All posts by SAIL

Seeds of Change

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By Abraham Kadi

The soft, blanket of winter starts to melt away and feed the surrounding landscape

As animals and critters start to waken from their slumber,

And we, me & you, like a flower we are to sprout after moments of introspection.

After days inside…waiting for our time to blossom.

We are ready and have always been ready

To be that seed, planting our influence our knowledge, and passion for change.

But as a seed, alone, we are nothing…nothing but food for birds.

We can’t grow and become more without help from others.

We need to nourish each other when we are feeling drained.

We need to energize each other when we are lacking motivation

And we need each other to help spread our movements

In hopes that one day our passions will be rooted deeply and connected so that nothing can pull us apart.

(Shared during the Seeds of Change Recognition event held by SAIL)

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Lego land

By Bridget Anim

kid you not! There was a person who had no heart or soul

Bitter, heartless, despicable much like a troll

Your money, possessions this person would take and make you lack

Strip all your clothes right off your back

I’m serious, this person had no limits, that I can bet

Anyone come up with a name yet?

It’s cool, let’s see if this definition is revealing

Cause this person is quite cunning and a bit concealing

The state of being inferior in quality or insufficient  in amount

The state of being poor

That’s the topic of interest POVERTY enough has been said.

Ever had that moment, where you have a vision that no one else sees? You just Want to change the world, make it a better place?

Improve it and make it worth the living space?

Especially when this happens in the shower and makes you feel like you’re on a mission

Well, when you step out of the shower, leave behind that vision and sudden empowerment. You left all the knowledge and power in the shower.

Kind of like playing a game of bingo, you get a bingo and don’t shout it out

At the end of the game, you claim to have had a bingo. Who’s not going to look at you without doubt?

They’ll probably be like: you mean to say you had a bingo this whole entire time, sat there and let it remain in your head? Didn’t act upon it, nothing was said.

How can poverty be used to facilitate social change?

And not make a persistent person who’s compassionate about social change look deranged?

person thinking that they’re better than everyone else full of arrogance & pride

Then they act all oblivious, lies! They’re way on the negativity side

Poverty can facilitate social change, by establishing that materialistic objects, will never define you.

Each person is unique, wouldn’t you say so? I think it’s true.

still need to expand upon my answer, hang in there, I’m approaching a finish

Hopefully everything being said sticks with you and doesn’t diminish

Children, don’t see color, aren’t filled with negativity, innocent beings who are  phenomenally pure

The Kingdom of Heaven belong to them, Christ confirmed it, that I am sure

Saw a couple of children playing with legos and these two boys lacked a few legos, they didn’t have enough

Their incomplete lego building looked rough

The other kids didn’t quite notice in the beginning, but realized later on and shared their legos without a fight

It was such a wonderful sight

It wasn’t long until the two boys who lacked legos, build a lovely castle

The other kids quickly noticed the castle and wanted to play with it a bit of a hassle

All is being said is that poverty can facilitate social change if each person willingly

Acts like the other kids with the legos, ignoring financial situations fulfillingly

It only takes one person to stand against maltreatment

Then when forces are joined to produce a solution, there is little lament

Now, what the lego may mean to me may be different to you

But whatever the case may be, it is still a step to making a change too!

CPAC Reflection

By Theo Meale

The Deputy editorial page editor of the Washington Post and of my favorite journalists, Ruth Marcus, wrote a column this past Tuesday that has been on my mind over the course of the past three days. As a 59 year old self professed liberal, she briefly described her days as a young reporter who witnessed the events of the Reagan administration and was unhappy with his “undermining of the Civil Rights Division” of the Justice Department. Nonetheless, after visiting the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, she felt what she calls “Reagan nostalgia” after being reminded of how Reagan appointed the first female Supreme Court justice, respected the media, apologized for his misdeeds in the Iran-contra affair, welcomed refugees, and spoke with a “Morning in America” tone. In spite of having an apparently more positive view of Reagan’s policies and presidency than Ruth Marcus, I generally agree with her political views and almost always empathize with her feelings of nostalgia under President Trump.

But as I sat in the front of the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord Resort in Maryland, known as CPAC with a fantastic group of students from the floor, I heard a another thought provoking comment in a speech given by Laura Ingraham, a Fox News Channel contributor and conservative radio host. Ingraham spoke about a long list of complaints that the media made about Reagan that sounded similar to the frequent comments that Trump’s critics make about him; that Trump is “evasive”, and has aides who “frequently contradict each other” and who “shield” him from news conferences. She then talked about how critics of Trump are nostalgic to the days of Reagan, and predicted that in decades ahead, Trump’s critics would be nostalgic to his administration other under Republican presidents, for reasons including Trump inviting Democrats to the White House. Although all other attendees from my LLC agreed with Laura Ingraham, I disagreed with entirely as young people by vast margins dislike Trump intensely, and I believe that for the Republican party to survive they will have to appeal to a younger generation of voters, who will not vote for Trump or anyone with a similar ideology.

