Featured on Homepage Profile of a Senator March 2023

Meet Susan Brionez, Staff Senator and Office Manager, School of Dance, College of Visual and Performing Arts


Role: One of the most exciting opportunities we offer dance majors at Mason is the experience of performing in significant dance works of master choreographers. I am fortunate to work closely with these world-class guest artists to book travel and housing arrangements, blending their busy schedules with the classes and rehearsals of our dance majors.

However, working with our own full-time and adjunct faculty is a joy and the highlight of my daily life here. School of Dance faculty have danced on Broadway, in the New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, in the “Romeo and Juliet” rock musical, with the preeminent male classical dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, and around the world, including Germany, Italy, London, New York City, Hawaii, and many more places. I assist faculty in a plethora of ways using known skills and learning new ones as needed.

Mason journey: My Mason journey began in July 2005 as the administrative assistant to the associate dean of undergraduate programs/Student Services in the engineering school. I learned much during those 13 years and served on Staff Senate for nearly half of that time. In 2018, I took a job in industry before returning to Mason in 2021. Returning to Mason was a Best. Decision. Ever. My supervisors, mentors, and co-workers are problem solvers, enthusiastic and energetic, and totally committed to the mission of Mason.

Best thing about working at Mason: It’s not easy choosing just one “best” thing. Here are a few of my favorites: The people, including faculty, staff and students; our beautiful campus (especially in spring); education benefits; exposure to new situations and responsibilities; and access to cultural offerings. Mason always has things going on for those of us who work here as well as for the surrounding community. Living less than 5 miles from campus certainly ranks high on my list of best things.

Why I serve on the Staff Senate: The Staff Senate helps shape the future at Mason. It provides networking opportunities with people who can help in my role. I enjoy collaborating with other senators to work for the benefit of all staff at Mason.

At the end of the day: … as I leave the deLaski Performing Arts Building, I see the smiling faces of our dancers who are anxiously awaiting their evening rehearsals (sometimes until 9:30 p.m.) and I wish them well. I hope they know from my interactions with them that day that I believe in them.

Profile of a Senator February 2023

Meet Jacquelyn Sims, Staff Senator and Senior Operations Specialist in the Office of the University Registrar


Role: My position allows me to interact with the Mason community at large. As a senior operations specialist, I have the pleasure to work with students, faculty and staff.

Mason journey: My journey at Mason began in 2017 in the Office of the University Registrar as a registrar assistant.

Best thing about working at Mason: The people. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing people while working at Mason. People who really care about how their personal contributions affect everyone in the Mason network.

Why serve on the Staff Senate: I joined the Staff Senate to connect with and advocate for my fellow colleagues. I want to advocate to ensure that we all have an equitable voice.

At the end of the day: I love working at Mason. I am proud of the work we do supporting and preparing students to meet their educational goals. I’m also proud to work for an institution that sets the standard and is willing to push further.

Profile of a Senator December 2022

Meet Rachel Spence, Staff Senator and Academic Coordinator, International Enrollment Partnerships, Enrollment Management

Rachel Spence

Role:  I manage the course mapping and degree planning components of all new partnerships for the International Enrollment Partnerships (IEP) team. I coordinate between Mason academic departments, Transfer Services, and our international partners to develop programs and pathways for international students to earn Mason degrees.

I also support students in our China 1+2+1 program. C121 is a longstanding undergraduate dual-degree program for students from China. Students spend their first undergraduate year at a partner university in China, transfer to Mason for about 2 years, complete their Mason degree requirements, and graduate from both universities. I assist with all the academic components of their experience – from transfer credits, registration, academic advising, and graduation. About 35-40 students earn their Mason degree through this program every year!

Mason journey: As a military spouse, I don’t always get a say in where I live, so I am thankful to have been a Mason employee for more than 5 years and a Virginia state employee for 12. Prior to coming to Mason, I worked at Old Dominion University for 7 years, and joined Mason Nation in 2017. I started working in the Global Education Office and transitioned to IEP in 2018. Since July 2021, I have worked fully remote from Southern California!

Best thing about working at Mason: I truly love the diversity of the faculty, staff, and students I get to interact with. I know it’s a cliché, but “our diversity is our strength” should be the official university motto.

Why I serve on the Staff Senate: I joined the Staff Senate as a direct result of the Governor’s telework policy earlier this year. As I was worried about being able to keep my remote job, I appreciated how the Staff Senate was advocating and positioning itself as the voice of all classified staff on this issue. I was so thankful for the various speakers and special sessions they held in the spring that I decided to give back and serve as a senator this year.

