Profile of a Senator April 2023

Meet April Lopez, Staff Senator and Administrative Assistant to the Director, Division of Special Education and disAbility Research

April Lopez, Staff Senator and administrative assistant to the director, Division of Special Education and disAbility Research.

Role: I work with a great team of people who provide fantastic support for our students who are preparing to take on sometimes difficult but always essential roles as educators and other professionals supporting people with disabilities. I spend a lot of time on curriculum development, ensuring that our programs are up to date with the latest requirements for teacher licensure and other certifications, and that we’re responding to student demand for new course offerings on different aspects of disability. Another large part of my role is to admit students to our graduate programs, which can be traditional on-campus programs, cohort programs in cooperation with local school divisions, and fully online programs. And I also act as the HR Liaison for the division – it really is a very varied role.

Mason journey: I joined Mason in my current role in the fall of 2019. My husband was already working in the College of Science, and my son had just started at the Child Development Center, so then we were a complete Mason family!

Best thing about working at Mason: The vast majority of people at Mason are working towards advancing and improving the university, and while they all have that goal in common, there are so many different views about what that actually means. To my mind, that’s great insofar as it creates this tension that builds on the strengths of the university, so that the whole is so much more than the sum of the parts; and at the same time, it’s so important that, as individuals and as an institution overall, we’re maintaining a level of awareness and decency that ensures the needs of less-advantaged members of our community are heard and uplifted. The recent Vision Day focus on student food insecurity is a great example, as are the programs that are run across campus to help create a safer, more welcoming and inclusive environment for marginalized communities within the university.

On a personal note, my favorite thing about being on campus in Fairfax is being able to step out of my office at lunchtime and go and sit under a tree or in a little forest. It’s my strong hope that we continue to recognize the value of the wooded areas that are such a feature of this campus and find a way to preserve them even as the university expands and develops.

Why I serve on the Staff Senate: I stood for Staff Senate in order to promote the sustainability issues that I care deeply about. I’m happy to be part of the revived Environmental Justice and Sustainability ad hoc committee, and to be working in partnership with University Sustainability and others across the campuses, especially now in Earth Month, to encourage everyone to reimagine what they can do to work towards a greener Mason. I’m also in the process of building an online community that is intended to act as a hub for people to connect with each other about environmental and sustainability issues and to enable more people to work together to take action and advocate for change.

At the end of the day: I believe that, as staff, we support and sustain each other as we support the institution. There’s a quote I keep coming back to: “Everything worthwhile is done with other people.” I hope that I can use my time as a senator to do something worthwhile, and to do so with others.

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 January 2023

Meet Melissa Hallman, Staff Senator and HR Specialist & Liaison, Fiscal Services


Role: I am Fiscal Services’ first and only HR Specialist & Liaison, assisting Fiscal Services’ employees with all of their HR-related needs. Because of the placement of my position across the hall, I spend a lot of time interacting with Central HR with a goal to create a community space for Mason HR liaisons (or individuals with HR responsibilities) to collaborate, support, and learn together!

Mason journey: I started my Mason journey in Spring 2021 in the College of Science. Almost exactly a year later, I moved to Fiscal Services where I have never felt more at home. Prior to Mason, I spent 6.5 years at Northern Virginia Community College, after 3.5 years at Germanna Community College. So I suppose you could say higher ed is my jam.

Best thing about working at Mason: From day one I felt that Mason truly cared about its people. This belief originated because of what some might consider a very small part of their onboarding: picking up my Mason ID. I have worked (and attended) several higher ed institutions and Mason is the first to have the National Suicide and National Sexual Assault Hotline numbers on the back of every ID. As soon as I saw that, I fell in love with Mason. Add to that the amazing people I get to work and interact with on a daily basis and Mason is the first place I have ever considered worth retiring from.

Why serve on the Staff Senate: I am always advocating for better working conditions for my colleagues and co-workers to the point of once being told by a supervisor that I had no sense of self-preservation (and I took that as a compliment). Advocacy and service have always been a part of my makeup. Even as a child I volunteered regularly and participated in marches for equal rights and justice. Joining Staff Senate seemed like the perfect way to support my lifelong goal of creating a more equitable world (or work environment) for all I encounter.

