University of Mary Washington Top Questions

What are the academics like at your school?

Amy

The academics here are pretty challenging. I don't believe the school gets enough credit for its academics. The courses can be difficult but the professors are wonderful and genuinely care about each of their students. They challenge their students to think critically and participate frequently. I have really enjoyed most of my courses here at UMW and I have never found a professor that I really disliked. Everyone is helpful in class as well. Students help each other study and generally, they come to class because they want to be there and they find value in the work they are doing. I have heard countless alumni say that UMW prepared them very well for their career and the work force and that having an education here is a great asset.

Amy

The academics here are pretty challenging. I don't believe the school gets enough credit for its academics. The courses can be difficult but the professors are wonderful and genuinely care about each of their students. They challenge their students to think critically and participate frequently. I have really enjoyed most of my courses here at UMW and I have never found a professor that I really disliked. Everyone is helpful in class as well. Students help each other study and generally, they come to class because they want to be there and they find value in the work they are doing. I have heard countless alumni say that UMW prepared them very well for their career and the work force and that having an education here is a great asset.

Rachael

The professors at UMW are really involved and love to help out their students. My department, Psychology, was great. The professors were super helpful and even gave out their private cell phone numbers and emails if you needed help! I can honestly say that most of the students I met were hard-working, smart, and, in general, great people. Everyone was willing to meet new people. The education at UMW helped prepare me for graduate school, which is where I am now.

Kelly

My major is psychology, and I am also doing the five-year program for elementary education. Both of these departments are well-established at UMW. A majority of professors know my name. I believe the only classes where a professor has not has been intro classes. My favorite class this year is probably my primary literacy class. I love teaching and being around kids, so most of my education classes are my favorite. Students are very studious here. I know I spend a great amount of time studying and working on papers. I know that when I have to go to the library, it is usually packed of students working. Class participation is usually a common occurrence in class. This does depend on how engaging the professor is. The professor really does set the entire tone for the class. I have only experienced one horrible professor, and he does not teach here any longer. The professors are always willing to help during office hours or schedule another time if that does not work for you. All of my professors are very prompt on emailing me back and helping the best they can. Classes are very competitive. Students want to be the best and be remembered by professors. This can ensure that they will have good recommendations at the end of their college career or be able to force add a class if needed. It's also great to have relationships with your professors because they are very insightful and have a lot of great life advice for inside and outside of the classroom. All of the majors at this school that I am aware of try to prepare you for either graduate school or a job. We have a great resource center for careers and internships. They are always sending out emails for resume workshops and other events to help students with getting a job or applying for graduate school.

Megan

Class sizes are really small, usually 15-20 people per class. Class participation is usually dominated by two or three loudmouths in the class. But you can't sleep in class cause the teachers can see you, and they WILL remember you. I feel like I am in a noncompetitive environment... in fact, I feel like many people are just plain ignorant and dumb. I did a survey for a paper this year and half of the 40 people I surveyed did not know what the word "amnesty" meant... God help me. The general education requirements are obnoxious but they help "undecided" people determine which field is appealing to them. I really feel like taking courses I may not have without the requirements has opened my mind and expanded my views. Most interesting/unique course was Social Problems... our final consisted of Pornography, Homosexuality, and Prostitution... THAT was fun to study for!

Blake

Professors definitely know you by name, and most of them make class a lot of fun. Freshman classes tend to be the worst of the 4 years, because they are mostly large (70+ students) intro classes with grades essentially based on 2 or 3 tests. My favorite class at UMW was a Philosophy of Religion course -- the professor who taught it is awesome (he drew great pictures!) and there was a lot of discussion and debate. In most of my classes throughout my time students tended to participate a lot which made class more interesting. Students are generally not very competitive. Everyone tries to do well of course, but we like to help each other out with study groups rather than fight each other for grades. It is not uncommon to spend time with professors out of the classroom -- be it during office hours, to talk about our futures, or at an academic picnic... many of which include kegs. Academic requirements were a huge pain for me, but the school has implemented new, more lenient requirements for future incoming classes which is a definite improvement

Michelle

I have had nothing but great professors. They really take the time to get to know you, and genuinely care about each and every student in their class. Classes rarely have more than 20 students in them, and even when they do, the professors still make an effort to get to know everyone's names.

