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Profile of a Senator December 2020

Meet Lesley Irminger: Staff Senator and Events Coordinator, University Events

Lesley Irminger, Events Coordinator, University Events, with her daughter, Sophie

Role: The Office of University Events oversees events on campus including commencement, groundbreakings, and the annual holiday party. I assist departments across our campuses in making their events a reality! I help them determine what their event needs are and how to achieve their goals. Sometimes this is by consulting and other times by managing their event. I am also the contracts coordinator for University Events. In this role, I work with community members who want to hold events on campus. These events range from small meetings to large-scale political events and are central to the university’s role as the cultural and educational anchor of our region.

Mason journey: I came to Mason in 2008 as a graduate student in the Arts Management Program. I started working with the Center for the Arts as a development assistant and assistant to the executive director. In 2010, I joined the College of Visual and Performing Arts full-time as their scheduling coordinator. In this role I also helped launch Series25, now 25Live, for the university by coordinating its use for the Center for the Arts and CVPA.

In 2016, I joined University Events in my current role.

COVID-19 transition: Our office had to 100 percent change how we do things when COVID-19 hit. Everything we did prior revolved around the personal connection of events and meeting in person. We shifted our team to fully remote and we have worked with our partners across campus like ITS, Enterprise Collaboration, GMU-TV, and others to assist our colleagues in transitioning to remote events. This has not always been easy, and we had challenges at the beginning, but I am proud to say that we have found ways to compromise and collaborate on some really great events. Examples are our virtual commencement and our annual holiday party. The events connect us as a campus community and help shape the Mason culture. In many ways, these events took on an even greater unifying role this year with so many of us working or studying remotely for most of 2020.

Best thing about working at Mason: I love Mason because of our motto in recent years, “Innovation is Tradition.” Mason fosters both individuality and diversity. Because of this, each member of our Mason Nation has a voice and the opportunity to grow outside of their work position. All our individual strengths lie within not only our communal goal, but our diversity. I find our diversity and our dedication to it to be one of the greatest strengths of Mason and one thing that sets us above the rest. Mason is also a family and we work as one family for the betterment of our Mason community.

As an artist/arts activist, in my mind “our football team” is our arts. We have two wonderful performing arts centers and a university-wide mission to support, promote, and cultivate the arts.

Why I serve on Staff Senate: I feel it is important for all staff to not only have an individual voice on campus, but a collective voice which is our Staff Senate. I want to be part of a group that fosters community, involvement, and appreciation in our staff and our university. I strongly believe Mason’s staff is the “heart” of Mason. My hope is by serving I can help those who often feel they do not have a voice, or who have yet to find that sense of community, find their voice and understand that staff is valued just as much as our students and faculty.

Unique fact: I grew up in East Tennessee, Oak Ridge, and moved to Auburn, Alabama upon graduating high school to pursue a degree in marine biology. While there I marched in the Auburn University Flag Corps and started taking theatre classes. I have always had a passion for the arts, but after three years of venturing into the arts I decided to make it a career. I moved back to East Tennessee and took a few years to “catch up” and earned my BA in theatre from the University of Tennessee. Come college football season you will often hear a dual “War Eagle and Go Vols” come out of my mouth!

At the end of the day: I am a mother (to 13-month-old Sophie), a wife, a daughter, and an arts advocate. I am proud of all the struggles in life and am thankful each day for its blessings. Despite everything 2020 brought, I found time to appreciate the blessing of being able to be a stronger and more present mother to Sophie. I want to be an example to her and those around me. My favorite quote is by Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

 

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Profile of a Senator November 2020

Meet Matthew Berlejung, Staff Senator and Videoconference Engineer, Enterprise Collaboration, Information Technology Services

Matthew Berlejung, Videoconference Engineer, Enterprise Collaboration, Information Technology Services

Role: As a videoconference engineer, I help plan, deploy, and support web conferencing solutions in classrooms, conference rooms, and in the cloud. My office (Enterprise Collaboration/ITS) is currently working with a massive pilot using Microsoft Teams telephony. This integrates plain old telephone service into the collaboration tool Microsoft Teams. Pilot users can answer their office phone from anywhere in the world with internet connectivity. Additionally, ITS released Zoom and continues to implement new services to aid in the secure collaboration for healthcare and security-minded customers. Lastly, I am helping to retire Webex at Mason. I am proud to say, the Staff Senate is doing a great job at making the switch to the newest supported platforms MS Teams and Zoom!

