Aspire Speak

At Mary Washington, we often talk about the values that unite us: ASPIRE. Two years ago, these values emerged from a year-long interdisciplinary effort involving focus groups, surveys, and discussions with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community partners. These values did not come from outside UMW or from a consultant; they came from us.

In ASPIRE, we seek to uphold certain values that unite us as a community. Still, creating community is not always easy. As President Paino talked about in his recent message about reopening campus, in 2020 the pandemic and national political divisiveness starkly challenge the values of community, unity, and civil discourse. In addition, the proliferation and manipulation of racist, xenophobic, and other hateful messages and posts on social media illustrate how social isolation and ongoing injustices curtail conversations that build relationships and empathy.

Thus, as we begin this new semester, UMW has embraced a plan called ASPIRE Speak, which focuses on how listening, engaging in conversation, and challenging ourselves to understand different viewpoints are critical steps in our learning and in our lives. Especially now.

In short, let’s build on UMW’s liberal arts tradition. Let’s seek out discourse and listen to different opinions while seeking to understand and empathize with others who have been affected or hurt by social and economic inequalities. Let’s build on the hope inherent to Mary Washington.


At UMW, we ASPIRE to make civility, respect, and empathy the norm.


Listen to different opinions, appreciate differences, and learn from the perspectives of others. Uphold the rights of all persons to be heard and treated with dignity and respect.


Use in-person and online conversations to build relationships, not to dismiss or diminish others’ thoughts and feelings without getting to know them. Give others the opportunity to express themselves, and respect their sincerity, even if you might not agree with them.


Attend events and programs on a variety of topics, and continually seek to educate and better understand yourself and others. Decide to bridge differences and to transform the community that we share.