Mallory

I'm a huge nerd, but I loved the academics at UMW. Don't get me wrong, they're no walk in the park. At least within my major, you had to study. There was no way of getting around that. Sure, people skipped out on readings, but it generally showed in the classroom. The professors all knew my name, with the exception of a few random classes. But, within my department, my professors knew me. My favorite class was a political science/international relations class, but I have so many favorites. The faculty know that you can produce wonderful work, and they expect it from you. They push you to perform at the highest level. While that is difficult, I feel as though I've grown personally, academically, socially...all of the above due to my experiences at UMW. I'd say UMW students definitely have intellectual conversations outside of class. I mean, it's not all the time, but it definitely does happen a lot. I'm biased, but I thought my department was the best. The professors, beside being brilliant, were really cool people. I got the opportunity to spend some time with many of them outside of class, and that's pretty common for UMW. I think that's pretty amazing and a wonderful opportunity. They're also pretty hilarious. I'm an easy audience, but the majority of them cracked me up during class. The academic requirements, like I said, are tough at UMW. It's considerably difficult, but it's worth it. I have a job now, and I feel prepared. It's not just "learning for the sake of learning." My academic experience at UMW was challenging, fun, engaging, and overall-- awesome.

Sarah

If you are shy and don't like to talk too much in class, don't worry. Yes, the professors know you by name and they will know if you miss class, but they are also good about not calling you out. I'm a shy person and I love classes at UMW. There is a lot of participation in class, and in my classes I've found that it's mostly student driven, depending on the professor. UMW just changed/updated their requirements, and I agree with all of them. There are typical general education requirements like every school. Many of the students don't like the foreign language requirement, which requires students to reach an intermediate level in their language of choice, or four semesters of the language if you start at the beginning.

Melissa

All of the professors I have had know my name. Fav class had to do with computers...surprise because I hate computers...but the professor was AWESOME (Davies). Least favorite: Economics, because the teacher was horrible. AKA the "anti-christ" on ratemyprof.com. students are very smart and active, and I would say competitive, but not in the rutheless negative way. All departments have barbeques for their majors, and that's when a lot of students get to hang out with their professors outside of class. UMW's academic requirements change often, especially particular gen-ed's, which is always a pain.

Connie

I switched majors about three times at Mary Wash and still graduated on time, so if you are unsure of what you'd like to major in, don't worry, there's plenty of time to decide what department you find the most interesting. Class participation kind of depends on your department. I find it a lot of fun because in my experience the professors are great moderators, and people are polite, mature and respectful of each other's opinions and time to talk, making it a very comfortable atmosphere. Since the class sizes are quite small this also makes it less intimidating to speak in front of the class during presentations. A lot of students definitely care about their grades, however, I don't feel like there was a lot of competition, people are often supportive and if you have questions, you don't always have to ask the professor, you can ask students also. Some departments have a lot of group projects and most of the time I think that people have been helpful as they are used to being the ones who do a lot of work in high school group projects and therefore they care about getting the work done and so the work is evenly distributed. Professors are often very friendly outside class and a bit more laid-back than in the classroom. Their office hours are there so students can come talk to them if they have any questions about an assignment, and the professors I've had have been very helpful and nice.

Beth

Art Department Head and Ceramics professor Lorene Nickel is fantastic. But she expects alot out of all levels of her students and is a very tough grader. She takes her students on a trip to her house, every semester.

Paige

The workload is always a bit time-consuming, but I've never heard of it being unreasonable. The classes are small enough where your professor knows your name; in most cases students stay after class to chat with the professors, and hang out with them on campus.

Taylor

My favorite class thus far has either been Stats for Psych with Dr. Kolar or Social Psych with Dr. Erchull. Every professor I've run across has been amazing, really striving for quality time. Many of my professors have taken pictures to help remember the students' names - our identity is of value to them. I still have professors from my first semester freshman year asking about my life even though I haven't taken a class with them since then!