At the end of the day: Despite working more than 2,600 miles from Fairfax, I still feel connected to the campus. I am thankful for the tools the university offers to stay connected and the willingness of my colleagues and students to accommodate my non-standard work hours!

Profile of a Senator November 2022

Meet Ashley Marshall-Lanier, Staff Senator and ADVANCE Academic Coach, Office of the Provost

Ashley Marshall-Lanier

Role: In my current role I serve as an academic coach for the ADVANCE program. The ADVANCE program is a Mason partnership with Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). ADVANCE streamlines the pathway from associate’s degree to bachelor’s degree by aligning courses to ensure that credits transfer toward the student’s selected degree program. ADVANCE saves students time and money, and the academic coaches work with students when they start the program at NOVA and complete their associate’s degrees. We also help transition them to Mason to work with the success coach team at Mason, and continue the goal of graduating from Mason.

I work with nearly 500 students at the community college level and assist them in completing degree pathways that will bring them to Mason after they graduate from NOVA. ADVANCE is receiving a lot of attention nationwide. PBS NewsHour recently aired a report on the program. You can watch it here.

Mason journey: My journey began in 2007 in Mason Athletics where I served as the assistant director of compliance. I enjoyed working with athletes and coaches, and the pulse of athletics. I moved into the Admissions department as a transfer admissions coordinator, which eventually led me back to the work I do for ADVANCE. I love watching students transition from one goal to the next. Each semester, we admit students to the ADVANCE program and it has grown over 200 percent in the last five years. We also matriculate students to Mason from NOVA each semester, including summer.

Best thing about working at Mason: The absolute best thing about working at Mason is the diverse group of people. There are so many cultures represented to learn from and so many opportunities to have great dialogue.

Why serve on the Staff Senate: One of the reasons I chose to serve on the Mason Staff Senate is because I believe in advocacy in all forms. I also believe it’s important to use my voice in any way I can to support the staff that helps the university function day to day. Your voice is only as good as you use it and I want to use mine to make Mason the best place possible for the all staff.

At the end of the day: I love helping and offering support more than anything. There’s always a great feeling when you give back to someone. In this role I am able to work with a variety of students, from first-generation to student-parents. Coaching not only gives me the ability to offer academic guidance, but also resources outside of academics. I’m grateful that Mason allows me many opportunities to provide that support.

Profile of a Senator October 2022

Meet Lizzie Barnfield, Staff Senator and Administrative Assistant for Administration and Faculty Affairs, Office of the Dean, College of Engineering and Computing


Lizzie Barnfield, College Engineering and Computing. Photo by Creative Services/George Mason University

Role: I primarily support College of Engineering and Computing (CEC) Interim Divisional Dean Ariela Sofer and also frequently step in to provide technical and administrative support for other members of the Dean’s Office as needed. As part of my role administrating faculty actions in CEC, I serve on the RPT (Review, Promotion, and Tenure) Administrator Working Group to help lead and troubleshoot use of Interfolio software for faculty and staff across CEC. I also serve as the coordinator for Mason Engineering Online activities and act as the administrator for the Cardinal Education initiative—a course-sharing program among six universities across Virginia.

Mason journey: Prior to joining Mason in 2019, I worked in a public library for eight years where I learned a lot about how to support a diverse community with a variety of specialized needs. When all of Mason pivoted to remote work in early 2020, I was part of the team that piloted new software and helped figure out what was needed to keep business in CEC running as usual. In 2021, our college went through a reorganization, splitting into the Volgenau School of Engineering and the School of Computing under the umbrella of the newly formed College of Engineering and Computing. There have been a lot of exciting changes during my time at Mason so far, and I’m looking forward to what the future will bring!

Best thing about working at Mason: Without a doubt, the best thing about working at Mason is the phenomenally talented people I get to call my co-workers. While it sometimes seems like we’re always trying to do more with less, it’s great to work in an environment where you know there’s always someone to turn to for help when it’s needed.

Why serve on the Staff Senate: In an organization as large as Mason, I feel like it’s sometimes hard for the right hand to know what the left is doing. In joining the Staff Senate, I hope to learn more about central Mason initiatives, projects, and concerns and pass that information on to my fellow staff members so that we can all do our jobs as effectively as possible. I also see the Staff Senate as a great opportunity to advocate for the best interests of my co-workers and put forward some of the great ideas they have for making Mason the best it can be.

