All posts by SAIL

Wonder Woman for Child Justice


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:

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.

Just a Word- A Poem

By Emma Evans

Just A Word

What is a word?

Scattered sounds, jumbled symbols

Floating, intertwining.

In reality, they are just shapes and sounds

But for us they are representations

Filled with the power of our ideas.

What are words?

We use them to include and discriminate

To empower and dehumanize

To build relationships and tear them down.

We use them effortlessly

When they strengthen and inspire us

We are unstoppable

But as they sting and lash out against us

We wonder how we let them grow so strong.

We wonder why we have to fight so hard against them

Why it’s so easy to let them define us

When in reality, they are just shapes and sounds

But they do have power

Because we never really forget.

What is a word?

We’ve seen them start wars

And call for peace

We’ve seen them create solidarity.

But all along, we wonder.

How is it that

When they heal lives and destroy lives,

It just takes one word?

The Wrong Side of Heaven

By Trai Gozzi

While there are many thankless jobs an American can undertake, one of the most thankless jobs is serving our country in the world’s finest military. We as Americans often take many things for granted, such as having the freedom to pursue our dreams because our rights and freedom have always been protected by a select few who serve our country.

For the past 15 years, the United States has been at war and we as Americans have asked the men and women to fight to keep our country safe. In recent years, America has forgotten that there has been sustained engagement in warzones such as Afghanistan and we have also forgotten the silent struggles our veterans face, as they leave the military and face the struggle of readjusting to civilian life. This music video raises awareness to the American public that veterans are struggling with Post Traumatic Stress and homelessness.

What I hope this music video does for those who watch it is to realize that men and women are still fighting in wars across the world. We as Americans have the responsibility to take care of the warfighters and their families who sacrifice years of their life for selfless service to our country to ensure our safety and make sure when veterans need help, we help them.

Color Me Purple

By: Anasia Napper

I started writing this once, but I had too many thoughts and too many words, and I did not want to be up here speaking for too long, so I’m going to tell you what I find funny.

Black women have been victims for centuries.

They have been assaulted, raped, murdered, kidnapped, verbally abused, hated, and mocked by people we now have to call enemies.

Some of these problems aren’t problems exclusive to black women,

but no one seems to wanna talk about issues if they don’t affect them.

I read The Color Purple a year ago, and if you haven’t read it, I’ll give you a little synopsis.

Celie is a 14-year-old girl who writes letter to God about her father who rapes and abuses her, but adores her sis.

Then, she writes about her older husband who does the same shit.

I still haven’t told you what’s funny.

This story took place in the 1920s, and here it is almost 100 years later,

And black girls and women are still going through this.

Did you know more than half of black women have been sexually assaulted?

Did you know that black women make up 8% of the overall population,

but 22% of domestic violence homicides in the nation?

Some people will say that “They can always leave.”

The funny thing is, black women make less money than black men and white men and women, leaving them financially dependent on their abusers.

What’s that saying? Something like “Low-income women can’t be choosers?”

“Femicide” is the killing of females by males solely due to their gender.

Husbands and boyfriends are almost always the offenders.

The funny thing is, 93% of these homicides are intra-racial,

Meaning the killers are black men.

As a girl who loves black men, admitting that black men don’t always love us is painful.

Black men get away with too much because black women have to choose between their racial groups and gender groups.

Most of the time, their racial group is chosen.

And that is devotion.

The funny thing is, I can’t entirely blame black men.

They are also victims of oppression.

What may be important in understanding this

is to understand PTSS

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome

Black folks have been a little messed up since they took us from home.

During slavery, Willie Lynch said black men were like wild horses—they had to be broken.

So black men went through a brutal process of emasculation.

Today, some of these black men do things because of this mentality,

But let’s get back to reality,

We gotta figure out what we are going to do now

We gotta figure out when we gone do it and how

We can start by addressing our mental health and well-being.

The funny thing is, the saying about “a strong, black woman” is doing more harm than good

Black women don’t seek counseling, but if we got rid of this saying, maybe they would.

Black men don’t want to go either because they are told to man up.

Then, we act surprised when their emotions build up and they erupt.

Violence against women is an issue, but black women are victims whose stories aren’t even written.

They’re hidden.

If anyone asks what I spoke about today, you don’t have to tell them the first thing I said or even the latter.

Just tell them what needs to be said and proven on the daily, #BlackWomenMatter