BY SARAH SMITH
Does Mary Washington have an inferiority complex?
This topic was one discussed Tuesday, Sept. 9 at President Judy Hample’s first open forum. It is the first of five forums this semester, arranged to identify the issues facing the University today.
Faculty and staff members spoke up about UMW’s perceived status, its progress toward living up to its relatively new “university” title and how to best serve the needs of current and incoming students.
“Listening to a conversation [among faculty], I got a sense of an inferiority complex within the state. We are actually a better institution than we often think ourselves to be,” said Hample in a discussion of the school’s self image.
A potential contributing factor Hample proposed is an incomplete mental transition to “university” status.
Forum participant Jami Bryan, library manager at the College of Graduate and Professional Studies, addressed the issue of the college becoming a university.
“I wonder if we didn’t stamp the University of Mary Washington on something because that’s what we’re hoping to be, but we stamped it before we were there yet,” Bryan said.
Many audience members agreed that a lack of solidarity between the Stafford and Fredericksburg campuses detracts from a unifying “university” sentiment. “Right now, we’re two separate campuses with two separate missions. Together we can be a University, but we all have to be on board with that,” Bryan said.
One mission on which both campuses can agree is to draw the attention of prospective students. “We’re always reacting to things; how can we have a proactive stance on offering programs?” Director of Education Programs Brenda Vogel said.
Assistant Professor and Director of Geographic Information Systems Brian Rizzo described the expansion of both the Washington, DC and Richmond metropolitan areas toward UMW. “Our market is going to expand,” he said. “You’ve just got to keep growing.”
Rizzo also stressed the need to keep close tabs on student data and demographics to better understand where the University’s concrete strengths and weaknesses lie. “Everybody is good at qualifying who we are, but few quantify it,” he said.
“We need someone who is attending to these things: to think up a targeted audience that we should be marketing to, or how to get discounted rates for ‘x’ so we can offer a new program and be competitive. Not only do we need to market ourselves better, we’ve got to be proactive,” Vogel said.
Another concern for the University is funding. Vice President for Administration and Finance Rick Hurley explained that the Commonwealth of Virginia allocates funds based on enrollment. Increasing enrollment means more money from both tuition and the general fund.
“Our issue is that we are landlocked in Fredericksburg,” Hample said. Mary Washington therefore has stable enrollment and does not get additional funds.
Consequently, it is important to allocate the school’s resources most efficiently. Determining UMW’s most pressing needs is Hample’s primary motivation for conducting the forums.
The background information Hample gathers will be the basis for a five- to seven-year plan for the University. Four forums remain before Hample delivers a State of the University address later this semester describing how she intends to use the input.
All members of the University can participate in the forums. “Faculty and staff will be invited, but interested students who wish to attend are certainly welcome,” Hample said.