Stephan

Academic difficulty varies significantly by major and by Professors within each major. Most people going for an easy route choose Business Administration and stick to easier teachers, but there are definitely opportunities to challenge yourself within that major and every major for that matter. As a history major you definitely hear of teachers to steer clear of or that are easy. I always found that the most intellectually stimulating (... and yes demanding) courses were the ones taught by the "difficult" professors. Generally they have severe grading criteria but are usually exceptional lecturers or offer ample help in the subject they are teaching outside of the classroom. As far as difficult majors go any of the sciences are difficult. Political science has been a challenging major but with the recent turn over in faculty whether that remains the case is yet to be seen. The hardest majors are definitely the sciences, art history, history, economics, and historic preservation.

Jenny

It's furstrating registering for classes because you end up taking classes that you don't need and are just a waste of time

Kyle

Some teachers and great, some aren't just like any any other school.

Laura

I loved the historic preservation department and the professors, classes and outside field trips we took in the program. I specialized in museums and loved the classes assigned to that study. All classes were discussion or practice based and none were strictly lecture-note-taking-test. I thought this was the best way to learn what I have learned, and also allowed me to be practical and well-educated when I hit the museum/preservation field as an alum. I still email and talk to my professors-using them as my mentors throughout this entry-level time in my career! I also participated in the elementary education program for three and a half years-and loved it. Again, this department focussed on discussion based class involvement and hands-on learning through practicum requirements. Although I cursed the practicum hours for how much time they took from my weekly schedule - up to 15 hours a week in schools - in the end they helped me learn that I did not want to be a teacher, and would rather work in a museum education position! As for the general education classses-they were not too bad, but I know they have changed the makeup of the requirements since I was a freshman/sophomore. I think the new freshman seminar classes sounded interesting and many of my senior friends and I wished we could have taken them! The school also limited the amount of credits students were required to take before jumping into their major courses which I think is great and allows for the students to take more classes to help cater to their interests and build their overall education.

Allison

Great professors! Especially in the english department! Math department sucks. There is no "minors" at Mary Wash, you can only double major.

Katy

At a lot of colleges and universities, the classes you take are mostly taught by the TA with the occasional visit from the professor. At Mary Washington, this is not the case. TA's do not even exist at UMW. Every class is taught by the professor, and even more surprisingly, the professors care. They will take the time to learn your name; they will do what they can to help you understand and get the most out of their class. The professors want you to succeed, not just to make them look good, but because they want you to be a success and be all you can be.

Dylan

All my professors not only know my name but also what I like, what my extracurriculars are, and about my family. They truly are the best resource at this school. I love the English department because it is full of amazing teachers that truly want you to learn, enjoy it, and participate.

Connie

We are a Liberal Arts institution, offering a variety of majors and concentrations. Here at UMW, we take our academics seriously. I'm a psychology major, and from what I've heard our department is fairly challenging in comparison to other universities. Our academic requirements are pretty straight forward: one third of your credits need to fulfill general education requirements, one third needs to fulfill your major, and the final third takes up electives. It's tough to complete 120+ credits in just six semesters, so taking summer school or coming in with credits is always helpful. Like I said, it is very easy to establish good relationships with professors. I always here of fun department events outside of class. I know for the Psychology department, we have annual picnics and parties where we get a chance to socialize with our professors (yes, we do get to drink with them...if you are of age, of course).

Stephanie

I love the academics at UMW. I have had some great professors. I especially like that most of them get to know me and really care about what they are teaching.

Mia

professors know your name, most of the time class participation is very common students are competive i spent alot of time with my professors outside of class( in a non sexual way)

Elizabeth

After my freshman year, I was disappointed with academics at UMW. I went to a private school for high school where I was really challenged. Then I got to UMW and it was so easy, I barely had to put forth an effort. For a lot of classes I had, I didn't have to study because I had already learned that material in high school, but had to take the class for a general requirement. That being said, I had some friends that were pretty bright, putting forth their best effort, yet still struggling in their classes. I think how much you're challenged academically depends on what classes you're in, who your professors are, and how much you already know about the subject. But don't worry because if you are struggling UMW provides many resources to help you out. Some examples: tutoring, writing center, academic advisors, and most of the professors will take time out of class to talk about material you don't understand and make sure you get it by the time you leave.

