Category Archives: Cornerstones LLC


By Morgan Kirby

When coming to college, most students have an idea of what they want to pursue, but little do they know that all can change. College is a new ball game. Each base is a milestone in some fashion, such as emotional breakdowns from exams, peer pressure, and you name it… This is the time in your life where you find extensive amounts of freedom, but juxtaposed with the concoction of a word called “adulting”, a verb that encapsulates having to be responsible for yourself in a way you never had to before. You may get a job and find it hard to juggle classes after a long night at work, or you could be drowning in club meetings. Either way, college is creating new scenarios for many of us, and we still cannot handle everything perfectly. With this said, we are trying to figure out our future, a future based on our degree.

I came to George Mason with the plan to get my undergraduate degree in economics and then I wanted to pursue law school. My grand plan was to focus on corporate law and take it day by day until I get there. As of today, I lost this plan. I have always had a connection to the environment. It’s not a surprise to hear fellow dorm members say “Morgan is the tree hugger of the group”. It is almost too funny to hear because everyone knows it’s true. We had just finished up our NCLC 103 class that had focused on environmental sustainability, and it’s like something had just clicked. I want to change my major. After we finished our group projects on sustainability measures, I knew I wanted to narrow in on environmental sustainability as my major. With a little research, I found that George Mason has something for everyone, and GMU’s sustainability efforts are tremendous.

I had a plan, for years I mapped out each step in my life to get to the point of career success, and now I find my plan to be an apparition. There are so many pressures in school that can change your goals. This is not always a negative thing, rather I see it as an eye opening opportunity. To the freshman to find themselves like me, and to those that soon will, it’s okay! You will have an advisor help you each step of the way, you can reach out to community members and talk to them about their plans, but most importantly, you have four years at Mason to figure it out. Four years to be who you want to be and fulfill what you want to do.


Rediscovering my Identity

By: Mitchell Westall

Is it possible for someone to go from being on the fringes of atheism to diving deep into Judaism within a year?

Let me start from the beginning. Towards the end of my senior year of high school I had begun to doubt the existence of a higher power. Normally, people do this when they are going through a tough time or they lose someone very important to them. So, out of anger, they question why G-d would ever take that person from them or put them in a bad situation.

For me, this was not the case. I have always been a person who questioned everything that was put in front of him and religion was no exception. Even though I was Jewish, I made a point to learn about other religions and at the time I had just finished my time learning a lot about Christianity.

As for my identity, I told people I was a non-denominational monotheist, but even that was in question. I still held onto my Jewish cultural identity, but that’s it. I hated organized religion (I still do to an extent).

I never officially declared myself an atheist, but the questions never stopped.

Fast forward to early December of 2016. I was coming towards the end of my first semester of college and it was the first day of Hanukah (the previous evening was the first night). I was walking back from lunch and I noticed a large Menorah behind a table with a man and a woman tending to it. They were handing out free menorahs to Jewish students and they were with the organization Chabad. The man’s name was Mendel and he is the Rabbi here at Mason for the Jewish student organizations. They were handing out free menorahs to students who needed them for Hanukah and so I gladly took one because I was slightly bummed that I could not light candles for the one Jewish holiday I knew how to celebrate.

That night was the second night of Hanukah and so I took my menorah and the candles out to the back of my dorm building to the outdoor stairwell. We could not light anything inside, even for religious purposes.

I lit the candles, said the necessary prayers and I sat outside with the menorah and waited for the candles to burn out. I waited outside in the cold for at least an hour and a half to wait for them to burn out every night for every candle to burn out. I had never done anything that Jewish in my life.

This inspired me to at least claim my Jewish cultural identity, if nothing else. So for Hanukah I asked my mom for a necklace of some sort with a Jewish symbol. There are many different kinds of Jewish symbols that are popular in jewelry, so I told her to surprise me. After all I do appreciate surprises. So, she got me a really nice 14 karat gold Mezuzah. A Mezuzah is a long box containing a scroll with the daily prayer known as the sh’ma hand written in Hebrew.

Since I received it, it has been a part of my outfit on a daily basis. Most people wear necklaces under their shirts, I choose to show it off.

The nighttime thoughts had begun to subside.

Upon returning to Mason next semester, I got a message from a woman who works with Hillel (the other Jewish student organization) named Tal. She is from Israel and she signs people up for birthright trips to Israel. Birthright trips are free trips to Israel that last ten days and are an amazing experience for any young Jewish person.

Unfortunately, I could not go this year but I fully plan on going next summer whether my mother likes it or not.

The night after I met Tal I got a message from a guy by the name of Aaron. He had asked me if I wanted to “hang out with the guys” and play some poker. Who could say no to such an enticing offer? It was a fun night of poker with a group of guys I had never met, but quickly got to know over the course of the next couple of months.

A week or so after the poker night, I accepted my bid to pledge Alpha Epsilon Pi, the Jewish social fraternity.

