Alumni News


UMW Alumnus Erik Johnston Appointed as VA Deputy Policy Director!

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Bucello to Present Honors Research, Feb. 13


A Palate for Poverty

The human body can go three weeks without food – a fact that most people hope to never test. Yet University of Mary Washington senior Jeffrey Paddock is certainly on his way.

No stranger to hunger, the international affairs and philosophy major has joined the Two Dollar Challenge at UMW all four years of his college duration. He’s even lived on two dollars a day for a full month while studying abroad in Peru. And this April, Paddock has added a four-day fast as part of his last challenge at UMW.


The Two Dollar Challenge is a five-day program, founded in 2006 at UMW, that challenges college and high school students across the United States to live on just two dollars a day—as nearly half the world’s population does—in an effort to raise awareness of global poverty. Participants buy food, hygiene products and other necessities from two dollars each day while following other rules designed to simulate obstacles faced by people living in poverty.

Paddock first learned about the Two Dollar Challenge during a campus tour of UMW his senior year of high school. The makeshift tents on Ball Circle intrigued him and one year later, he was living in those tents as part of the challenge.

“The students doing the challenge try to make it their own,” said Paddock, who said that it’s common for students to add personal obstacles to the week. His first year, Paddock fasted for 24 hours, drinking only water, and has increased his fast one full day each year.

Fasting was so hard, though, that Paddock failed an accounting exam his freshman year because he was so hungry.

“Just because someone’s hungry doesn’t mean they don’t have to study or go to work,” said Paddock. “I still have to go to class.”

Why participate in the two dollar challenge? The Arlington, Virginia, native says it’s a chance to change your perception about money and your beliefs about the people who don’t have it.

“I was surprised at how wrong I was about poverty and development,” said Paddock. “Doing it once is eye-opening. I learn something new every year.”


Professor of Economics Shawn Humphrey, founder of the challenge, first met Paddock during his first Two Dollar Challenge his freshman year.

“Jeff has a thoughtful, nuanced approach to complex social issues,” said Humphrey. “He has an uncommon level of sensitivity that I have come to rely on as a compass when it comes to our work with the challenge and microfinance.”

Following graduation, Paddock will move to El Progresso in Honduras to become the new program director of La Ceiba, a student-run microfinance organization through UMW. As the director, Paddock will spend one year overseeing operations for the organization’s nearly 80 loans.

“La Cieba has a genuinely humble approach to foreign aid,” said Paddock. “I hope to carry on La Ceiba’s message of confident humility into the microfinance development industry.”

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Students to Present at National Conference

Three University of Mary Washington senior political science and international affairs majors will be presenting scholarly research reports at a national research conference in Washington on Feb. 14. The Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Political Science Research Conference is sponsored by Pi Sigma Alpha, the 600-chapter national political science honor society.

Katherine Johnson is a senior at the University of Mary Washington where she is studying political science and sociology. Her paper is entitled: “Venturing into a Minefield: Employer Practices in a Post Burwell v. Hobby Lobby State.”

Johnson hopes to enter law school in the fall with a focus on constitutional and civil rights law. She is from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and she graduated from Girls Preparatory School.

Paige McKinsey is a senior at the University of Mary Washington where she is a double major in Women and Gender Studies and International Affairs.  Her paper is entitled, “Finding Meaning in Difference; Girls’ education initiatives in Kenya from the UN and NGOs.”

McKinsey is the current President of the feminist club at UMW where she has worked with students, faculty, and administration to raise awareness and bring about change on campus. In June, McKinsey will leave for Togo where she will serve as a Community Health and Malaria Prevention volunteer with the Peace Corps. She is from Effort, Pennsylvania and she graduated from Pleasant Valley High School.

Benjamin Hermerding is a senior at the University of Mary Washington where he is studying political science. His paper is entitled, “The Effect of Subjective Class on Political Beliefs in Virginia.”

Ben is an Alvey Scholar at UMW and is a research assistant with the UMW Center for Leadership and Media Studies. He is from Brainerd, Minnesota, and graduated from Brainerd Senior High School.

Pi Sigma Alpha has more than 600 chapters in the U.S. Over the past 20 years, Mary Washington’s political science and international affairs students have won nine national writing awards from the honor society, more than any other college or university in the nation.

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