Mason Journey: I started at Mason as an undergraduate student, earning my B.S. in Marketing. Within the first week of school, I was seeking a position as a Patriot Leader (formerly Orientation Leader) and a part-time position with ITS Classroom Support. After graduation, I was hired as a non-student wage in Arlington and later hired as classified staff in Fairfax. I took advantage of the free courses and earned my master’s degree in Telecommunications (and a graduate certificate in Telecommunications Forensics and Security). I have worked in the classrooms (Fairfax and Arlington Classroom Support), on the phones (ITS Support Center) and in the cloud (Enterprise Collaboration). When I am not social distancing, you can find me in my office in Innovation Hall.

COVID-19 Transition: I was assisting with the transition to remote work before most people knew what was about to hit us. Working closely with the Environmental Health and Safety Office, we provisioned 16,000 Mason employees for instant messaging and collaboration platform access. The telepocalypse has been exceptionally smooth – despite Earth’s inflammatory response to our human presence.

Best thing about working at Mason: I love working with people who are smarter than me and who are younger than me. They keep me learning, and they keep me young, respectively. The people at Mason who give 110% are my heroes.

Why I serve on Staff Senate: There have been many recent changes at Mason. We welcomed Gregory Washington as the new president, have seen sweeping senior leadership changes, and moved to a hybrid online work/education environment. When we return to normal, experts suspect many jobs will be changed dramatically. During this transition (and in the next), the Staff Senate will be very important in advocating for any new changes needed at Mason.

Favorite comfort food: Grilled cheese and tomato sandwich but I can settle for lunch at Ike’s.

At the end of the day: I am a proud father of two daughters (7 and 2 years old) and the luckiest husband in all of the Mid-Atlantic (and beyond)! I am proud that my career at Mason has landed me so many opportunities to continuously interact with such a diverse and talented population.

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Profile of a Senator October 2020

Meet Staff Senator Terry Hurley, Laboratory Safety Officer, Environmental Health and Safety

Terry Hurley, Environmental Health and Safety, George Mason University

Role: I joined Mason Nation in July 2017 as a laboratory safety specialist in the Environmental Health and Safety Office (EHS). EHS is one of the divisions of Safety, Emergency, and Enterprise Risk Management (SEERM). I became a laboratory safety officer in January 2019.

EHS provides support to not just the instructional and research laboratories on Mason campuses but also Facilities, Housing, and Auxiliary Services. Some of my responsibilities include conducting trainings, emergency spill response, testing of emergency equipment, inspections of laboratory spaces, hazardous materials management, and university compliance with federal, state, and local hazardous waste regulations.

COVID-19 response: During the pandemic, EHS and SEERM have risen to the challenge and remained fluid in our current and new responsibilities. We transitioned to online trainings, collected and distributed PPE and sanitizing supplies, established social distancing protocols in all Mason spaces, and assisted in on-site testing, all while providing our usual support to the university.

Mason journey: I became aware of Mason in 2006 during the men’s basketball team’s Cinderella run to the Final Four. In 2008, I became the general manager of Noodles & Company in Old Town Fairfax. During my time there, I had many employees who were students at Mason—some of the best employees I ever had. They were professional, on-time, and had strong customer service skills.

We would do fundraising nights for Mason, and the turnout and support that Mason Nation showed was outstanding and recognized nationally throughout Noodles & Company. I changed career paths between then and now, and when the opportunity to join Mason presented itself, I jumped on it immediately.

