William and Mary Digest for Dec. 5

Professor honored for contributions to national estuary network

William Reay of William and Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science was honored with the highest award given by the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and its nonprofit arm during their annual meeting in early November.

NERRS is a state-federal partnership established in 1972 through the Coastal Zone Management Act to protect and study estuarine systems. The 29 NERRS sites encompass more than 1.3 million acres along the nation’s coastlines. The sites are managed on a daily basis by a state agency or university with input from local partners, with funding and national guidance from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Reay directs the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia, or CBNERR, which is managed through VIMS. Designated in 1991, CBNERR manages four pristine sites along the salinity gradient of the York River, from Sweet Hall Marsh near the river’s freshwater confluence, past the brackish environs of Taskinas Creek and the Catlett Islands, and downstream to the saltwater marshes of the Goodwin Islands near the river’s mouth.

In presenting the award, Erica Seiden, ecosystem services manager for NOAA's Office for Coastal Management, said, “Willy’s accomplishments are significant and varied and speak to the variety of (his) skills. He believes wholeheartedly in the NERRS mission and is dedicated to ensuring we are living laboratories and national leaders in providing high quality, long-term data on estuaries.”

New course looks at long history of slavery

Pretty much every human society from ancient to modern times has had some form of involuntary servitude, and a William and Mary professor has set out to compare and contrast them.

Jessica Stephens, a visiting assistant professor of classical studies, is teaching a new course on comparative slavery this semester. The COLL 300 class is not only new to the college but is also a rarity at other institutions, according to Stephens.

“I think the reason for that is, of course, it’s a very challenging course to teach,” Stephens said. “We started in basically the Bronze Age, so around 3,000 BCE, and are coming all the way up into the present, and looking at various forms of slavery in different societies all over the world in that time period. So it is truly a comparative course in that we’re looking at multiple different societies, different places and all over the place.”

Working chronologically and spending a class on each civilization, the course started in the ancient Near East. While glad that many students previously have studied slavery as it relates to U.S. history, Stephens said the topic is a much more complicated issue.

“We can’t cover it all in a semester,” Stephens said. “So I’ve tried to pick examples that show the breadth and depth of human slavery and broaden my students’ horizons about this problem because, of course, they are very, for the most part, culturally centered in the American South when they think of slavery.”

College recognized for workplace wellness

William and Mary’s recently established health and wellness program for faculty and staff has earned the university a state certification. The school is now CommonHealth Worksite Certified, a designation awarded by CommonHealth — Virginia’s employee wellness program — to recognize excellence in workplace wellness.

To earn the certification, state agencies must “create cultures that are conducive to a healthy workforce through policies and programs, managerial support and innovative ideas that further the mission of employee wellness in the Commonwealth,” according to the CommonHealth website.

Mary Louise Gerdes, the CommonHealth regional coordinator, presented a certificate to Mane Pada, training and instructional design specialist, and John Poma, chief human resources officer, on Wednesday in recognition of the university becoming CommonHealth Worksite Certified.

Items from William and Mary news releases were used in this piece.

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