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S U M M E R 2017




With a new research facility on the Potomac River, Mason is tackling global problems head on.





Yoga and Pilates classes are offered in the RAC on the Fairfax Campus. The Center for the Advancement of Well-Being also offers a free weekly yoga class. Above, communication major and yoga teacher Ashley Whimpey does a variation of the scorpion pose, Vrischikasana in Pincha Mayurasana. Photo by Evan Cantwell

On the Cover Mason researcher Joris van der Ham helps the De Mutsert Lab team with a beach seine in Gunston Cove, Virginia. Find out more about their work on page 16. Photo by Evan Cantwell Left, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute ecologist Tom Akre conducts a sampling of endangered wood turtles with Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation students. Photo by Evan Cantwell



Down by the Bay For more than 30 years, Mason ecologists have been monitoring the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed and finding ways to help the ecosystem repair itself. The opening of Mason’s new Potomac Science Center on Belmont Bay in Woodbridge, Virginia, is providing a space to elevate and showcase the environmental research being done in this region.

Is Keeping It Green 20 12WhileWayswe’reMason proud of our bees, sustainability isn’t just a buzz word at Mason, and the university’s degree programs, courses, and inspired initiatives to create a better world span campus, the community, and the globe. Take a look at a dozen ways we put the “Green” in Green and Gold.

into the Past 26 Stepping It may be hidden away in an unassuming patch of woods, but there’s no doubt about the significance of a Civil War redoubt on Mason’s Fairfax Campus. Local amateur historians are sharing the research they’ve gathered about this historic landmark with Mason students.

D E PA R T M E N T S Follow us on Twitter @MasonSpirit for alumni news, events, and more.  ecome a fan of the Mason Spirit on B Facebook for links to photos, videos, and stories at MasonSpirit. Check our website for a behind-thescenes look at the Spirit, more alumni profiles, and breaking news at spirit.

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39 PAT R I O T P R O F I L E 4 0 C L A S S N O T E S 42 From the Alumni Association President

A L U M N I P R O F I L E S 40 Jason Von Kundra, BS Earth Science ’12 43 Maria Ambrose, BFA Dance ’11 44 Nathaniel Provencio, MS Educational Leadership ’07

MORE ON THE WEB When you see this graphic, follow it to the magazine’s website for more: Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 1





eorge W. Johnson had never heard of George Mason University when the rector at the time, Til Hazel, con­ tacted him in 1978 about becoming Mason’s fourth president in six years. Many other candidates might have been deterred. Not Dr. Johnson. He recognized the opportunity to shape an institution, accelerate a region, and emerge as a dis­tinc­ tive newcomer among Virginia’s deep-rooted public universities.

What set Dr. Johnson apart and made him successful was his willingness to think big when others thought small, forge a strong coalition with key leaders in our region, and recruit a cadre of entrepreneurial academics interested in building a new kind of university. Dr. Johnson, who died May 30 at age 88, was a tireless advocate for Mason. He inspired area business leaders to rally around the university. And he wasn’t afraid to throw his weight around in Richmond. The impatient six-foot-six literature professor from North Dakota, by way of a deanship at Temple University, made for a curious, yet most effective, envoy for Mason. Some downstate legislators—many of them graduates of other Virginia schools—viewed with suspicion this fledgling university in burgeoning, tech-savvy Northern Virginia. Almost all of Dr. Johnson’s initiatives met resistance. Still, he persisted, and because of that Mason blossomed: A law school. An engi­neering school. A college of arts. Institutes of public policy and conflict analysis and resolution. PhD pro­grams. Campuses in Arlington and Prince William. Buildings sprouted across the Fairfax Campus during his tenure. But to Dr. Johnson, it was human capital that mattered most. Through the Robinson Professors Program and Mason-based institutes and centers, he persuaded distinguished faculty to come to an upstart univer­ sity where they could truly shine. Their arrival, one after the other, signaled to the Washington, D.C., region, the state, and, in time, the country the ambitious level of scholarship and research to which Mason aspired. One of those hires, economics professor James Buchanan, won Virginia’s first Nobel Prize. By the time Dr. Johnson retired in 1996, enrollment had more than doubled from when he started, to 23,000 students. The College of Visual and Performing Arts, the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, and the schools that would become the Volgenau School of Engineering and the Schar School of Policy and Government all started under Dr. Johnson and elevated the university’s academic profile. The Honors College helped attract students of extraordinary motivation. The Early Identification Program helped first-generation, college-bound students, like himself, achieve their dreams of going to school. The Center for the Arts and EagleBank Arena made Mason a sports and entertainment destination for the community. "What they’ve been able to accomplish in a few years has taken other colleges decades,” a state education official once noted of Mason in a Washington Post article. That story was published in 1986—less than halfway through the dynamic tenure of Mason’s longest-serving president. Mason and Northern Virginia will forever be indebted to Dr. Johnson’s vision and leadership. He helped transform an unknown institution into a world-class university now mentioned in the same breath as prominent colleges across the country. Ángel Cabrera President

2 | FA S T E R FA R T H E R : T H E C A M PA I G N F O R G E O R G E M A S O N U N I V E R S I T Y MANAG ING EDITOR Colleen Kearney Rich, MFA ’95 A S S O C I AT E E D I T O R S Cathy Cruise, MFA ’93 Rob Riordan C R E AT I V E D I R E C T O R Sarah Metcalf Seeberg ART DIRECTOR Elliott de Luca, BA ’04 SE N I O R CO PY WR ITE R Margaret Mandell A S S I S TA N T E D I T O R Melanie Balog E D I T O R I A L A S S I S TA N T Arthur Wesley, BA ’17 I L L U S T R AT I O N Marcia Staimer CO NTR IBUTO R S Martha Bushong Damian Cristodero Elizabeth Grisham, BA ’02, MA ’12 Danielle Hawkins Saige MacLeod Buzz McClain, BA ’77 Michele McDonald Alexa Rogers, BA ’17 Jamie Rogers Preston Williams Caroline Yost, BFA ’11 P H O T O G R A P H Y A N D M U LT I M E D I A Evan Cantwell, MA ’10, Senior University Photographer Ron Aira, University Photographer Bethany Camp, Student Photographer Melissa Cannarozzi, Image Collections Manager PRODUC TION MANAG ER Brian Edlinski EDITORIAL BOARD Janet E. Bingham Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Relations Frank Neville Vice President for Communications and Marketing Christine Clark-Talley Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations Mason Spirit is published quarterly by the Office of Advancement and Alumni Relations and the Office of Communications and Marketing. Please log in at to update your records or email For the latest news about George Mason University, check out George Mason University is an equal opportunity employer that encourages diversity.


A TRANSFORMATIONAL FIGURE ➤I➤ read the Washington Post obituary last weekend about the passing of former Mason president George Johnson. I never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Johnson in person, but he came to Mason in 1978, which was also the year I entered Mason as a 17-year-old freshman from T. C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. Dr. Johnson deserves a lot of credit for transforming George Mason from a sleepy commuter college to a renowned university. My condolences to his family and the entire Mason community.


Greg Paspatis, BA History ’83


Letters to the editor are welcomed.

➤I➤ recently had dinner with my old soccer coach March Krotee. Krotee was the Mason soccer and tennis coach in the early 1970s. He left us to go to University of Minnesota and just retired after 23 years at NC State. The guy on the right is Rabih Chatila, captain and all-star halfback from the 1973 Mason soccer team (NAIA Final Four).

Send correspondence to Colleen Kearney Rich, Managing Editor, Mason Spirit, 4400 University Drive, MS 2F7, Fairfax, Virginia 22030.

Buzz McClain, BA English ’77

Or send an email to

WE ARE GOLDEN In 1968, George Mason College of the University of Virginia awarded baccalaureate degrees to 55 students. That group of freshly minted Mason alumni created its own Alumni Association in the same year. In 2018, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of both the Alumni Association and the Class of 1968, the Alumni Association and the Alumni Relations Office will recognize up to 50 alumni representing all academic units and spanning five decades.

George and Joanne Johnson, both Mason Medal recipients, at the May 2013 Commencement ceremony.

In preparation, we are asking for your help to identify alumni “exemplars”— individuals from a variety of ages and disciplines who reflect the mission and values of George Mason University. They will be recognized at a special Golden Anniversary Celebration on May 12, 2018. Please use the recommendation form at to submit your suggestions. You may also email Chris Clark-Talley, AVP for Alumni Relations, at

New on The new Patriots’ Basketball Practice Facility (Winter 2017) is a go. Construction began on June 1 and the facility is expected to be operational during the 2017-18 academic year. Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 3


Making Beautiful Music—Together

First Giving Day Stirs Patriot Pride



Isabella Nicola is a talented and beautiful fifth-grader from Alexandria, Virginia, who—among many other interests—likes to play the violin. Though she was born missing her left hand and the lower portion of her left arm, Isabella has never allowed that to stop her from doing everything you would expect from an energetic 11-year-old. She had no intention of letting it keep her from playing violin either. In fact, she had already begun lessons, enabled by a simple PVC-pipe prosthetic that her music teacher, Matthew Baldwin, BM ’06, built for her.

Also blowing in that day was a hurricane of charitable gifts, for April 6 marked Mason’s first university-wide Giving Day. Much-anticipated, Giving Day offered a new way for the entire Mason Nation—alumni, friends, students, faculty, and staff—to help Mason go even farther and faster.

ccasionally one encounters a story that illustrates just how much potential each of us has to change lives. Here at Mason, our faculty, our students, and—yes—our donors change lives for the better every day.

pril 6 was a day to remember at Mason. The forecast called for turbulent weather, and by mid-afternoon, torrential rain and gale-force winds descended across all three campuses. The National Weather Service even issued a tornado warning for the Fairfax area.

Much of the day’s activity took place online. The website highlighted dozens of gift-worthy funds and projects from across the university. Pre-launch buildup included the Patriot starring in a series of humorous teaser videos.

But Baldwin knew Isabella needed something better, so he enlisted the aid of Mason’s Department of Bioengineering at the Volgenau School of Engineering. Five Mason undergraduates took on the task of designing an improved prosthetic arm, made just for Isabella, as their senior capstone project. After months of work and about $500 in raw materials, the student team unveiled a custom-fit, 12-ounce plastic polymer prosthetic to hold the bow. Produced on a 3-D printer in a Mason lab, the device attaches comfortably to Isabella’s left arm. Per her request, it is pink. Now she is able to play the strings far more easily, and beautifully, than before. Certainly the work of five Mason students changed one child’s life for the better, but I am sure that the experience enriched their lives as well. Think of the knowledge they have gained, and imagine the pride that they and their parents must feel. Isabella’s inspirational story was featured in the Washington Post and around the country, and is there any wonder why? Such are the positive ripple effects of small actions—including a student project that got off the ground with just a few hundred dollars. By your decision to give, you can experience the joy of changing lives through many more projects like this one. Philanthropy can pay for 3-D printers, support bioengi­ neering students, and fund the faculty advisors who guide them. Just as easily, your giving can support dance and theater majors, future nurses and teachers, or aspiring scientists. The choice is yours, and every gift, of any size, makes a difference. How many more Isabellas are in our midst, each awaiting our help, and each with a wonderful story to tell? Janet E. Bingham, PhD Vice President, Advancement and Alumni Relations President, George Mason University Foundation

Over a busy 24 hours, social media buzzed with the #Give2Mason tag. “I gave to University Life to support the departments that helped me learn and grow,” tweeted one donor. “I gave today to support the awesome­ness that is @DocNix12 and the @gmugreenmachine,” shared a fan of the famed pep band and its dynamic director. Gifts came in all sizes, from $5 to $5,000, from donors in 39 states and five countries. When all gifts were counted, more than 1,200 donors had contributed a total of $188,724. The Alumni Association Scholarship Endowment received the most donations, with the arts, School of Business initiatives, and the basketball practice facility also drawing strong support. The spirit shown by those supporters made it a proud day to be a Patriot. —Rob Riordan

