INTERVIEWS BY MONICA ECHOLS, CULTURE EDITOR; HAILEY BULLIS, ASSISTANT CULTURE EDITOR; ANGELIQUE ARINTOK, STAFF WRITER
Student: Christina Gleason
WHAT IS THE SCHOLARSHIP THAT YOU WON FOR DANCE?
I won the Bette Davis scholarship award from the Mason Dance department last semester for this year, and that was from the Neighbors and Friends of Great Falls here in Virginia. So it’s this group of women…they basically give out these scholarships to college women who they think could really make a difference or are really trying to strive towards a goal. This was the last year they actually did it for the dance department at Mason, but they gear it primarily towards dancers such as myself who are looking not only to pursue a professional career in dance, but also to pursue dance education as well.
YOU’RE STUDYING DANCING AND TEACHING. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO?
Yes and no. I do really enjoy both of them separately. Dancing professionally has always been a dream since I was a little kid but also being an elementary school teacher. So it’s really cool, I think, that I get to combine those two with teaching dance or dance education, specifically because it’s two things that I really like.
WHAT IS IT THAT YOU LOVE ABOUT DANCING?
I’ve been dancing ever since I was three, so it’s hard for me to say. I fell in love with the idea of like expressing myself … but ever since I was three, my parents have always asked, ‘Do I ever want to stop, do I ever want to try something different or something new’? And I just never, like no, I want to keep dancing and it just kind of became my passion. So it was a hobby but also a stress reliever, but also a place where I can express myself … I just think it’s a really uplifting experience to be connected with one’s mind and body, and then also as a community as well, which is really good.
YOU’RE FROM DENMARK, CORRECT?
Kind of, yeah. My mom [is]. I have dual citizenship with Denmark and the United States because my mom is from Denmark and my dad isn’t. But I do have Danish citizenship and I have lived there for a little bit. We always go back there every summer and my life is really structured around the Danish lifestyle. In my home, that’s how my mom grew us up and I have family back there. I speak the language and I’m also hoping to move there after I graduate in May.
HAVE YOU LIVED OR TRAVELED ANYWHERE BESIDES DENMARK AND THE U.S.?
Yeah, I’m also, my dad being the American was also in the Air Force, so I’m an Air Force military brat. I was born in Germany, lived in Guam, Denmark, Minnesota, Colorado Springs twice [and] here in the NOVA/Fairfax area. And then being [from a] multicultural background, traveling has always been really important to my family. So we have been all over Europe as well and all over the United States taking advantage of summer vacations and breaks to go and see the world.
IS THERE ANYWHERE THAT YOU HAVEN’T BEEN TO ALREADY THAT YOU WANT TO VISIT?
Too many places. But I guess the top one right now would probably be the African continent, like Tanzania, Morocco, South Africa. I’ve always been fascinated by the African cultures and also the specific countries as well, but [specifically] their way of living and their cultural traditions. So to experience those [countries] firsthand would be really cool.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY?
I’ve always related [to] my identity as [both] Danish and [a] dancer. So two memories that come up would be more on the Danish side. One is when I went to Denmark for summer vacation last summer and hanging out with friends and family and just being so ingrained, I guess, in the culture and society. I really felt at home. Being a very family-oriented person, it was really nice to just have a fun day at the beach with everyone playing bocce ball. Then more on the dance side, I’m very lucky and thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to—I went to Israel last, I guess two summers ago now to Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company‘s summer intensive…Going there I had complete culture shock. I didn’t speak the language, I had no idea what to do, but I got there and I danced for two weeks straight and it was amazing. I always refer back to that travel experience because one, it took me completely out of my comfort zone, like hands-on everything. I ended up, after the two weeks, coming home so much more culturally aware of that style of life, a new perspective of a way of living, I had made so many new friends. The dancing was amazing as well, like [it is] one of my dream companies now. I felt like I just really grew as a person. So, I always think back to that time and those memories because it completely was an experience I had never had before.
Faculty: Christopher Clarke
WHAT DO YOU TEACH AT MASON?
Out of the communication department, I teach undergrad courses in research methods … or environmental communication or mass communication theory, like media effects theory. On the graduate level, I teach either risk communication or science communication.
WHY DO YOU LIKE TEACHING WHAT YOU TEACH?
I think one of the joys of being a professor is when you get to teach an area you know a lot about, that you’ve done research in, that you’ve published articles in, that you care about and that you find interesting. I think I’ll be able to do that with the courses that I teach. I’m able to bring in topics and ideas that I’ve looked at, that I’ve studied and that I find really interesting. I try to press upon students that I hope they find it interesting as well.
IF THERE WAS A FIRE, AND YOU HAD TO SAVE ONE THING FROM YOUR HOUSE, WHAT WOULD YOU SAVE AND WHY?
I’ve talked to my wife about this. If it could be anything, I would probably say her, of course. Assuming she made it out, and all people made it out, I think honestly, I would save, I have a little backpack with me that has all my little stuff from the office in it. It probably sounds weird, but everything else can be replaced, clothes, electronics, but when it comes to my stuff from my home office, it would be a lot more difficult to replace. So in terms of an inanimate object, I would actually save that backpack if I could because it has all my stuff in it.
HAVE YOU TRAVELED ANYWHERE OUTSIDE OF THE U.S.?
