Senior Madeline Killian isn’t just hitting the books to study female scientists in 18th century Spain. In December she will travel to Madrid to delve into discoveries made by Junta de Damas de Honor y Mérito, the country’s first civic organization for women.
“They conducted groundbreaking medical experiments to improve infant health, and the group still exists today,” Madeline says. A physics and Spanish major at the University of Mary Washington, she plans to write her thesis on the topic.
This unique opportunity to explore Spain’s national archives and historical sites – and many other high-impact learning experiences for students – were made possible by UMW’s Beyond the Classroom Endowment (BTC). Established two years ago, the initiative supports student experiential learning, including independent research, internships, travel to academic conferences, and study abroad.
“We wanted to create a fund that allows us to direct the money where it is most needed,” said College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Dean Keith Mellinger. When the cost of student research proposals in fall 2019 totaled twice the budget, he realized “this was the catalyst to finding other ways to fund these projects.”
Gifts to BTC throughout this November, when UMW celebrates undergraduate research, will help unlock a $10,000 gift from 1977 alums Phyllis Quinn and Beth Craig. A Giving Tuesday challenge on Nov. 29 will also help unlock an additional $10,000 from UMW’s CAS Alumni Advisory Board.
Phyllis and Beth both began giving to their alma mater soon after they graduated, increasing their donations over the years. When they learned about BTC, the longtime friends and CAS board members were inspired to team up for the challenge, citing the impact their liberal arts and sciences education had on their lives and public sector careers.
“It makes sense for us to do this together,” says Phyllis, who majored in chemistry and served with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. “It’s money well spent, helping students succeed – and sometimes even fail – as they refine their research.”
Beth, an international relations major, worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Her last job involved overseeing the EnergyStar program to make products, homes, and household appliances more efficient. Her interest in BTC was sparked when Dean Mellinger told the board that even small amounts of money can make a huge difference, she says. “With our help, these students are able to accomplish something they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.”
A Marine Corps veteran, junior Timothy Philbeck came to Mary Washington specifically to conduct research, majoring in biology and minoring in neuroscience. BTC helped him pay for equipment to study dominant behaviors in mice, which can shed light on negative human interactions like bullying, rejection, and isolation. He recently shared what he learned at a Virginia Academy of Science symposium and plans to also present his findings next spring at the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience Symposium.
Senior Devin Thigpen received BTC funds to attend the Association of American Geographers’ Southeastern Conference later this November. There, he and his classmates will team up with other college students from across the state to take back Virginia’s top spot, which they won in 2019, in the Geography Bowl.
“Going to a professional conference will help us make connections to others in our discipline,” says Devin, who is majoring in geography and earning a certificate in geographic information systems (GIS).
Jay Boudreau discovered a passion for biomedical sciences research when they transferred to Mary Washington. The UMW senior now uses phages – bacteria-specific viruses cultivated in a lab – to find new treatments for antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.”
Jay shared their research at the Virginia Academy of Science symposium on Oct. 29, where they earned a research grant, and on Nov. 4, at the Virginia conference of the American Society for Microbiology. And that’s just the start.
“Because of BTC and research opportunities outside of the classroom that have been made available to Mary Washington students, I was able to find a career path in research that I plan to pursue after I graduate.”
Learn more about the research Mary Washington students are doing Beyond the Classroom or make your gift. For information on the BTC endowment, please contact Jeremy Vaughn in the Office of University Advancement at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-654-2063.