Why serve on Staff Senate: I want to advocate for Mason staff. With a large group of employees with many roles and responsibilities, it becomes easy to only focus on those we work with daily. Even as a newly elected senator, I already see that I only knew a little about the functions of the university. Having met the majority of my fellow senators online, I am looking forward to networking and learning more about the inner workings of the university while being a voice for staff.

Best thing about working at Mason: I feel like I am working with people who all have the same goal—making George Mason the best it can be as it becomes a leader among other universities. I feel like all students, faculty and staff take a lot of pride in where they work. This is a feeling that I have not seen or felt in many other workplaces. I also enjoy the quality of life, even with the added responsibilities that I have during COVID-19. I do not feel that I am only defined by my work.

At the end of the day: We are in unprecedented times that can sometimes be scary and frustrating. Yet I am really impressed with how Mason Nation has responded to the COVID challenge. I couldn’t be prouder to be a Patriot.

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Profile of a Senator September 2020

Meet Staff Senator Kimberly Shaw-Mack, Office Manager, Human Resources & Payroll

Kimberly Shaw-Mack/ Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services

Roles: My role in Human Resources and Payroll and the Staff Senate Events Committee have allowed me the pleasure of participating in several events here at Mason, such as the 2020 Winter Warm-Up Staff Appreciation Event, 2019 Holiday Toy and Pantry Drive and 2019 Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day as well as flu shot clinics and several Employee of the Month celebrations.

Mason journey: I’ve been at Mason since September 2018 and it’s been quite a ride. During these last two years, I have witnessed several transformations in various departments with the change of leadership and policies.

Diverse and inclusive culture: I continue to look forward to positive changes to come with the arrival of President Washington. I am particularly excited to see how the diverse and inclusive culture of Mason will be enhanced. The current programs for the Mason LGBTQIA community are great, but I would like to see more opportunities for Patriots to be educated and become allies. I am also looking forward to the projects and initiatives that will be rolled out by the new Task Force on Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence. As a person of color, I am affected by the current state of our nation in more ways than one. Now more than ever it is paramount that all minorities feel seen and supported by their employers. I have high hopes that Mason will be a great example of this moving forward.

COVID-19 transition: During this pandemic, I have been extremely proud of my Human Resources and Payroll colleagues. They did not miss a beat! Despite the uncertainty and anxiety brought on by COVID-19, we came together to support the university and each other. For a department that operated 99% physically in the office on desktops to suddenly go 100% remote on laptops without any disruptions, that’s pretty remarkable. I am beyond impressed with the adaptability I witnessed from my team.

Best thing about working at Mason: The best thing is the Well-Being University Initiative. It’s the push for Mason to be a place where everyone can thrive, regardless of your background. The first time I participated in meditation was during a “Mindful Tuesday” session and it changed my life. I now use meditation regularly to take a breather from the craziness of life – it’s like a magic reset button. I have learned several other tips and techniques for mindfulness that have helped me with my work/life balance as well. I have also had the pleasure of attending several seminars on well-being – “Re-learn to Relax,” “Faculty Staff Enrichment Day” and “Overcoming Burnout,” just to name a few. And I received Mental Health First Aid Training and certification. All of this was provided to faculty and staff free of charge showing that well-being is important to the university.

Why serve on Staff Senate: I hope I can support my colleagues and ultimately help Mason become an even better place to work.

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Profile of a Senator August 2020

Meet Stephanie Atkins, Office Manager, Mason LIFE Program and Staff Senator

Stephanie Atkins, photo by Creative Services/George Mason University

Role: I joined the the Mason staff in April 2015. Mason LIFE (Learning Into Future Environments), in the College of Education and Human Development, is a postsecondary program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Mason LIFE offers the opportunity for an inclusive university experience and was one of the first such programs in the country. I provide administrative support for the program and am the main point of contact for staff, students, and their families.

Mason Journey: I graduated from Mason with a BA in Sociology in 1998 and am taking advantage of the tuition waiver to pursue a graduate degree in the Masters Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) program. I am taking classes with a social justice and human rights focus, more specifically related to individuals with IDD.

