. Chicago-based nonprofit IFYC has worked on five continents and with more than 200 college and university campuses, trained thousands in the principles of interfaith leadership, and reached millions through media outlets.
For more information, visit www.cic.edu/TeachingInterfaith.
With the goal of encouraging gifts from a wide array of donors, Mary Baldwin will kick off A Day to Lead the Way on May 13.
During this 24-hour online event alumnae/i, friends, and supporters will have the opportunity to make a gift, inspiring and supporting the students of Mary Baldwin College on their journey to becoming confident, compassionate changemakers.
“We’re rallying our community on this day to show our students that Squirrels everywhere are truly invested in their success,” said Sherri Mylott, MBC vice president of Institutional Advancement.
“And, because A Day to Lead the Way takes place just a few days before Commencement, it also provides a wonderful opportunity to show our seniors that they are part of a very special, very connected community,” Mylott said.
The day will feature fun and engaging challenges, including special thank-yous for participants, such as MBC goodie baskets, VIP access at Mary Baldwin’s beloved Apple Day festivities, and many other priceless rewards.
RSVP for A Day to Lead the Way by joining the event through the Mary Baldwin College Facebook page.
To learn more, visit Facebook or contact the Office of Institutional Advancement at 540-887-7011.
Last May when Timothy Ray “Burt” Kennedy was recognized for 35 years of service at Mary Baldwin College, colleagues gathered inside Hunt Dining Hall gave a standing ovation in honor of the quiet, friendly man who was often seen working to keep the campus beautiful.
President Fox congratulates Kennedy for 35 years of service in May 2013.
Known as the gentle giant on the MBC grounds crew, Kennedy, 58, passed away April 14.
By many accounts, Kennedy added a kind presence around campus and loved talking about his truck. Dozens of friends from all segments of the MBC family remembered him on the college’s Facebook page.
“Burt will be missed. [He was] a fine example of a loyal person with integrity,” said Nick Hall, an MBC security officer. “He loved his truck and Christmas. He was always someone you could talk to. Thoughts and prayers to his family.”
“Very sorry to hear this,” wrote LaChondra Everett ’98. “I will forever have memories of those gorgeous, rolling, perfectly cut hills. Thanks for your service, Burt!”
A member of Staunton First Church of God, Kennedy is survived by a brother, Gary Kennedy and wife Susan; a sister, Rose M. Wagner; and numerous nieces and nephews.
At Student Government Association (SGA) Installation April 8, the college recognized student leaders and those scholars who stand out for their leadership, academic record, and commitment to MBC’s values.
The President’s Award is given to one student who demonstrates a commitment to academics, campus and community service, exceptional leadership qualities, and dedication to diversity. Such a student exhibits honor and integrity in her actions and a spirit of adventure. She is committed to personal wellness and shows an ability to balance mind, body, and spirit. This year’s recipient is Amber Ocasio, a senior arts management major from Mechanicsville.
“Amber embodies the spirit of our campus,” wrote Erin Paschal ’10, director of student activities, in her nomination letter. “She is comfortable in her skin. With this comfort as her anchor, she is able to embrace other members of our community with genuine love and respect. Amber continually leads by example. She is enthusiastic, loving, dedicated, insightful, and mature.”
Paschal noted Ocasio’s work as treasurer of the senior class and chairwoman of the Baldwin Program Board among the qualities that make her a great leader. Ocasio scaled back off-campus events to ensure the greatest amount of participation, along with ensuring fiscally responsible events; she brought Thursdays on Tyson’s Terrace back outside; she was willing to push past the board’s comfort when planning Signature Ball this year to incorporate a non-traditional theme, bringing in aerialists in place of the traditional casino, and seeking out a new DJ; and she regularly surveyed participants and collected data at events to ensure the organization was meeting campus needs.
“Even as Amber has worked to ensure her board’s success and individual growth, she has not failed to purposely work on her personal development in her leadership role,” Paschal wrote. “Never one to shy away from feedback, Amber will often solicit my opinion on areas in which she can continue to grow as a leader.”
For her ability to build a team of peers, serve as a role model, and inspire others to action, Rebecca Stearn, a senior business major from Hampton, earned this year’s Brenda Bryant Student Leadership Award. Such leaders have a strong sense of self, can balance multiple commitments, demonstrate creative problem-solving skills, and are dedicated students.
