By ALICEN HACKNEY
During the January 31 University Faculty Council meeting, President Paino commented on the perspective growth of the school, but in doing so implied that he was having trouble finding what was valuable about the Mary Washington experience.
“We need more students applying to college proactively saying,‘I want to go to Mary Washington,’” said Paino, “I don’t think we can say we have enough experiences to say that,‘this is what Mary Washington is about.’”
In reality, there is so much that is unique and valuable about the UMW experience. Each and every student has a reason to be here, a reason they chose this university over any other. In this article, many of these reasons will be highlighted.
When looking at colleges, many students focus on the options and availability of majors. Personally, I was looking for a college where I could pursue and major in journalism, and I found a specific kind of experience here. Mary Washington’s offer for students to be able to create special majors is unique, and merely adds to the list of other already available majors.
“When I showed interest in business during visits before freshman year, the advisors were so helpful. They gave me all of the required information and helped with suggestions for outside of class opportunities,” said sophomore Justine Purdy.
UMW professors notably do all they can to make sure students have the resources and information they need to make the right choices about their majors. This is part of what makes UMW great.
“I really appreciate the inclusivity at Mary Washington; like how there’s no audition to get into the Theatre Department. It made it a lot easier for me when I decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore,” said senior Sarah Jones. “Also, FSEM advisor and professor/student relationships are so unique at UMW, and it just wouldn’t work in a larger setting.”
Another incredibly important aspect of student life at UMW is the location and overall closeness of a no-car campus. It only takes 20 to 25 minutes for the average student to get from one end of campus to the other at a diligent walking speed.
“When I visited other colleges, places like George Mason were just too big. Sometimes their students had to catch a bus to get to classes or they had to walk upwards of a half hour across campus,” said Purdy
“Transitioning from high school to a compact campus was extremely appealing to me,” said Sarah Jones. “This is the perfect university for people who didn’t want the large campus feel of places like JMU or GMU.”
The consensus across campus is that the most important aspect of Mary Washington is its size. The small class sizes are incredibly unique and important to the education UMW offers. With many classes capping around 15 to 30 spots, students get a specialized experience, more one-on-one time with professors, and more in depth feedback about assignments and writings. By accepting an increasing number of students in coming years, Mary Washington is risking losing the valuable small class sizes and overall space on campus that students so appreciate. This poses a potential problem.
“It’s more important to grow by ensuring all majors and departments have space and buildings for classes and offices, by adding professors and class options, and by increasing the number of writing and speaking intensive classes,” said Sarah Jones. “There is already a lot of competition for spots in classes as it is.”
“One of my favorite things about campus is that you can go out and sit on a bench and relax, listen to music, or watch wildlife, and often there aren’t too many people,” said Purdy.
As for the social life on campus and in Fredericksburg as a whole, the area tends to be calm and the night life isn’t terribly exciting. While that can be seen as a bad thing on larger campuses, Mary Washington students place higher importance in the educational experiences and down time on weekends for studying and spending relaxed time with friends.
“It’s more about living life and learning, than about the movie college experience,” said Sarah Jones.
“Our mental health is important, and it’s important for students with anxiety to have the space they need to live and study successfully,” said senior Tori Power.
There are many ways we could expand that would benefit the students already here socially, physically, and mentally. Some examples would be adding a football team, adding the option for more single rooms on campus, and adding more classes at times that work better for students with outside jobs or kids, like night classes.
“A good way to expand would be to increase handicap accessibility across campus. Solutions could be to extend the width of the sidewalks, add wheelchair ramps, and get golf carts with better accommodations in order to pick up wheelchair students,” said senior Melissa Kong.
While the idea of growing in the coming years is appealing, we cannot let our eyes get bigger than our stomachs. Mary Washington is already such a unique and beautiful campus with a special kind of educational experience. Our focus needs to be on growing from within and celebrating the aspects of UMW that are already so great.
“The historic integrity and size are what put UMW on the map, it wouldn’t be good to take that away,” said Power.
“By expanding, UMW would be losing it’s uniqueness that attracts certain people,” said Kong.
“I hope, moving forward, UMW keeps its small school and community feel,” said senior Camille Jones.