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Dean's Blog: Celebrating our People

Each year, George Mason University honors employees for their time working at the university and/or the Commonwealth of Virginia. On Tuesday, it was my privilege to attend my first in-person University Day Service Awards breakfast celebration to honor those staff and faculty celebrating 5-, 10-, and 15-year anniversaries. In addition to the hundreds of folks with me in Dewberry Hall for this exciting tribute, to engage and connect in our hybrid, new normal, many virtual attendees also assembled to view the live-streamed event.

Please review the list of honorees and join me in celebrating and thanking them for their valuable service to the Mason Science community.

Many university leaders attended the event to show support and appreciation for the honorees. Mason President Gregory Washington suggested something we’ve said before; we are in the Success Business. And this is a day we celebrate those who make the success happen. “You are the reason for our success and for putting us in the position to be ‘All Together Different,’” Washington shared from the podium. And it is so true. Our people are the lifeblood of our university.

When responding to attend the event, each anniversary award recipient was encouraged to share their favorite memory from their years at Mason, reflecting on their time here to convey why they do what they do so well. Then, during the ceremony, some of these moments were shared.

Due to time constraints, we were not able to read memories from all the day’s 800+ honorees yet the organizing committee selected a sampling of submissions to share the impact people have on our enterprise and the students we serve. Two highlights were submissions from our college. Here are the Mason memories of Kristen Wever, (five-year honoree/Assistant Director of our Advanced Biomedical Science program also known as George Squared) and Cindy Smith (ten-year honoree/ESP Associate Professor and K12 Education Director of PEREC). These Mason moments were read to the entire audience during the event.

Kristen shared, “My Mason memory(ies) always involve my students! I work with the George Squared program housed at SciTech and I am fortunate to get a new group of students every fall. It is truly the best feeling to work so closely with time and watch their dreams come true when they crush their MCAT, get their first med school interview, and finally get their dream acceptance to medical, dental, or PA School.”

And Cindy discussed the impact her programs have on the community, “Through partnerships with Prince William and Fairfax County Public Schools, I have provided part-time jobs to well over 300 Mason field interpreters, who deliver full-day, hands-on outdoor watershed education programs to 150 middle schoolers every program day. Thus far, Mason students have directly engaged over 110,000 youth. When Burke Lake is framed by bright blue sky and vibrant fall leaf tree colors, it looks (and feel) like we are teaching in a postcard image. I love observing Mason students as they hone their science communication skills while inspiring the next generation of natural resource protectors.”

I was excited to connect with all the people from our community honored for their years at Mason. Now they are more than just a name in a program, as over my time as dean, I’ve personally had the opportunity to interact with many of them to see first-hand the impact they have within our Mason Science community.

A special shout out also to two of the award recipients: Flavia Colonna, (Mathematical Sciences Professor) whose research focuses on operator theory, complex analysis, discrete harmonic analysis and potential theory) and Duane King (Computer Engineer), who maintains college servers, network configuration, and classroom technology along with onsite support for the SciTech campus) for each providing thirty-five years of service. The recognition ceremony for Flavia and Duane, and those with 20-plus years happened the following day.

All contributions of these individuals, whether it be staff or faculty, over 5 or 35 years, are critical to our mission. As Mason’s Vice President of University Life, Rose Pascarell noted at the ceremony, “We thrive together.” She is so right! This celebration was but a small token of Mason’s and my recognition that the only way we can succeed is if we are powered by our fantastic people. Thank you for all you do for our Mason Science community.

FMW