Quarterly Quill October 2020


What’s Happening with the Strategic Plan?

The release of the 2020-24 Strategic Plan has been met enthusiastically with hours of planning and preparation for its implementation. A Strategic Plan Operations Team (SPOT) has been formed to support the ongoing efforts of this plan.

SPOT, comprised of representatives from UL Project and Process Management (Birgit Debeerst), UL Assessment (Eunkyoung Park), UL Communications and Marketing (Atossa Shafaie), and Divisional Operations and Planning (Lori Scher), will soon release a complete roadmap for the plan implementation process, including a project organization chart and a description of key roles and functions (i.e. UL Strategic Plan Steering Committee, Goal Leads and Co-leads, Strategy Leads, and SPOT members). A detailed assessment plan will guide Goal Group and UL unit activity for the Strategic Plan and is slated for an early November completion date.

This team, along with Kirk Vandebrooke and Creston Lynch, has convened on a weekly basis since July to develop a clear structure for the plan’s rollout. The team has conducted initial interviews with each of the four Goal Leads (Inclusive and Thriving Community, Engaged Student, Holistic Support Services, and Organizational Excellence), as well as other critical plan stakeholders, to develop a comprehensive process and timeline.

Highlights of our ongoing strategic planning process will include:

  • Directed assessment support for measuring divisional outcomes throughout the 4-year reporting cycle.
  • Integrated quarterly reporting for seamless communication on plan goals and associated outcomes and strategies
  • Deliberate alignment with Unit-level goals and outcomes
The Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment header

The Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Education and LGBTQ+ Resources is now the Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment (CCEE, the Center). This restructure and rebrand coincides with President Washington’s reaffirmation of Mason’s commitment to inclusive excellence and creates a stronger architecture for accomplishing its vision of striving to create educational spaces of advocacy and support as a catalyst for equity and liberation.

Why the name change?

The diversity portfolio was growing in University Life and an organizational re-shaping was necessary. While diversity education and confronting bias are important aspects of equity work, it was becoming clear that student needs were greater than the current capacity and organizational structure. The new name needed to reflect the organizational changes which center the student experience as a clear and critical initiative while including cultural-celebrations, culturally-specific leadership development, allyship, and identity development.

What else has changed?

Along with our name, we updated our office’s structure to include three service areas:

  • Student Access and Equity (SAE): Supports campus and student engagement for students who are historically underrepresented in higher education and their allies while specifically centering college students who identify as first generation and students who are undocumented or who are Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or hold Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
  • Student engagement for Racial Justice (SERJ): Supports and serves communities of color who have been historically marginalized in higher education. SERJ is charged with raising awareness and visibility of racial and ethnic identity through educational programs, cultural celebration and ceremonies, and promoting equitable practices in the university setting.
  • LGBTQ+ Resources: Support to LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff; including advising, advocacy, referral, education and training, group and workshop facilitation, and leadership development. These areas serve as resources to those in the Mason Community who seek to meaningfully engage and interact with people of different identities and intersections to co-create an equitable campus environment.

Through this restructure, and with the rebrand, CCEE’s continues to improve student quality of life and experiences by working alongside and in community while focusing on programming that empowers students to realize self-efficacy and ones’ own cultural wealth, which are both directly tied to student success and empowerment.

What’s next?

You will start to see changes to our identity system, website, and social media profiles. For more information check out our website: ccee.gmu.edu.

COVID Testing at Mason

George Mason University is leading the charge among Virginia state schools in keeping our COVID-19 numbers low. Testing and quarantine are a major component of that success. Symptomatic or close contact testing helps to inform those who have the virus to isolate at home and also helps to identify and notify close contacts to quarantine and be tested. These actions help stop the spread of illness.

Quarantine is when close contacts who may have been exposed to COVID-19 but who may not have symptoms (are asymptomatic) stay at home to keep from spreading the virus. But there is a lot of miscommunication when it comes to how these components of our Safe Return to Campus plan actually work.

A viral test (PCR) for COVID-19 will determine and measure the presence of the virus at the time of the test. A positive result indicates that the individual has COVID-19. But a negative test result is not necessarily an indication that the virus is not present. Rather, it means that the individual most likely does not have the virus at the time of testing. There is a possibility that the test was administered too early in the progression of the virus; there may not have been enough viral material for the test to measure. Keep in mind that a negative viral test does not protect you against future exposure and also doesn’t let you know if you’ve been exposed to the virus in the past. Only an antibody test can do that.

So, it is important to continue to follow the Safe Return to Campus protocol and watch for any of the COVID-19 symptoms. But even the concept of symptoms becomes complex with this virus. You can be asymptomatic and still have the virus and spread it to others. It is important to continue wearing a mask, physical distancing, washing your hands properly, taking the Mason COVID Health✓™, and staying home if feeling ill regardless of your symptoms or test status.