Paschal praised Stearn’s ability to lead as SGA vice president, serving as president of Student Senate.
“While Senate can often function as an announcements forum, Becca entered this year determined to ensure Senate is a working, functioning student group,” Paschal wrote in her nomination letter. “As such, Becca tackled the controversial, oft-attempted, nary successful topic of a campus smoking policy. Implementing the Senate process she helped to craft the year before, Becca successfully navigated these challenging waters. She provided steadfast leadership on this subject for the senators. In this process, she also empowered and supported a small, working group to draft a policy. Along with that committee’s chair, Becca presented this topic to President Fox and select members of the executive staff. At the process’s conclusion, it appears the executive staff is ready to implement this student-drafted policy, and it is largely due to Becca’s direct and indirect leadership.”
Students who earn the Global Citizenship Award demonstrate respect for all people and value diverse perspectives of others; engage in service to the campus, community, nation, or world; effect positive change; show a commitment to diversity; and embrace all members of the community with compassion. This year’s recipient is Shekira Ramdass, a senior Asian studies and international relations major from Mount Rainier, Maryland.
“Shekira is a remarkable student and young scholar,” wrote Professor of Asian Studies Daniel Métraux.
Ramdass spent a full semester studying at Lady Doak College, MBC’s sister school in India; has twice held summer internships at the State Department in Washington DC; has served as an active teaching assistant; and taught four sessions of Métraux’s Asian Women class while he recruited students in Japan and Korea earlier this semester. Ramdass also has given talks on Indian women and AIDS at the International Café series organized by the Spencer Center.
Upholding the principles of the MBC Honor and Judicial codes is the hallmark trait of students who receive the Honor and Integrity Award. This year, that award goes to Hillary Blake, a senior arts management major from Prince George.
“Hillary embodies the characteristics of a model student who truly values what the codes stand for, and she has made significant contributions to the improvement of our system and codes in her last two years serving [as chairwoman of the Judicial Board],” wrote Amber Keen, director of student development and support.
Under Blake’s leadership, the board has made a number of improvements and taken great strides toward becoming a stronger organization, Keen noted. The first notable achievement was the purchase and implementation of new judicial software and a complete overhaul and rewrite of the Judicial Code of Conduct.
Blake also made an effort to reach out to the freshmen to make sure they understand the new codes.
“One way she does this is to help coordinate and host ‘Know the Codes’ in the fall when students move in,” Stearn said of her colleague. “She attempts to display the codes in a humorous manor to entertain the freshmen, and also make sure the point gets across that the behavior displayed in the skits is unacceptable on campus and come with consequences.”
Recipients of Mary Baldwin’s Unsung Hero Award are students who serve as role models to others and go above and beyond in their care and concern of the campus community, but who often do not receive public acknowledgement of their hard work. This year, Mariah Dittrich ’14, a French major from Snow Hill, Maryland, is MBC’s unsung hero.
Dittrich has served as ACORNS chairwoman; board of elections co-chair; Global Honors Scholars, Career Academy, and Healthy Lifestyles gateways peer advisor; Global Honors president; and a team leader in Grafton Library. Paschal noted Dittrich’s “good-natured attitude, commitment, and desire to positively impact her community.”
Stearn praised Dittrich’s determination to help incoming freshmen have a great first-year experience.
“She has so much school spirit that it’s hard to truly describe, but she shows her school spirit through the positions she holds,” Stearn said. “She is in these positions because she cares about our school, community, and campus. Mariah has done a lot of her leadership behind the scenes and truly deserves a huge heartfelt thank-you from campus.”
The Lynn Gilliland Boldly Baldwin Award recognizes a student who demonstrates exceptional school spirit, a desire to mentor and help classmates, and strong communications skills. Awardees effect positive change on campus and in the greater community and have a strong sense of self — all traits embodied by MBC’s former director of first- and second-year experience, Lynn Tuggle Gilliland ’80.
This year, Kathryn Laflin, a junior from Austin, Texas, was singled out for recognition. Laflin has served as SGA secretary, Class of 2015 vice president, peer advisor, STARS member, and VWIL band member.
She has been a vital liaison between the student government and VWIL students, was heavily involved in making Junior Dads and Family a great success, and has been a great role model for the incoming class, Stearn said.
