Quarterly Quill September 2021


Even amidst a busy return to campus, efforts have progressed across several areas within the University Life Strategic Plan. This quarterly update will focus on work taking place within Goal 4: Organizational Excellence, Strategy 4.2.4: Develop and implement a division-wide, shared service model that reduces redundancies and expands unit bandwidth for the delivery of services.

Value Mapping is a project within Strategy 4.2.4 that aims to support the UL Operations & Planning teams in developing a framework for measuring success.

The UL Value Mapping project launched during an April 2021 planning retreat, where Ops & Planning team members (Co-Curricular Assessment, UL Technology Services, UL Human Resources, UL Marketing & Communications, and UL Project & Process Management) came together to reflect on UL unit needs as well as perceived benefits offered by each respective service area. The retreat was facilitated by University Operations and Business Services consultant, Tony Pillari, who has led Value Mapping exercises across a number of Mason departments.

The Ops & Planning teams finalized individual value maps this summer. The value maps reflected the areas each team believed mattered the most to the UL units they serve. The teams also participated in a self-scoring process for each of their value areas.

The initial value maps provided the foundation for a series of surveys that were administered this month (September 2021) to UL Cabinet and Unit Leaders and specialized “customer” groups, including the UL Assessment Committee, the UL Admin Professional Network, and the Mason360 Liaison Group. The surveys offer an opportunity for units to provide input on which aspects of each service area they value most and how they feel each of the Ops & Planning units are performing within each of the value areas. This process will allow service-providing units the opportunity to gain insights related to their perceived values and perceived performance.

Survey participation will assist the Ops & Planning area in visualizing perceived and actual unit input across value areas; this tool for measuring effectiveness will help us to examine whether current efforts are hitting their marks or whether they require adjustments.

The Ops & Planning team aims to serve as a trusted partner for all UL units in efforts that support student success. The Value Mapping process will better position the team to develop strategic goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help quantify the impact of each service area. Ultimately, these success metrics will guide the Ops & Planning team around best structures and processes to support increased efficiency across the division and the expansion of bandwidth for delivery of services, helping us to achieve our collective vision that Every Student Succeeds.

There are still opportunities to get involved with the Strategic Plan implementation! If you are excited, interested, and available to join a working group to support one of the following areas, please reach out to the appropriate points of contact, preferably by October 1st.

Goal 1: Inclusive Thriving Community

  • Strategy 1.2.2: Develop basic, intermediate, and advanced diversity education programs that address learning outcomes at different levels of exposure to subject matter.
  • Strategy 1.3.1: Increase University Life and faculty collaborations to diversify curricula and co-curricular learning experience.

Contacts: Dr. Creston Lynch clynch21@gmu.edu and Lisa Snyder at clsnyder2@gmu.edu

Goal 2: Engage All Students

  • Opportunities available within any of the Strategy areas

Contacts: Juliet Blank-Godlove at jblank@gmu.edu and LuLu Geza Kelemen at ckelemen@gmu.edu


Dr. Rachel Wernicke, Associate Dean and Chief Mental Health Officer for University Life, led the development of the Let’s Help Our Students: Faculty and Staff Guide for Supporting Student Well-Being and Mental Health at Mason (Let’s Help Our Students) in response to a need for guidance for faculty and staff in recognizing and helping students who are struggling with mental health.  

The many challenges of the past year have increased stress and anxiety levels in our student populations, causing a feeling of heightened isolation. The Let’s Help Our Students guide will help our professional communities identify, address, and alleviate these feelings of stress while also creating a sense of comfort and mutual understanding. This resource overviews the current state, gives guidance in recognizing signs of students distress, provides ways to get students to the proper resources, and highlights ways to, if approachedbe empathetic in support by finding common ground, and connecting with Mason students.  

If you are a part of Mason’s faculty and staff, please make sure you have this resource on-hand as we all navigate our Brave, Bold & Back return to campus life! And if you would like to help us circulate this important resource, download the Media Kit and share the information with your colleagues! 

Please email ulcandm@gmu.edu with questions. 

Patriot Experience Program introduces The First Year Challenge and Trasfer Track

The fall semester is off to an exciting start back on campus, and the Patriot Experience program is excited to launch two new opportunities for students to design their own Mason experience through the First Year Challenge and the introduction of the Transfer Track!

The First Year Challenge is designed to encourage first-year students to engage in opportunities and experiences across Mason. Through our core tracks of Global Citizenship, Career Readiness, and Well-Being embedded in the Mason 360 platform, first year students are challenged to complete 15 items in 15 weeks. This opportunity is available to students participating in campus activities in-person and virtually. First year students are encouraged to complete their 15 items by December 5, 2021 so that they may earn their limited edition Patriot Experience swag.

