Recent Honors Scholar Spotlights
Steven DeVerteuil was recently highlighted by the University! Read the story here.
by Erin Matuczinski
Biomedical and music double major Aber Gadelrab has always had a passion for medicine. While she first came to campus with the intention of becoming a doctor, guidance and support from her academic advisors has led her to discover her love for public health. With great intelligence paired with a big heart, Gadelrab has meaningful life plans.
“I have always been interested in helping underserved communities with increased issues with healthcare affordability and access,” said Gadelrab. “I have always and will always think that healthcare is a human right for ALL, and access to it should be affordable.”
After obtaining her bachelor’s degree at Mary Washington in 2023, Gadelrab looks to get a master’s degree in public health, and then attend medical school. She is currently eyeing schools on the East coast, finding particular interest in public health programs at universities like UNC-Chapel Hill, Penn State, University of Pennsylvania, and Boston University. Additionally, her position as the secretary of UMW’s Pre-Health society has helped introduce her to the field.
Even as a commuter student, Gadelrab is highly active in a variety of other campus groups. She is a member of the women’s ultimate frisbee team Mary Massacre, stands as the vice president of the Arab Culture Club, and is a volunteer Washington tour guide for prospective students and families. “All of these [groups] seem different to the eye, but they connect because these clubs and activities put together make-up my interests and define me as a person,” explained Gadelrab.
Within the Honors Program, the City as Text™ Program has been a staple activity for Gadelrab. She began as a freshman participant herself and recently acted as a student leader for the Summer 2021 session. Welcoming the upcoming freshman students to Mary Washington and the Fredericksburg community adds so much significance to the college experience for her. Seasonal Honors events also pique Gadelrab’s interest. A particular favorite is the annual gingerbread building competition that takes place before winter break. “It was a great time to just have a friendly competition and hope that your house does not fall apart before the judging,” Gadelrab said. “Especially that it allowed me to celebrate both of my friends’ birthdays in a fun manner.”
Gadelrab most appreciates the “never say no” mentality of Honors advisors Dr. Slunt and Dr. Scanlon, which encourages creativity to run rampant and brings an abundance of motivation to always stay active in the program.
by Erin Matuczinski
As co-president of Eagle Bhangra, Anoli Mehta has been involved with the cultural community at UMW since the beginning of her freshman year. She helps choreograph and organize dance
performances, as well as join in on the annual celebration of Taste of Asia. This event has brought Mehta closer with the minority communities at UMW and acts as one of her favorite Honors Program co-curricular events. “The Co-Curricular Events have been a huge part of my involvement in the Honors Program as they have pushed me to combine my academic experience with the multitude of other opportunities on campus,” Mehta said.
With a biomedical science major and neuroscience minor, that academic experience can be a challenging one. However, Mehta’s motivation and persistence has led to her being able to graduate early; she says, “The ability for me to be challenged in Honors-level science classes has helped me develop a solid foundation for the goals I want to achieve!”
All of the hard work in school is leading up to Mehta’s dream job of becoming a medical speech language pathologist. The interest in this profession began when she was shadowing the Poly Trauma department at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in DC. “I fell in love with the culmination of the creative and medical aspects of the career, and that’s when I decided it was the right fit for me,” said Mehta. “It is a job that has everything I am looking for in a career and allows me to fulfill my main goal in life to help make a difference in the lives of others!”
With a profession as advanced as a medical speech language pathologist, graduate school is a must. Mehta is currently looking at programs at James Madison University, George Mason University, and Longwood University to attend in the coming years. She may have spent less time at UMW than the typical student due to graduating early and restrictions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, but Mehta appreciates her remarkable experience nonetheless.
“Attending UMW,” says Mehta, “although it got cut short, has been one of my happiest core memories this far in my life. I have had the opportunity to make connections with professors at a personal and professional level that I couldn’t have imagined being able to do anywhere else.”
by Erin Matuczinski
Biochemistry and English double major Hannah Harris wasted no time getting involved in the Honors Program from the moment she began her career at UMW. As a freshman she joined the Honors Scholars Advisory Council (HSAC), working with other students to plan social events and field trips. She continued to serve on HSAC through her sophomore year, quickly adapting to planning and hosting online events during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.That summer she also acted as a student leader for the City as Text (CAT) program, an experience she greatly adored when she was a freshman participant. This love continued as she became a student coordinator for the program the following year, and, as a junior, she also serves as HSAC Chair.