Through the fraternity and the Jewish student organizations, I have quickly learned what it means to be a Jewish man and brother.

For the first time in my life I have celebrated Shabbat, celebrated Purim (this one quickly became my favorite) and had a Passover Seder.

I never thought I would ever join a fraternity, let alone a Jewish one. I never even thought I would want to be all that Jewish!

It is not uncommon for people to have crazy stories after their first year of college, but this would have been downright unimaginable for me a year ago.

What a ride.


By Alliyah Fabijan

Day by day, we as college students live our lives with an end goal motivating us in one way or another. Here at Mason, there is so much to explore. From clubs to sports, Mason is sure to provide something for you to feel like you can belong to a group with others who share similar interests. However, sometimes you have to stop and think about what you are interested in, and if you are interested enough to pursue it. Here is where you begin to divide and define your passions and interests. You have to allow yourself to juxtapose what you like and love, and contemplate what you want to dedicate your time to.

Passion, to me at least, is a word to define a genuine love for something, that I continue to cherish with due diligence. This definition can sound overwhelming to some, but passion is something that is unique to you. As a freshman, it feels like there is something at Mason to join that falls in line with many of my interests; therefore, I took it upon myself to go to a plethora of club meetings and informational sessions. All of them I found interesting, but I never took the time to continue attending the meetings, nor did I seek a leadership role in the clubs, which is unlike myself. I always found myself wanting to do more on campus, but when I sought help in how I should get involved, I continued to look for things I was interested in, when I should have been looking for what I was passionate about.

From this realization, I found that I needed to define what my passions were and how I can utilize Mason resources to further my passions. To me, community service is a passion that I have, but I realized I could have dedicated more time into feeding this passion, rather than dipping into clubs based on interests and boredom. Now, I find myself more organized and able to pursue my passions this fall at Mason.

Passion is a beautiful thing, and its power is infinite. The reason behind so many successful movements, and people making their dreams come true comes from passion. Dedicate your time wisely, and make the most of what you do. Choose actions carefully, and allow yourself to explore the things you already know you care about. Turn an interest into a passion, and take pride in what you do. Here at Mason, it’s all about being the best you can possibly be.

Going Greek at Mason: The Best Decision I Ever Made

By Alexis Collins

The first few weeks of freshmen year can be summed up in one word: awkward.

I didn’t know anybody, I was living with strangers and I may not be the best at putting myself out there to meet new people. I also never thought in a million years that I would ever even consider going through Panhellenic recruitment. I always thought of sororities, as a thing that only a bunch of Regina Georges were a part of.

I had this misguided perception that sorority girls only know how to party and not have any type of academic standards at all, but that all changed when I was convinced by one person to at least go out to formal recruitment to see what Greek life is really about.

I never would have thought that there could be so much genuine love in one room until I walked into the first day of recruitment, where I would meet the first chapter of the day, Pi Beta Phi. When I thought of sororities I thought of friendships that you pay for; however people cannot fake being genuine. I could see and feel that there was a sisterhood here, and even better, I felt like I was home. Those girls, just though genuine conversation, had already changed my perception on some aspects of what “sorority girls” are.

All of the chapters on campus were lovely, but I did feel a strong connection to Pi Beta Phi. So, I was willing to go to the second day of recruitment. By the end of that day, I realized just how much that Greek life gives back to the community, through fundraisers to book drives to getting pied in the face. And the best part about figuring that out is that I realized that going Greek is not all about partying.

On the third day, I realized just how intelligent and brilliant the people in Greek life are. The Greek community is not filled with a bunch of Karen’s and Gretchen’s.

The women and men in Greek life are the leaders on campus. From being RA’s to being presidents of clubs to being on the Dean’s List, the members of Greek life never cease to impress me.

On Bid Day, I realized that I finally found the family that I have needed on campus and I chose to accept my bid to join a fantastic family: Pi Beta Phi. These women have been nothing but loyal, and I have met some of my greatest friends because of this amazing opportunity to go Greek. If I didn’t go Greek, then I would not be part of the ‘Merica Family of Pi Beta Phi and wouldn’t have an AMAZING Big and Twin that are literally the people that I can go to for anything.

SO in case you are unsure about going Greek or not, I highly recommend it because it is the best thing that has ever happened to me at Mason.

It’s Not about Forcing Happiness, It’s About Not Letting Sadness Win

By Molly Reagan

I never thought that change could have such a big impact on my life. A change that almost everyone goes through, finishing high school and for me, beginning college. Of course I knew it would be difficult, AP classes had prepared me for the large work load, but I never imagined it would be as tough as it is.