The Transfer Track is designed to engage directly with transfer students at Mason, with the intention of connecting them to key experiences to support their transition to Mason and their connection to campus. The Transfer Track launched Monday September 13, 2021 on Mason 360.

In addition to our new opportunities, the Patriot Experience program is now offering in-person and virtual presentations of our program to faculty, staff, and student groups across Mason. If you are interested in learning more about the Patriot Experience program, please e-mail us at masonpe@gmu.edu. We look forward to engaging with you further!


Marketing and Communications Team Website

The University Life Marketing and Communication team has updated their unit website, which now includes all the information found in what was formerly known as the University Life Marketing and Advertising Guidelines.  

The website offers marketing/design best practices, customizable marketing templates, advertising avenues, approved vendors, tips for posting on social media, and other important resources 

Additionally, there are helpful tips and insights into how to optimize your marketing while staying on brandchoosing photos for graphic design, designing social media graphics, and social media posts.  

Branding is important to maintaining a relationship with your audience. Informatioon the website ensures transparency and clarity when it comes to the use of the Mason brand, address topics including Mason brand aesthetics, University visual identity (which is accompanied by style guide), and University editorial standards.   

The marketing and communication team additionally offers a series of customizable marketing templates to meet tight deadlines or to complete smaller projects. These CANVA templates are available for Instagram or Facebook posts and fliers. The new website includes step-by-step instructions on how to customize the CANVA templates for users who may be unfamiliar with the platform. 

Be sure to check out and bookmark University Life Marketing and Communication's unit website!   


Washington, DC (August 30, 2021) – Nonprofit Generation Hope announced today the inaugural cohort of higher education institutions participating in their FamilyU technical assistance program, which partners with colleges and universities across the country to increase the number of parenting college students who complete their programs and graduate.

One in five undergraduate students is attending college while caring for dependents, and despite having higher GPAs than their peers without dependents, they are ten times less likely to graduate due to a systemic lack of support. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the many challenges that the nearly four million student-parents nationwide face in their pursuit of a degree -- bolstering concerns as institutions grapple with an unprecedented 13% decrease in overall freshmen enrollment in fall 2020.

Generation Hope’s FamilyU technical assistance program was created to assist two- and four-year higher education institutions in developing a stronger support system for their students who are parenting. The program is informed by Generation Hope’s 10+ years working directly with teen parents in college, is rooted in its student-centered approach, and builds upon its research on the experiences of parenting college students. FamilyU includes a comprehensive, customized, evidence-based, two-year capacity-building experience designed to create and refine institutional competencies to improve student parent success as well as customized engagements for higher education entities to improve their student parent retention and graduation outcomes. The institutions selected for the inaugural FamilyU cohort include:

  • George Mason University
  • Montgomery College
  • Northern Virginia Community College
  • Trinity Washington University

“Generation Hope is incredibly proud to work with these institutions to accelerate student parent success,” said Generation Hope Founder and CEO Nicole Lynn Lewis. “By investing their time and resources in the FamilyU Cohort, these schools are not only communicating that this population matters, but that they are committed to moving the needle on racial justice, economic mobility, and college completion and transforming higher education into a place where all students can persist and thrive.”

"We are delighted to participate in FamilyU," said Kerin Hilker-Balkissoon, Director of Educational and Career Pathways at George Mason University. "This opportunity to identify and elevate the needs of our pregnant and parenting Patriots has come at a critically important time for Mason, aligning with the implementation of our anti-racism and inclusive excellence work. We look forward to learning from Generation Hope FamilyU leaders and our peer institutions as we work to enhance both access and success for our student-parents."

“We are immensely grateful to our philanthropic partners Imaginable Futures, ECMC Foundation, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation for their support of FamilyU,” said Lewis. “Their early investment will be critical to the long-term impact of this work.”

Learn more about FamilyU.

# # #

Generation Hope
Generation Hope is a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC that was founded in 2010 to ensure that all student parents have the opportunities to succeed and experience economic mobility. Generation Hope engages education and policy partners to drive systemic change and provides direct support to teen parents in college as well as their children through holistic, two-generation programming. Fewer than 2% of teen mothers will earn their college degrees before they are 30 years old, but Generation Hope Scholars graduate at a rate that exceeds the national average for all college students. Generation Hope engages in local and national advocacy work, amplifying the student parent voice and centering their experiences and expertise. Through its FamilyU technical assistance program, Generation Hope leverages data and best practices to provide colleges with the tools, resources, and support that they need to improve outcomes for student parents. Learn more at generationhope.org/.