Harper

Professors are pretty sweet, they all enjoy interacting with students and teaching. however, while they usually have PHds they usually went to bad colleges and aren't the smartest people. Students dont study that much ever, whether they are straight A students, or straight Ds. I spent all first semester playing video games, partying, and chilling and I got a 3.8 :) (sounds awsome doesnt it? its not). Class participation is pretty bad, its kind of like highschool, only slightly better. Students are NOT competitive.

Bethany

Mary Washington classes are small- the biggest 101 level classes usually have about 75 students, tops. As you take higher level classes within your major, the class size will get smaller. My average class size is about 25. Professors definitely know your name, and are genuinely concerned about how you do in their class. If you choose to take advantage of their office hours (which every professor is required to have every week) professors are absolutely willing to help you do well in their class. I've taken so many good classes at UMW that its hard to choose a favorite- Intro to Women's Studies, Social Problems, Intro to Cultural Anthropology, Chemistry and Society, Global Issues in Literature, Health and Social Psychology...the list goes on!

Chelsea

Something that I like so much about UMW is the student to professor ratio. The class sizes are usually quite small, so that enables the teacher to know nearly every student by name. That was an important quality that played a big part in my attending UMW. My favorite class was Macroeconomics with Steven Stageberg because he is an extremely unique and interesting man, who made economics exciting, which I didn't believe possible. My least favorite class was an Intro to Theatre class. The teacher was loopy and had no idea what she was doing. Students study nearly every night but it really depends on what your goals are. I would study an average of 3-4 hours a day. Because the classes are so small, class participation is expected and can benefit students. UMW students most definitely have intellectual conversations outside of class, but there is a balance between that and just leisurely conversation. One reason why I chose UMW is because students are not particularly competitive. Most everyone just sets personal goals, not taking into account how other students are performing. UMW is lacking in unique class offerings. The International Relations department is one of the biggest departments at UMW. There are lots of requirements however, and it can be difficult to get into theclasses that you need in order to graduate. Most students don't experience too much trouble though. I do not normally spend time with professors outside of class. UMW's academic requirements are I believe one reason why there is a lack of unique courses. We have several "goals" that have to be met for General Education requirements and these caues students to have to take a number of classes that possibly won't interest them at all, and that don't particularly contribute to student's worldly knowledge because they usually just try to get through the class doing the least amount of learning possible. I feel that UMW has a good balance between gearing students toward jobs and learning for its own sake.

TJ

Only one professor that I've had so far doesn't know my name. Class participation is very common, even in my larger classes. My smallest class has been 5 people and the largest 88. The most unique class I've taken is an International Cinema course. All of my professors are very available outside of class and encourage us to come ask questions. We used to have very strict General Education requirements, which I liked. I thought we were the only Virginia university that had a truly liberal arts education. But now they've lessened the requirements. Even so, they still require us to take 5 writing intensive courses and 2 speaking intensive courses, which are important skills for anyone to have.

Ashley

Some professors will never bother to learn your name. Most will tell you if they won't. Most professors though, especially in the smaller classes, really take the time to try to know your name and help you. Some of the classes, mostly the ones I've been taking for general education requirements, do bore me sometimes. I'm not interested in these topics and so sometimes it is hard to pay attention. Also, I HATE that final grades are dependent upon few things. (however, most colleges are like this) As a whole, I feel like the classes are competitive and challenging. Teachers are friendly and (usually) helpful.

Devin

UMW prides itself in its academics. All students strive for their very best performance, taking upto 18 credits every semester, making the dean's list, taking on multiple majors and studying in the library on Saturdays. This may seem overwhelming but when your teachers are as passionate about their students as they are their work any less would seem unfit. On average class sizes are 25 and student teacher ratios are 18:1. This makes it incredibly easy to get to know not only the rest of your classmates but your teachers as well. I've had great relationships with the majority of my professors in and outside of the classroom, as I've been known to bump into them at school plays and at the grocery.

