Category Archives: Leadership and Community Engagement LLC

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



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.

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

Waking an Active Citizen

By: Mousa Abusaif

I spent a great deal of effort, at some point in time, trying to decide which I preferred watching: the sunrise, or sunset. I was as familiar with both as any young person in the States probably is today: A handful of sunrises to a wealth of sunsets. It takes a specific calling, or some other odd reason, to wake a young adult up, when the air is still chilled and the morning dew settles heavily on sharp and glistening blades of grass. In the event of this weekend past, that drive just happened to manifest in the form of an annual conference: in which the Leadership and Community Engagement LLC, paired with the Social Action and Integrative Learning NCC, has traditionally spearheaded Mason’s presence. Nonetheless, entirely voluntary and with no other incentive but to learn and contribute, we packed a van full of eager students, at the break of dawn I add, for the three plus hour drive to Williamsburg Virginia; and the following is what we discovered.

From across the Commonwealth hundreds of likeminded students forfeited their Saturdays to converge on a venue of education; seeking to alleviate some of that responsibility, and acquire new skill-sets to change their, and the greater world. I believe there has never been a more difficult time than in this modern era, in which we are all endowed with a certain responsibility and capability, to remedy the paradigmatic dilemmas of this great human race. From prison reform, to grassroots funding, to my lecture on the divisiveness and polarization of today’s socio-political spectrum; in these few hours there was an ostentatious deal to be revealed. We imposed our perspectives, principles, and mutual knowledge in interactive forums of learning. But more than that, we grew together: in navigating the hiking trails of that historic town, the halls of those hallowed buildings, the spirits and desires of those advantageous students. From sunrise to sunset we were together, and to expound no further: not having to decide between the two beauties, seems to be the greatest privilege of a day well spent.

Social Action and Integrative Learning: A Senior Perspective

By Michael Galfetti
             In some ways I feel like the Office of Social Action and Integrative Learning has birthed me, or at the least was my babysitter. I lived in the Living Learning Community Freshman and Sophomore year and made a few of my most memorable friends there. SAIL continually offers me ways to give back to the mason community that grow as I do. Wherever I am in my capabilities, SAIL meets me with an encouraging embrace (Ok, maybe that is just Patty). I wanted to share my journey with SAIL to highlight the unique role this office fills on campus. SAIL is like a meaningful glue that gets between your other classes and curricula to offer something rare: a personal experience. 
               Like I said, at first, SAIL was a welcome mother to foster growth and soothe me through the growing pains. I moved into the Leadership and Community Engagement LLC to find not only was I living away from my parents, but I was doing that with 20 other people who also wanted to lead and engage their community. More than empty words, the Leadership and Community Engagement LLC was filled with people who truly had service hearts, people who wanted to give back, who wanted to lead the “right way”, and who were sensitive to their fellow community members. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to know my Freshman year floor, and Sophomore year about 90% of us joined the LLC again! A true testament to the kind of community SAIL fostered. 
                  In class every week the community would discuss a different social issue, leadership style, or community building technique. Patty, the facilitator of our class attached to the community, dealt with our significant misunderstandings and encouraged a friendly, healthy debate amongst the strongly religious, the agnostic, the republicans, the democrats, the libertarians, the atheist, the extroverted, the introverted, the emotionally open, and the emotionally closed off. Seems like a utopia given the state of the world today. Beyond the classroom, SAIL, took us on retreat to Environmental Studies on the Piedmont where Tom Woods, an excellent School of Integrative Studies professor, sent us on night-walks, without flashlights, took us star gazing, and allowed us into his space (sorry about the pans Tom). (SAIL did not teach me how to cook). An extra-faraway experience sponsored by SAIL is their alternative break program. 
                 Through Alternative Break I was able to leave the country for the first time an get to know a perspective outside of the developed West. In a week that was jammed packed with a women rights rally, discussion with a group of sex-workers, meetings with teenagers, an alternative church group, lessons from the director of Cristosal, hearing an female band, listening to a poetry reading, and a lot of pupusas I was able to see that the differences between people, in their nature, is insignificant. This experience was an essential piece of my college career. In the globalized world it is important to recognize that people will come from vastly different background and experience things that are difficult to imagine going through; despite that, everyone has a dream and wants to live a life where they can make that dream a reality. This attracts so many people to the U.S. Our national myth is based on that simple premise universal to all peoples: work hard and you can be whoever you want to be. It is sufficient to say that SAIL has had a monumental role in shaping my worldview and perspective. 
                I only have the space to begin to express the ways in which I am grateful for SAIL.The life-long friends, the once in a lifetime experiences, the discussions, the knowledge, the perspective, all seem to evade precise language. I hope by telling you a little bit about my experience you see the value and worth in this office and decide to get involved. SAIL has been integral to creating the ideal college experience. I close with the age-old and tired maxim and one addendum to it: ‘if you want college to be meaningful, get involved and put yourself out there!’; get involved with people who will return and reciprocate the effort and energy you put into them tenfold—get involved with the office of Social Action and Integrative Learning.

My Brew

By Mousa Abusaif

Most people are not aware that the “coffee bean,” is the seed of a flowering plant. Like all plants, it has its own distinct family.

A brew has the potential to be a very interesting treat: full of complexities (some more earthy or fragrant), smooth, and with the capacity to wake its host up. A good brew can be an adventure, a pick-me up, a mystery, a trip from start to finish. It can make you think about the world, and where all its parts derive from; make you glad that you shared it with others, or that you took the time to sip… very… slowly. Sometimes it can burn. Sometimes it can warm you. Other times you can feel it dancing inside you. You may miss it when it’s not to be found. You may depend on it. It may grow stale without you, sitting and waiting to be sipped; and so the exchange is mutual. Liquid peace, played out each step of the way, like a sweet song. The seed matures, the bean is roasted perfectly, but differently every time. That’s okay, because roasting is an art; and each bean is still valuable, and part of its distinct family. Watch the cup as it sits, and you’ll see it sparkle with your reflection.


Here, all students take root in the same ground, and in this hall, this residency, this community — all too share in this distinct family. I’m glad that those around me have been there to pick me up, to warm me, to share in this treat, to take the time, to never cease in surprising me, and to partake in this song as it plays out.

(In the words of Mousa: “It’s a photo of tea (and cantaloupe), but you take what you can get!”)