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Kelly McNamara Corley: A G I V I N G J O U R N E Y F R O M L AW TO N U R S I N G


hen Kelly McNamara Corley, JD ’89, decided to enroll in law school after a few years working in government affairs in Washington, D.C., George Mason University was a convenient but below-the-radar choice in higher education. Squeezing in her classes at night while continuing to work full time, it took Corley four years to earn her law degree. She couldn’t know it then, but her Mason degree would help launch a career trajectory that would lead to being named general counsel at Discover, one of the country’s largest financial services companies. Even after moving to Chicago with her family in 1999 to take that position, Corley stayed connected to Mason. She made the law school one of her charitable giving priorities, served on its advisory board, and mentored law students. At Discover, Corley also spearheaded efforts to help those who lack access to the legal system. Her team received an award in 2015 from a nonprofit legal aid society honoring Discover’s pro bono service to families in the Chicago area. Corley recently established a generous endowed scholarship fund at the Antonin Scalia Law School. Yet there is another giving opportunity at Mason that is even more personal for her. “My mom is a nurse who worked in pediatric nursing the whole time I was growing up. She put herself through nursing school, which was a struggle,” Corley recalls. “We talked together about what we could do to honor her history—something that would also help others.” Together Corley and her mother, Kay McNamara, decided to create a scholarship for Mason nursing students. Corley launched the scholarship fund with a gift of $100,000. Imagine the impact of such a gift: One out of every three nurses in the Washington, D.C., area is trained at Mason. “My mom and I will both get a lot of satisfaction out of helping alleviate that financial burden for young nursing students,” she says. Corley was appointed to the university’s Board of Visitors In 2013. “For someone like me who graduated a while ago, it really helps to see what Mason is doing to develop the potential of our students,” she says. “I’m sure that if every alumnus were able to see that, they would feel as motivated as I do.”

KELLY McNAMARA CORLEY: Changing lives by giving to Mason Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 5



Arlington Welcomes Retiring Paden’s Books on Africa


or many of us, finding room for a few dozen books in the house is difficult enough. For retiring Robinson Professor John Paden, the chore was considerably more difficult: During his 30 years teaching Africa and Asia studies at Mason, he amassed more than 4,000 volumes. “And my wife said, ‘It’s time to do something with them,’” Paden says with a gentle laugh. And she did not mean move them all to their new, downsized home. Instead, Paden donated the books—including rare 19th-century French first editions of West Africa explorations as well as contemporary tomes— to Mason’s University Libraries. The John N. Paden Nigerian/African Collec­ tion comprises about 4,000 books, periodicals, pamphlets, reports, confer­­­ence proceedings, photographs, maps, and related ephemera. The role of Islam in the greater region is an important com­ponent to a collec­tion that also includes rare issues of African newspapers. Topics include history, language, art, economics, architecture, and archaeology. “In the course of his own scholarship and throughout his teaching career, Professor Paden has assembled a most impressive library of books and other materials on an important region of Africa,” says John Zenelis, dean of libraries and university librarian. The collection, he adds, “provides a most compre­hen­sive resource for the study of modern Sub-Sahara West Africa.” With funding from multiple donors, an endowment was created to honor Paden’s work in Nigeria. Mason’s Arlington Campus Library will house the Paden collection in a dedicated space open to students, scholars, and the public. The endowment funding will cover associated costs for future acquisitions about Nigeria and Africa by the libraries. —Buzz McClain, BA ’77

M Pulitzer prize finalist

ason adjunct professor Larrie Ferreiro was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist in the History category for his book, Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It, released in November 2016. The book explains within the inter­ national context how the United States secured its independence from Great Britain. Ferreiro, who teaches in both the Volgenau School of Engineering and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, decided to write about the

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subject after he noticed his children’s textbooks barely mentioned France’s role in aiding the United States. They didn’t mention Spain at all. “America didn’t do it alone,” he says. “This was a worldwide war. There’s a gap between what happened and what’s taught.” “It’s an engaging, painstakingly researched book that offers a basic rethinking of a central event in our nation’s history,” says Brian Platt, chair of the Department of History and Art History. —Jamie Rogers



Condensing Five Years into Three Minutes


ho says the fun of competitions has to be reserved for sports and reality television? Mason’s new Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition is changing that. An annual international competition that originated in 2008 at the University of Queensland, Australia, 3MT has quickly spread to more than 350 universities in 58 countries around the world. In it, PhD students compete to see who is best able to captivate an audience with their years of research in three minutes or less. Contestants must pitch their research as if presenting to an audience with no experience in the researcher’s field. They are only allowed one visual aid and must refrain from using any electronic media or props. Anyone who exceeds the allotted three minutes is disqualified. The winners are awarded hefty cash prizes. At Mason’s inaugural competition, first-place winner Chelsie Romulo received $1,000,

second-place Rachel Golden Kroner received $750, third-place Erik Goepner received $500, and a people’s choice award of $300 went to Bradley Snyder.

“It was a challenge. You have to pick what stands out from your research that will be most interesting to a broad audience. It’s really hard because everything seems so important.” ­—Chelsie Romulo But this competition isn’t for the weak of heart. Condensing 5 to 10 years of research into three minutes is a challenge, but it helps

students develop their ability to quickly communicate the value of their research to others outside their field. “It was a challenge,” says Romulo, who is working on a PhD in environmental science and public policy. “You have to pick what stands out from your research that will be most interesting to a broad audience. It’s really hard because everything seems so important.” Mason’s initial 3MT exceeded its original capacity of 40 slots, so it was expanded to accommodate more contestants. Next year, Associate Provost for Graduate Education Cody Edwards, who started Mason’s 3MT, plans to expand to PhD students from every school and college at the university. If you think you’ve got what it takes, visit provost. to learn more. —Arthur Wesley, BA ’17 John Hollis contributed to this story.

Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 7



Alia Gholoom (left) and Andrew Sachs finish building the green roof structure on the top level of the Rappahannock River Parking Deck on the Fairfax Campus.

Where Cars Park, Green Roof Grows


Check out the video at

he Rappahannock River Parking Deck on Mason’s Fairfax Campus recently got a new roof—a green roof, to be specific—as part of a graduate research project. A green roof is one that is partially or completely covered in vegetation and a growing media. These roofs absorb and filter rainwater, provide insulation, and can help lower air temperatures. The green roof was built with the assistance of two graduate students, who will be conducting their own research on different aspects of the roof. Alia Gholoom, a master’s student in civil and infra­struc­ ture engineering, wants to gain a better understand­ing of how green roofs perform, particularly in combination with solar panels. Her role focuses on adding elements like the panels to the traditional green roof structure to see if they make the roof more efficient. “Green roofs are going to be a very vital part of this effort to ‘green’ our cities, but there’s a lack of research,” says environmental science graduate student Andrew Sachs. Sachs works with green infrastructure and wants to see how structural aspects of the roof, like insulation

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and storm water management, can make the roof more efficient. Led by professors Paul Houser in the Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science, Viviana Maggioni in the Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering, and Dann Sklarew in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, the green roof project is bringing together students from geography, engineering, and environmental science programs to examine the possible impacts of a green roof on a community. The Dominion Foundation and Mason’s Patriot Green Fund are supporting the project with $40,000 in educa­ tion and research grants, which helped pay for the tools to create the roof and the instrumentation needed to collect data. “In the ever-challenging realm of climate change and urbanization, it’s going to be a lot more important for regulatory use to know exactly what [elements of the roof] are contributing to [which results],” says Sachs. —Alexa Rogers, BA ’17



D I D YO U K N O W… UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR ANDREW LIGHT has captured international attention for his work in helping to create global solutions for climate change. While on leave from Mason from 2013 to 2016, Light worked at the U.S. Depart­ment of State as one of the senior members of the delegation that negotiated the 2016 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. In recognition of his work, the International Society for Environ­mental Ethics awarded him its inaugural Public Philosophy Award and announ­ ced plans to name the award after him. He has also been recog­nized by the State Department and the Society for the Advancement of Ameri­ can Philosophy, which awarded him its inaugural Alain Locke Award for Public Philosophy.

POINT OF PRIDE Mason was named a

“Best Value College” by Forbes, which ranked Mason at 111th among the top 300 colleges and universities, a jump of 69 positions from Forbes’ 2016 evaluation. Mason was also recognized by Kiplinger’s “Best College Values.”

Madison Horwitz

Megan Caputo Katherine Horrigan

Grace Ball Karen Reedy

School of Dance professor Karen Reedy, BFA Dance ’95, MFA Dance ’09, worked with three of her former students on a piece titled “From the Shadows.” The students are now alumnae and professional dancers—Grace Ball, BFA Dance ’13; Megan Caputo, BFA Dance ’13; and Madison Horwitz, BFA Dance ’15—in the Arlington-based contemporary dance company Company Danzante, directed by alumna Katherine Horrigan, MA Arts Management ’13. Horrigan commissioned the Reedy work, which premiered at the Atlas Intersection Festival at the Atlas Theater in Washington, D.C., in February.  “It’s really lovely to be able to interact with these dancers on a professional level,” says Reedy. “The teacher in me is always wanting to nurture them.” Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 9



Cutting the Gauze


n May 12, the Mason and Partners (MAP) Clinic “cut the gauze” on a new permanent space in Manassas Park. Thanks to a generous grant by the Potomac Health Foundation and the hard work of the many MAP clinic partners, health care services can now be expanded from one to five days a week in Manassas Park. Over the past two years, School of Nursing professors and twins Caroline Sutter, MSN ’01, DNP ’12, and Rebecca Sutter, MSN ’01, DNP ’12, have worked tirelessly to bring their vision of an academic-practice partnership to reality. What started off as a room in a community center to provide school physicals for children turned into a clinic capable of treating a range of issues and helping families avoid unneces­ sary trips to the emergency room.

At the clinic, the Sutter sisters practice inter­ professional care and can see anything from acute illnesses, such as allergic findings, to chronic disease management (hypertension, diabetes) and behavioral health issues (depres­ sion, anxiety). “One of the biggest roles we have is helping with navigation of our health care system,” says Rebecca. “Its disjointed nature—let alone for the most vulnerable in our community— really requires that high-touch intervention to connect them with partners and resources with­in the community itself.” With the support of its partners, the MAP Clinic has expanded to two additional full clinic locations (Falls Church and SpringfieldFranconia) and two extension sites in Prince William County.