At the end of the day… I go home, feed my derpy, grumpy-old-man of a mutt, Marty, and relax with Legos, paint (or diamond) by numbers, sculpey clay, knitting, baking, and putting together furniture when I have it; in other words, I love working with my hands. I am also a lifelong learner. In addition to being a full-time staff member, I am a part-time student in Mason’s Sociology and Anthropology department.

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 September 2022

Meet Jeremy Stern, Staff Senator and Ticket Office Manager, Hylton Performing Arts Center, College of Visual and Performing Arts


Role: Working with the Front of House Manager, I ensure all Hylton Performing Arts Center patrons have an enjoyable experience when they come to see the world-class event put on by the university. The job has changed to be a bit more paperwork focused, but I always pop out to talk with the patrons and help the crew when I have a chance.

Mason journey: I started out as an undergrad student in 2007 and joined the Hylton as a part-time ticket seller when it opened in 2010. I took on extra work with our Production and Front of House team, trying to get as many hours as I could, before they brought me on full time in 2016 as the Ticket Office Supervisor. I took a short break to earn my master’s in history from Mason and they brought me back as the office manager shortly before COVID hit.

Best thing about working at Mason: I love being around all the art and cultural opportunities the university provides. I’ve seen and shaken hands with some incredible artists over the years, including Leslie Odom Jr., Jane Lynch, Terry Crews, and Charlie Daniels, just to name a few. I also never would have been able to earn my master’s degree without the tuition benefits Mason provides for its staff.

Why I serve on Staff Senate: When the university closed its doors for the pandemic, it was difficult to understand everything that was going on. I started virtually attending the Staff Senate meeting and it was only through their hard work that I was able to learn what the university was planning and doing in response to COVID. They provided a meaningful connection with senior leadership when it was needed most. Now that we’re (mostly) on the other side, I wanted to do my share and provide that connection for the next generation of Mason employees. Especially those who work odd hours and who can sometimes get forgotten about by the folk upstairs.

At the end of the day: Whether as a student or an employee, I’ve been with George Mason for 15 years. I’ve watched the university grow, both metaphorically and literally, over the years. This place and this community feel like a second home for me and I am so lucky to be a part of the Mason Family.

Profile of a Senator April 2022

Meet Carlos Sandoval, Staff Senator and Assistant Director of Instructional and Technology Services, Antonin Scalia Law School

Role: I am responsible for administering, maintaining, and supporting the instructional platforms for the Antonin Scalia Law School on the Arlington Campus (now called Mason Square). I provide oversight and technical support for the law school’s classrooms and courtroom. I work with the law school administration and faculty to regularly assess instructional technology needs and provide training for the law community. I also work closely with other university units to enhance teaching and learning at the law school and provide computing support and services to law faculty, staff, and students.

Mason journey: I started at Mason in 2006 working for classroom support on the Fairfax Campus. From there I moved to the Law School in 2011. For the past 11 years I have witnessed tremendous growth and change at the law school from the school dedication that attracted six Supreme Court Justices to the Arlington Campus, to a recent ranking by U.S. News & World Report as the No. 30 law school in the country, up 11 spots from the previous ranking. In addition, Mason’s part-time law program is ranked No. 4 nationally and tops among public universities. All this thanks to a great group of faculty, staff and students at the law school.

Best thing about working at Mason: Prior to Mason I worked in the private sector where there was very little work/life balance. So when I joined Mason, I was very pleased to find out that a balanced lifestyle was not only part of the culture but encouraged. Over the years I have met incredible people (including my wife) who have become very close friends. This is among many other reasons why I enjoy working here.

At the end of the day: I am very proud to be part of this community and be a representative on the Staff Senate. I enjoy my job and am excited to see the great impact Mason has in the world with the next generation of Patriots!


Newsletter Profile of a Senator March 2022

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.