A PCR test is an important tool, but testing alone will not stop the spread of COVID-19. Quarantine is our strong layer of defense against worsening the spread. Those who were possibly exposed to the virus should quarantine for 14 days after their last potential exposure to keep others safe. Why 14 days? It can take several days for symptoms to develop after your last possible exposure to the virus; this period of time is called the incubation period, and, for COVID-19, can be up to 14 days. During this time, you could develop symptoms or spread the virus to others. Even with a negative test result, you could have been tested too early, and must quarantine for the recommended time. If you have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 or are showing symptoms, you should remain in quarantine or isolation until directed by a healthcare provider that you are no longer at-risk to possibly spread COVID-19 to others.

It is our responsibility as Patriots to protect our community from COVID-19, and our best chance of doing so is stopping the spread. Understanding how a viral test works, and when you need to quarantine are first steps to keeping our numbers low, our students as safe as possible, and campus open.

Mason Care Network

This fall, Mason launched its inaugural success coaching program for incoming freshmen through the Mason Care Network (MCN) as part of the Student Experience Redesign. Over 60 stakeholders from University Life, Undergraduate Education, Academic Affairs, and Enrollment Management spent the last academic year designing a coaching model for Mason’s incoming and special student populations. Success Coaches at Mason are located in both the central MCN unit as well as the academic units. As of September 29, over 1,000 students have utilized Mason’s coaching services, with over 1,300 appointments scheduled.

Success Coaches work with students to guide and encourage the growth and development of each student’s knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs about their ability succeed in higher education as well as within their chosen field. Coaching conversations include topics such as navigating University Life at Mason, transitioning to college, learning about Mason resources, major fit, and career exploration.

MCN’s Success Coaches will discuss all aspects of a student’s life that impacts their academic performance, including but not limited to the following eight focus areas:

  • School community
  • Effectiveness
  • Commitment to graduation
  • Career
  • Managing commitments
  • Finances
  • Health and support
  • Academics

Mason’s Success Coaches will meet with students to discuss, in depth, these eight focus areas and how they are influencing their student experience at Mason. Success Coaches work closely with campus resources, Academic Advisors, and the student to develop success plans to enhance and improve a student’s performance and confidence in each of these eight focus areas.

Students are encouraged to meet with their Success Coach at least once per semester. However, the most successful students will want to meet with their Success Coach 2-3 times per semester.

As mentioned, the MCN unit provides Success Coaching for all incoming students – both Freshmen and Transfer students. Freshmen students have an assigned Success Coach and Transfer students have the opportunity to Opt-In to work with Peer Student Success Coaches.

Students can locate their coaches via the coach finder locator:

In addition to coaching, the MCN unit also provides academic advising for exploratory, undeclared, and non-degree seeking students. Students who are unsure of their major or just not quite sure what field to pursue have an assigned Exploratory Academic Advisor, who also serves as their Success Coach.

We are thrilled to have Mason’s students utilizing success coaching services! If you need to refer a student to the MCN, please email masoncn@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2470. Students can also make an appointment with their Success Coach through Navigate Mason or the Mason Care Network website.

Mason Votes

The 2020 election cycle is unlike any we have experienced in modern history, and the stakes could not be higher. Our nation is on edge and feels more ideologically divided than ever before. A global pandemic has claimed over 200K lives and counting. Protesters are in the streets demanding justice. Millions have filed for unemployment in just the past few months. And on, and on…

As Mason's new president Dr. Gregory Washington said in a recent letter focused on taking action in difficult times, "the closer we get to November 3rd, the more I realize that this is the most consequential election of our time."

Americans face a crucial decision this November, and Mason Votes is here to help our community get informed, mobilize, and #VOTE!

Created in 2008 as a non-partisan election initiative designed to promote student engagement in the political process, Mason Votes includes a committee that sponsors programs focused on civic action and voter awareness, as well as a public-facing online platform for sharing news and student voices.

MasonVotes.gmu.edu is a destination for students and the community to learn about the issues, access voter information and registration deadlines, find out where each candidate stands, and engage in a dialogue about how to address the challenges facing America and the world.

This fall, Mason Votes is offering a robust calendar of election-related events (including pre- and post-election dialogues) and Student Media is proud to announce the formation of the 2020 Mason Votes Online Editorial Team, a diverse group of talented students selected to report on Election 2020 that will receive scholarships for their work thanks to a grant from the Parents Fund.

Students interest in getting involved and contributing content to the Mason Votes website can join the Mason Votes group on Mason360 or email stumedia@gmu.edu.

By empowering Mason students with unique perspectives to speak confidently and get engaged, we hope to inspire voters of all stripes to get the facts, consider the impact this election will have on their own life, and make a plan to vote on Tuesday, November 3, 2020!