“Kathryn is a huge asset to this campus,” she wrote. “She exudes school spirit and shows it through her involvement on campus and her love of squirrels. She once told me that I was the reason she got involved in student government, and I truly believe she is the reason why so many other people have gotten involved in student government and on campus. Kathryn is a force to be reckoned with because she loves this campus and the community and she has and will continue to have a positive impact on this campus, the community, and the students of MBC.”
For committing to students’ academic success; exceeding expectations; and leading by example with honor, integrity, and a dedication to personal wellness, Andrea Cornett-Scott, associate vice president for inclusive excellence and Erin Paschal, jointly received this year’s Advisor of the Year award.
Senior Kristina Lee credits Cornett-Scott with helping students persevere through challenging coursework, dedicating her time to helping students after hours, and serving as a “mother away from home,” in her work as advisor for several minority clubs.
“I can always come to her with whatever I may need, whether it be advice or just a nice talk,” Lee wrote. “[With] the long hours and sleepless nights she has had, she deserves this award.”
As advisor to ACORNS, Student Senate, and the SGA Executive Committee, Paschal “is consistently there for her students,” wrote Stearn.
“She encourages us to be students first and our next priority to be student leaders,” said Stearn. “She is always available to give advice, answer questions, or to just simply lead us in the right direction. You can see that she not only cares for her students in regard to their student leadership but also in their academic and personal lives. She takes a special interest in us to make sure we are taking care of ourselves as well as to know we are cared for on this campus. I truly believe she is the reason so many organizations have achieved their goals this year and will continue to excel on this campus.”
The student organization that best enhances life on the MBC campus, demonstrates growth and increased strength of leadership, and exceeds expectations earns top recognition as Organization of the Year. In 2013–14, Resident Advisors proved to be the most effective in engaging students and encouraging participation in campus life.
“This team was committed to engaging students in appreciating, accepting, and respecting their fellow students,” wrote Director of Residence Life and Housing Cassie Doyle in her nomination letter. “They were decorating halls to make their residents feel more welcomed they were hosting programs, they were mediating roommate and friend issues, and they were creating an environment that made residents feel comfortable with coming out of their rooms and participating in decorating their halls. These wonderful student leaders have counseled their fellow students — finding them resources, helping with homework, talking them through major concerns, baking cookies, and delivering pick-me-up-bags and personal notes. With an extremely tight budget they often took their own money to invest in purchasing candy, supplies, gifts, decorations — anything to make their residents fill at home. They have mopped floors, emptied trash, cleaned up messes left behind, decorated doors, and walked from residence hall to residence hall in the middle of the night to make sure all was well. They have left their warm beds to search for a reported missing student and typed reports until it was time to go to their own classes. They have achieved all of this while maintaining a group grade point average of 3.55.”
Students elected to the 2013–14 Executive Committee of the SGA were also installed as part of the ceremony. They are:
Kristia Vasiloff, president
Anneliese Slatin, vice president
Kathryn Laflin, secretary
Tori Atkins, treasurer
Jessica Walker, Inter-Club Council chairwoman
Damba Koroma, Residence Hall Association chairwoman
Kathleen Hurlock, Honor Council chairwoman
Irmamarie Avelsgard, Judicial Board chairwoman
Sarah Daughdrill, lead advocate
Friends gathered earlier this month to celebrate four members of the Mary Baldwin College community who are retiring this year after a combined 116 years of service.
Karen Dorgan, professor of education, will retire after 20 years as a faculty member in the Richmond regional center. She has worked as an advisor and taught in the Adult Degree Program (ADP), the Post-Baccalaureate Teacher Licensure program, and the Graduate Teacher Education program. Dorgan also served as an advisor/representative at the Rappahannock Community College center for several years and co-directed ADP Summer Week.
Among her professional highlights, Dorgan presented at many state and regional conferences as an active member of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. She spent a sabbatical in the Netherlands to study the role of geometry in that country’s elementary school curriculum, and she was the 2004 recipient of a Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges Mednick Fellowship.
Dorgan says her favorite MBC memories include ADP faculty meetings crowded into the ADP House living room, faculty retreats, masters of arts in teaching dinners with stimulating conversation, and Thursday overnights in Staunton before Friday faculty meetings. These overnights often involved long walks, dinners out, and much laughter with other ADP faculty members from various regional centers, she said. She will also remember ADP Summer Week, meeting students from around the state and spending one intense week of teaching and learning with them.