After Laura Ingraham spoke, the entire room, including myself, stood up, clapped, and erupted in awe as the 45th President Of The United States walked into the room. Like members of Congress during the State Of The Union, the group of us on the floor would stand up and clap when the president said something we approved of and sit down silently and politely when he said things we disapproved of. While I didn’t find the frequency of any particular group member’s clapping surprising, the frequency with which everyone did clap certainly matched everyone’s idea of each other’s ideology and political views: Trai and David as self-described conservatives and Trump supporters clapped at most of Trump’s statements, Jacob and Andrew as self-described “liberals” seldom clapped, and I as a self described “institutionalist” (which leads to having views all over the political spectrum) clapped occasionally at Trump’s statements about supporting background checks for gun purchases, border security, and newly announced sanctions on North Korea. Having said that, in spite of the points of agreement I had with Trump’s speech, his decision to (truthfully) tell the audience he was going to go off script for “fun” and attack the news media, speak in awkward fragments, boast about the swing states he won in 2016, and read a poem called “The Snake” to compare letting immigrants and refugees into the United States to letting a poisonous snake into a house all reminded me many of the reasons why I have always disliked Trump to begin with.

After walking out of the conference room after Trump’s roughly 75 minute long speech, I chatted with the other LLC members who came to CPAC about the speech. It was agreed unanimously that we had all experienced Trump’s incoherent and aggressive nature to the fullest. Where our views of the speech varied was the extent to which we agreed with its content, which was already reflected in how much we had clapped during the speech. After David asked me if my points of agreement with Trump could change my view of him, I said no and told him why. Regardless of how much I may agree with Trump, and regardless of whether Bob Mueller vindicates him entirely in his alleged crimes, there is no circumstance in which I can overlook Trump’s behavior towards Russia in firing an FBI Director because he didn’t like “this Russia thing” as he described it, rejecting the intelligence community’s report that Russia interfered with our elections, sharing classified information about Israel with the Russians, praising Putin, and refusing to put sanctions on Russia for interfering in our elections.This was of conversation today as Trai and David politely told me that while Russia’s behavior towards the United States is bad, that the United States has also interfered with elections and supported autocracies and even does so to this day. I acknowledge that the United States has interfered with elections in Latin America and the Middle East and even forms alliances with brutal governments in those regions today, but I also would emphasize that the United States, while not perfect, has a much better human rights record than Russia or China, and unlike in developing countries, our people generally do value democracy and accept a “social contract” as Jean Jacques Rousseau put it.

 

But unlike other instances since November of 2016 when I have gone to political events whose speakers I didn’t agree with, including Trump’s inauguration, I didn’t leave CPAC and Trump’s speech feeling angry at all. Instead, I felt that I learned to better understand the views of 25-35% of the country. Since I have arrived at GMU and taken government and intelligence courses, I have developed an agenda towards working in national security for the good of the United States. While in a polarized country that can has different meanings to different people, for me that keeping America safe means defending all of our people and the values “against all enemies, foreign and domestic” as said in the Oath of Enlistment. That includes my friends and family, city and people who share similar values to me like Ruth Marcus, but also those who have a very different agenda for this country, whether it be on my floor in foreign policy discussions or even the people at CPAC who attack the very institutions that I support and want to be a part of. I have to work to keep all of those people happy and safe too because, as Marco Rubio said in the 2016 campaign, “an American president (or any leader or bureaucrat as I would be) has to love all of the American people. Even the ones that don’t love you back.” That is what I intend to do and going to CPAC has helped me come closer to being the leader who lives by that standard that I want to have for myself in national security.

Wonder Woman for Child Justice

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By Mason Service Corps Student

Describe your service site and role?

I should first state that for personal safety reasons, I cannot share my photo.

I chose to do my work with Child Justice, Inc., a non-profit organization. As stated on their Website, they “provide legal services and advocacy for children’s rights.  Child Justice seeks to ensure that courts protect children in cases of abuse and family violence.” Please read about the organization and the amazing work they do at:  http://child-justice.org/about/.

I have been personally affected by this issue and have chosen to use my pain as fuel to help others in these circumstances. As such, I have volunteered for Child Justice for a number of years. I serve as a support for abused women and sometimes as just someone safe to talk to. I help mothers navigate behavioral problems that their abused children display and help to find psychological support services. I help meet the needs a woman may have – whether it be organizing a spontaneous move or helping to explain legalese. I court-watch for a variety of cases involving domestic violence, including murder trials, kidnapping trials, and civil cases at the intersection of child abuse, domestic violence, and custody. Court-watching is important for oversight of local courts and for counsel representing the abuser. In addition, I consult on these cases with attorneys representing the abused women and children. I also lobby Congress for H.Con.Res.72. Please look it up and write your representative in Congress to co-sponsor this legislation!