Election 2020 Quick Facts

  • Any US Citizen who turns 18 years old on or before November 3, 2020 (born on or before November 3, 2002) is eligible to vote.
  • October 13th is Virginia’s deadline to register to vote; early in-person voting is already underway in Virginia.
  • You can verify your registration information, register for the first time, learn about early in-person voting, or request an absentee ballot by visiting elections.virginia.gov.
  • As of July 1, 2020, the Commonwealth of Virginia has implemented “no excuse” absentee voting, meaning anyone can request an absentee ballot without providing proof of need.
  • Non-Virginia voters can find deadlines and information about voting in their home state by visiting usa.gov/election-office.
  • Learn more about voting on campus and more: masonvotes.gmu.edu/a-quick-guide-to-voting-as-a-mason-student/
Mason Rundown

In this ever-changing environment, we know that finding information and knowing the most important items students need to engage in is more difficult than ever. Mason is a large community with many different departments and areas, and it can be challenging for new students particularly to learn this campus and its services, particularly in a virtual space. For 2020-2021, the University has made strides in creating new initiatives to keep students informed and provide access to important resources and information.

The Mason First Year webpage was created prior to the start of Summer Orientation and serves as a one-stop for new students to find answers to their frequently asked questions. Some of the areas of focus on this webpage are quick links that students visit often, a glossary of terms for Mason, and categories of the student experience that link to how to best resolve that issue or question. University Life resources, policies and procedures, and academic support are all examples of some of the ways students need assistance to be successful, and this web resource is the best way to find that help. The information curated here is useful for all class levels. For any student who has a question and doesn’t know where to go, we recommend they bookmark and start with the Mason First Year webpage.

Even with a comprehensive web resource to connect to questions and items of assistance, new students don’t always know the best times to utilize the support Mason provides. This year, University Life is launching the Mason Rundown, a monthly newsletter sent to all new students at the beginning of each month during the 2020-2021 academic year with relevant and timely reminder of deadlines, events, and helpful resources. Our first edition went out on September 8 and showcased content around the deadline to add/drop classes for the fall semester, on-campus employment opportunities, Welcome2Mason engagement opportunities, and navigating the Mason Student Services Center operations. Each edition will be customized to feature the most important aspects of the Mason experience as they acclimate to this new community. Encourage your new student to keep an eye out for the Mason Rundown each month!

The New Student and Family Programs team is hard at work engaging our new students as they move farther into their first semester!

New To University Life

Please join us in welcoming our new colleagues as they join the University Life team!

Counseling and Psychological Services
Natalia Baez-Powell, Psychologist
Raymond Bradni, Psychologist
Mandi Quay, Psychologist

Student Health Services
Tiffany Bickley, COVID Team Nurse Practitioner
Crystal DeJesus, Clinic Nurse
Billal Khan, COVID Team Medical Assistant
Eveland Matheny, COVID Team Nurse Practitioner
Taylor Paul, COVID Team Medical Assistant
Allison Petrie, COVID Team Medical Assistant
Betsy Schwers, Clinic Administrative Specialist
Karen Sharrock, Associate Administrative Director

Student Support and Advocacy Center
Caitlyn Largent, Assistant Director

University Life Communications and Marketing
Nicole Rebeiro, Marketing and Design Specialist

Updated Event Guidelines

Campus events have been reimagined in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are still happening! While virtual events are strongly encouraged (Virtual Events Guidelines), in person and hybrid in-person/virtual events are still possible. Mason implemented requirements and guidelines, which can be found in the The Fall 2020 Events Guidelines and Process. There has also been a Mason Event Exception Committee put in place to review requests to conduct events that fall outside these guidelines.

Important highlights of the new guidelines:

  • Meeting participants must wear proper face coverings.
  • On-campus events/gatherings limited to 150 participants, including organizers.
  • Off-campus events/gatherings limited to 10 participants, including organizers.
  • Groups can occupy a maximum of 50 percent of the event space.
  • Spaces must be configured to ensure that:
    • Ten feet of physical distance is maintained for exercise activities, singing, or cheering.
    • Six feet of distance is maintained for all other events.
  • Events/gatherings must be seated or have clearly marked space to ensure physical distancing.
  • Events/gatherings cannot be open to the general public.
  • Exits must be configured to reduce bottlenecks when people leave.
  • Signs must be posted at entrances stating that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19, or known exposure to a COVID-19 case in the prior 14 days, can enter.
  • Participants must complete the Mason COVID Health✓™ survey and receive a “green light” status on the day of the event.
  • Signs must be posted with public health reminders on physical distancing, gatherings, options for high-risk individuals, and staying home if sick.
  • Staff and participants must have access to facilities to wash hands with soap and water, or be provided with alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60 percent alcohol.

For a list of all the current events happening at Mason, log into Mason360, or check the Events Calendar on the Student Involvement website. For any questions regarding the guidelines contact gmuevent@gmu.edu.

