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.