What did you learn from your Mason Service Corps experience that you will apply in the future?

I learned most through my interviews of the attorneys. They gave me good insight to the practice of law in this area. It is an emotionally exhausting job and it takes a very special way of thinking to win these cases. More law schools should have courses that specialize in this area of law.

How did this experience challenge your assumptions and stereotypes?

When an abuser challenges a protective parent in court for custody of the children, they are successful in gaining custody over 70% of the time. This is an overwhelming statistic and it happens in every state in the country – some jurisdictions are worse than others. It is infuriating that when this topic is discussed publically – nobody wants to hear it, believe it, or deal with it. A great current example is Roy Moore. He was a sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama and is a serial pedophile and abuser. When people like him or with his intrinsic bias hear cases involving domestic violence – they are not apt to believe the woman.

The post-Weinstein era has opened the flood gates and more and more businesses – even democrats in both the House and Senate – have started believing women. Women do not make up these allegations, neither do children. It is simply too difficult to do. In fact, statistics show that an abused child lies about being abused less than 1% of the time. I never thought I would see the day that women are believed and it definitely challenged me to start believing in hope a little more. My assumptions are being challenged and I hope they continue to be challenged and hopefully one day – flat out wrong.

Discuss a social problem that you have come in contact with during your service work. What do you think are the root causes of this problem? Explain how your service may or may not contribute to its alleviation

Judges are incredibly critical of women and hold them to a much, much higher standard and openly criticize them in court, calling them hysterical, crazy, and too sensitive to abuse. There are so many root causes of this. The most deeply ingrained is the tendency to disbelieve women, even when there is blatant evidence of abuse when the standard of proof in civil cases is the preponderance of the evidence. Judges are actually taught to discredit women when allegations of domestic violence and child abuse are raised after she leaves her abuser. Learning how to compensate for this in the courtroom will hopefully help to combat the bias.

What are some of the challenges you faced during this experience? What will you take away from your experience with Mason Service Corps

My biggest challenge was learning that abused women can react to a certain set of circumstances in a variety of unexpected ways. Reactions come in different forms and learning to recognize what triggers the client is important. Going through the divorce process with children is enough of a stressor for those who haven’t experienced abuse. For a client that is being abused and is forced to send her children to the man that abuses them is gut wrenching. Watching a woman not knowing if it will be the very last time that she sees her child is gut wrenching. Asking this person to think clearly, put emotions aside, and work on her case can be a near impossible feat. The client is very important and plays a big role during this process. If the client breaks down, so will the case.

I will take away from this course the need for continued and consistent self-reflection. Reminding myself of why I am doing this work will help solidify my commitment to this cause. It is a very exhausting line of work and if I do not take care of myself first, I can’t help others. Learning how to manage emotions is an important skill. Sometimes I envision the scene in Wonder Woman when she is running across the battlefield, dodging the arrows, and pressing on literally in the face of adversity. That scene gets me through days that sometimes feel impossible.

 

A note from SAIL Director, Patty Mathison: This student is a true hero in every sense of the word. I had the privilege to work with this extraordinary human being this past semester and was blown away by the care, the compassion and most significantly, her ability to overcome adversity and use that “pain as fuel to help others.” I had shared with this student that this does not need to be shared publicly, and she replied that she would love to share this as the more people know about this crisis, the better. I feel honored to have worked with and learned from this Wonder Woman. 

Always Make your Bed…

“How many of you make your bed every day? I make my bed every day. I recently heard Admiral McRaven’s commencement speech for the University of Texas, that shared that you should always make your bed. That way, if you have a bad day you can at least say, I made my bed today. I did something.” Trai G., sophomore Government and International Politics major shared his advice for self-care.

Trai and several other student leaders, took time out of their busy schedules to come and sit on a panel hosted by Noah S, senior here at Mason and the Service Coordinator for the Leadership and Community Engagement Living Learning Community (LLC). With a focus on self-care, challenges and resiliency, balancing expectations from both themselves and others, and discovering their passions. The panel spoke to members of the LLC and shared their wisdom, advice and lessons learned.

It can be challenging to be a student leader, to balance a full schedule, to focus on academics, struggle with finances all while maintaining a healthy social life. These students spoke to these challenges and as they reflect back on their Mason experience, shared their truth and their stories.

Rolando F, senior Global Affairs major shared, “that you always want to say yes. That he and other student leaders feel they need to say yes when they are given opportunities or experiences.” He shared, “At the end of the day, I’m here to get an education, and I’m here for the future. We need to ask ourselves the question of what do we want to accomplish?”