The current clinics have provided nearly $1.1 million per year in unreimbursed care for unin­sured and underinsured community mem­ bers. True to the academic-practice partner­ship model, these clinics also provide critical training for Mason students in the School of Nursing and the Departments of Social Work, Nutrition and Food Studies, Health Adminis­ tration and Policy, Psychology, and others. In conjunction with their standard curriculum, students practice a holistic approach to health care that uses evidence-based practices. As these students enter the workforce, their clinic experience helps them stand out among their peers. “The clinic teaches collaboration, not competition, and in today’s complicated health care system, there’s no better learning opportunity for our students,” says Caroline. —Danielle Hawkins

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hile they aren’t able to communicate tele­pathi­cally or feel each other’s pain as some twins claim to do, they do share a bond that helps them work together effectively in Mason’s School of Nursing. Professors Caroline Sutter, MSN ’01, DNP ’12, and Rebecca Sutter, MSN ’01, DNP ’12, are training the next generation of health care providers together at Mason, and they’re taking home accolades for doing it. Rebecca won the American Association of Nurse Practitioners Award this year, and her sister won the same award last year. But they insist there’s no sibling rivalry here. “Our relationship is about collaboration not competition,” Caroline says. “When I was awarded it last year, it was almost a little difficult to accept the award knowing that she wasn’t given the same recognition. But for her to be recognized this year, it really rounds out the whole experience.” The twins do, however, note vastly different skill sets. Rebecca has the ability to see things in a larger, more systemic way, Caroline says. And Rebecca describes Caroline as able to get into the details of executing a project while using a more personal, gentle approach. —Jamie Rogers

A “Date” with an Agent—and Destiny? Creative writing major Sarah Batcheller is enrolled in numerous courses on how to make her writing shine, but hasn’t been sure of how to publish her work once it’s finished. That’s why a recent event at Mason’s New Leaves Con­ference, hosted each spring as part of the Fall for the Book festival, was so significant, as it offered Batcheller a rare chance to speak pri­ vately with a noted literary agent about her writing. Batcheller and 25 other MFA students and alumni submitted a query letter and the first few pages of their manuscripts before the “speed dating” with literary agents event. Then, at the conference, they discussed their work with either Jeff Kleinman or Erin Harris from New York’s Folio Literary Management. Batcheller spoke with Harris about the novel she’s writing for her thesis, “a story about three generations of Chinese American women in the U.S.,” Batcheller says. “A fictional retelling

of my family’s heritage.” Harris advised Batcheller to recon­figure her book and the query letter. “Her advice was to consider chang­ing the narrative structure to make the novel more sellable, and to move some information in my query letter so more important things are dis­

cussed earlier,” Batcheller says. “Overall, it was useful to hear how to get a pitch through to an agent, and that [my book] is something Erin would be interested in when it’s complete.” Amanda Bender, a second-year MFA student and organizer of the session, says the event was important for writers, not only for the practice and advice it provided, but for the chance to possibly see their work published. The agents from Folio were, as always, “on the lookout for projects they would like to represent,” Bender says. Batcheller would like to see the speed dating become an annual event. “Writers tend to worry about being picked up by an agent, but we also need to learn how to choose [one],” says Bender. “[It’s] not just prac­ tic­ing query letters, but learning how to decide where you want to pitch and if that agency’s values align with yours. It is like dating.” —Cathy Cruise, MFA ’93 Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 11




Jeffrey Counts of Facilities Management's Central Heating and Cooling Plant gives students a tour.

Gaining Experience as an Environmental Scientist


hen Mason Environmental Science and Policy says Jeffrey Counts, superintendent of the heating and professor Cynthia Smith was getting ready to cooling plant in Facilities Management. teach EVPP 302 Biomes and Human Dimensions For one of the field trips, students donned Tyvek suits for the first time, she did a little research first. and sifted through trash at the Prince William County She found that some environmental science and biology landfill to determine what percentage of the refuse was majors were having difficulty finding jobs without a grad­ recyclable. Another field trip brought the class to Lee­syl­ uate degree. Looking for answers, she surveyed 10 employ­ vania State Park in Woodbridge, Virginia, where students ers and found that what they wanted most was were were challenged to think of new ways to protect the park’s employees who had worked on “real” research projects living shorelines from erosion and pollution. After taking and had “real” field experience. So she reworked the course a park tour, the students brainstormed ideas. They returned to include an energy audit of a campus building, which is to the park a week later to present those ideas to Sarah conducted in partnership with Mason’s Offices of Sus­tain­ Percival, the chief ranger of the park, who is taking them ability and Facilities. She also incorporated a number of into consideration for future park renovations. trips to learn what environmental scientists do in the field. Students had overwhelmingly positive reactions to After receiving a tour from Mason Facilities and a run­ the class. “There is no class to compare to EVPP 302. It is down of how they operate, the EVPP 302 students con­ eye opening, jaw dropping, and inspiring, all at the same ducted an energy audit of buildings around the Fairfax time,” says environmental science major Melanie Sattler. Campus and suggested ways to reduce energy consump­ “[The class] impacted how I approach environmental tion. The class gained valuable experience in operating science in everyday life. Every small step in the right thermal imaging equipment to discover heat leaks from direction matters.” windows and other spots. They compiled their findings Environmental science major Meghana Varde had into a 24-page report, which Facilities is using to create similar feelings, saying that. “[EVPP 302] “was definitely work orders and fix the leaks. one of my favorite classes at Mason because I was able to “One of the best parts about my job is the interaction get a hands-on experience and gain a better under­stand­ with the students during plant tours—and getting new ing of the work that professionals currently do.” —Arthur Wesley, BA ’17 ideas from them that we can possibly use to save energy,”

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IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN! Alumni Weekend October 12-15


Mason Madness

Green and Gold Bash

8 p.m. EagleBank Arena

6:30–9 p.m. Dewberry Hall, Fairfax Campus

Friday, October 13

Saturday, October 14

Fall for the Book October 11–14

For a list of all events and to register, visit: @masonalumni #MasonAW



Buzzing with Activity


bout two years from now, German Perilla, MAIS ’12, hopes about four acres of the I-95 Landfill Complex in Lorton, Virginia, will be transformed into green meadows with grasses, wildflowers, and bees—lots of bees. The ambitious endeavor—a partnership among George Mason, Fairfax County, and Covanta, a private waste energy company that runs the landfill’s incinerator—is the latest example of Mason Honey Bee Initiative’s broadening profile on campus and its out­ reach into the community.

The 500-acre I-95 landfill project actually began with complex manager and Mason alumnus Eric Forbes, BA Integrative Studies ’02. A classmate of Perilla’s while at Mason, Forbes thought bee apiaries on closed areas of the property would be a win-win, and gave his old friend a call. Forbes says he wants to eventually turn 25 acres of landfill into meadows. That will not only provide habitat for native wildlife and pollinators, it will lower maintenance costs for the landfill through reduced mowing. New root systems will also reduce storm water runoff and erosion.

“The main goal of the Honey Bee Initiative is to educate students, professors, and the general public on the importance of polli­ nators. This is the platform to do it,” says Perilla, co-founder of the initiative and a faculty member in the School of Integrative Studies. “This country depends on pollinators for its food security, and honey bees are the most versatile pollinators you can find.”

At an on-campus “smart hive hackathon” in February, students began using technology to brainstorm about developing devices and apps to monitor hive health and battle colony collapse disorder, which is devastating bee populations worldwide. In claiming portions of the complex that have been closed and capped by soil and turf, the group planted seeds for rye grass and

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wildflowers on two acres in October and two acres this spring. Twelve hives, each with 15,000 bees, will create an education site open to students and school groups. The sites will take about two years to mature. Officials from Fairfax County’s Solid Waste Management Program backed the strategy and donated $5,000, as did Covanta. The money went to buy seeds, bees, hives, and a pollen substitute to help feed the hives as they become established. “I’m ecstatic about it,” says Forbes. “These partnerships between a state university and

local government can lead to bigger and better things for education and the community.” “It’s an opportunity we never had,” says Perilla. "The fact that we’re working with Covanta, Fairfax County, and the community really opens some doors.” —Damian Cristodero


Doni Nolan




Job: Presidents Park Greenhouse Coordinator

As an undergraduate, Doni Nolan, BA Biology ’14, had no visions of a future profession until she visited the Fairfax Campus greenhouse. “It was like a revolution in my life. Really, it was immediately so clear: This is what I want to do with my life,” she says. “This is everything I want. Soil, pots, a huge diversity of plants. I want to be a farmer.” FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB: The Presidents Park Greenhouse produces more than produce (at a rate of about 2,000 pounds a year for use in Mason’s kitchens by the chefs of food service provider Sodexo). It also supports an academic purpose in giving volunteers and interns an introduction to the trade. “My favorite part is working with the students,” she says. “I love plants, for sure, that’s my passion, but if I just wanted to be a farmer, I could work on a huge farm and run my own business. That’s lonely.” GROWING INTO THE JOB: Nolan began as a volunteer for Greenhouse Manager Monica Marcelli at the Potomac Heights Vegetable Garden. “I was that one student who would volunteer during finals when no one else would,” she says. She also helped revitalize the flagging student organization GMU Organic Garden Association (GOGA). “When I was president of GOGA, I realized I’m a natural leader,”

she says. She recruited new members just so she could teach more people about her passion. Before long, the Office of Sustainability hired her to be the unofficial Mason farmer. BRANCHING OUT: Her biology degree and various horticulture certificates are just the beginning. Nolan is studying for her master’s degree in plant science via an online program offered by Virginia Tech. “Mason doesn’t have [a program],” she says, “but I can bring it to Mason. My goal is to become a professor here; I think there’s a growing need for agricultural classes to add to the environmental policy and sustainability programs we have.” PASTORAL HOME LIFE: Not only did Mason help Nolan find her profession, it is also where she met her husband, Matt Nolan, who is an assistant professor of game sound and composition in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. They live on 31 ½ forested acres near Warrenton, Virginia, with a fenced acre for farming where they grow their own produce “just for fun.” —Buzz McClain, BA ’77

Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 15

Down by the Bay

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or more than 30 years, Mason ecologists have been monitoring the Chesapeake Bay

watershed and finding ways to help the

ecosystem repair itself. The opening of Mason’s new

Potomac Science Center is providing a space to elevate and showcase the environmental research being done in this region. By Colleen Kearney Rich, MFA ’95 | Photos by Evan Cantwell, MA ’10 Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 17

Chris Jones


Not far from the bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 95 in Woodbridge, Virginia, there is an oasis where the Occo­quan River joins the Potomac River called Belmont Bay. Ospreys, herons, river otters, and other creatures are thriv­ing there. People like it too, and housing developments have sprung up nearby. In fact, George Mason the man made his home, Gunston Hall, not far from there. George Mason University freshwater ecologist Chris Jones will tell you there isn’t another place like it on Earth, and he means it. “The area is environmentally unique. It is a fresh­ water tidal basin. The salinity of the water is basically 0, and it has unique flora and fauna.” This special place is the setting for the university’s newest research facility, the Potomac Science Center, which opens officially this fall. The $32 million, 50,000-square-foot water­ front building is home to the College of Science’s Poto­mac Environmental Research and Education Center (PEREC) and its Center for Geospatial Intelligence. “We have an international reputation for both of these areas of research,” says Peggy Agouris, dean of the College of Sci­ ence. “It is a great opportunity for the College of Science to have a facility that can house these two areas of inquiry to­gether. They are linked, but also distinct, in the sense that by working together they can address human-centric problems, nature-centric problems, and all the areas in between.” For more than 30 years, PEREC researchers have been study­ ing this ecosystem with the goal of developing greater understanding of the ecological conditions of the Chesa­ peake Bay watershed. A multidisciplinary center, PEREC 18 | FA S T E R FA R T H E R : T H E C A M PA I G N F O R G E O R G E M A S O N U N I V E R S I T Y

includes scientists from the Departments of Environmental Science and Policy, Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Earth Sciences. Eight of those researchers have state-of-the-art labs in this new building.

will also be available to the community, according to Jones, who is the director of PEREC.

“Community education is a vital component to PEREC’s mis­ sion, and the waterfront facility will enhance our education activities and outreach,” says Mason environmental science Geospatial intelligence uses imagery and geospatial infor­ professor Cynthia Smith, PEREC’s K-12 educational director. ma­tion to gather data about human activity. When you track your morning run with an app on your smartphone, Since 2009, Smith and her team have delivered watershed you are using a simple form of geospatial information. Mason’s educational experiences to more than 80,000 middleCenter for Geospatial Intelligence focuses on research that school students in the Prince William County and Fairfax relates to geospatial information analysis, modeling, and County public schools. Mason graduate students serve as visualization. field interpreters for these field trips, helping youth gather and identify aquatic invertebrates, such as insect larvae, and “These researchers are coming together to help us understand the environment and the effect of people on the environ­ment,” conduct water chemistry measurements to better under­ stand watershed health. says Agouris. And that’s just the beginning. Social media, what researchers call “open source” data or “volunteered” data, has added a new layer of information to this complex field. In addition to dedicated labs for researchers, the new facil­ ity has two teaching labs, a geoinformatics training center with a visualization lab, classrooms, a hands-on discovery lab for K-12 students, faculty offices, a public display area/ exhibit space, and a large multipurpose meeting room that

The Potomac Science Center is in good company near this part of the Potomac River. A short distance away are the Occoquan Bay and Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuges, Pohick Bay Regional Park, and Mason Neck State Park. Jones says two National Park Service trails run through the property: Captain John Smith Chesapeake National His­toric Trail flows along its waterfront and the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, “which runs across our patio.”