Before coming to MBC, Dorgan taught grades 5–8, primarily mathematics and science in York County. She earned a BA and MA in education at the College of William and Mary and an EdD at the University of Virginia (UVa) in in curriculum and instruction, with emphasis areas in mathematics education and philosophical foundations of education.
Jim Gilman, professor of religion and philosophy, will retire after 30 years of service.
Gilman said his favorite philosophy courses to teach are Introduction to Philosophy; Modern Philosophy; and Modern Political Thought, and his favorite religion courses to teach are Christian Faith and Social Justice; Greek Myth and Religion; Religion, Politics, and Public Policy; and Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
“Teaching is my first academic love, and at a small liberal arts college I was privileged to teach both religion and philosophy, which was one of my criteria for choosing MBC,” Gilman said. “My most memorable moments at MBC are with students in the classroom, sometimes wild episodes that still make me chuckle. Other moments are when alumni write and express gratitude for their MBC education.”
Over the years, Gilman has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and as a mediator with Fairfield Mediation Center. He also worked with an organization that provides decent and affordable housing and support services for mentally disabled citizens. In 2003 he was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church, an office that focuses on church and community service. Gilman also enjoys reading poetry, hiking, music, concerts, museums, and camping.
He and his wife, Rosemary, plan to retire to the Seattle area, which is his hometown, spending more time with his two children, five siblings, and “plenty of nieces and nephews.” He also plans to continue writing and publishing, including a book out this spring, Christian Faith, Justice, and a Politics of Mercy: The Benevolent Community. He also is finishing another manuscript, How to Resolve Conflict: An Introductory Mediation Manual.
“What made these years so magnificently fine for me were the people, students, faculty, and staff. MBC people made my day, every day,” he said. “Department colleagues were a blessing, and students even managed to keep me awake during class. I will miss students and colleagues the most.”
Housekeeper Martha Hamrick has worked at Mary Baldwin for 32 years, primarily in the Woodson Residence Hall and Kable House.
“She is a loyal, faithful, employee,” said Sarah Cash, Hamrick’s supervisor. “She even worked when she was sick. She is a good cleaner, a good housekeeper.”
Hamrick also made an impression on students, said alumna Trisha Vaughan Long ’08.
“She always greeted me with a warm hello and asked how I was doing that day,” Long said. “It was kind of like kissing your mom goodbye in the morning. It was always reassuring to talk with her.”
Lundy Pentz, associate professor of biology, will retire after 34 years of service. In addition to his work on the faculty, Pentz has served as associate faculty marshal for 26 years and parliamentarian for the last five. He also has been the “go-to person for biology equipment that has stopped working and for experiments that haven’t started working yet,” Pentz said. “And any time a colleague in [Carpenter] Academic has a funny smell in the office or funny-tasting water, I seem to be the contact person for testing or explaining the problem.”
Pentz notes among his professional highlights having Johns Hopkins University publish the laboratory exercises he had written out in calligraphy and illustrated; being recruited to serve as a scientific review administrator for the United States Army’s Breast Cancer Research Program on a molecular biology and genetics panel; and, more recently, collaborating with Professor of Art History Sally James to develop a technical art history course resulting from the American Art Institute’s program for teachers through a Kress Foundation fellowship.
“It was probably the most fun I have had teaching any course, because it brought together my science and my hobbies, as I have had a long-standing interest in calligraphy and illumination,” Pentz said.
In the Staunton community, Pentz serves on the vestry and the worship committee at Trinity Episcopal Church, serving as lay reader and lay Eucharistic minister. He recently joined the Augusta County Railway Historical Society and Museum and has helped set up and operate model railway displays.
After retirement, Pentz will offer a course for UVa’s Osher Lifetime Learning Institute, or OLLI, program on the medical applications of basic science, among many hobbies and travel plans. He will also return to campus each Commencement to hand-letter Latin honors on diplomas — as long as his hand remains steady.
Pentz said there are many things he will miss about Mary Baldwin College, including “leading the faculty in procession down the Administration Building steps and into First Presbyterian Church for Founders’ Day on a crisp October morning, working with colleagues in so many disciplines whose love of learning and ideas is so strong, and, above all, seeing the light of comprehension and interest appear in a student’s eyes and knowing that I had somehow helped that happen.”