At the end of the day: I’ve always loved helping and supporting people, and I’m so proud to have the opportunity to give back to my co-workers by representing them on the Staff Senate. Thank you all for the incredible effort you put in every day!

Profile of a Senator March 2022 Newsletter

Meet Steven Lindner, Systems Imaging Technician for Enterprise Collaboration and Computing Services, Information Technology Services

Role: My group in Computing Services in ITS helps manage most lab and classroom computers as well as Citrix Virtual Labs across all three Virginia  campuses. We manage the operating system for Windows and Apple computers as well as package and deploy software and push updates to those computers for faculty and student needs. I am currently helping with Game Mason as a liaison between a gaming center and Student Involvement and providing on-site technical assistance for day-of competition and events.

Mason journey: I came to Mason in 2010 to start my undergrad. I changed my major two times, from Computer Engineering, to IT, and then earned a degree in Communication with a minor in IT. I set off from there to help start a gaming center across the street from the Fairfax Campus called The Cave. We worked with Mason students for events to help nurture a community around Fairfax and with students. I came back to Mason in April of 2019 for the job that I have today.

I have been around Mason for those 12 years and have enjoyed every bit of it. From being a student, to working with Mason from the outside, to now working for Mason, it’s almost a home away from home. Every part of my schooling and work career I have been involved with Mason and will continue to be involved for the foreseeable future.

Best thing about working at Mason: You hear it again and again, but I will say it once more, it’s the people that you meet here. I wouldn’t come back to Mason if it weren’t for the people I work with, the true friends that I have made, and the good energy that comes from the students and staff I have met over the years. As someone who has been both a student and now employee, it has always been a great pleasure every time I am around it.

Why serve on the Staff Senate: With my background and involvement with the university, I feel as if I can offer a unique perspective on issues around campus. I want what is best for employees here and want what is best for the students that we, as employees, assist on their academic journey.

At the end of the day: I love what I do. I enjoy the people I work with. I fondly remember the experiences I had as a student. Being at Mason, in all regards, has given me perspective on what is important for myself and who I hold close. Thank you, Mason. I am happy to be home.

Newsletter Profile of a Senator February 2022

Meet Taylor Griffin, Program Manager for Executive Development, School of Business

Role: We partner with organizations to offer training for their teams and we also host several open-enrollment programs. In part, I also serve as the main social media and marketing coordinator for our team. I’m looking forward to hosting in-person events again once it is safe to do so. For now, I’m working on perfecting my online delivery skills.

Mason journey: My first experience at George Mason University was for the Washington Journalism and Media Conference in 2016. I was a rising senior in high school, and the conference, hosted by Mason, was formative for my writing and journalism skills and also led to me falling in love with DC.

After graduating from American University in Fall 2020, I knew that my previous skills in residence life and campus leadership would make higher ed the ideal place for my career. As my first full-time job out of college, I could not think of a better place to work. All of the people I have met at Mason have gone to great lengths to help me succeed and grow as a professional. I’ve also recently started the master’s program in higher ed here at Mason. I hope to continue learning how to serve our community.

Getting back to campus: I was a student for the first half of the Covid pandemic. Not being on a campus with friends and mentors was difficult, especially in my senior year. From the few times I’ve been able to walk around campus during the day, it feels like a relief to envision that this life-altering pandemic is hopefully ending soon. I think about the memories I missed out on but also the memories I made. It’s been a strange time but getting to spend it growing closer to my family makes it seem bittersweet.

Best thing about working at Mason: I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t strive to create a more welcoming and student-centered university. There are so many ideas and great initiatives. Working at Mason gives me hope for the future that there are better days ahead where we can learn to support others.

Why serve on the Staff Senate: I have always strived to be an advocate for others. When I see injustice or hurt in any community, I never hesitate to address it. Life is too short to let the discomfort of confrontation get in the way of equity. The Staff Senate is a place where I can speak for those who cannot and create an environment where we can all thrive.

At the end of the day: I take great pride in doing a job with my best effort and leaving nothing untouched. I am excited about where this job at Mason will lead me. I would not be surprised if I worked in many different offices over my time at Mason. I enjoy new tasks, people, and roles to continue to learn and develop my skills. Where I am needed, I will go, and I rarely say no to a new experience. The more lives I can positively impact, the better.

