All posts by SAIL

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

 

Advertisements

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_l4Ab5FRwM

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

Lives cannot be replaced, #blacklivesmatter

By: Tabatha Donley 

         Queering Leadership. The Hero’s Journey: Reigniting a Passion to Serve and Lead. Changing the Conversation on Global Development through Powerful Messaging. With over 90 workshops and panels offered at the annual IMPACT Conference, it was a daily struggle to pick and choose among enticing topics. Most insightful for me was attending the “Forward through Ferguson: A Path Towards Racial Equity” panel, which featured three scholar-activists, two of whom served on the Ferguson Commission.
           Weaving in the history and demographics of St. Louis, the panelists answered poignant questions regarding the aftermath of Michael Brown’s unjust death, examining the value of protests and “calling out.” Through the course of several hours, I was in absolute awe of the sheer intelligence, passion, and dedication these women (yes, they were allwomen) possessed. Chills ran through my body as these fierce women shared their experiences and expressed their opinions, unapologetically.
“Can’t you find another way to protest?”
           The Q&A session revealed how much work is needed in our own social justice spaces. As with anything, good intentions do not necessarily equate to good results; in fact, even the best of intentions can have harmful consequences. A fellow conference participant (white, female) prefaced her question with her disdain for protests that interrupt traffic. She stated that one such protest in her hometown shut down the freeway which resulted in a large inconvenience: her commute to work was severely delayed, therefore she lost money. She pleaded that there must be a better way to protest — one that does not inconvenience others who would otherwise support causes like #blacklivesmatter. She reiterated that she was all for social justice. It was interesting to observe the crowd: some were nodding in agreement with the questioner, while others shook their heads. Panelist Amy Hunter (check out her amazing Ted Talk here) answered with perfection. She acknowledged that certain protests do indeed inconvenience others…yet, she encouraged the student – and the audience in general – to see the big picture: if a traffic blockade is what it takes to save another black child — to prevent another black mother from grieving over her dead child — surely, it is worth the “inconvenience.” Money can be replaced; lives cannot. The whole room fell silent and was taken away by Ms. Hunter’s candor in reminding folks what is really at stake here: human lives. Most commonly, black lives. The questioner was visibly shook, as she received a big reality check assessing her privilege and power.
To call OUT or IN?
           Another highlight was the discussion of calling out. A common practice for social activists, calling out brings public attention to one’s oppressive behavior, and paves the way for increased education and accountability. Yet, as many conference participants expressed, calling out seems ineffective or harsh at times — deterring possible allies from joining the movement. Once again, Ms. Hunter came in clutch: she first reminded folks how imperative calling people out can be: not only is oppressive behavior identified and corrected, communal healing can take place if folks were directly harmed by the oppression. Yet, Ms. Hunter also gave the questioner’s claim some legitimacy, and advocated another approach: “calling in.” She talked about radical love, and how addressing someone’s oppressive behavior more personally and privately can reduce embarrassment – but most importantly, help the individual learn, grow, and be hip to cause.
           Immediately afterwards, a co-panelist stressed that calling out is more effective, and that there is simply not enough energy to call people in all the time. Ultimately, the panelists agreed that both calling out and calling in hold merit, emphasizing that each situation is unique. Energy and compassion cannot be easily renewed – particularly if one experiences frequent micro and macro-aggressions. Marginalized people are not obligated to educate their oppressors; their self-care comes first. As Audre Lorde famously expressed, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”                                                                                                        My time in St. Louis rejuvenated my passion for social justice, reaffirmed the importance of community, and inspired me to continue the good fight. I encourage everyone – especially underclassmen – to partake in IMPACT and stay woke. A million thanks to SAIL for affording this senior with the opportunity to continually learn and grow.