Blake

Academically, UMW is a very good school. The classes are challenging by anyone's standards, and this is reinforced by the fact that we are ranked #2 in academics in Virginia, above UVA and behind only William & Mary. The one problem is that the name "University of Mary Washington" doesn't carry nearly as much weight as the course load would suggest. Even in Virginia where it is a relatively well know college, it doesn't carry nearly the same weight as UVA or even V-Tech. Registration for classes is a pain and poorly run, as are many things run by the administration. There are a lot of good teachers who are willing to work with you outside of class and are very understanding, though of course there are some who just plain suck. Most everything is 3 credits except for labs which are 4 (though there is a lot more work than one more measly credit), and transferring credits from other colleges even in Virginia is anything but easy.

Christina

Academics are pretty important at UMW, but it's not a super stressful environment. We have a couple quiet places on campus (the library and a 24-hour study room), but neither of those are ever full unless it comes close to exam time. One of the reasons I chose to go here is because the classes are smaller, and because your teachers will get to know you. They might not the first year or so, because that's when you're doing all your general classes in a bigger class room, but as soon as you hit sophomore year and above - basically, once you've kind of figured out what field you're going to major in - your professors will begin to recognize and talk to you. And what you'll notice is that not only do they talk to you, but they actually care! We have some of the best professors here, people who really care about their subject.

Robin

it's a tough school. I hear a lot about how much stress people feel they are under, and thats not necessarily bad. you know youre getting a good education here. its a small school so youre a lot more accountable as far as class attendance goes.

Brian

Strong academics. Students get out what they put in. Can be frustrating when slackers do reasonably well. Some students go only to easy classes and skip alot finding easy professors, I look forward to being their boss one day because they wasted a good opportunity to get ready for the real world. No TA is good. Professors are usually top notch, particularly in Political Science. General Education requirement is hard but will benefit you in the long run. Students aren't very competitive and many are not book worms.

Claire

UMW academics is fine. I wish it pushed the envelope a little more, with better class offerings -- though wait, this past semester I took Perspectives on Sexuality and the History of Popular Culture -- those are actually pretty cool when I think about it. And another semester I took History of Jazz. My favorite class was American Forms and Values which examined material culture and what ideas and values our materials hold in our society. It was taught by Doug Sanford in the Historic Preservation department -- very interesting guy. I also took Psychology of Sexuality (different from Perspectives on Sexuality) which was an awesome class taught by the wildly popular and brilliant Steve Hampton from the psych dept. I think I liked classes in psychology, sociology, and history better than those in my major of historic preservation. Probably because preservation is boring and the dept is wildly understaffed.

Lindsay

Uh yes, all of my professors know my name. I am a French major and I'm in the Elementary Education program. I have been to my advisor's house several times for dinner parties and to watch foreign films with other students. I am often engaged in intellectual conversations outside of class. Class participation is usually a pretty large percentage of your grade in many classes and students are competitive to a certain degree. The most unique class I've taken was a Francophone literature class, which is an upper-level French course, taught in French, where we read about 10 novels from around the French speaking world. Very cool class, but a lot of work. The French department is small, but pretty sizeable for what it is. The Education program is much bigger and has a great 5 year master's program for Elementary Education. The program requires you to do so many practicum hours (in the classroom) throughout your undergraduate studies, but then you spend the whole 5th year student teaching and taking grad classes. The academic requirements are rigorous, but help maintain our high standards of excellence. Many schools require 2 semesters or less of a language, we require 4. We are also required to take so many speaking and writing intrensive courses, which in the long run really prepare us for whatever we may be faced with in life. UMW's education is very geared towards getting a job. There are many internship opportunities and classes that help you receive specific certificates. I took a business French class just for kicks and it helped me create a resume, learn interview tactics, and business meeting etiquette (all in French of course). The Educ. dept. puts you in schools all over Fredericksburg, getting your name out there and ready for a first job.