Yes. So outside the country as a whole—I’ve been to Hawaii for example but that’s still the U.S. I’ve traveled to Canada, I’ve been overseas, I’ve been to Sweden, I’ve been to the U.K., and then I’ve been to Australia and then I’ve been able to go to South America. I went to Chile and then Brazil. I’ve also traveled throughout the Caribbean, the island of St. Lucia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Barbados and the Cayman Islands.
SO OUT OF EVERYWHERE THAT YOU’VE EVER BEEN, BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND OVERSEAS, WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD?
It would have to be Grand Teton National Park, which is located in northwest Wyoming. If you ever Google it, the mountains are just unreal. It looks fake, it looks like it’s been painted. There’s no other place I would like to be. I would love to live out there at some point in the future [and] rent a house. It’s always a pleasure when I get to go out there, which will be in a couple years if I’m lucky. It’s just the scenery, the animals, the climate, it’s just wonderful.
Alumna: Deirdre Burton
WHAT DID YOU STUDY AT MASON? WHAT ARE YOU STUDYING NOW? WHAT DO YOU PLAN TO DO WITH YOUR DEGREE?
I was a Psychology Major at GMU, Class of 2018. I now attend Norfolk State University as a graduate student majoring in Social Work with a Clinical Concentration. I plan to work as a school social worker where I will provide counseling and developmental services to children who are in schools and social environments on both micro and macro levels.
WERE YOU INVOLVED WITH ANY CLUBS OR ORGANIZATIONS AT MASON?
At GMU, I served as a PHE (Peer Health Educator) for the Student Support and Advocacy Center on campus. I would facilitate sessions to students on campus about sexual health, drugs, healthy relationships, nutrition, intimate partner violence and steps to being an Active Bystander when/if they see someone in trouble or in need of medical attention. I enjoyed working there my senior year! That position truly prepared me for my future career in Social Work. I became knowledgeable in all different topics that related to a healthy mind and body.
WHAT IS YOUR BRAND, DEEDOTORG? WHY DID YOU START IT/WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE WITH IT?
My brand ‘DeeDotOrg’ was created to inspire, motivate and strengthen viewers through social media in the areas of personal development for women. I work diligently to bring a healthy and positive vibe to all through posts and videos. My hope is to have a bigger platform one day to speak to women nationwide, hosting conferences and workshops to empower women on self-worth. I want them to know, without any doubt in their mind, they are truly enough just the way they are, and that they deserve all the best things in life.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT?
My proudest achievement would be graduating and maintaining a GPA above a 3.0 after losing my father during my Fall semester of my senior year. It was truly a heavy load, and so unexpected losing my dad/best friend, but knowing that I made it, we made it? Oh that was an amazing feeling of joy and love. I’m so grateful for my family and friends, but I have to also give a huge ‘thank you’ to the professors at GMU who worked with me during that time. They helped me reach that finish line and I am forever grateful.
WHO IS AN IMPORTANT PERSON IN YOUR LIFE AND WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?
I would say an important person in my life would be my mom. That sounds so cliché for young people to say, but she really is. The amount of strength and love that flows within her is astounding. She has helped me overcome so many oppositions in my life, and has been a calm in the midst of my storms. I am grateful for her love, boldness and patience as a mother, and the older I grow to be, I am thankful for her being that as a best friend also.
Organization: Vegan Society at George Mason University
WHAT IS THE VEGAN SOCIETY AT GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY ALL ABOUT?
Rhys Bethke, Treasurer: We want to create a social space for vegans, vegetarians and people who are questioning whether they want to become vegan/vegetarian. We offer them resources to help them transition, and educate them more on why they might want to pursue a vegan/vegetarian diet or lifestyle. We put on educational, as well as social events [including movie screenings, discussion-based events and tabling at university-sponsored events].
WHAT KIND OF MOVIES DO YOU SCREEN?
Bethke: Mostly documentaries about agriculture, anything related to the food we eat, clothing or beauty/hygienic products that have animal products in them. Overall, we want members to be informed consumers. The last documentary we had a screening on was actually “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret”, which is about the environmental impact of animal agriculture and livestock.
WHAT DOES BEING A VEGAN MEAN TO THE VEGAN SOCIETY AT GEORGE MASON?
Bethke: Our definition of veganism is taken from the [national] Vegan Society which we’re not related to, but we really like their definition of veganism. According to vegansociety.com, veganism is “veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” What that means for us is we avoid eating animal foods (i.e. meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, etc.), entertainment that exploits animals (i.e. circuses, rodeos, SeaWorld, etc.) and wearing leather and fur.
WHAT IS THE MOST RECENT CAMPAIGN INITIATIVE THE VEGAN SOCIETY IS TRYING TO LAUNCH?
Bethke: We get a lot of complaints and frustrations from students who live on campus or have a meal plan. The dining halls advertise that they have vegan options, but if you’re living on campus and eating three meals a day, their options aren’t nutritionally adequate, filling or yummy. It’s an extensive problem. We have a list of demands — basically a letter right now. We are setting up a meeting with Mason Dining to let them know that a lot of people are very concerned about the vegan options [or lack thereof].
HOW CAN INTERESTED STUDENTS REACH OUT TO THE VEGAN SOCIETY AT GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY?
Bethke: They can email firstname.lastname@example.org, follow our Instagram @gmuvegan and Facebook @gmuvegan to message us there or show up to one of our meetings (every Wednesday at 5PM in JC Meeting Room B) [and] introduce themselves and ask any kind of questions they have. We’re very open, and we encourage everyone regardless of what diets they follow to come talk to us. Even they don’t think they are going to go vegan, we always like having discussions.