Skip to main

Dean's Blog: Mason Impact; Be the change you want to see in the world

Dean Fernando Miralles Wilhelm addresses graduates at the College of Science mini ceremony 2021
Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm addresses graduates at the College of Science mini ceremony 2021. Photo by Evan Cantwell.

“Be the change.” Some may recognize this charge, originally offered by Mahatma Gandhi, who in 1947 led the people of India to independence from British rule.

“Go out and change the world.” I offered this directive to prospective graduates at the Monday, May 10 2021 in-person College of Science mini degree celebration event attended by about 500 students, family, friends, staff and faculty. Although a broad challenge, we will see our newest Mason Science ambassadors implement it in a variety of ways due to a variety of influences.

Take the impassioned, inspirational speech delivered to the crowd live by Sean Whitmer who will receive his master’s degree in forensic science from George Mason University this spring. He shared his personal journey at Mason to find his major, acquire and develop his scientific skillset, and ways he used those skills to encourage others. Our audience represents the potential for a bright future. Some will go on to help one another, while others may go on to drive great change in their community, their scientific field, perhaps even around the world.

Indeed, Mason suggests our students, faculty, and staff have the opportunity to make a global impact. One such faculty member who has embodied that global impact potential is our dear colleague, Dr. Lee Talbot. Talbot, a conservationist who over the course of his fifty-plus year storied career, conducted over 130 exploration and research expeditions to remote or unknown areas on five continents and, among many accomplishments, co-authored the U.S. Endangered Species Act which saved countless of animals from extinction. Throughout his life, Talbot, who recently passed away after an inspiring battle with cancer, bravely embodied the Ghandi adage, “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problem.”

As we conclude this busy semester unlike any other in recent memory, perhaps many of you may find similar inspiration from Talbot or Gandhi. In a positivity blog, Daily Good penned by Henrik Edberg, a full time blogger and business owner from Sweden, 1.2 million have reviewed Ten Rules one can use to carry out Gandhi’s charge. They are so on point, I thought they bear repeating here; some are big and bold enough to stand on their own and may surface as topics in future blog posts. Which ones resonate with you? As a to do list, I’d say they create quite a life’s path mantra.

1. Change yourself.

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

2. You are in control.

“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”

3. Forgive and let it go. (these Gandhi thoughts were so good, I had to include them both)

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

“An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

4. Without action you aren’t going anywhere.

“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”

5. Take care of this moment.

“I do not want to foresee the future. I am concerned with taking care of the present. God has given me no control over the moment following.”

An aside. In my graduation closing address yesterday, I encouraged our Mason Science graduates to stop and be present in this moment, recognizing it for the turning point it is.

6. Everyone is human.

“I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.”

7. Persist.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

8. See the good in people and help them.

“I look only to the good qualities of men. Not being faultless myself, I won’t presume to probe into the faults of others.”

9. Be congruent, be authentic, be your true self.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

10. Continue to grow and evolve.

”Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.”

At the end of the day, it is up to each and every one of us to be the change we seek. May our graduates, and each of you find inspiration in the science cohort which surrounds you at Mason, including luminaries like Dr. Talbot, to become the next illustrious Mason impact story.