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Profile of a Senator July 2020

Meet Shams Bahabib, Office Manager and Staff Senator

Role: I work in the Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science as the Office Manager. The center is part of the Economics Department, which falls under the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. In my role, I provide administrative support to the faculty and graduate research assistants, coordinate events, manage the center’s budget, and maintain activities related to sponsored research. In the Staff Senate, I serve on the Communications Committee.

Mason Journey: I started at Mason as an undergraduate student, earning my B.S. in Management. Within the first week of school, I started working as a student worker in the Volgenau School of Engineering. After graduation, I was hired to continue as staff. While working at Mason, I went back to school part-time and slowly but surely earned my master’s in Public Administration. I was then hired in my current position where I now work on the Arlington Campus.

COVID-19 Transition: I was nervous about the transition to remote work. However, everyone I work with stepped up to make it work. The transition was done quickly and thankfully almost seamlessly. While plans are still in the works for the fall, I am optimistic that everyone at the university will make it work.

Best thing about working at Mason: Without a doubt the best part about working at Mason is the people. I have worked with so many great people and cherish every relationship. I am also so proud of all the students that I’ve met who have gone on to graduate and do great things.

Why serve on Staff Senate: Staff Senate is a great way to meet and learn about staff at Mason. It is also a great way to learn about what is going on at the university. Even if you don’t serve on Staff Senate, it is beneficial to attend meetings.

At the end of the day: I am a proud Patriot as Mason has been a large part of my life. I have many memories as a student and as staff, and I am now making memories as a Staff Senator. I look forward to the future memories from other roles and opportunities at Mason.

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Profile of a Senator June 2020

Meet Stacey Remick-Simkins, English Program Coordinator and Staff Senator

Photo by Creative Services

My role on campus: I have worked in the English Department since 1996 and was one of the co-founders of the Staff Senate. I am serving a fourth term as senator.

Mason journey: I started out as a transfer student graduating with my B.A. in English in 1988. I left to work for a variety of companies and projects as a contractor and also traveled. When I was hired at Mason, I had no inkling of the extraordinary experiences I would soon have.

Lead from the front: Mason President Alan Merten wanted to start a Staff Senate just as the Staff Advisory Council was forming. Dr. Merten and Senior Vice President Morrie Scherrens joined us for many work sessions to answer questions and have lunch with us. They gave us full independence to create the organization we felt was going to foster innovation and partnerships. I served as vice chair from 2001-2002 and then was elected chair from 2002-2006.

Senate impact: The senate has been instrumental in the hiring decisions of many of our highest-level positions. We have influenced decisions such as how the Child Development Center was designed. We were involved in facilitating peace roundtable discussions after the 9/11 attacks. We reached out to the Virginia Tech Staff Senate after the mass shooting in Blacksburg. We have partnered with Mason Police to figure out ways to build community and outreach. We have successfully lobbied for the increase in tuition waiver hours from six to 12 per academic year, among many collaborative successes.

COVID-19 transition: Resilience is a Mason trait. We are rising to the challenges of a time of tragedy and grief the way we did after 9/11. I am not surprised by how the entire university has pulled together despite what seems like profound and overwhelming circumstances. I know Mason will not only survive but will be an example to the world of what it means to be the best of humanity.

Best thing about working at Mason: The spirit of community and the belief that humanity can be better than the sum of its parts. We are unique because that universality extends to our community. My years serving on the Quality of Work Life Task Force as well as countless search committees and other advisory committees has helped me build a love for and pride in Mason that I would not otherwise feel. My experiences have inspired me to stay here for the duration of my career. I will retire here.

Why serve on Staff Senate: It is an opportunity to build professional relationships and friendships, and to become an integral part of the Mason vision. It is a chance to try out new ways of interacting and innovating.

At the end of the day: I am grateful for the years of these amazing experiences. Mason is special. When I leave Mason, I will feel that this was my greatest personal and professional contribution. My senate colleagues have elevated the senate to a level that has exceeded my greatest hopes.

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Profile of a Senator May 2020

Meet Christina Frasson, Staff Senator and Videoconference Technology Specialist

Christina with her daughter, Ava.

