Category Archives: Courses

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

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

INTS 331- The Nonprofit Sector

By Natalie Park

For my service learning I worked with The Humane Society of Fairfax County. This nonprofit organization works to promote humane education, prevent all forms of cruelty to animals, and assist the community with all matters pertaining to the welfare of animals. One of the main reasons why I chose to work with this organization is because I am an animal lover and I admire what the Humane Society does for animals that need care. I feel that the existence of this organization is important in our community. HSFC takes in and finds homes for unwanted pets that need care. They also have an Anti-Meals Pet Food Pantry program that offers free dog and cat food/supplies to Fairfax County residents in need. HSFC’s Feral Cat Program helps control the numbers of homeless cats through the TrapNeuterRelease project.

aaaaaaaaThe Humane Society works with local schools, communities, and other organizations to provide humane education and promote the welfare of all animals. This is an important aspect of the nonprofit sector because the local community is able to be aware of what is going on around us. Raising awareness is crucial so that we can get the community to be a part of something bigger.

Volunteers have an important role in helping all the animals that are part of the Humane Society’s care. They depend on the volunteers to enhance the lives of cats, dogs, horses, and small mammals that are waiting for their permanent homes. These animals needs daily care and need social interaction, due to the fact that they are confined to their rooms all day until the day of adoption. The volunteers provide support by spending time socializing with the animals that lack care. HSFC has a paper-free tracking program for tracking service hours so that volunteers are able to go in and out freely. HSFC requires volunteers to complete an online application and to attend an hour long information orientation that trains the helpers prior to beginning the service work.

HSFC cannot work for their mission without the help from the community. The donors and volunteers keep the organization going. Humane Society accepts donations from pet care supplies, gifts, and also monetary donations.

My personal experience at HSFC was beyond what I had expected because I personally did not have any experience with nonprofit. Playing with the cats and kittens were the highlight of my day, seeing these animals excited to see me and play with me brightened my day. Each day, I was excited to go back. It made me realize how much love and care they want. I never realized how many animals are in need of a home in Fairfax County. I would definitely recommend for people to adopt seeking for a pet. Working here made me seek other adoption shelters in the area, this experience sparked a new interest in my life.

My name is Natalie Park and I am currently a Senior at George Mason University. I love animals and believe every animal deserves love and care. I really enjoyed working with Humane Society and want to continue doing so following this course.aaaaaa

INTS 331- The Nonprofit Sector

By Aaab.pnglison O’Connell

I was able to use an organization I already had connections with for my volunteering requirement this semester. I was very excited to continue working on a project I really believe in and that has impacted my life in such a positive way. I volunteered with Rural Dog Rescue, a rescue center for dogs from rural areas that are transported to DC to be adopted. Rural Dog’s motto is “Root for the Underdog!”, and they try to live up to it by devoting the majority of their resources to saving dogs who would otherwise be euthanized: black dogs, hounds, pit bulls (or dogs that resemble them), elderly dogs and sick dogs. They select dogs from high-kill shelters in southern states (including Southern Virginia) and bring them to foster homes in DC until they can find suitable adopters. My previous volunteering experience was as a foster. My work this semester was very different: I did all my volunteering virtually, assisting with various social media initiatives.

It was very interesting to compare and contrast Rural Dog with the structures that exist in larger non-profit organizations. Rural Dog is entirely volunteer run and focused on a small-scale mission, so many of the initiatives that larger non-profits deal with did not apply to them. Our class this semester also gave me a lot of insight into why non-profits are started and how we assess their success and merit. I can definitely see ways for Rural Dog to grow and expand, should they choose to, but I am proud of the work they’re doing right now and think it absolutely has a positive output.

One of the best things about my organization is how many ways there are to volunteer. I am disabled and have struggled with my desire to volunteer and contribute versus my ability and energy level. I was very excited to find there were a number of ways I could help that weren’t on a set schedule. I highly recommend virtual volunteering if your organization offers it: you can fit your contributions to your life and still make a difference in how your organization approaches their mission. In my case, I feel my work directly helps the organization stay visible and recruit potential adopters. Fostering was also a really positive experience for me, and I highly recommend it to any animal-lovers who can’t afford to own a pet themselves. The Rescue provides supplies, food and vet care. Your job is to give of your time and energy- no mean feat- and help a vulnerable dog adjust to their new life. Many people balk at the idea of caring for a dog and then giving it up. I definitely did (and my first foster dog was a foster-failure…meaning I kept her). However, I quickly adjusted to the cyclical nature of fostering: the adjustment period of adding a new animal to your home, the bonding that occurs, the grief of letting them go, and the satisfaction of seeing them thrive in their forever-home. The grief happened every time, but each new dog taught me a very important lesson: they were all special and all deserved to be loved and safe. My momentary pain was totally worth it in the scheme of things. Without fosters, the rescue couldn’t do their work, and all of those wonderful lives would be lost. Rural Dog also needs volunteers for weekend adoption events. Those volunteers attend the events and handle the dogs so they can meet prospective adopters. It’s a very important job and key to helping dogs meet the right people for them. Many of their volunteers for this position are from local universities.

If you’re an animal lover, I highly recommend getting involved with this rescue (or one of the many other excellent ones in the NOVA area)! The rescue is entirely volunteer run, so every contribution, from virtual volunteering to dog wrangling, is an essential part of the process to getting these dogs adopted.

Alison O’Connell is a junior at Mason and helicopter dog-parent. She loves baking and pop-culture.

INTS 331-The Nonprofit Sector

By Natalie Wolf

My name is Natalie Wolf and I am a junior here at George Mason University, graduating in May of 2018. I am a Sociology major with a double minor in Nonprofit Studies and Women and Gender Studies. I hope to work with nonprofits in the DC area bettering my community around me with a focus on social justice. In addition I am studying American Sign Language, and hope to continue my love for the language after college.

For my nonprofit sector class, I choose Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) as my service site. I went to the GMU Service Fair on September 9th and meet two wonderful NVFS representatives, who I now work under. NVFS is a private nonprofit organization that has been running since 1924. NVFS works to create sustainable financial and social independence for families and individuals in Northern Virginia. This organization is the perfect service site for Mason students as NVFS programs help a wide variety of needs. Some programs include, Anti-Hunger, Homelessness, Housing, Child Placement, Health and Mental Health Services, Legal Services, Multicultural Center, Early Childhood Services, and even Workforce Development Services. I worked with the development team, specifically with programs that help families in the holiday season.

The first main project I worked on was Operation Turkey, a program that provides Thanksgiving meals to more than 800 families in Prince William County. I am so grateful that NVFS let me take such a large hand in helping with this drive. On my first day I was the person who contacted all Prince William County schools in their participation for food donations, and every week I would follow up on the processaa. I was able to see all of the development team and my own work come together for such a successful event that fed so many families this Thanksgiving. I also worked with our program Empty Bowls, a national event that educates on local hunger and helps those less fortunate. One of the final projects I worked on with NVFS was Gifting for Families which ensures more than 2,100 children in Northern Virginia receive gifts for the holiday season.

I was fortunate to have an internship with a nonprofit this Fall semester that had such large programs to take on. NFVS is a wonderful place to reach out to for a service site as they work so well with your schedule and making sure what you are working on is something that will benefit your future. As an organization that has been running for almost 90 years, it’s an honor to work with such a successful business that has continually helped improve our own community. The service site is perfect for a nonprofit minor, as it connects to the course lessons. As we discussed things such as managing staff, grants, or marketing, I was able to connect it to my own service site. I cannot imagine a better service site that I would work with, NVFS treated me like an employee and taught me wonderful experience.