“I would say my favorite experience in the program has been working as a City as Text student coordinator this [past] fall,” said Harris. “We piloted a new version of the program with an eight week course, and it was really rewarding to see a lot of the planning and organization Carleigh, Eli, and I did come together into a successful experience for the students.”
While CAT was a great way for Harris to meet her first companions on campus, staying involved in the program has kept her close to her best friends.
It has continued to build her connections with advisors Dr. Slunt and Dr. Scanlon, both of whom she sincerely thanks for their guidance and support through her application and acceptance into the George Washington School of Medicine Early Acceptance Program. “While in medical school, I want to pursue a scholarly concentration in Medical Humanities which will connect nicely to my English major as well as my upcoming Honors Capstone project, where I will be exploring how literature obeys the scientific laws of nature,” she said.
Harris also looks towards earning a certificate in public health, as well as eventually writing a book about her experiences. But in the meantime, Harris stays busy at UMW. She has lab aided for genetics for two years, as well as being involved in the Chi Alpha campus ministry and multiple on-campus jobs. She says, “I work in the Office of Admissions as a Washington Tour Guide, so I get to speak with prospective students; many of them express interest in the Honors program, and I get to gush about all the wonderful stuff we get to do!”
Additionally, working as a peer mentor has connected her with incoming students and has provided an opportunity to share her own collegiate experiences. “Both of the FSEMs I have worked with are Honors-designated, so I always try to be a resource to my students regarding Honors requirements as well as encourage them to really get involved in the program,” Harris says.
Harris anticipates that the strong mentoring relationships built in the past academic year will continue to thrive and replicate, strengthening the Honors community for years to come.
by Erin Matuczinski
As a junior in the Secondary Education program, Eli Keith’s leadership roles within the Honors Program have given him the opportunity to guide others through new experiences, something that has greatly amplified his love for teaching. He is currently majoring in English-Creative Writing, but the exposure to so many opportunities has led him to strive towards eventually achieving an array of subject certifications.
“My time in the Honors Program and at UMW has given me the chance to interact with many different disciplines that I enjoy,” said Keith. “I’m excited to work towards having the ability to work with students on all sorts of subjects and projects.”
Keith began his time in the Honors Program as a freshman participant of the 2019 City as Text Program, which he credits as one of his favorite events. It helped him feel at home not only by being familiarized with the area, but also by meeting his closest friends and roommates. In 2021, he became a student coordinator for the program to plan the experience for incoming students, one that was revamped to include an 8-week course in conjunction with the city walkabout. He says, “I’ve come to enjoy this program so much because it’s perfect for helping new college students feel at home in a new place and meet other students like themselves.”
Staying involved in the program is not a challenge for Keith, thanks to opportunities circulated in the weekly bulletin and socializing in the Honors Commons. He has recently fallen in love with the weekly community meditation sessions, which provide a relaxing environment to revive with fellow scholars on Thursday nights. His busy schedule as a double major, a Writing Center consultant, and a member of various clubs makes this time such a necessity.
“My favorite part of being involved in a few different groups,” said Keith, “is that I’ve met and become friends with lots of different people, and at a smaller school that means I often see people I know on any given day.”
And those friends may just be the most important part. Keith hopes that prospective students will see the Honors Program as a way to join a productive academic environment surrounded by other scholars who also wish to challenge themselves. The companionship of the community brings endless opportunities to learn something new.
by Erin Matuczinski
Throughout the past four years, senior Carleigh Rahn has been a part of just about every student experience that UMW has had to offer.
She became a Community Outreach and Resources (COAR) student staff member her first year, planning and participating in meaningful service opportunities such as campus and river cleanup events. But even with such a busy school year schedule, summer breaks are no time off for Rahn. She has worked as a first-year Orientation Leader, and most recently, the Lead Student Coordinator for Honors City as Text. She specifically credits her time with the Honors Program for helping her obtain real-world readiness.
“When I’m scrambling to get three credit cards for 16 City at Text groups, I feel those skills kick in and there’s a level of confidence that I really do gain from solving a problem like that,” said Rahn. “That’s what I mean when I say the Honors Program encourages growth. Not in the cheesy, inauthentic way. But in the real, life skills, big adult issues that are mine-to-solve way.”
Rahn is currently studying a major in English and pursuing a Master’s in Secondary Education to eventually become a middle or high school English teacher. Being involved in an array of academics and extracurriculars all at once has given her the opportunity to weave together projects and be tested for flexibility. She
particularly appreciates the motivational environment brought on by the Honors Program.
“There is a strong sense of intellectual community within the Honors Program,” says Rahn. “I’ve felt it since my freshman year. City as Text is a great introduction to that community and that feeling; I’ve loved being a part of it.”