My role on campus: I work for Enterprise Collaboration as the Videoconference Technology Specialist. In my role I have either managed or been involved in the deployment of our web conferencing and collaboration tools. Once deployed I help manage the administration and work to provide training materials and assistance. I also manage our videoconference spaces and have been working on a project to deploy a new telephony system in the upcoming year.

Live, learn, and teach: I grew up in the area and when I was younger I would come to Mason to watch women’s soccer games. I began as a transfer student at Mason the same semester we went to the Final Four (spring 2006) and was so lucky to experience that point in our history! I played club soccer for Mason and worked for Events Management (now University Events). My part-time job soon became full-time. In the last several years I have also completed my MA in Communication and an MA Certificate in Emergency Management and teach a section of Communication 100/101 each semester.

COVID-19 transition: This is definitely an interesting time for Mason as we have transitioned to working and teaching remotely. My department has played a huge role in this transition and it has been amazing to see the impact of our web conferencing and collaboration platforms. We went from having roughly 3,000 web conference sessions monthly to over 30,000! We’ve been working around the clock to help provide training and access to these resources. We have fast-tracked additional resources and solutions and have assisted in important events like the Town Hall and Admissions events.

To learn more about conferencing and collaboration at Mason visit: https://its.gmu.edu/help-support/workingremotely/

Mason is like family: Mason has been a second home for me. My colleagues have always been like one big extended family. Like many others, I have actual family here. My sister, Brittany Sanders, is graduate programs coordinator in the Department of Communication. And when I got married each of my bridesmaids were friends I made either as a student or employee at Mason!

I’ve grown so much over these last 14 years at Mason and I attribute much of that to the support I have received from my peers and the opportunities my supervisors have given me to advance my skill set.

Best thing about working at Mason: I’ve been able to embrace practically every role here (faculty, staff, student, alumna) and because of the nature of my employment at Mason I have been able to work with nearly every department in some capacity. This has made me better at my job and has kept every day new and interesting. I love being able to see the impact of our work throughout so many areas.

Why serve on Staff Senate: Everyone on the senate is passionate about making a difference and helping bridge the gap between Mason employees and the resources available to them. As senators we are empowered to take on highlighting or resolving issues we feel are important to the Mason community. I’ve seen the impact the senate has and its influence has grown over the years. I am so proud of the work we’ve accomplished.

At the end of the day: I am a proud mom to two amazing little girls, Ava (2) and our newest addition, Aubrey, born on May 5th. I often feel guilty when I work a little late. But then I remember I have so much to show for my time at Mason, from my undergraduate and graduate degrees, to the impact of my work, and the lasting friendships I have made. I am so thankful for the opportunities I have had here because they will serve as an example for my daughters of what hard work and community can accomplish.

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Profile of a Senator April 2020

Meet Liam Andrew Dillon: Staff Senator and Ticket Operations and Audience Development Supervisor

Role: Within the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA), we have two performing arts venues – the Center for the Arts on the Fairfax Campus and the Hylton Performing Arts Center on the Science and Technology Campus – that present elaborate, compelling events. I provide ticketing services as well as do community and audience outreach about the upcoming performances. Transitioning to the stay-at-home lifestyle, we are still making the arts accessible by bringing alive the new initiative, Mason Arts at Home. This brings audiences livestreamed performances, releases of previously recorded content, and interactive activities from across the CVPA!

Live and learn: What has been wonderful since starting at Mason is the opportunity to take classes to complete a degree. I had not finished my undergraduate career but was encouraged by my supervisor and colleagues to complete it at Mason. Currently I am enrolled in the Bachelor of Individualized Study (BIS) program, an adult completion degree that allows students who have had different paths in education finish what is rightfully theirs – a bachelor’s diploma and a chance at advancement in our careers. As Mason staff,  I encourage all to take advantage of what is offered through the Tuition Waiver Benefit program, an initiative started by the Mason Staff Senate. Much of what I have learned in the classroom has enhanced the skill that I bring to my job at Mason.