Profile of a Senator January 2022

Meet Will Gautney, Staff Senator and Assistant Master Electrician, Center for the Arts, College of Visual and Performing Arts

William Gautney, Assistant Master Electrician, Center for the Arts, College of Visual and Performing Arts. Photo by Creative Services

Role: Alongside the Master Electrician and our other great hourly and classified staff, I help make sure the needs of performances at our venue are met. There’s a bit of prep paperwork, programming, physical labor, and design mixed with a lot of quick problem solving and a dash of crew management.

Mason journey: I started as an “overhire” stagehand (fancy theatre term for “can do just about anything part-time hourly wage staff”) in late 2013, and continued part time off and on for many years. While working with various theatre companies across the country, I’ve been a master carpenter, technical director, painter, props artisan, stitcher, house manager, electrician, rigger, and even (terribly) mixed audio for a middle school’s version of Beauty and the Beast. Even after working with so many companies, the staff at Mason’s Center for the Arts were those I felt most at home with, and I was fortunate in September 2018 to be offered a full-time position.

The “before times”: A typical week in a season (school year) consisted of shows every day or two, with occasional week-long residencies for dance, opera, or student groups. We also typically had at least one day each week for changing over scenery and lights, which needs pre-planning, paperwork, and lots of coordination. After graduations our schedule typically became much less crunched, and we could maintenance at our own pace during time available between new student orientations on stage and other smaller events.

Covid-19 transition: When the world stopped, the arts were hit heavily. Fortunately, thanks to some creative thinking, we were able to assist Mason in other ways. It required a lot of tutorial videos and practice, but several of us were able to transition into running things behind the scenes for digital shows and editing their archival recordings, while the rest were able to help Mason students by making sure classes could safely transition to our large open theater space. You can check out both the Center for the Arts’ or the Hylton Performing Arts Center’s YouTube pages to see some of how we were able to keep the arts alive.

Best thing about working for Mason: I love working with faculty, staff, students, and outside clients to make their shows look great. The variety of shows, groups, and functions help to scratch that fast-paced puzzle-solving itch that comes with working in live theater, but with an added benefit of developing long-term working relationships granted by being at just one stable venue. I also really enjoy helping guide the growth of student talent and skills during and after their time at Mason.

Why I serve on Staff Senate: There are often choices, decisions, and policies made that directly impact – yet often overlook – part-time and hourly staff. I wanted to serve as an advocate for those often-forgotten roles who work odd hours, on the weekends, or during holidays.

Additionally, I enjoy being able to hear and have an impact on what is going on around campus, as well as help to promote initiatives, staff, and departments that might otherwise be left as just a footnote in their unit’s newsletter. Even before Covid, Mason sometimes felt like lots of little bubbles, so it’s wonderful to be able to expand my connections and work with so many other departments and voices.

 Unique fact: Shortly after college my left eyebrow decided to go white overnight. Since it didn’t bother me, I decided to keep it that way…but it definitely makes me easier to spot in a crowd!

 At the end of the day: Though I grew up surrounded by tons of animals, I currently am just a cool cat dad to one black, very food-obsessed, cat. I’m glad to be able to work with such a wide array of wonderful and quirky people. I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with a job well done, especially when it comes with time or effort, and I try to keep that drive with my work at Mason. Also, come visit us, watch a show, or just support local businesses and the arts!

Profile of a Senator November 2021

Meet Preston Williams, Staff Senator and Presidential Communications Manager, Office of Communications


Role: I coordinate and draft remarks and other written materials for Mason’s president, website and other communications outlets, keeping top of mind the university’s strategic goals and objectives. Everything I do is collaborative, so I’m indebted to many across all of our campuses for their help. It’s been interesting to work with three presidents, all with their own vision and styles, and all of whom I admire.

Mason journey: I came to Mason in 2013 after 25 years of writing for newspapers. I started here as what they call a communications officer, mostly writing for the Mason website. The new job required an adjustment: When I was assigned my first story, I asked when the deadline was, assuming it was later that day or early the next. The due date I was given was like three weeks away. That’s when I knew I was in a totally different work environment (although I know Mason Standard Time can work for you or against you). After I was here a year or so, I moved into the newly created presidential communications manager position.

Mason prequel: I covered the Mason men’s basketball team for a long-defunct suburban newspaper in the mid-1990s, during the Paul Westhead and Jim Larranaga coaching eras. You could tell they were building something under Larranaga, but I was long off the beat before the historic 2006 run in the NCAA tournament. That being said, I think Mason reached the final four every year I covered the team – the final four of the conference standings.