Led by PEREC faculty, Mason undergraduates spent their summer collecting fish, water, invertebrate, and sediment samples to analyze in the lab for a study looking at the ecosystem health in Gunston Cove and Hunting Creek, both tributaries of the tidal Potomac River located downstream of wastewater treatment plants. This was a summer project of Mason's Office for Student Scholar­ ship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR).

Jones and colleague Kim de Mutsert will be the first faculty members to hold classes in the new facility. The three Envi­ ron­mental Science and Policy classes—EVPP 550 Waters­ cape Ecology and Management, EVPP 555 Lab in Waterscape Ecology, and the lab for EVPP 350 Freshwater Ecosystems—will start this fall semester. “I envision this building to be a showcase of the world-class research we are doing at Mason,” says Agouris. Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 19

The Mason Pond on the Fairfax Campus is a favorite of great blue herons and other wading birds. 

Ways Mason Is Ke 20 | FA S T E R FA R T H E R : T H E C A M PA I G N F O R G E O R G E M A S O N U N I V E R S I T Y

B Y A R T H U R W E S L E Y, B A ’17

At George Mason University, green is more than a school color—it is a way of life and a commitment. From research on climate change and renewable energy to degree programs that help students turn their passion for making a difference into a career, Mason is helping to educate the next generation of leaders and problem solvers, and to develop new technologies that improve lives—and help the planet. Mason was the first university in Virginia to achieve a STARS Gold Rating from the Association for the Advance­ ment of Sustainability in Higher Education. It was also among the first 15 American universities to join the United Nations Global Compact, a group that addresses envi­ron­ mental issues and other societal concerns. “Our efforts transcend classrooms and research centers,” says President Ángel Cabrera. “We use our campuses as learning laboratories for positive change and ensure that environmental causes are ingrained in our campus life.” In addition to the opening of the Potomac Science Center, here are more ways Mason is keeping this commitment.

 Mason dance majors Maddie Dunn and Robert Rubama.



eeping It Green Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 21


WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: The National Zoo’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Mason joined forces in 2011 to create the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation. The school provides Mason students access to hands-on learning with world experts in conservation biology. Students are able to learn the most up-to-date teachings and research methods at the Smithsonian’s prestigious facility while contributing to the field.



CAN YOU BELEAF IT?: Mason offers more than 125 sus­tain­abil­ ity-related classes that teach ways to meet our present needs without com­pro­mis­ing our future needs. Each of these courses, which span more than 25 dif­fer­­ent aca­ demic programs, from ANTH 370 En­vi­ron­ment and Culture to USST 301 Urban Growth in a Shrinking World, is awarded a Green Leaf designation.

BUZZING WITH RESEARCH: The Honey Bee Initiative has expanded since its founding in 2012 to include more than 40 beehives for students and faculty researchers to monitor and study. Even President Cabrera’s house has a hive. Mason’s research on bee and colony health is networked into the Sentinel Hive Project, a national project monitor­ing hive health across the country to learn better ways to protect and care for the world’s bee population. See story on page 12 for the latest information.

IT’S EASY BEING GREEN: The Patriot Green Fund (PGF) encourages students and faculty to produce eco-friendly projects that improve the sus­ tainability of Mason’s campuses. Not only do students make up the majority of the PGF Committee, they also have the opportunity to work closely with a faculty mentor on a sustainability project with expenses covered through PGF’s funding awards. This year, for the first time, the fund is sponsoring Mason-centric mechanical engineering capstone projects. One project will assess buildings and energy loss—and ways to mitigate the problems; the other project focuses on the assessment of stormwater drains on campus.

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DEVELOPING THE NEXT GENERATION OF LEA­DERS AND PROBLEM SOLVERS: Mason students are committed to making the world a better place and that’s obvious with majors they are choosing. Mason’s Environmental and Sustainability Studies degree program is one of the first of its kind in the nation. From minors to PhD programs, students are also studying conservation, environmental science, and climate dynamics, among other topics. Civil engineers are focusing on sustainable land development, and physics majors are looking at renewable energy.

ENGINEERING A BETTER FUTURE: The student organization Engineers for International Development works with under-devel­ oped communities around the world to improve residents’ qual­ity of life with engineering projects. Teams of students, faculty, and alumni have worked on sustainable infra­struc­ture projects such as clean drink­ing water and sanitation systems in South America.


6 PARDON THE GARDEN: Mason has converted trouble­ some landscaping areas into bumblebee and butterfly gar­­ dens to keep our campus colorful while attracting not only butterflies and the all-important bees, but birds, spiders, and ladybugs—natural predators of plant-damaging insects.


NUTRITIOUS AND DELICIOUS: The Presidents Park Hydroponic Greenhouse, run by the Office of Sustainability, har­ vests edible herbs and vegetables yearround. In its first year, the greenhouse supplied campus food service provider Sodexo and Mason’s kitchens with 1,400 pounds of greens, valued at $14,400. The goal for year two is 2,000 pounds, valued at roughly $20,000. To find out more, see story on page 13. Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 23


IT’S A WAY OF LIFE: Students interested in an environmentally mindful lifestyle can live in the Sustainability Living Learning Community (LLC) with likeminded students. Sustainability LLC stu­ dents, who come from all majors, engage in many off-campus service adventures to become aware of what sustainability in action looks like. Many alumni return for the most popular annual trip— dune fence restoration at Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland.


COME SAIL AWAY: Field Studies and Alternative Breaks sponsored by the office of Social Action and Integrative Learning (SAIL) give students the opportunity to take classes with a hands-on approach to learning. While these courses vary widely in subject matter, from anthropology to sociology, they all hold sustainability practices at their core and seek to leave the land and local community as they were before. Because of their short timespan—the longest classes last three weeks—many of these classes provide opportunities for travel in addition to lessons on sustainability practices. Students who participate in Alternative Break during spring break have worked on ecosystem restoration in Florida and literacy programs in Jamaica.

WETLAND CAREGIVERS: Since 2007, environ­mental sci­ence and policy professor Changwoo Ahn has been working on the Wetland Mesocosm Compound. Located behind the softball field on the Fairfax Campus, the compound allows students and faculty to experiment with simulated wetland environments and contribute to global efforts of wetland ecosystem restoration.

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RESEARCH OF CONSEQUENCE These centers are just a sampling of the important work being done by Mason researchers and students. The CENTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE COMMUNICATION (4C) conducts

the world, the center brings together researchers from various cultural

social science research to develop insights on how to enhance the public’s

backgrounds and pro­vides them with the skills, tools, and metho­dologies

understanding of climate change. The center also trains students and

to support a global approach for solving complex problems. In recent

working professionals to conduct audience research and develop public

years, the center has organized meetings on drought management, food

engagement programs. Twice yearly, with Yale’s Program on Climate Change

and water security, and agri­cultural concerns.

Communication, 4C conducts a nationally representative survey. Findings from these “Climate Change in the American Mind” surveys are reported throughout the year and are cited by leading journals, publications, and online media around the world, including Bloomberg, the Washington Post, and many others. The center’s activities are supported by the National Science Foundation, NASA, the National Park Service, and various philan­ thropic foundations. The INSTITUTE FOR PHILOSOPHY AND PUBLIC POLICY is the oldest

Located in the Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental,


and Infrastructure Engineering, the FLOOD HAZARDS RESEARCH LAB takes inspiration from nature to create

natural solutions to coastal flooding prob­ lems. With support from such agencies as the U.S. Department of the Interior, National

Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and National Science Foundation, the lab’s research team

research institution in the United States that explores the normative as­

is currently using its experience in deploying

pects of public policy. It came to Mason in 2011. The institute’s researchers

field instru­men­tation under extreme condi­

and scholars provide pioneering research in public policy issues including

tions to develop real-time systems for flood

climate change, conservation sustainability, and bioethics, among others.

hazards awareness, both locally—in Fairfax and the Chesapeake Bay

At the CENTER FOR OCEAN-LAND-ATMOSPHERE STUDIES (COLA), scientists from several disciplines conduct research that enhances our understanding of the predictability of climate variability and change. Through careful analysis of observations and state-of-the-art coupled ocean, land, and atmospheric models, COLA benefits society by advancing the knowledge of weather statistics through research supported by the

area—and internationally, in Bay of Bengal and Brazil. The researchers specialize in observing hydrodynamic conditions in estuaries and in urban

and suburban streams, and they operate a mobile real-time weather station, as well as a suite of stand-alone environ­mental monitoring stations, to keep track of extreme weather. The CENTER FOR ENERGY SCIENCE AND POLICY, a joint initiative of the

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science

Schar School of Policy and Government and the College of Science, pro­

Foundation, and NASA.

vides objective analysis of and original research on energy issues to inform

The ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CENTER is a joint interdisciplinary center that focuses on advancing the fields of global environmental and climate monitoring, global carbon measuring, flood forecasting and defense, water resources management, ecological pro­ tection and restoration, and Earth observations. The center’s scientists

policy and decision makers and to encourage a sustainable future. It is one of the sponsors of the Rappahannock River Parking Deck green roof (see page 8) and the recipient of a 2016 Pro­vost’s Office multidisci­pli­nary grant for a project to enhance electrical energy security of Virginia. Cathy Cruise, MFA ’93, and Colleen Kearney Rich, MFA ’95, contributed to this feature.

come from diverse fields of study to research the complex environmental problems that affect societies globally. Affiliated with Tsinghua University, China’s Ministry of Water Resources, and a number of universities around Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 25

redoubt noun re·doubt \ri-'daů t\

1 a) a small usually temporary enclosed defensive work b) a defended position: protective barrier 2  a) secure retreat: a stronghold

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Stepping into the Past

A group of Mason students took a trip to an important Civil War site and never left the Fairfax Campus. B Y R AC H E L LU C K E N B AU G H , B A ’16, A N D CO L L E E N K E A R N E Y R I C H , M FA ’ 95


n a beautiful November afternoon, George Mason University history professor Christopher Hamner and students from his HIST 373 The Civil War and Reconstruction class ventured into the woods at the edge of Parking Lot K. After a few minutes, they came to what is known as a redoubt, a circular earthen fortification constructed and used during the Civil War. Though covered with underbrush, the structure remains intact and is clearly visible—a valuable historic site, right under our noses, hidden in the woods behind a parking lot.

The tour was organized by members of the Centreville, Virginia-based Bull Run Civil War Round Table. The redoubt stands on a raised site called Farr’s Crossroads, which is the intersection of Braddock and Ox Roads. First constructed by the Fifth Alabama Volunteer Infantry under the com­ mand of Colonel Robert Rodes in June 1861, a number of different Union and Confederate military forces occupied the fort over the next few years, including a brigade led by Stonewall Jackson. “You have to use your imagination,” says Hamner, who plans to make visits to the redoubt part of the syllabus for the

Left top to bottom, map sections of a 15-mile area around Washington, D. C. , c. 1878. (Library of Congress) General Stonewall Jackson (Mathew Brady, National Archives)

Civil War course. “You are out along Braddock Road and traffic is going by. Both [roads] have historical significance, and you can see why it would have been valuable to have command of that [intersection] and fortify it.” The redoubt is one of the reasons that corner of campus looks the way it does and has not been changed. The site once contained scores of artifacts, but collectors had removed most of them before Fairfax County officially identified the site in 1979. In the decades since, a handful of local researchers, including those in the Bull Run Civil War Round Table, have conducted research on the site.