Mike

For the most part, professors will know your name if you make your presence known. Class sizes range anywhere from 11 to 80 students. Despite what tour guides may tell you, there are 5 lecture halls on campus. Your general education classes will likely have anywhere from 30 to 80 students while special interest classes will likely be closer to 20. The school offers classes ranging from "Anarchism and Queer Theory" to "Dramatic Literature and Performance Studies". If you're interested in an obscure discipline, there's likely to be a professor willing to teach a class on it.

Megan

I loved all my classes and the professors were awesome.

Cody

Academically, it's right below UVA, just by a notch, and about on par with William and Mary. However, it does not have nearly the prestige, which is very unfortunate, because it's an incredible learning environment. (doesn't mean you can't have fun. I do)

Harper

-Every professor I've had so far has learned my name within the first two weeks of class. They go out of their way do learn them and it makes it a very personal learning experience. I sometimes think about other schools, and wonder how on earth kids plan on getting a letter of recommendation from a professor they had, when the class had 200 kids in it. My biggest class freshman year (in the necessiary liberal-arts requirement classes) was 32 kids, and I loved most classes I took.

Kate

Loved my relationship with most of my professors, great student to professor ratio. Was always known by name and 90% of the time professors went out of their way for me. The Historic Preservation Department is untouchable- but classes are competative and getting a B is supposed to be a compliment.

Devin

easy for people who were hoping to attend higher ranked VA schools, harder for people who thought they would be happy at mason.

Brett

All I can really talk about is the theatre department, but all the professors knew my name, and we all called the profs by their first names. Class participation was very common, and they were geared towards getting a job, definitely. I never really spent time with the profs outside of class, unless I had to have a meeting with them. Students are certainly competitive, but in a good way. We helped each other study a lot, and that was really helpful.

Madeleine

Professors know your name, despite what it may seem like, so don't skip classes. Class size can be quite small, especially for high classes in a major, where a student-professor relationship becomes important and helpful. Through office hours, most professors are available for students, whether the subject of conversation is academic or otherwise. Historic Preservation is a unique major that is rarely offered at other schools, but is a wide-ranging topic dealing with sustainability, museum studies, archaeology, and planning. UMW is the first school to have offered this as a discipline, and the department flourishes, attracting unlikely preservationists to the field.

Kat

A lot of the professors take the time to get to know their students' names, and many of the professors are willing to work with you during their office hours if you have any questions. As I was writing earlier, most of the classes are challenging, so you will need to spend a considerable amount of time studying to get the best grades. Many of the people don't and will still get by with Cs, but they can do better. UMW's general education requirements are a bit excessive, and I am not sure how I would have gotten through all of the gen-eds if I hadn't completed half of them through AP coursework. By the way, UMW is pretty lenient with granting AP credit. You can get at least some credit for getting a 3 on an exam. UMW wants to give its students a well-rounded education--they aren't merely concerned about preparing people for careers. In terms of class itself, a lot of the coursework seemed to be lecture-based, but their are definitely courses that are discussion-based. The departments in which I have taken the most courses are math and business. The math department is very strong at this school. Business is probably one of the school's easier departments.

Andrew

Challenging, but professors actually make an effort to help each individual student. Being a Bio major, the content is hard and the classes are demanding, but for the most part teachers are understanding and care about your success.

Samantha

Academics are great. The professors are all brilliant and the majority of them are SO nice. The Modern Foreign Language Department professors are amazing - especially German prof. Herr Rotter. The students aren't that competitive, it seems like they go to class because they have too, participate because it's required, and leave as soon as class is over. UMW students are smart all around - in and out of classes.

Jeff

The student-to-professor ratio is pretty good in most upper level classes. You get good hands on experience. Students are pretty enthusiastic about their fields of study and you find good participation, except in the Gen Ed classes. It is easy to get to know your professors here.

Laura

The classes are UMW are most always small which allows students to interact well with each other and the professors. Chances are you know your whole class and professor well midway through the semester. Because classes are small it is easy to tell if people are skipping or not participating. Being in class and participating in discussions is very important and may determine part of your grade. When I am in a class concerning my major or an area of my interest going to class isn't a chore as it was in high school.

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