One of the most anticipated events during Reunion Weekend is the annual awards presentation. This year’s event followed MBC President Pamela Fox’s remarks about the momentum and future plans of the college on Saturday morning. Alumnae/i from all classes gathered to congratulate award recipients.
Emily Smith Medallion
Named in honor of distinguished MBC alumna Emily McKelden Smith, this award was created by the MBC Board of Trustees to recognize alumnae/i who have made outstanding contributions to the college, their churches, communities, and beyond.
An accomplished professional and avid volunteer for a long list of organizations, Claire Lewis “Yum” Arnold ’69 is chairwoman of the Campaign Cabinet, offering expert guidance for Ever Ahead: The Campaign for Mary Baldwin College. She also served on the MBC Board of Trustees for 19 years and was the chairwoman for five years. Arnold is chief executive officer and co-founder of Leapfrog Services Inc., a remote information technology management and solutions company. Her professional experience includes growing NCC L.P., a local consumer goods distribution company, into one of Georgia’s five largest privately held companies, as well as serving as marketing manager for Coca-Cola USA. Arnold engages with her local community in many ways, volunteering her services to enhance higher education, increase conservation efforts in Georgia, and much more. She has been honored with numerous awards, including the Atlanta Rotary Club’s Armin Maier Community Service Award in 2009 and induction into the YWCA of Greater Atlanta Academy of Women Achievers.
Jane Townes ’69 has been the model of a life-long learner — a philosophy Mary Baldwin College continues to promote among its students. After graduating from MBC, Townes earned a master of arts from the College of William and Mary and a doctorate in history from Middle Tennessee State University. Today, she is a public historian and managing partner of Townes Building Partnership. She has participated in far-ranging civic activities, including leadership on the local library board and the Community Development Center board, an organization serving developmentally delayed children, special needs adults, and at-risk families across multiple counties. Throughout her professional career and community involvement, she has remained active at Mary Baldwin. She served on the Alumnae/i Association Board of Directors for nine years and served two terms on the Advisory Board of Visitors, in addition to many other volunteer activities. Among her accomplishments are earning a Middle Tennessee State University Provost’s PhD Dissertation Fellowship and the Shelbyville/Bedford County Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Leadership Award.
Emily Wirsing Kelly Leadership Award
Artist and former Alumnae/i Association Board of Directors President Emily Wirsing Kelly ’63 passed away in 1985. Her husband, Timothy Kelly, established a leadership award and a student scholarship in her memory through the Kelly Foundation. The Emily Wirsing Kelly Leadership Award recognizes alumnae/i who have demonstrated outstanding service and excellence in leadership on behalf of Mary Baldwin College.
Cynthia Luck Haw ’79 has devoted her life to working with young people, serving at various points as a teacher, mentor, and advocate. She taught elementary school for several years, earning recognition for her ability to connect with her students, and was named Outstanding Young Educator of the Year at the Johnson Street School. She is on the Board of Advisors for Elijah House Academy and is an active member of her church, where she taught Sunday school for 10 years, served as deacon, and assisted with youth mission trips. Despite her many commitments, Haw continues to make time for Mary Baldwin. She was a member of the Board of Trustees for 10 years, served terms on both the Alumnae/i Association Board and Advisory Board of Visitors, and has assisted with notable fundraising initiatives, including a matching gift challenge to encourage Reunion giving to the annual fund in 2009.
Community Service Award
A passion for service comes naturally to Michelle “Chelle” Jackson ’89, who was both an enlisted and a commissioned officer in the United States Army before earning a master’s degree in computer information systems and beginning a career as a paralegal. She actively searches for ways to make a difference in her community — identifying vital services and mobilizing efforts to enact them. She has been a Sunday school teacher for children ages 6 and under and a mentor for teenagers at her church for the past 15 years. She helped organize activities for feeding the homeless and recently launched a support group within her church for veterans and active duty officers returning home called Healing Our Warriors. The group offers spiritual and emotional support to help members of the military transition back to civilian life. Outside of church, Jackson is a member of The Black Doll Affair, a philanthropic organization devoted to empowering black girls to develop positive self-images.