A Confederate-built fortification (redoubt) facing Artillery Hill, c. 1862 (modernday Centreville intersection of Rt. 29 and Braddock Road) Above, troops laying a corduroy road in the vicinity of Richmond, Virginia, c. 1862. (Library of Congress) Colonel Robert Rodes commanded the troops who built the redoubt.

Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 27

Redoubt and historic earthworks area

Corduroy Road discovery

It is a privilege to live

where we live. I grew up in Wisconsin, and there is no Civil War history there. This Round Table group has gone above and beyond. Their generosity with our

students is just terrific. —Professor Christopher Hamner

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BEFORE WE CAN BEGIN… It often seems like new buildings spring up overnight, but the process is quite lengthy. Before George Mason Univ­er­sity begins a construction project, the plan has to go through a number of reviews, including one that looks at the environment. “All of our major capital projects have to go through an environmental impact review,” says Tom Calhoun, vice president of Facilities. “This review touches on lots of things, from stormwater to trees to historic artifacts.” After the university completes the analysis, which can take several months, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality reviews it and approves it. The report is also circulated to affected local gov­ ern­ments for review and comment. “It is rare that, as a result of that process, the state would say you can’t go forward with the project,” says Calhoun. “Usually it is ‘Here is what you have to do for mitigation or documentation.’ ” Calhoun says the university’s projects are most often affected by water issues, such as wetland impact or stormwater. “For example, if we were to pave a field, we would have to mitigate that stormwater runoff somehow.” —Colleen Kearney Rich, MFA ’95

It was the Round Table members who approached History and Art History Department chair Brian Platt a year ago and told him about the redoubt. Platt was excited about the opportunity the historic site provided for history students. “Our hope is to actually organize a historic preservation project on the site,” says Platt. “First, though, we wanted to raise awareness of it and make it into a learning experience for the students.”

In December 2015, a well-preserved portion of the cor­dur­oy road was discovered during public works construction on Ox Road adjacent to the historic intersection. Lewis brought along some pieces of a corduroy road for the students to examine. He believes the road was used as a major pathway during the war.

Top left page, an aerial view of the intersection of Braddock Road and Ox Road showing the area where the redoubt is located.

“It is a privilege to live where we live,” says Hamner. “I grew up in Wisconsin, and there is no Civil War history there. This Round Table group has gone above and beyond. It is truly a labor of love for them. Their generosity with our students The leaders of the tour—Brian McEnany, Blake Myers, is just terrific.” and Jim Lewis of the Round Table—explained how the site fit with­in the larger context of the Civil War in Northern The Round Table is interested in preserving the site and Virginia. The intersection actually dates back to colonial ma­k ing it part of the Civil War Trails project so more times. people would know about the redoubt and Fairfax’s rich history. The Round Table members also discussed the nearby trans­ portation routes used by the soldiers and the “corduroy “We have a lot of interest in public history and historic preser­ road” route that was constructed just before the war and vation among our students,” says Platt. “I am excited by the traveled by both Union and Confederate forces. Named for prospect of our students having the opportunity to work their resemblance to the fabric, corduroy roads were made with local historians on such a preservation project.” of tree trunks.

Below left are timbers from a Civil War corduroy road found during excavation for road work. Photo courtesy of Fairfax County Park Authority.

Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 29



Smart Sensors


eorge Mason University’s Fairfax Campus com­ bines the urban aspects of roadways, parking lots, and high-density housing with forests, fields, and streams. However, when these urban elements replace and dominate the natural land cover, they disrupt water systems. “Our Fairfax Campus often experiences the effects of weather events [heavy rains, hurricanes, winter storms, etc.], making it a perfect lab­or­a­tory for monitoring and advancing our knowledge of infrastructure resilience and vulnerability during extreme weather,” says Professor Viviana Maggioni of the Sid and Reva Dewberry Depart­ ment of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineer­ ing in the Volgenau School of Engineering. “The richness of streams and the mixture of urban and natural land­scape make it an ideal location for water resources research activities,” she says. 

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Maggioni is working with faculty, students, and Mason’s Office of Sus­tainability to develop a smart sensor web that enables an inter­con­nected low-power method of collecting environmental data at the Fairfax Cam­pus. The sensors, located in three different gardens and the campus green­house, will provide real-time environmental moni­ toring during extreme weather events as they monitor the growth of 10 daikon (Japanese) radish plants. “This framework will provide insights toward the next generation of real-time environmental monitoring for large facilities and infrastructure management,” says Maggioni. By using geographical awareness, weather forecast models, and decision protocols, the network can observe and adapt to rare, rapidly changing events. It can also adjust collective sampling rules to observe changing conditions and conserve resources. —Martha Bushong


A Bright Future for Policing

Cynthia Lum

Christopher Koper


lab at Mason will be used to help researchers understand and develop ways police can be more proactive in their efforts while improv­ ing relationships with the people they protect. The Proactive Policing Lab, part of Mason’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, opened in January and is led by Mason criminology professors Christopher Koper and Cynthia Lum, a former Baltimore City police officer. Research has generally shown that when police are more proactive, they can effectively reduce crime and improve citizen satisfaction. However, much more empirical knowledge is needed to measure and under­stand the impact that proac­ tivity has on crime, Lum says. Another goal of the lab is to help officers under­ stand the consequences of variations of proactivity;

Helping Analysts Make Smart Decisions Mason researchers are developing an analytical tool that combines intelligent computer software and high-level crowdsourcing. The fin­ ished product will allow intelligence analysts to give sound advice to decision makers in high-pressure situations. The federal government’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) awarded researchers at Mason’s Volgenau School of Engineering a highly competitive $7.4 million contract to research, develop, and evaluate an intelligent analytical tool, the cogent argumentation system with crowd elicitation (Co-Arg). Gheorghe Tecuci, Mihai Boicu, and Dorin Marcu of Mason’s Learning Agents Center have developed learning agent software to serve as a cognitive assistant for the intelligence analyst. Tecuci, center director and lead researcher on the project, says Mason is currently at the fore­ front of structural analytical reasoning tools. He has been working on the underlying technology with Boicu and Marcu for about two decades. “It’s not just coding,” Tecuci says. “The software learns how I learn.” The software can test hypotheses, evaluate evidence, sort facts from deception, and provide intelligent reasoning about quickly evolving situations that may have devastating consequences. Such situations could include figuring out the likelihood of a country having a rocket capable of delivering nuclear weapons to the conti­nen­ tal United States, or determining whether terrorist groups could develop

some forms can lead to good things while others could lead to bad things. Lum cites her work in Baltimore as an example: “The people there are just like any­where else. They don’t want to go outside and be shot at or be afraid, but they also don’t want to be disrespected [by police].” Mason graduate students Xiaoyun Wu, William Johnson, and Megan Stoltz are an integral part of the lab, helping with data analysis, systematic observations, and inter­views with law enforcement officers. Lum is motivated by what she sees as a bright future for policing. “Police and communities can work together to create high-quality, democratic policing,” she says. “The scientific community plays a central role in this important goal.” —Jamie Rogers


and use an electromagnetic pulse device to destroy electrical systems. Mason’s cognitive assistant approach can be put to work in other fields, including cybersecurity, science education, medicine, law, history, and finance by applying similar techniques used for national security analysis, Tecuci says. —Michele McDonald Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 31


Regaining Mobility after a Spinal Cord Injury


hysical mobility is something many people take for granted, but Mason bioengineering professor Siddhartha Sikdar is working on a project that could help people who have lost that freedom regain it. Sikdar, along with collaborators at Mason and the University of Pittsburgh, is developing hybrid exoskeletons to help people with spinal cord injuries. The National Science Foundation has awarded the team a $400,000 grant for the research. Powered exoskeletons are wearable, mobile machines run by electric motors, pneumatics, levers, hydraulics, or a combination of technologies. They enable walking or restoration of other motor controls lost due to illness or injury. “We are developing technology that can help people walk—people with complete and incomplete spinal cord injuries who really don’t have assistive technology that is suitable for them right now, to improve their mobility,” Sikdar says. “I think there are very interesting intersections of this technical expertise coming together to create something and approach problems from a unique perspective,” says Mason bioengineering professor Wilsaan Joiner, who is working with Sikdar on the project. The researchers hope the final version of their exoskeleton will be able to help users complete everyday tasks, such as walking or standing upright from a seated position. “The exciting part of the project is we are using cutting-edge engineering technologies to improve people’s lives, and allow people to regain mobility and function,” says Sikdar. “I think that’s really the promise of the field of bioengineering—to use engineering technology to impact health.” —Elizabeth Grisham, BA ’02, MA ’12

D I D YO U K N O W… Charlotte Gill of Mason’s Department of Criminology, Law and Society was awarded a Carnegie Fellowship for her research. One of 35 awardees this year, she will use the $200,000 stipend to support her work on the role of police–community partnerships in crime prevention in Appalachian Kentucky.

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Wearing Their Heart Monitor on Their Sleeves


hen Vivian Motti, a professor in the Department of Information Sciences and Technology at the Volgenau School of Engineering, came to Mason from Clemson in January 2016, she brought with her a cutting-edge project that looks to expand the functionality of popular wearable fitness trackers. The National Science Foundation awarded her team a two-year $43,677 grant to create computational jewelry for mobile health with a device they’ve dubbed the Amulet bracelet. Amulet lets users manage their health and wellness by interacting with other wearable health sensors, constituting what Motti calls a user’s “wireless body-area network.” The Amulet device serves as a hub, tracking health information and securely sending data to other health devices or to medical professionals. Potential applications for the Amulet also include tracking the use of medications, sending reminders when doses are due, and providing critical health data to responders in a medical emergency. At the same time, it protects users’ privacy by enabling them to control what is sensed and stored, where it’s stored, and how it’s shared. “I see it as a tool to empower users with information” Motti says. “Wearables can really bring technology closer to the user’s life in a nonintrusive, accessible way.” Three prototypes have been created so far, each with a different focus: one that aids in smoking cessation, another to monitor anxiety levels, and one that tracks weight loss with an activity meter.

Mason researcher Vivian Motti displays some of the Amulet prototypes.

Motti’s team expects to have a commercial product available within two years. Feedback has been positive so far, she says, and suggestions are still being used to improve the prototypes. —Cathy Cruise, MFA ’93

This Is Only a Test


t’s been portrayed in books and movies often enough, but the scenario of how people would actually respond to a nuclear attack is the all-too-real subject of a research project at Mason’s Center for Social Complexity. “A Framework for Modeling the Population’s Response to a Nuclear WMD Event” is being funded by the U.S. government’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Researchers at the center, a division of the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, received a grant of $462,094 to foretell how a nuclear attack on a major American city would impact individuals socially.

“Our intent is to model the effects of a nuclear weapon of mass destruction hitting a megacity,” said William G. Kennedy, principal investigator for the project. “We picked New York.” While the physical effects of a nuclear event have been widely studied, the communal effects are not as well understood. Kennedy’s team will use computational social science, particularly agent-based modeling, to investi­ gate and develop a deeper understanding of fundamental aspects of the response of indi­ viduals and their social networks to a nuclear event.

The project’s primary focus is reaction to a nuclear attack in the short-term—from hours to the first 30 days after—but not the recovery period. The researchers will take into account catastrophic disasters that have already hap­ pened, like the September 11 terrorist attack and the 2011 Fukushima, Japan, nuclear disaster, to “get different aspects of a nuclear WMD catas­trophe from different historical events and stitch them together,” Kennedy says. —Jamie Rogers

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what a day!


to the Class of 2017

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Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 35


Recently published works by Mason faculty

What Works in Crime Prevention and Rehab­ ilitation: Lessons from Systematic Reviews

Elections in Hard Times: Building Stronger Democracies in the 21st Century

David Weisburd, Distin­ guished Professor, and Charlotte Gill, assistant professor, Criminology, Law and Society This book (Springer, May 2016) presents a compre­ hensive stock-taking of what has been learned during a decade of syste­ matic reviews in criminology by pioneers in evidencebased research for the study of crime prevention and reduction. This vol­ ume, written with David P. Farrington, aims to bring together and assess all major systematic reviews of the effective­ness of criminological inter­ven­ tions to draw broad con­ clusions about what works in policing, corrections, developmental prevention, situational prevention, drug abuse treatments, sentencing and deter­ rence, and communities.