To Rahn, the Program’s popular perks like pre-registration and free printing aren’t as important as the strong relationships that have been built with fellow scholars and advisors Dr. Slunt and Dr. Scanlon. It’s the people that make her experience so enjoyable.
“I find myself seriously gravitating towards programs and opportunities where the people are the most prominent part of the program,” said Rahn. “I, by principle, do not ‘do things’ just to ‘do things.’ I become invested in programs and opportunities where the PEOPLE are the most important part.”
Rahn wants to take all of her beneficial collegiate experiences and implement them in her own classroom one day. But for now, she hopes for the growth of the Honors Program and for the students within it to continue making real connections.
“I also am big on Community with a capital C,” Rahn said. “The Honors Program has the potential to be a real home and community for people. It’s that for me. Those involved in the program know that too, and we are all working on making that happen.”
by Erin Matuczinski
Senior Honors scholar Sydney Baylor witnessed the great success of her internship with the unveiling of Fredericksburg’s new historical marker commemorating the first stop of the Civil Rights Freedom Rides. The ceremony was held at the site of the former Fredericksburg Depot on Sept. 22nd, 2021, and hosted several important figures such as Freedom Rider Dion Diamond, Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw and Vice Mayor Charlie Frye, Jr.
“I was honored that they asked me to read the names of the original thirteen Freedom Riders,” said Baylor. “Meeting Mr. Dion Diamond was a tremendous honor.”
For over a year, Baylor worked diligently to uncover the local history of the Civil Rights Movement. She conducted and transcribed Oral Histories, cataloged their results and searched through archives of historic photos, interviews and newspaper clips. She credits the aid of multiple University professors for helping her understand the lifestyle and historical significance of the time period. And while the curation of the marker was a success, there is still more work to be done.
“We want to take our time to dutifully tell the story of the Civil Rights Movement in Fredericksburg,” said Baylor “Regardless of how long it takes.”
Chris Williams, Assistant Director of the James Farmer Multicultural Center, mentored Baylor, along with Fredericksburg Tourism Sales Manager Victoria Matthews. The two began formulating the project for the marker after traveling along the original path of the Freedom Riders.
“It was a historic day for the city of Fredericksburg,” said Williams. “I was pleased to play a large role in making the effort come together.”
Baylor originally approached Williams to be involved in the project due to her personal connection to the Civil Rights Movement. She recognized the “determination, bravery, and courage” exemplified by her grandmother, who faced discrimination as an African American woman in the 1960s, as well as in the present day. Her passion extends into her academic career, where she is currently majoring in American Studies and wishes to pursue a master’s degree in History. Doing similar work in museums, specifically the Smithsonian, is her dream.
“I learned so much through this internship and met so many amazing people,” said Baylor. “If work like this allows me to make these valuable connections, I could see myself making an enjoyable career out of it!”
by Emma Snyder
If you’ve ever heard about COAR, a community-service organization on the campus of Mary Washington, the name Elisabeth DellaRova hopefully rings a bell. DellaRova came to UMW with an Associate’s degree in English under her belt from high school. Her goals were to complete the English major and a business minor within the next few years, but she knew from the start that she wanted to be involved at UMW beyond the educational aspects. DellaRova is passionate about helping people, and sought a club on campus that would help her expand on this interest. During her first semester, she was drawn to COAR, or the Community Outreach And Resources club at UMW.
“I knew I wanted to do something involving service, because I wanted to get involved in the Fredericksburg community beyond campus,” DellaRova said.
In her own words, COAR is unique because it’s completely student-run. It has its own network of volunteers, staff, interns, and a council. It also hosts a variety of weekly programs where student staff drive volunteers out to various sites to work in the community of Fredericksburg. Additionally, COAR puts on community-wide volunteer events every semester.
Volunteering at the Thurmen Brisben Center was DellaRova’s initial interest during her first semester with COAR. The work involves playing with children and entertaining them while their parents are working or doing other activities at the shelter site. As soon as a spot opened for DellaRova to lead the program as COAR staff, she took it.
From there on out, DellaRova quickly rose through the ranks of this organization. She found herself as the staff director, which is the highest position in COAR. She helped run bigger events such as “Into the Streets” and “Pumpkin Palooza,” which attract other students who aren’t usually involved with the organization and the community of Fredericksburg. Though she loved helping with these projects, DellaRova’s personal passions were found in the Thurmen Brisben Center and Downtown Greens, which encourages environmental care within the community.