Financial Aid as Coronavirus Relief Funds

George Mason University is disbursing millions of dollars in CARES Act funding to more than 14,000 eligible students this fall, with the latest funds awarded in early September.

To qualify for funding, students must be registered for at least one credit and have completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) with an Expected Family Contribution of less than $20,000.

The CARES Act—Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act—provides direct economic help to address issues related to COVID-19. The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), an offshoot of CARES, is the source of the financial aid. This is the third round of HEERF funding.

Because of student need, Mason will receive more HEERF money than any four-year university in Virginia, with half of the awarded $64 million earmarked for financial aid.  Following Mason are Virginia Commonwealth University ($57.1 million) Virginia Tech ($49.7 million), Old Dominion University ($46.2 million), James Madison University ($31 million), the University of Virginia ($30.4 million) and the College of William & Mary ($10.2 million).

“The CARES/HEERF funding that Mason will be able to award this year is key to keeping our students in school and on track to graduation,” said David Burge, vice president for enrollment management. “We are grateful for this additional support during a time that has been incredibly challenging for our students.”

“The CARES/HERRF fund allows us to offer financial support to those who need it during a time that has tested our students in every way possible,” said Rose Pascarell, vice president for University Life. “HEERF dollars, along with the Stay Mason/Emergency Assistance Fund, have decreased the intensified financial stressors brought on by the pandemic—relief that is much needed and appreciated by our students.”

HEERF will release more awards in early September for potential aid qualifiers who have registered for fall classes. Students should check their financial aid tab in PatriotWeb. Questions can be directed to the Office of Student Financial Aid at 703-993-2000 or through the Financial Aid virtual service form.

Students are eligible to receive these funds if:

  • They complete and submit the CARES ACT/HEERF III Certification form.
  • They are enrolled in at least one credit through Mason on the Sept. 15 fund release date.

In addition:

  • Students may receive funds as a disbursement or apply it directly to their bills.
  • Students will not see late fees on their accounts before the Sept. 15 HEERF disbursement.

If a student changes their mind about whether they want to receive the money as a credit to their bill or as a refund, after submitting a certification form, they can request the change in writing through the Financial Aid virtual service form by Sept. 9.

Students attending Mason this fall who do not meet some of the HEERF eligibility requirements can apply for assistance through the Stay Mason/Emergency Assistance Fund.

The Stay Mason Student Support Fund was created in October 2015 in response to students concerned about rising tuition and their inability to persist at Mason because of their financial circumstances. Since the pandemic, Stay Mason has been temporarily merged with the Student Emergency Assistance Fund. During this time, additional institutional money, as well as CARES Act money, was awarded to students in need.

Since the beginning of Spring 2021, Mason has returned to normal operations with the Stay Mason Student Support Fund but will continue to distribute CARES Act money as available.

From July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, the Stay Mason Student Support Fund/Emergency Assistance Fund awarded $3.3 million to 2,648 qualified students. From July 1 to Aug. 27, 88 students have received more than $203,000 from the fund.

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New To University Life

Please join us in welcoming our new and newly promoted colleagues to the University Life team, as well as our new University Life graduate professional assistants, graduate interns, practicum students, and graduate coordinators!

Academic Integrity

  • Megan Blocker, Academic Integrity Assistant
  • Brianna "Bee" Khambounheuang, Graduate Professional Assistant

Counseling and Psychological Services

  • Jaime Lauren, Coordinator, Multicultural Outreach and Prevention
  • Idris O’Connor, Administrative Assistant

Center for the Advancement of Well-Being

  • Sherrene DeLong, Well-Being Program Coordinator
  • Taylor Lucas, Graduate Professional Assistant
  • Christian White, Communications and Marketing Assistant

Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment

  • Nakia Waters, Assistant Director

Contemporary Student Services

  • Corey Purnell, Graduate Professional Assistant for Student Success and Retention
  • Caroline Simpson, Graduate Professional Assistant

Counseling and Psychological Services

  • Shereen Ayoubi, Psychology Intern
  • Aysha DeSilva, Psychology Intern
  • Anne Marie Perera, Psychology Intern
  • Keshani Perera, Psychology Intern

Disability Services

  • Skye Berg, Assistant Director, MASI
  • Christina Kelly, Student Support Specialist