Best thing about working at Mason: I have had the pleasure to work with superb colleagues, including my brother, MacKenzie “Mac” Dillon, who works with our Front of House staff at the Center for the Arts. He greets people at the Concert Hall, assists them to their seats, and makes sure people are enjoying their experience with the arts. Mac is also a person with intellectual disabilities, but that is something that has never stopped him from being a warm, active conversationalist. We all talk about how diverse Mason is that we sometimes forget that it leads to diversity in our staff as well. The best thing about working at Mason is that I get to work with my brother and see him smile at every shift.

At the end of the day: CVPA is not just a place to have an education in the arts, but also a place to engage with individuals. It’s amazing to see how creative and adaptive each employee is in their role and how they succeed because of their engagement with the arts. In difficult times of social distancing, I urge staff members to take advantage of the benefit that arts can give you. Some recommendations would be to try classical music or opera, submit a dance on TikTok with your kids, find an image you like and try to trace it, and most importantly, give yourself a moment to engage in the diverse communication medium called art.

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Profile of a Senator March 2020

Meet Colby Grant: Staff Senator and Campus Operations Coordinator

Photo Courtesy of Colby Grant

Role: To coordinate and manage all daily operations of the Science and Technology Campus (SciTech) and locations that the SciTech campus supports.  This includes strategic plan development, small and large project management, and coordination of necessary support services to serve students, faculty, staff and the local Manassas and Prince William County community.

Mason journey: I started my undergraduate work at Mason in the fall of 2001 and in 2004 became a student wage employee with Athletics and Recreation. In 2005, I graduated with a B.S. in Sport Management and I became classified staff shortly after in 2006 with Mason Recreation as Coordinator of Intramural Sports.  I also served as Coordinator of Outdoor Venues and eventually as Operations Manager of the Aquatic and Fitness Center and Skyline Fitness Center before leaving for the SciTech Campus in July of 2016.

Mason family: My sister, Nikki, was the first to attend Mason and graduated in 2002. I graduated in 2005 and my wife, Megan, graduated in 2006. My wife also works at the SciTech Campus for the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases within the College of Science.

Best thing about working at Mason: Without a doubt it’s the people who work here. I have formed countless relationships, many of which developed into friendships outside of work. While I miss many of the folks I worked with at Fairfax, the people at SciTech make it a warm and inviting place that you can’t help but fall in love with.

Why serve on Staff Senate: Staff at Mason serve a huge role in what we do and are often overlooked and underappreciated. I wanted to be a voice for the staff at Mason, particularly those at SciTech. Being part of the senate is an amazing opportunity, not only to serve the university, but to develop professionally and meet great people from across campus, people who share a sense of responsibility for their community.

At the end of the day:  I truly love working at Mason and the opportunity I have had to serve as a Staff Senator, representing the amazing staff that contribute so much to our mission. Mason means a lot to me and my family and I would not be the person I am today without my experiences and relationships here.

Visit SciTech: Some members of the Mason community are not fully aware of the offerings and facilities at SciTech, including arts and recreation facilities. The campus, located about four miles off I-66, celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017. Hop a shuttle bus from the Fairfax Campus and come out and see us.

Here are my Top 10 things to know about the Science and Technology Campus (in no particular order):

  1.  Campus: 134 acres, eight buildings (800,000+ sq. ft.) and one building in design. Also includes over 25,000 sq. ft. of lease space in neighboring Innovation Park as well as the Potomac Science Center in Woodbridge, VA
  2.  Over 600 faculty/staff
  3.  Over 4,500 students (both undergraduate and graduate), including 150 on-campus graduate student residents living in Beacon Hall
  4.  Schools/colleges represented: College of Education and Human Development, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Science, College of Visual and Performing Arts, Volgenau School of Engineering
  5.  Hylton Performing Arts Center
  6.  Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center
  7.  The EDGE (Mason Recreation’s Team Development and Experiential Learning program)
  8. Galileo’s Science Cafe Spring 2020 Series
  9.  Vogel Art Collection
  10.  Home of the Governor’s School at Innovation Park