Thomas Edward Flores, assistant professor, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution Why are “free and fair” elections so often followed by democratic backsliding? Elections in Hard Times (August 2016) answers this question, showing why even clean elections fail to advance democracy when held amidst challenging structural conditions. In a series of five empirical chapters, the book, written with Irfan Nooruddin, leverages an eclectic mix of cross-national data, short case studies, and surveys of voters, then closes with a careful examination of popular strategies of democracy promotion, evaluating steps designed to support elections.

Biting the Hands that Feed Us Baylen J. Linnekin, adjunct professor of law Food waste, hunger, inhumane livestock condi­ tions, disappearing fish stocks—these are the issues we expect food regulations to combat. Yet, today in the United States, laws exist that actually make these problems worse. Biting the Hands that Feed Us (Island Press, Septem­ ber 2016) intro­duces readers to the per­verse consequences of many food rules. Linnekin argues that, too often, government rules hand­cuff America’s most sus­tain­ able farmers, producers, sellers, and consumers, while rewarding those whose practices are any­ thing but sustainable.

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The Industrial Turn in World History Peter Stearns, University Professor, provost emeritus This book (Routledge, September 2016) presents a concise yet far-reaching overview of the worldwide shift from agricultural to industrial societies over the past two centuries. Putting the implications for individuals and soci­et­ ies in global context while considering the limits of generalization across cul­ tures, Stearns’s text explores the nature of industrialization across national and regional lines. Rather than portraying the Industrial Revolution as primarily a Western, early 19thcentury develop­ment, this new narrative argues the move to indus­trial societies is an ongo­ing and truly global shift.

Knowledge Engineering: Building Cognitive Assistants for Evidence-based Reasoning Gheorghe Tecuci, professor of computer science; Dorin Marcu, assistant professor; and Mihai Boicu, associate professor of information sciences and technology Knowledge Engineering (Cambridge University Press, September 2016), written with David Schum, presents a significant advancement in the theory and practice of knowledge engineering, the discipline concerned with the develop­ment of intelligent agents that use know­ ledge and reasoning to perform problem-solving and decision-making tasks. It also includes a learning agent shell, Disciple-EBR, which enables students, practitioners, and research­ers to develop cognitive assistants rapidly in a wide variety of domains that require evidencebased reasoning.

Butterfly in the Quantum World Indu Satija, director of the Center for Quantum Science and professor of physics/astronomy Butterfly in the Quantum World (IOP Concise Physics, September 2016) is the first book ever to tell the story

of the “Hofstadter butter­ fly,” a beautiful and fasci­ nating graph lying at the heart of the quantum theory of matter. The butter­fly came out of a simple-sounding question: What happens if you immerse a crystal in a magnetic field? What energies can the electrons take on? From 1930 onward, physicists struggled to answer this question, until 1974, when graduate student Douglas Hofstadter discovered that the answer was a graph consisting of

nothing but copies of itself nested down infinitely many times. This wild mathematical object caught the physics world totally by surprise, and it continues to mesmerize physicists and mathemati­ cians today.

History Can Bite: History Education in Divided and Post-War Societies Karina Korostelina, associate professor, conflict analysis and resolution, with Denise

Bentrovato, and Martina Schulze (eds.) Korostelina’s new book (V&R unipress, October 2016) includes 15 original contributions that provide critical insights into approaches adopted by curricula, textbooks, and teachers around the world when teaching about the past in the wake of civil war and mass violence. The contributors discuss ways in which history teaching has acted as a political tool that has, at times, been guilty of

exacerbating intergroup conflicts, and highlights history teaching as an important component of reconciliation attempts.

Stranger Than We Can Imagine


n his new book Exoplanets: Diamond Worlds, Super Earths, Pulsar Planets, and the New Search for Life Beyond Our Solar System (Smithsonian Press, 2017), Mason astronomy professor and NASA scientist Michael Summers shares the latest research on exoplanets, which are planets beyond our solar system. The book was written with co-author James Trefil, Robinson Profes­sor of Physics at Mason.

two, three, and even four stars. It rarely gets dark on such planets. We’ve also found planets that are much like the Earth—terrestrial, but that are 17 times more massive. There are at least a dozen new categories of planets that we didn’t even know existed before we began discovering exoplanets. It’s so bizarre that we just never would have expected that kind of diversity of planets.

Can you tell us about the exoplanets you’ve been researching? These are entirely new categories of planets that we have discovered. We’ve found planets that are all water, or around 95 percent water. We’ve found planets of carbon at high pressure—diamond—that are geologically active, with volcanoes that spew out liquid carbon that freezes into diamond crystals on the surface. We’ve found planets that circle

What started your interest in astronomy? When I was about six years old, my father gave me a small telescope. It was tiny—you could carry it in one hand. I had no idea what I was doing with it, but I took it out to our backyard and set it up. I saw this bright yellow light in the sky, so I pointed it at that. It turned out to be Saturn. I can still see it in my mind. I went and read that that planet is 90 times bigger than the earth. It really intrigued me. In high

school, I took all the science and math courses I could, and in college I got into physics and astronomy and used their telescopes. Eventually I had opportunities to use the largest tele­ scopes on Earth and to work with NASA’s space program. It has been an exciting career. —Arthur Wesley, BA ’17

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ALUMNI IN PRINT Recently published works by Mason alumni

Nursing Is Caring Beverly Wheeler, BSN ’89 and MSN ’91 iUniverse, November 2015 Nurses work long hours, deal with difficult patients, and their jobs sometimes get messy. So why do so many enter the profession? That question is answered through personal accounts that highlight the experi­ ences of Wheeler’s former stu­dents at the University of Texas Health Science Cen­ter at San Antonio, Texas, School of Nursing. Wheeler, a clinical assis­ tant professor, was for­ mer­ly a clinical nurse specialist at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Mary­land, and an adjunct clinical instruc­ tor at Marymount Univer­ sity in Arlington, Virginia.

He Smokes Like a Fish and Other Malaphors David Hatfield, JD ’84 Malaphor King, March 2016 An accidental mash-up of common phrases or words, a malaphor is a simple slip of the tongue—or pen— that can have humorous consequences. This book, written with Cheryl L. Rosato, DMD, is a collec­tion of these linguistic errors, mined from every imagi­ nable venue: movies, tele­

vision, sports, music, the internet, and on the street. Hatfield is a retired U.S. administrative law judge. He is living the dream in Western Pennsylvania.

Spy Fall Dora Mekouar (Diana Quincy), BA ’86 Loveswept-Random House, May 2016 Mari Lamarre is gaining fame for her daring aero­ nautic endeavors, but she’s actually come to Dorset to recover sensitive informa­ tion that may have fallen into the hands of the Mar­ quess of Aldridge. This is the first of Mek­ ouar’s Rebellious Brides series. Her four-book series, The Accidental Peers, featured two Amazon bestsellers, Tempting Bella and Engaging the Earl. She lives in Virginia with her husband and two sons.

Never Leave Your Dead: A True Story of War Trauma, Murder, and Madness Diane Cameron, BIS ’83 Central Recovery Press, June 2016 Was Donald a traumatized veteran? A victim of abuse in the mental-health system? Or just eccentric? Cameron unravels the true story of her stepfather, Donald

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Watkins, a former Marine who served in China from 1937–39 during the Japanese invasion. In 1953, he murdered his first wife and mother-in-law, then spent 22 years at a hospital for the criminally insane. Cameron is an awardwinning columnist and Pushcart Prize nominee.

with his wife and two daugh­ters in Baltimore. His first novel, Domestic Violets, was nominated in the Best Humor Category at the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards.

A Matter of Conscience

Robert Orrison, MA History ’03 Savas Beatie, June 2016 Orrison, along with coauthor and fellow historian Dan Welch, follows in the footsteps of the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac as the two foes cat-andmouse their way northward, ultimately clashing in the costliest battle in North American history. Based on the Civil War Trails system and packed with lesser-known sites related to the Gettysburg cam­ paign, The Last Road North offers the ultimate Civil War road trip. Orrison has worked in the history field for more than 20 years. He was born and raised in Loudoun County, Virginia, and received his bachelor’s degree in historic preser­ vation at Longwood College.

Michael Gryboski, BA ’09, MA History ’15 Inknbeans Press, June 2016 One man against an insti­ tution. One belief against a cause. One history that will repeat itself. Gryboski’s third book, A Matter of Conscience, is a modern retelling of the life of Sir Thomas More, set in the United States and inspired by the Empire State. Gryboski was born and raised in Alexandria, Virginia. This is his third novel.

We’re All Damaged Matthew Norman, MFA Creative Writing ’06 Little A, June 2016 When his marriage falls apart, Andy Carter returns to his hometown to care for his dying grandfather and to deal with his parents’ troubled marriage. Norman is an advertis­ ing copywriter who lives

The Last Road North: A Guide to the Gettysburg Campaign, 1863


Nick Stasiak YEAR: Senior

MAJOR: Geography


HOMETOWN: Winchester, Virginia


hile still in high school, Nick Stasiak began reporting on the local weather on a website he created, gaining the attention of several nearby meteorologists. When he came to Mason, he began using his page Forecast GMU (now and the Twitter and Instagram handle @GMUWeatherman to keep Mason students informed of local weather. His passion caught the attention of the Weather Channel’s president, as well as CNN, USA9, and other Washington, D.C.-based channels.

Good Visibility: His influence on the current state of weather communications at Mason is undeniable. He has held positions with Connect2Mason, The Fourth Estate, and Mason Cable Network. While working as vice president of visits with the Mason Ambassadors, he would share his story with all the prospective students hoping to inspire them to pursue their passions as well. “I haven’t passed the torch for GMUWeatherman, but I think it would nice to see someone else take the lead.”

Fear Is Power: As a young boy, Stasiak was frightened by severe storms. It was his first hurricane that really spurred his curiosity about weather. When the eye of the storm passed overhead, Stasiak thought it was over. Minutes later, the hurricane raged on, leaving a young Stasiak with a lot of questions about storms. He harnessed this curiosity by shadow­ ing meteorologists and learning how to monitor weather systems. And he hasn’t stopped asking questions.

Protecting National Heritage: While an intern at Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication, Stasiak worked with the National Park Service on a project monitoring the effect of climate change, mainly acid rain, on Washington D.C.’s monuments. The report resulted in the closure of the Jefferson Memorial for restoration and repairs. He also helped to start a severe weather communication page for the Climate Institute, and he was a geospatial intern for PlanetRisk Analytics.

Bridging the Gap: While Stasiak is interested in meteorology and earth science, he is also minoring in communication and helped found the university’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He helps bridge the gap between science and the public with his easily accessible social media posts, which are skimmable, occasionally humorous, and have great photography. “I think it is important to be able to communicate information about weather systems, and there is often a disconnection between the professionals and the general public.”

Extended Outlook: Although Stasiak is hanging up his hat as Mason’s own Jim Cantore, weather is still on his horizon. “I’m working toward going to graduate school for either operational meteorology, or satellite remote sensing and GIS. Either way, I hope to communicate weather and climate science in the future.” —Arthur Wesley, BA ’17

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Out Standing in His Field T

he phrase “farm to table” resonates with many of us these days, and for Jason Von Kundra, BS Earth Science ’12, it’s more than criteria for picking a restaurant—it’s a livelihood.