NODA Conference

The 2020 NODA Annual Conference, an event hosted by the Association for • Orientation • Transition • Retention in Higher Education, is just 21 days away. Eddie Higginbotham, IV (he, him his), Associate Director for New Student and Family Programs (NSFP) serves as the conference chair, and Joe DeLuna, Assistant Director for Orientation and New Student Programs (NSFP) is part of the planning team. This year’s theme: Focus. Clarity. Vision. would take on a new relevance in some unexpected ways. Slated to take place in Minneapolis, MN the conference was forced to shift to virtual modality due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With intense planning, the committee executed a plan to re-create the entire conference in a virtual setting to deliver the theme with reimagined content fitting for an online delivery.

The 2020 conference will be acutely focused on elements of equity, justice, and inclusion with a strong emphasis on mental health and personal wellness. Acknowledging the difficulty of navigating some of the events currently happening both globally and nationally, the conference leans on learning from narratives, idea sharing and action planning as tools to producing best-practices where none currently exist. To that end, workshops will be central to this year’s agenda. One example is an interactive, collaborative workshops called “Hot Topics Workshops.” These focus on idea sharing and action planning around three hot topics in the field: Putting Equity & Inclusion Into Practice, Adapting Communication Strategies, and Planning During a Pandemic. Also new this year are the Affinity Spaces where sub-groups of NODA members can connect around various identities, leadership levels, and types of institution.

Other events and initiatives include: Keynote Speaker Wesley Hamilton, Hero from Netflix’s Queer Eye, Region-based meetings, spotlight educational sessions based on topics selected by each NODA Network, a Netflix Watch Party, virtual Author’s event spotlighting new books and hearing from the authors (members received free e-Books from each publisher), additional live and virtual wellness classes/initiatives, and opportunities to make personal pledges to serve and show solidarity for the most pressing issues of this time.

Mason, and particularly University Life, are proud of the work our professionals are doing to lead on this national stage during such a turbulent and weighted time.

For more information on the 2020 NODA Annual Conference visit: nodac2020.com/.


The deadline for the University Life Outstanding Service Award and the University Life Positive Impact Award has been extended to November 1, 2020. Nomination information can be located on the UL Blackboard Organization under “Recognize a Colleague!” and at ulprofdev.gmu.edu/programs-initiatives/recognize-a-colleague/.

Outstanding Service Award:

  • Who: University Life employees in good standing for a minimum of 1 year.
  • What/Criteria: Exhibit exceptional initiative and consistent above and beyond service and/or leadership.
  • How: Complete and submit the form below. Nomination periods will close November 1, February 1, and June 1.
  • Award: Certificate Presentation and $200.

Positive Impact Award:

  • Who: University Life employees in good standing for a minimum of 1 year.
  • What/Criteria: Outstanding achievement related to specific job performance or successful completion of project or event.
  • How: Complete and submit the form below. Nomination periods will close November 1, February 1, and June 1.
  • Award: Certificate Presentation and up to $200.

Additionally, twice a year we award the UL Partnership Award.

University Life Partnership Award:

  • Who: This award is open to all Mason employees who do not work within University Life.
  • What/Criteria:
    • Evidence of work that has influenced the “building of bridges” between a University Life office and another unit at Mason
    • A demonstration of enthusiasm, leadership, and openness to collaboration in the development of a University Life program or initiative
    • Evidence of outcomes that has led to enhanced student learning and/or development
  • Purpose: There exists a growing body of literature on the importance of collaboration in higher education and student affairs (Cleveland-Innes and Emes, 2005; Bourassa and Kruger, 2001; Brown, 1989; Hirt, 2007; Kellogg, 1999). The purpose of this award is to recognize members of the Mason Community who have made significant contributions in partnership with University Life. The award recognizes individuals who regularly seek opportunities for collaboration with University Life colleagues in an effort to foster the greater mission and vision of University Life and George Mason University.
  • How: Please submit nominee and their supervisor’s name along with a maximum one page description of why you are nominating the individual for the UL Partnership Award. Submit to ulawards@gmu.edu by 11/1 for fall award and 4/1 for spring award.
  • Award: One University Life Partnership award will be awarded each semester. Winners will receive $100.

Again, the nomination information can be located on the UL Blackboard Organization under “Recognize a Colleague!” and at ulprofdev.gmu.edu/programs-initiatives/recognize-a-colleague/.

List of this quarter's contributing authors

A big THANK YOU to this month's contributors

Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment
Dr. Van Bailey

Mason Care Network
Dr. Adrienne White
Anthony Pegg
Whitney K Gaston

New Student and Family Programs
Rick Gray

Student Health Services
Erin Noel Harpine

Student Media
Jason Hartsel

University Life
Dr. Lori Scher
Amy Snyder

University Life Marketing
Atossa Shafaie
Karen Wolf