Community of Faith Awards
No matter where she and her family have made their home, Anne Warren Hoskins ’64 has always sought out a church where she could foster and share her faith. While living in North Carolina, South Carolina, Maine, and Virginia, Hoskins formed an extensive church community and has made countless contributions to each congregation. Through the years, she has taught Sunday school, directed vacation Bible school, and served on the vestry and church council. She is currently treasurer for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Outside of church, she has been a loyal volunteer for Junior League for 39 years — advocating for community engagement and improvement. She is also a member of the Hillside Garden Club and has worked with many other volunteer groups over the years, from the historical society and hospital auxiliary boards to the Parent Teacher Association.
Phyllis Short Marcom ’64 has shared her faith in unique and varied ways, within her own church and beyond. Her contributions to her community often have an educational focus, and Marcom does not hesitate to offer her leadership skills and knowledge to help others. She taught high school English, wrote Sunday school curriculum, greeted newcomers to her neighborhood as a Welcome Wagon hostess, and worked as an assistant manager of a Christian bookstore. She was elected president of the Virginia Baptist Minister’s Wives and served as secretary for both the hospital auxiliary and Junior Women’s Club. Aside from teaching Sunday school and vacation Bible school, she led women’s Bible study groups and served as president of the Women’s Missionary Union at three churches. When she’s not organizing or participating in a church activity, Marcom teaches English as a Second Language classes, volunteers at the Moss Free Clinic, tutors refugees, and prepares meals for a respite house.
Career Achievement Award
Ingrid Erickson Vax ’89 has distinguished herself in the marketing industry over the last 20 years by putting her heart into her work. Her motto is to leave situations better than how she found them — giving back and making an impact — and nothing makes a difference like fully investing yourself in what you do. Today, Vax is director of business development and agency relations at Spurrier Media Group, a strategic media planning agency, and she has contributed to campaigns such as marketing national outreach programs for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Her work has reached a wide audience, communicating services for the homeless, senior citizens, children, and more. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Washington DC Ad Club, an organization for advertising professionals in that area, and she is co-chair of the Events Committee. Prior to joining Spurrier, Ingrid worked in a variety of marketing and advertising roles at organizations including Volvo, Challenger Center for Space Science Education, Qorvis Communications, and Sallie Mae.
Look for more images of Reunion Weekend coming soon on the MBC Flickr page!
Last week, the Nu Sigma Chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma, the national Criminal Justice Honor Society, inducted 10 new members and two honorary faculty members, Dan Stuhlsatz and John Wells, during its second induction ceremony. Inductees were Gabriella Perry, Paige Reed, Todd Mattox Raven Jackson (not pictured), Melanie Vargas, Maria Neff, Dominique Munn (not pictured), Caitlin Novak, Kayla Cable, and Jaelynn Bennett. They joined chapter officers KaWanda Temple, president; Krystal Jones, vice president; Charity Martin, secretary; and Evenlyn Foster, treasurer.
Associate Professor of Sociology Dan Stuhlsatz presents the third in a series of faculty essays about Mary Baldwin’s 2013–14 theme, Courage. The writings, which appear in The Cupola Now this semester, are intended to deepen understanding of the theme throughout the campus community. The four contributing faculty members represent each School of Excellence.
Stuhlsatz’s research includes work on educational attainment, race, religion, and environmental issues. His areas of interest include social movements, environmental sociology, community service, social inequality, sociology of education, sociology of religion, and mountaineering.
The annual college theme is chosen to unite the Mary Baldwin community around a central idea that fosters civic and global engagement. The theme gives definition to the academic year and a way to link together the work of students, faculty, and staff from all disciplines and programs.
Courage is Everywhere
When I teach about social movements, I am often amazed at the remarkable courage of those who join and lead efforts to “change the world.” One focus of the course is on “nonviolent” movements. Gandhi was one of the most influential theorists and practitioners of nonviolence. For this reason, I usually show the first 30 minutes or so of the film documenting his life. This covers Gandhi’s early work in South Africa.
One scene comes to mind. Imagine yourself at the front of a group of protesters marching down a dusty road on a hot day toward a mine. Your purpose? To oppose “pass laws” intended to control the movements of “colored people.” In front of you, ranks of policeman on horses appear, slowly moving toward you, in formation. Their leader shouts orders; they stop and draw their weapons. And then they charge, their horses spurred to a full run. Their purpose is clear: your physical destruction. Your response? All of you lie down. When the horses arrive, their masters cannot force them to trample you, and for some time their hooves are frantically pounding in front of your face on the ground — before the horses, and their mounts, retreat to where they came from.