The return to campus: It’s been pleasant to again toil among my Mas(k)on colleagues on a regular basis these past few months. But I know I speak for many staff members when I say telework has been a revelation. Mason staff members working remotely through the pandemic have proved themselves to be a motivated, visible, reliable, communicative and productive workforce, no matter their location.

Raise your hand if telework has made you one or more of the following: a more effective, productive, loyal, motivated or engaged employee, parent, spouse, child, sibling, friend, neighbor, volunteer, exerciser. Telework is not only good for employees, it helps the university work toward strategic goals related to sustainability, accessibility, health and well-being, narrowing the salary gap, and many other university objectives.

The return to campus II: Have you noticed that the night before a telework day feels differently than the night before an in-office day? Let’s face it: Would you rather pack a lunch six to 12 hours before you’re going to eat it, or just make/eat lunch when it’s lunchtime? Would you rather sign off your computer, stand up, and be where you want to be, or snake through rush-hour traffic stewing about how you spend the equivalent of a day-and-a-half on the road each month commuting? Would you rather practice go-to-the-office hygiene, or stay-at-home low-giene, which enables you to simplify your routine and start your work day sooner? I could go on. (And I have).

Best thing about working at Mason: I know I’m supposed to say “the people” here, and while that is a good thing for sure, I’ll give the answer many previously profiled senators might have thought about giving in this space but didn’t: the extended winter break that many staff members get to enjoy. When you have to say, “Remind me, what date do we go back?” that is a beautiful thing.

But I think more important than winter break, and even the people, is that Mason is an affiliation you can feel pretty good about regardless of your role here, when you think about the university providing opportunities to students of all ages and backgrounds, conducting top-end research, anchoring the region, and so on.

Why serve on the Staff Senate: I already attended the meetings just to keep up with staff matters as part of my job and a supervisor encouraged me to run. I can tell you that the people on Staff Senate, representing all of our campuses and from about two dozen departments, schools and units, are knowledgeable and passionate. They just want to make sure that staff are recognized, valued and treated fairly because, in many ways, we all work at a different Mason.

The Staff Senate has earned some signature wins in the past couple years, including our chair serving on the presidential search committee and our chair being added as a non-voting member to the Board of Visitors, joining student and faculty representatives on that governing body. Best I can tell, staff have never had a greater voice than they do right now.

Profile of a Senator October 2021

Meet Kristen Wever: Staff Senator and Assistant Director of the GeorgeSquared Advanced Biomedical Sciences Program

Kristen Wever, Staff Senate. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services

Role: GeorgeSquared (G2), housed within the College of Science and located on the SciTech Campus, is a partnership between George Mason and Georgetown universities. It offers a nine-month pre-health preparatory, graduate-level program designed to help qualify students for medical, dental, or other health professional schools. I advise prospective, current and former G2 students and assist them on their journey to becoming health professionals. In addition, I assist with program development, recruitment, administrative duties, and much more!

Mason journey: I previously worked for Mason as an academic advisor for the School of Business from 2014 to 2016, left and worked with online Medical Laboratory Science programs for George Washington University for a few years and then found my way back to Mason in June 2019 when I started my current role. I love working in higher ed, especially in an advising role, and really enjoy making a difference in the lives of students and their academic and professional journeys.

Getting back to campus: When COVID started, I was pregnant with my second daughter so the shift to working from home with one child out of daycare and another on the way was quite a challenge, as it was for many. I have enjoyed being back on campus this fall (and having the kids back in daycare 🙂 ) and can say that I really did miss the routine! Most importantly, I missed seeing my colleagues and students. I am really proud of how Mason has handled the pandemic and I look forward to seeing the community work together in our “new normal.”

Best thing about working at Mason: This has been said countless times, but it’s true! The people I work with, the people I meet, are what make working at Mason so exciting. I love the diversity, the innovation and collaboration.

Why serve on the Staff Senate: I love being connected to various offices, campuses, etc. and seeing what else is being accomplished at Mason by the wonderful staff members. I enjoy being a part of a supportive group that is helping to ensure that all voices are being heard, especially during these unprecedented times.

At the end of the day: I love my family and friends and I love my job. Working with students day in and day out, hearing about different life stories, helping others on their journey towards becoming a health professional — someone who will really make a difference in this world — is very rewarding. Oh, and go Washington Football Team, Nats, CAPS, and Wiz!