First-Gen+ Center

  • Nakia Waters, Assistant Director, First-Generation Student Support

Graduate Student Life

  • Austin DeRay, Assistant Director

Housing and Residence Life

  • Nina Berger, Coordinator, Residence Academic Engagement
  • Cristina Casais, Graduate Professional Assistant for The Ridge
  • Concepcion Diaz, Housekeeper
  • Troi Dixon, Graduate Professional Assistant for Residential Student Engagement
  • Allie Dockum, Graduate Professional Assistant, Residential Academic Engagement
  • Sandra Ortega Flores, Housekeeper
  • Remington Greene, Community Director
  • Cody Grim, Assistant Director, Resident Student Development Initiatives
  • Michael Hudson, Community Director
  • Shannon Jordan, Associate Dean and Chief Housing Officer
  • Benjamin Keating, Community Director
  • Nicholas Kirkstadt, Assistant Director, Care and Outreach
  • Taylor Mallory, Community Director
  • Ryan Morong, Community Director
  • Julianna Napiecek, Coordinator, Residential Student Development Initiatives
  • Christine Rollins, Coordinator, Care and Outreach
  • J. T. Taylor, Assistant Director, Residential Communities
  • Hanna Trailer, Community Director
  • Pooja Varma, Graduate Professional Assistant
  • Ace Willis, Community Director

International Programs and Services

  • Noelle Deola, International Advisor

Leadership Education and Development (LEAD)

  • Deborah Fashole-Luke, Graduate Professional Assistant

Learning Services

  • Bijesh Gyawali, Graduate Professional Assistant

LGBTQ+ Resources Center

  • Dan Kingsley, Graduate Professional Assistant

New Student and Family Programs

  • Shyanne Hardy, Graduate Professional Assistant, Family Programs
  • Melissa Johnson, Graduate Professional Assistant, New Student Programs
  • Mackenzie Nelson, Graduate Professional Assistant, New Student Programs
  • Kasey Thomas, Marketing and Design Specialist

Mason Recreation

  • Emmanuel Agyemang, Coordinator of Fitness
  • Aleasha Checo, Graduate Professional Assistant of Well-Being
  • Elisabeth Johnson, Graduate Professional Assistant for Aquatics
  • Kasey Thomas, Graduate Professional Assistant of Outdoor Adventures and the EDGE
  • Christopher Sato, Assistant Director, Business Services

Student Health Services

  • Daniel Boyce, COVID Medical Assistant
  • Veronica Jordan, Office Manager

Student Involvement

  • Kevin Jimenez, Graduate Professional Assistant for GMU Esports
  • BJ Keen, Graduate Professional Assistant for Student Government
  • Flannery Wickham, Graduate Professional Assistant for Registered Student Organizations

Student Success Coaching

  • Sam Hediger, Graduate Professional Assistant

Student Support and Advocacy Center

  • Mariam Abdelwahab, Graduate Professional Assistant
  • Emely Melendez, Graduate Professional Assistant for Financial Well-Being
  • Sally Richards, Program Coordinator for Financial Well-Being

University Career Services

  • LaToya Harden, Industry Advisor
  • Ana Lobaton, Employer Relations Coordinator
  • Rachel Stockdale, Industry Advisor

University Life Assessment and Planning

  • Jacob Connelly, Graduate Professional Assistant

University Life Marketing and Communications

  • Kasey Thomas, Marketing and Design Specialist

University Life Regional Campuses

  • Sang Jin Lee, Graduate Professional Assistant, Arlington
  • Hannah Park, Graduate Professional Assistant, Regional Campuses
Header for Awards and Recognition


University Life Outstanding Service Award

  • Sophie Gorshenin, Programming and Administrative Coordinator, University Life Arlington
  • Rebecca McCrory, Associate Director of Family Programs, New Student and Family Programs
  • Susan Pilley, International Advisor, International Programs and Services

University Life Positive Impact Awards

  • Julie Choe Kim, Director of Graduate Student Life, University Life
  • Erin McCall, Physician, Student Health Services

Individual Impact Award

  • Sanglin Chang, Assistant Director of Communications, University Life Marketing and Communications

Award Nominations

The deadline for the University Life Outstanding Service Award and the University Life Positive Impact Award is October 15, 2021. 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 October 15, 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 October 15, 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 October 15 for the fall 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 the Advancement of Well-Being
Whitney Hopler

University Life
Kerin Hilker-Balkissoon
Alissa Karton
Dr. Lori Scher
Amy Snyder

University Life Marketing
Sanglin Chang
Sonia Deana
Atossa Shafaie
Karen Wolf