Downtown Greens was also her project for Honors Service Learning, which requires Honors scholars to complete 20 volunteer hours. DellaRova went above and beyond this requirement, clocking in over 100 hours at Downtown Greens. After this commendable service, she acquired a grant to become an intern there. On Giving Day, she helped the organization raise twice the amount of money made previously.
“Reflection on service is really, really important,” DellaRova said of the Honors Service requirement. “I don’t know if I would have done the Downtown Greens internship if it wasn’t for Honors Service Learning. It was very helpful to have [Director of the Honors Program] Dr. Slunt’s support.”
DellaRova’s exceptional work will leave her legacy behind at COAR and UMW long after her graduation in December 2019. For now, she’s focused on the future, where she has her dream job lined up in New Jersey working for a company that makes technology for non-profits.
by Emma Snyder
Back in high school, Sarah Parker was known as the “angry feminist” among her peers, even being referred to as a “feminazi” by a fellow student when she crossed the stage at her graduation. When she came to Mary Washington, Parker brazenly enrolled in the freshman seminar “I’m Not a Feminist, But…” to explore her passion in women’s rights. When Dr. Kristin Marsh asked who in the class was interested in pursuing a major in Women’s & Gender Studies, Parker was the only student to raise her hand.
Women’s & Gender Studies, or WGST, is still a small major at UMW. Less than 20 students are declared in it. All of the faculty are ones from different departments who wanted to bring this program to life. Because it’s a 33-credit major, the faculty often encourage those declared to double-major, which is made easier by the interdisciplinary nature of the program. Parker chose English with a concentration in Creative Writing, which allowed her to bring feminist theories into her writing.
As she continued with these majors, Parker noted that she hardly knew any of the other majors in the WGST program. She decided to create a club akin to the on-campus Creative Writing and Biology clubs where declared majors could start getting to know each other.
“I wanted a space where Women’s and Gender Studies majors could come together and connect with each other and also connect with the faculty and everybody can work together and find opportunities through that,” Parker said on her creation of the club.
Parker was admitted to the Honors Program in the midst of all these growing responsibilities, and she believes this encouraged her to do more with her academic career than she initially planned.
“I feel like being part of a group on campus that’s so focused on academic integrity and also aspiring to bigger things — it’s made me someone who knows that I can take on more than just the minimum. Like right now, I’m in the Honors Program, and I have two majors, I work for the Women’s & Gender Studies department, I’m running the club, and I’m also working in Dodd Auditorium as a supervisor. I wouldn’t have taken on so many responsibilities if it weren’t for the culture in the Honors Program.”
With plans to graduate in 2021, Parker is already focusing on doing her independent study for WGST alongside Dr. Kate Haffey.
“The topic for it is going to be a literary analysis of dystopian literature and how the effect of the romanticization of female oppression in dystopia affects women in our time and in the past and throughout history – how it takes what’s fiction and puts it onto the rest of the world. Female oppression and tragedy in connection to women and violence against women, when that’s romanticized, it becomes easy to ignore the real violence and oppression,” Parker explained when asked about the independent study, which she is completing during her junior year.
For now, Parker is focused on finishing the next two years at Mary Washington and plotting out this independent study. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career that’s focused in activism and equality, foundations which are rooted in her passion for women’s rights.
Congratulations to the following UMW 2019 Honors graduates who were featured by the university for their outstanding
scholarship, leadership, and skills!
Milen Mehari (double major in English and Women’s and Gender Studies, minor in Digital Studies) emerged early as a leader at UMW, revitalizing the African Student Union, building programs and student trips related to social justice, and reflecting on it all in her poetry. Read more about Mili in this feature piece.
John Cronin (Political Science) was named UMW’s 2019 Male Student-Athlete. A former captain of the basketball team, John was named by Governor Ralph Northam as a Virginia Management Fellow, a paid internship that gives him the two-year opportunity to study Virginia government and prepare for his next step as a leader. Read more about John’s undergraduate work and future plans.
Ren Koloni (double major Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies) drew on their experience as a nonbinary individual with several disabilities to ground important research in the intersections of queerness and autism and did linguistic studies of the medical discourse used by those in gender transition. Ren will continue their studies on a scholarship to George Washington University’s graduate program in English. Ren was featured by the university in this longer piece.
Corey Staier (Computer Science, minor in Digital Studies) is heading to a graduate school program in Game Design at the University of Southern California. At UMW, he captained the men’s rowing team and managed to work in 40 more credits than he needed to graduate, in fields as diverse as Physics and Contemplative Studies. Read more about Corey’s multifaceted journey through UMW here.