We all recognize the remarkable courage in this scene. When we consider a life such as Gandhi’s, courage can seem a rare, exceptional gift, something that is beyond the reach of most of us. However, sociological analysis would indicate otherwise. If courage is the will to act in the face of fear and uncertainty, then history tells us that courage is a characteristic of every generation. In addition, the dynamics of group formation tell us that courage is an elemental property of social life. It is there among us, in us, in every social relationship and in every enduring group.
Consider history. Every decade of the long nightmare of segregation produced its compliment of brave souls who violated the laws and customs mandating separate facilities, or who married and formed families across racial lines. Some of these actions were formally documented, but I think that we can assume that most such actions were lost to memory, as is most of history. It was only when the historical circumstances were “right” that a few of these acts of courage in a particular generation became the collective courage of a nonviolent movement that changed history.
Consider the process of creating and maintaining groups, the “atoms” of social life. There are two steps to this. The first is the ability to understand others and to create, with them, a world filled with meaning. We can see the courage in others, because we can appreciate, to a remarkable extent, how the world looks through their eyes. In the second step, we use this understanding to create the rules and boundaries of group life, the norms that enable us to work together, to live together, and to create together. The group formation process is simple, yet profound: we constantly sanction each other. We approve, or disapprove, of everyone, all the time, subtly, openly. We judge, blame, thank, frown, smile, confront, suggest, advise, oppose, support, caution, encourage, warn — every day. In this way, we create the content and boundaries of every group.
For each of us, this means that social life is a constant negotiation for a respectable self-identity — that is, a self-identity approved by others. There is an elemental courage in the presentation of our selves to each other everyday. Courage is required to deal with those who choose to disapprove of us, and perhaps to stigmatize us, reducing our identity to a few characteristics that they happen to find objectionable. There’s a basic vulnerability to everyday social life that requires an element of courage if we are to elicit and maintain the respect of others. At least some respect from at least some others is essential to our survival.
This elemental courage can develop further in at least two ways. One is the capacity to respect ourselves, to honestly observe and understand ourselves — warts and all — in a constructive, rather than in a denigrating, manner. Another is the capacity to extend empathy and respect to those that we have chosen to disapprove of.
Another part of the film “Gandhi” depicts these elements of courage. This scene takes place in a community that Gandhi has established in which everyone has relatively equal social status. For example, everyone is expected to take their turn at “raking and covering the latrine,” a task traditionally relegated to the “untouchables” of Gandhi’s native India. Gandhi’s wife, Kasturbai, refuses this task. His response is sudden anger and in his rage he attempts to expel her from the community. Then, as suddenly as his anger emerged, he steps back and sees himself, “warts and all,” as a source of pain and oppression. He finds the courage to do so constructively, and to apologize. In response, she reconsiders and chooses to rake and cover the latrine. I think that their coming together, through self-awareness, is one of the greatest acts of mutual courage depicted in the film. This kind of courage is the foundation from which we gain the capacity to become part of the more dramatic events that characterize nonviolent movements.
The ubiquity of courage does not lessen the legacy of such remarkable “change-makers” as Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. It enables us to perform courage with them. It helps us to appreciate that we must stand up for ourselves, understand ourselves, and develop empathy for ourselves and others (all others, everyday) if we are to create the kind of mutual respect that can truly “change the world.”
Members of Mary Baldwin College’s business honor society have welcomed alumna Mary Beth Smyth ’47 to their ranks. At the Sigma Beta Delta induction ceremony this month, Smyth joined eight students to become members of the organization. Smyth and her late husband, H. Gordon Smyth, have given generously to the college over the years. The Smyth Leadership Lecture series has drawn to campus luminaries such as Benazir Bhutto, Venus Williams, Cokie Roberts, and Geraldine Ferraro. The Smyth Business Program brings regional and national business leaders to campus for public lectures and classroom visits. Most recently, the couple gave $1 million to establish the H. Gordon and Mary Beth Smyth Chair in Business Administration, now held by Assistant Professor of Business Administration Joe Sprangel.