When I imagined my first year of college I imagined all the typical things, taking classes that I enjoy, finding my niche and making great new friends, going to awesome parties, and loving every minute of being away from home. Now don’t get me wrong, my freshman year has been great. I did get to experience all those things and more, and the Cornerstones classes/LLC have given me an incredible, unique experience. What I didn’t imagine were things like, avoiding new places for fear of having a panic attack, and then being depressed because I was too afraid to go anywhere. Having mental breakdowns over things ranging from picking a table at Southside to having a paper due, or some days being sore from head to toe from having so many panic attacks. Anxiety tricking me into believing that all my friends hate me, and then being depressed about it even though nothing was even wrong, oversleeping, under-sleeping, extreme procrastination (I didn’t even know these were symptoms of depression until this year), self-harming, and I could go on and on.

I wasn’t aware at home that my mental health was a problem. I didn’t even know what anxiety was or how much it ruled my life. I had great friends, I did well in school, and I was really involved. I was comfortable. Moving to college made me uncomfortable. It turned my whole world upside down. I mean, I knew it would, but I didn’t know it would affect my mental health.

The title that I chose are lyrics from one of my favorite bands, The Wonder Years, and I think it explains my mental illness pretty well. This is something I struggle with every day, and the Cornerstones LLC has given me support in a way I didn’t think was possible before. I have friends that like me even when I’m an anxious, depressed mess, and a fantastic roommate. I learned so much more about myself than I thought was ever possible. I reached out for help for the first time in my whole life (may or may not have been involuntary), and it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. Shit, I even went skydiving first semester. I wouldn’t want my freshman year of college any other way, even if I do wish I could wake up without my brain trying to kill me every day.

Boring is the New Black

By Heba Zaidan

The concept alone makes my blood curdle and my heart turn into coal. A 9 to 5 job? My sister?! Last I checked on her she just came back from a 2 month tour of Europe with a few sporadic purple dreads tucked in her hair. Now I hear that she has a job making powerpoints and numbing her brain and complaining about Mr. BossMan. Did she not realize what she was doing? It’s like, dude, she used to spend her days in concerts chasing experiences but now she’s in her humble apartment staring at spreadsheets. I mean, if it happened to her that means suburbification can happen to any one of us if we’re not careful, right? So when I leave this place with a diploma in my right hand and the world in the palm of the other, am I going to become instantly less interesting?

I want to think about this logically so I don’t induce a perpetual state of panic, or trigger early onset midlife crisis. Maybe there’s a whole side of Excel that’s fulfilling and is worthy of being a bar story. Maybe there is something stimulating and completely riveting about working a 9 to 5 corporate job. Or maybe adulthood is sucking it up and realizing having fun and adventure doesn’t always require a 15 hour flight and doing things you’ll regret when you’re 45. Maybe adulthood is being interesting for yourself, and doing the little things to make your life genuine and helping yourself grow. What if growing means you’re more interesting in an introspective manner rather than having your life being a conversation piece? What if adulthood is interesting because it’s geared towards the individual and not towards impressing others?

What if I’m not interesting now? Because I’m living for stories and moments rather than growth. Are random road trips so last season? Oh my god, are conference calls totally chic now? How am I so out of the loop? Oh no! Am I lame?! Is my 9 to 5 sister cooler than me now?! What’s going on here? Is the entire system of dividing people into “fun” and “not fun” arbitrary?! WHAT DOES COSMO HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THIS?!!

Wait…what if being interesting is just being shamelessly yourself? After all, my sister always was a homebody before college. She was always pretty geeky in her own way too, playing with numbers and equations instead of partying with the rest of her peers. I remember even in college, she’d use me as an excuse to not have to go out. So hold on, I think my sister was totally blasé to herself in college. I think music festivals made her yawn, and she was actually dreaming of days of practicality. Oh my god, what if this is her being interesting to herself now?


So when I leave this place with a diploma in my right hand and the world in the palm of the other, am I going to start living as my true authentic self?

Take Risks and Speak your Mind

By Izzy Souza

This year has blessed me with many opportunities. Coming from a small, conservative suburb of Memphis, TN, I have been met with an abundance of new ideas through the amazing people I’ve met, the fascinating classes I’ve taken, and the crazy things I’ve experienced. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned of significance this year, it’s that speaking your mind is of utmost importance.

I want to preface this post by saying that I have most definitely been guilty of bottling away my feelings and thoughts, and it was only very recently that I came to the conclusion that I need to be more forward and open with the people in my life. When I came to George Mason, I was the type of person to wait for others to talk to me first and to always live in fear that others did not like me. I know many struggle with those issues. I was losing friendships, holding myself back, and letting opportunities slip by all because I was too afraid to speak my mind.

But sometime in the past two months I came to the realization that the source of my general sadness was my hesitation to be open with others. I used to fear rejection and confrontation, but now I embrace them. I don’t want potential friendships and opportunities to pass me by all because I am afraid to initiate conversation. Since having my epiphany, I have already made meaningful friendships with several new people, and gotten involved in new hobbies and activities with people I never could have imagined myself to possess the courage to talk to. My advice to anyone reading this post is to quit the fear and the hesitation. You will have so much more satisfaction with your life if you take risks and choose to stop fearing what others might think of you.