When asked how someone would go about finding their passion, Mandeep K, senior Business major shared that “sometimes you just need to tune out other people’s voices and just listen to yourself.” That there are many folks who will tell you what you should do and what you should care about, but that it is important to figure out what this means for ourselves.

Jocelyn M, junior Criminology major shared that deciding what to get involved in and what is important to you is a process. “It’s a process and this is a time to test the waters.” She went on to share that its important to remember that its also ok to be a potato. That its ok to relax and just detox and take some time for yourself.

In a very honest and thoughtful moment senior Biology major Mario M, shared about overcoming challenges and learning to deal with failure or disappointment. He shared it is important to “fail forward.” To take something from the challenges that we experience and to use it to change things in our futures.

As these students listed off their many accomplishments, programs and passions, it was clear to see their tremendous drive, their depth of compassion and their incredible resiliency. They shared many words of wisdom with such care and thoughtfulness, hoping to encourage others to find their voice and strengths. As the LLC Coordinator, I’ve been able to see these students push themselves and grow with such courage and tenacity. It is such a privilege to see students through their four years and to be able to watch them grow in confidence, to own their leadership skills and to serve as an inspiration for others.

By Patty Mathison

 

Willowsford Farms with Professor Andrew Wingfield

One thing I really enjoy about my job, is the ability to work with and learn from the incredible colleagues that are a part of the School of Integrative Studies. Our faculty are driven, compassionate, and inspiring advocates for students and the surrounding community.

One such colleague,
Professor Andrew Wingfield is an intelligent and remarkable educator, inspiring young minds through his actions and care. Wingfield is an Associate Professor within the School of Integrative Studies and has played a leading role in integrating sustainability into the George Mason curriculum and creating opportunities for students to use Mason’s campus as a sustainability living laboratory. He was the founding director of the Environmental and Sustainability Studies BA program and founding co-director of the Sustainability Studies Minor. In addition, he integrates community based and experiential learning into many of his classes providing a more in -depth look and experience for his students. 

In a conversation with Professor Wingfield, he once shared that he enjoys incorporating the hands-on experiences and community based learning into his classes as it provides hope and action within courses designed to illustrate the harm and challenges we as human beings have done to our planet. It can be quite challenging work and he inspires and motivates his students to find the promise within the bleakness.

On Monday October 2nd, I had the opportunity to travel with Professor Wingfield’s class to Willowsford Farm and Conservancy in Ashburn VA with his INTS 370: Sustainable Food Systems class. This 6-credit course, examines the evolution of US food systems with particular emphasis on the national capital region. Students place conventional agriculture and food systems in historical context and research alternative systems that emphasize sustainability. Beyond farm to table, this course asks students to contemplate how capitalism, industrialization, and environmental ethics shape our land, culture, and society.

Just one of many field trips these students experience, we were treated to a tour from Mike Snow, Director of Farm Operations at Willowsford Farm and Conservancy. Willowsford Farm manages over 300 acres of agricultural land, growing more than 100 varieties of vegetables, herbs, fruit, and flowers, and raising several breeds of livestock. In addition to farming operations, Willowsford Conservancy oversees land management, wildlife habitat and educational outreach programs. Cultivating the strengths of the land and their neighbors, the farm has been continuing to grow to support and encourage sustainable food and agricultural education and awareness.

On our tour we were treated to some fresh tomatoes and grapes, were able to tour the farm’s operations and we were able to see how integral the farm had become to the community that surrounded them and how much the community had a voice in how the farm is operated.

It was a wonderful experience and a great chance to be outdoors, to see community work in action and to see the excitement and energy of the students in the class. Grateful for the kindness of my colleague to allow me to join and participate in this experience.

By Patty Mathison, SAIL Director

Leadership and Community Engagement LLC Retreat

By Patty Mathison

On the weekend of September 9th, the 42 members of the Leadership and Community Engagement Living Learning Community  trekked out to Camp Horizons in Harrisonburg for their annual retreat. Many thanks to the Living Learning Community Office and GMU Housing and Residence Life for sponsoring our retreat!

Students shopped and cooked their own meals based on what was formerly given for food stamp recipients ($1 for breakfast, $2 for lunch, $3 for dinner per person). We participated in a high ropes course led by the Camp Horizons staff.

We participated in activities such as Archie Bunkers Neighborhood and Common Ground. Our mentors in our Buddy Program were revealed. And we spent quality time together away from the stresses and busy-ness of the campus, getting to know each other and practicing vulnerability. There is something magical that happens when you bring a group out into the woods and this year was no exception. From screaming our lungs out on the ropes course (ok, that was just me) to laughs and chats around the fire roasted s’mores, to birdie on a perch, we shared many laughs, tears and pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone!

It was a fantastic experience and one that I look forward to each year. I am grateful for the kindness, for the incredible energy and for the wisdom each participant brings to this retreat. We have a wonderful group of students this year and I am excited for what is in store.