Von Kundra lives and works at Harvest Table Farm in Meadowview, Virginia, supplying food year-round for nearby Harvest Table Restaurant. He takes care of chickens, sheep, and cattle, handles harvesting and preserving, and oversees greenhouse work at the small but busy 3.6-acre farm, which bustles with volunteers, interns, and apprentices during growing seasons. Whatever produce, eggs, meats, canned goods, dehydrated fruits, and fermented foods the restaurant doesn’t use is sold at area farmers markets. Previously, Von Kundra was a farmer at Laughing Water Farm and garden coordinator for Sprouting Hope community food garden, also in rural Southwest Virginia. At peak times, he’s worked 12-hour days six days a week, but asserts he feels “rewarded in my job every day when I put a seed in the ground.” While at Mason, Von Kundra took part in campus organizations such as the Environmental Action Group, Mason DREAMers, Feminist

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Student Organization, Student Government, and TQ Mason. The social and environmental issues he was involved in, he says, exposed him to “struggles of poverty, immigration, environmental justice, racism, and more. I saw food at the crux of so much political, social, and economic injustice.” While his courses may not have taught him day-to-day duties of how to trellis hundreds of tomato plants on a budget, or design biological controls against the bean beetle, Mason gave him something more valuable, he says: “an analysis of the world’s most pressing issues, innovative problem-solving skills, and the confidence to take on the challenge. “Mason taught me something I don’t think I would have gained from an agricultural program at any other university. I learned the importance of having a vision for the world you want and how to create systemic change to get there.” —Cathy Cruise, MFA ’93

class notes 1970s

Robert Clemons, BA Psy­ chology ’75, published his first novel, The Hiroshima Agenda, on Amazon in January 2016. Clemons earned an MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1979, and an MA from Marquette University in 1997. He retired from the U.S. Air Force as a chaplain and lieutenant colonel in 2009 and from the United Methodist Church as a pastor in 2011. He is now writing full-time and enjoying retirement with his wife of 48 years, Phyllis Clemons, BS Social Work ’74. “We are tremendously proud of our very small college that went on to become such a large distinguished university.” Judge Richard Gardiner, JD ’78, was appointed by the Virginia General Assembly to the Circuit Court for Fairfax County

for an eight-year term beginning February 1, 2017.


Father Peter Nassetta, BS Management ’82, has been assigned to be chaplain of Catholic Campus Ministry at James Madison Univer­ sity after serving for the past 16 years as chaplain of Catholic Campus Ministry at Mason. Bob Burleson, BS Finance ’84, was named CEO of IOMAXIS, a technology innovation leader based in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Burleson was previously the chief financial officer. Burleson also is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and serves on the boards of Trevigen Inc., a biotechnology company, and the Biomedical Research Institute. He received an MBA in account­ ing and finance from Marymount University.

Patrick Knittle, BS Account­ing ’85, has launched his first app, In Range Contacts, a private proximity alert tool for iPhones (Android coming soon). The app is great for professionals on the move. Meena Krishnan, MS Systems Engineering ’88, was one of 25 regional business leaders selected for the Washington Busi­ ness Journal’s 2017 Minority Business Leader Awards. Krishnan is president and CEO of Inoventures LLC, which forecasts financial outcomes for clients by adding intelligence to big data. Last year the company was named one of the fastest-growing womenled companies by Inc. 500. At age 22 Krishnan faced a choice: Attend the London School of Economics or go to George Mason. She believes her decision to attend Mason is what ulti­ mately pointed her toward starting her own business.

Deborah L. Stevenson, BIS ’88, was appointed to two advisory boards by the mayor and city council of Charlotte, North Caro­ lina. She is actively involved in other civic, cultural, and community volunteer work, including as a state advisory committee member of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. Judge Brock A. Swartzle, JD ’88, was appointed judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals. Prior to joining the bench, Swartzle was chief of staff for the Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, as well as general counsel for the House, where he worked on numerous legal and policy issues, includ­ ing the Detroit bankruptcy settlement package. Swartzle was previously a litigation partner with Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP, where he practiced in antitrust, health care fraud, white-


Brian Jones, MA International Commerce and Policy ’06 PRESIDENT-ELECT

Jennifer Shelton, BS Public Administration ’94 VICE PRESIDENT—ADVOCACY


Jeff Fissel, BS Information Technology ’06 TREASURER

Scott Hine, BS Decision Science ’85 SECRETARY

Andy Gibson, BA History ’92 Technology ’06 AT-LARGE DIRECTORS

Kevin Christopher, MBA ’96 Mariana Cruz, BS Civil and Infrastructure Engineering ’11 Patrick Rooney, BA Communication ’12

(continued next page)

What’s New with You? We are interested in what you’ve been doing since you graduated. Have you moved? Gotten married? Had a baby? Landed a hot new job? Received an award? Met up with some Mason friends? Submit your class notes to In your note, be sure to include your graduation year and degree. Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 41

collar crime, securities, and other areas.

Forging a Sustainable Path




any of the actions we are taking during my time as president are solidifying programs and processes associated with volunteer cultivation, leadership, and entrepreneurial thinking to elevate our impact within the alumni community and well beyond. Over the course of the next year, we will be celebrating the first 50 years of our association and preparing it for its next 50. I am honored to be the bridge that connects these milestones to ensure that the experiences that have kept us connected through the years continue to be a powerful bond. We are taking the opportunity to reflect on our first 50 years while looking forward and growing the tradition and community that make us Mason Nation. In April, we celebrated Mason’s first Giving Day. By all accounts it was a resounding success and establishes a new standard of giving at Mason (see story on page 4). We exceeded our goal of 1,000 donors, of which 334 were first-time donors to the university. I was also elated to see the Alumni Association Scholarship Endowment receiving the most donations, adding more than $11,000 to our existing scholar­ ships. Our scholarships enable students to explore new opportunities in their fields of study, allowing them to devote their minds and resources to avenues that will help them accomplish their goal of obtaining higher education and making their mark in the community. Playing a role in this path to success continues to be one of the most important strategic objectives of the Alumni Association. With All My Patriot Pride, Brian Jones, MA International Commerce and Policy ’06 President, George Mason University Alumni Association

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Joel Thimell, MBA ’90, published his first novel on Amazon in August 2016. Long Road Out of Ur is a lively coming-of-age adventure tale crossed with a murder mystery and a heaping helping of social satire: “Think of it as something like Huckle­ berry Finn combined with North by Northwest but set in the Bronze Age.” Maureen Ohlhausen, JD ’91, has been named acting chair of the Federal Trade Commission by President Trump. She was appointed an FTC commissioner by President Obama in 2012. Prior to joining the com­ mission, Ohlhausen was a partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP, where she focused on FTC issues, including privacy, data protection, and cyber­ security. Ohlhausen has previously served as adjunct faculty at Antonin Scalia Law School, teach­ ing privacy law and trade practices.  Michael Iovino, BA Economics ’93, founded August Construction Solutions Inc. in 2013. ACS is a national general contracting firm based in Raleigh, North Carolina,

specializing in commercial construction. ACS was recently named to the Fast 50 list of fastest-growing companies in the Triangle for 2016 by the Triangle Business Journal. Jill Weatherholt, BIS ’94, had her first book, Second Chance Romance, pub­ lished in March 2017 by Harlequin Love Inspired Books. Cheryl McAuley, MPA ’96, completed a doctorate of management in organiza­ tional leadership from the University of Phoenix using the post-911/GI Bill. McAuley is preparing to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with Compassion International after visiting Beatrice, a child she has sponsored in Tanzania since 2008. She and her husband, John, are raising money for a water and sanitization/ hygiene program for Tanzanian families. Edwin W. Powell, DIPL Education (Community College) ’97, DA Education (Community College) ’99, is an educational psychol­ ogist and an assistant pro­ fessor at Howard University College of Medicine, as well as a mental health consultant with the District of Columbia Superior Court. In June 2016 he was the com­mence­ment key­ note speaker for Essex County College in Newark,


Michele Hamilton Meiners, JD ’98, founded the Meiners Law Firm PLLC in Fairfax, Virginia, in January 2017. Her practice focuses on representing com­mer­ cial and residential land­ lords on all tenant-related litigation. She litigates in all state, federal, and appel­ late courts in Northern Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Meiners lives in Burke, Virginia, with her husband, Michael, and her two children, Joseph, 16, and Lizzie, 13. Victor Albisu, BA Inter­ national Studies ’99, was one of 25 regional busi­ ness leaders selected for the Washington Business Journal’s 2017 Minority Business Leader Awards. Albisu, a Le Cordon BleuParis trained chef, is owner of Del Campo steakhouse in Washington, D.C., and the Taco Bamba chain of taquerias in Northern Virginia. He was also named as 2015 Chef of the Year by the Restaurant Association of Metro­poli­ tan Washington. Kathryn Dickerson, JD ’99, is a principal and family law attorney with Smolen Plevy in Vienna, Virginia. She was recently featured on Good Morning America to explain why


New Jersey, and received an honorary degree.



ance is not a career for the faint-hearted. It will push an artist’s limits day in and day out, especially one who strives to become a part of the dance world in New York City. For Maria Ambrose, BFA Dance ’11, an early opportunity at Mason planted the seed that would grow into her professional career, and land her in the spotlight.

While pursuing her bachelor of fine arts degree at Mason’s School of Dance, Ambrose was cast in Elisa Monte Dance’s (EMD) iconic piece Pigs and Fishes by Tiffany Rea-Fisher, EMD’s newly appointed artistic director, and performed that piece in that spring’s gala concert. After finishing her degree, Ambrose traveled to New York City to see the company perform, participated in master classes, and auditioned for the company a mere two months after graduation. Taken on initially as an apprentice, Ambrose worked hard and was offered a spot as a full-time company member the following season. Now entering her seventh season with the New York City-based EMD, Ambrose balances a full-time rehearsal schedule, participation with EMD’s flourishing outreach programming, and a national and international touring schedule. As is the case with 95

percent of U.S.-based dance companies, EMD is short on funding, so Ambrose outsources additional income, her days beginning before her rehearsals and lasting long thereafter. Is it worth it? Ambrose thinks so. “It had been my dream to perform in Europe since I was a child. Last year, EMD toured to Luxembourg, and it was quite literally a dream come true,” she says. “I remember right before the curtain went up one of the stagehands asked us if we were ready, in French, and that’s when it hit me—I had made it to Europe. This huge goal that I dreamed about all the time growing up in New Hampshire had come true. I started crying right before I went on stage—happy tears—which is funny because the name of the piece we performed was Elisa Monte’s Tears Rolling.” —Caroline Yost, BFA ’11 Summer Summer 2017  2017  M MA A SS O ON N SS P P II R R II TT  | 43  | 43

CLASS NOTES EDITOR’S NOTE: Class Notes are submitted by alumni and are not verified by the editors. While we welcome alumni news, Mason Spirit is not responsible for information contained in Class Notes.

divorce filings in the month of January are 30 percent higher than other months. Billy Lyons, MA Psy­chol­ ogy ’99, has published his debut novel, Blood and Needles, which was released by Intrigue Pub­ lishing in June. Blood and Needles is a paranormal romance that tells the story of Steven Jameson and the Morphia Clan, a group of vampires who enjoy narcotics as much as they do blood.

the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in 2010. Nicole Lewis, MPP ’06, was one of 25 regional busi­ ness leaders selected for the Washington Business Journal’s 2017 Minority Business Leader Awards. Lewis is founder and CEO of Generation Hope, a regional nonprofit she started in 2010 to provide teenaged mothers with emotional and financial support while they work to


complete their college education. In 2015, Gener­ ation Hope helped 35 scholars; by July 2017 that number had grown to 100.

Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ Operation Fast and Furious; and the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Jonathan Skladany, JD ’06, has been promoted to staff director for the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Skladany has worked on several highprofile probes for the panel, including its investigations of Countrywide’s VIP loan program; the Bureau of

Joshua A. Etemadi, BS Management ’08, was promoted to assistant vice president at Construction Bonds Inc., located in Herndon, Virginia. He received the 2011 Small Business Administration’s Surety Bond Producer of the Year Award and has testified in front of the U.S.


Heather Davidson, BS Biology ’01, MS Biology ’05, was recently named direc­ tor at Pfizer, in their clinical sciences and operations division (oncol­ogy and vaccines).

Matthew J. Chisman, BA Philosophy ’06, has joined the Cleveland office of Kaufman & Company, LLC, as an associate attorney. Chisman focuses on com­ mercial and business liti­ gation. He earned his JD summa cum laude from


Lori Petterson, BIS ’05, MA Arts Management ’11, is the department coordi­na­ tor for the department of finance at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland. She lives in College Park, Maryland.

44 | FA S T E R FA R T H E R : T H E C A M PA I G N F O R G E O R G E M A S O N U N I V E R S I T Y

Congress on surety bond­ ing for small and emerg­ing contractors.


Sarah Dreyer, MBA ’10, has joined Savills Studley, a commercial real estate firm, as director of research. Dreyer brings more than 10 years of experience in research, analytical, and client-servicing roles. She was previously with


Vornado/Charles E. Smith, where she was responsible for all market research activities across the company’s Washington platform. Previously, she served as the Mid-Atlantic regional research director for Cushman & Wakefield, where she oversaw the Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia research teams, contributed to firmwide thought leader­ship, and engaged with clients.

Nicole Pszczolkowski Moriarty, JD ’10, has been elected partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Kutak Rock LLP, practicing primarily in the area of complex commercial liti­ gation and general civil litigation. Chris Generous, BS Con­ flict Analysis and Resolu­ tion ’12, recently joined the law firm of Sumner Immi­gration, PLLC, in Richmond, Virginia.

Generous gradu­ated from law school and joined the Virginia state bar in 2016. Melanie (Holmes) John­son, BS Criminology, Law and Society ’13, was married to Howard Johnson III on January 14, 2017, in Prince Frederick, Maryland. The couple plans on taking a honeymoon later this year.

SAVE THE DATE October 11–14


Thomas Lee, BS Conflict Analysis and Resolution ’13, has returned to Virginia

Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad

Jennine Capó Crucet, Make Your Home Among Strangers Lev Grossman, The Magicians


(continued next page)


hen Nathaniel Provencio, MS Edu­ cational Leadership ’07, became the first in his family to attend college, he felt a sense of obligation more than privilege.

“I knew that if I was going to go to university, I needed to do something where I could give back to the community,” he says. “Teaching is one of the best ways to do that.” As principal at Minnieville Elementary School in Woodbridge, Virginia, Provencio turned an underperforming insti­tu­tion into one of Prince William County’s best performing elementary schools. His efforts earned him recog­nition as the Washington Post’s 2017 Principal of the Year. “I know my success is contingent on the success of my staff, the parent involvement, the kids who work hard to try and learn every day,” says Provencio. “It’s nice to have my name associated with the award. But to have the opportunity to represent the entire commu­ nity, that’s what’s most important to me.”

The rise didn’t happen immediately. In 2012, Provencio’s second year as a first-time prin­ cipal, Minnieville was one of 485 schools across the state required to implement an improvement plan because it did not reach educational benchmarks. Now, 87 percent of students pass state reading exams and nearly 90 percent pass state math exams. The results are even more notable because of the school’s demographics. More than 80 percent of his 500 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, and for 50 percent English is not their first language. In response, Provencio worked with his staff to realign traditional literacy frameworks in order to have small groups of students receive 30 minutes of reading instruction every day with multiple staff members in the classroom. He encourages teachers to brainstorm on how to help students who are falling behind. He also is in the hallways, chatting with students,

learning their names and developing relationships with their parents. “We see our job as being community advocates for every one of our students and families,” he says. “As the leader of this building, I set the tone. At the end of the day our job is to create an environment where we are going to immerse children with a quality education the first time. We are not going to wait for our children to fail before they receive the support they deserve.” Provencio, who grew up in rural Tennessee, earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at the University of North Alabama. After working for three years as a third-grade teacher in Prince William County, he started at Mason in 2004. “The program [at Mason] was so personalized, I got more out of that experience than I could have with any other university,” he says. —Damian Cristodero

Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 45


Stay in Touch Update your contact information in the alumni directory to stay connected and get the latest news from Mason. Visit or call 703-993-8696 to learn more.

after completing three and a half years of service with the Peace Corps. Lee served as a community health volunteer in Namarroi, Mozambique, from 2013 to 2015, and as the gender and youth HIV coordinator in Maputo, Mozambique, from 2015 to 2016. He then served in Georgetown, Guyana, as an LGBT coali­ tion develop­ment spe­ cialist through Peace Corps Response. In the summer of 2017 he will work as the program coordinator for Legacy International’s Global Youth Village in Bedford, Virginia. Lauren A. Zook, MA History of Decorative Arts ’14, ser­ ves as a senior production manager for the White House Historical Associa­ tion in Washington, D.C.,

and has recently pub­lished her research in White House History, the associa­tion’s quarterly journal. Zook’s article “President Andrew Johnson’s Grizzly Bear Chair: A Gift from Seth Kinman,” tells the story of an odd chair presented by a bear hunter to the beleag­uered president. Zook also published a study of the art of First Lady Caroline Harrison. Her next article will focus on first ladies from 1902 to the present.

Michael J. Thompson, BA Communication ’16, recently self-published a sci-fi/ fantasy novel, World of the Orb. Set in the world of Enkartai, World of the Orb exemplifies Thompson’s love of science fiction and fantasy stories, as well as those featuring unique, dynamic ensembles of characters and the highstakes challenges that elevate them into heroes. For more, visit

Rajpreet Heir, MFA Crea­ tive Writing ’16, now lives in New York. He was fea­ tured in the New York Times on March 24 in a video essay about racism he exper­ienced on the sub­ way. The video has 550,000 views on Facebook alone.

Caroline Weinroth, BA Theatre ’16, won the Miss Mountain Laurel Pageant, a Miss America preliminary pageant, and competed in the Miss Virginia pageant in Roanoke in June. Her talent is singing, and her community service plat­ form is music empower­

ment, a movement to create civic change through music education. Weinroth, who was the president of Mason’s Music Productions Club, is the lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter for the rock band Cinema Hearts. Her original songs, poetry, and writing have been featured on NPR and the online magazine Brightest Young Things, and in the Washington City Paper. Johan Acosta, BS Crimi­ nology, Law and Society ’17, has obtained a full-time position upon graduation as an operational support technician with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, after interning for the FBI in Washington, D.C., for nine months.




Mariana X. Cruz, BS Civil and Infrastructure Engineering ’11 LAMBDA

Anthony DeGregorio, BS Physical Education ’84, MS Physical Education ’89

Aléjandro Asin, BA ’11


Jesse Binnall, BA Communication ’01, JD ’09

Shannon Baccaglini, MM Music ’06, MA Arts Management ’09 COLLEGE OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Betty Ann Duffy, MSN Nursing Administration ’08




Kyle Green, MA International Commerce and Policy ’13 and MPA ’14

46 | FA S T E R FA R T H E R : T H E C A M PA I G N F O R G E O R G E M A S O N U N I V E R S I T Y


Adriana Bonilla, BA Government and Politics ’11 COLLEGE OF SCIENCE


Gleason Rowe, BA Global Affairs ’11 GOLDEN QUILL

Kushboo Bhatia, BA ’16




Kurt Lynn, BS Business Administration ’76, January 27, 2017 Carolyn Mucciaro, MBA ’77, January 29, 2017 Frances F. McHenry, MEd Curriculum and Instruction ’79, January 6, 2017 Eileen J. Feuerbach, BS Psychology ’80, MA Psychology ’82, PhD Clinical Psychology ’90, December 27, 2016 Cyrt Cyrtmus, BIS ’81, December 30, 2016 Carmen Rioux, BA Psychology ’82, February 12, 2017 Cynthia Moore, BS Biology ’86, February 26, 2017 Wayne Thompson, MA Economics ’86, December 28, 2016

Joyce A. Gledhill, MSN ’88, January 17, 2017 Nancy Holmes, BIS ’88, January 21, 2017 Theresa Goldstone, BA Art (Studio) ’89, February 25, 2017 Maureen Guignon, BA History ’96, MA History ’01, January 9, 2017 Ronald Parker, BS Psychology ’96, January 22, 2017 Joseph F. Covella Jr., BS Health, Fitness, and Recreational Resources ’98, January 24, 2017 Daniel Jacobs, BA Anthropology ’99, February 7, 2017

Ryan Spencer, BA Communication ’00, January 7, 2017 Travis Valentine, BA Government and International Politics ’05, February 14, 2017 Barbara Burt, MA New Professional Studies ’06, January 8, 2017 Kristin Schmidtfrerick, MEd Curriculum and Instruction ’07, February 6, 2017 John Dempewolf, MEd Special Education ’08, December 31, 2016 Tyler Devers, student, BS Accounting, January 30, 2017

Jeffrey Williams, BS Public Administration ’99, MA Telecommunications ’06, January 26, 2017

F A C U LT Y, S TA F F, A N D F R I E N D S John Radner, associate professor of English emeritus, died suddenly on May 9 at the age of 78. Radner was the author of Johnson and Boswell: A Biography of Friendship, winner of the Annibel Jenkins Biography Prize in 2015. He graduated from Harvard College in 1960 and received his PhD in English from Harvard in 1966. He served as head tutor at Harvard and taught at Georgetown University before coming to Mason in 1975. Radner retired in 2007 but continued serving as a study group leader with Mason’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. He is survived by his wife, Eleanor Greene; children, Joshua and Jamie; and grandchildren, Cole, Augustus, and Phoebe. James M. Scott, MPA ’82, who represented Fairfax County in the Virginia House of Delegates for 22 years and helped establish Mason’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, died April 13 in Springfield, Virginia. He was 78. Scott championed progressive causes during his time as a delegate. Born in Galax, Virginia, and raised in Winchester, Scott began his political career as Providence District supervisor on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors from 1972 to 1986. He served in numerous public service roles, including as chair of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, chair of the Metropolitan

Washington Water Resources Planning Board, and as president of the Virginia Association of Counties. Scott is survived by his wife, Nancy; daughters, Casey and Mary Alice; and one granddaughter. Robinson Professor Roger Wilkins died on March 26 at age 85 in Kensington, Maryland. Wilkins spent nearly two decades teaching history and American culture at Mason before retiring in 2007. A champion of the civil rights movement who served Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, his work contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was among the first black editorial writers at both the Washington Post and the New York Times, and his editorials about the Watergate scandal earned him a share of the Post’s 1973 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He was involved in public affairs as a senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a Wash­ ington, D.C. think tank, and was a publisher of the NAACP’s journal, the Crisis, from 1998 to 2010. Survivors include his wife of 36 years, Patricia King; two children from his first marriage, Amy and David Wilkins; a daughter from his third marriage, Elizabeth Wilkins; two half sisters; and two grandsons. Summer 2017  M A S O N S P I R I T  | 47

4400 University Drive, MS 3B3 Fairfax, VA 22030

The Bill of Rights Eagle statue, a 4,300-pound cast bronze work by internationally known sculptor Greg Wyatt, was installed in front of Hazel Hall on the Arlington Campus on Law Day 2017 in May. From left, Catherine Scalia Courtney, daughter of Justice Antonin Scalia; Wyatt; Antonin Scalia Law School dean Henry Butler; John T. “Til” Hazel; Jimmy Hazel; and Mason president Ángel Cabrera.


Profile for Mason Spirit magazine

Mason Spirit Summer 2017  

A magazine for the George Mason University community

Mason Spirit Summer 2017  

A magazine for the George Mason University community