INTERVIEWS BY HAILEY BULLIS, MONICA ECHOLS, AND NAYOMI SANTOS
Student, Terrica Dang
WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
Career-wise, I just want to do something that makes me happy. I know that’s really cliche, but there are so many things that I can do. I’ve thought about being a high school teacher and [teaching] government or history because my biggest mentors in life were my high school government teachers. I think that would be really fun. But I also think that going to law school would also be really fun and becoming (sic) a lawyer and practicing constitutional law for a while.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT SO FAR AT MASON?
My two biggest roles on campus have to be the RA role and as (sic) vice president of events in the Mason Ambassadors program. Recently, I planned an open house event, which was Fall Premiere. So, that was a big accomplishment for me. I’m very glad to be a part of that and am looking forward to Spring Preview. But I think the bigger picture for me is … last year, I had a really great floor as an RA. I still hang out with a lot of them now and a lot of them have told me that I was a big part of their transition into college. I am only hoping that is what I am doing with [my current floor]. I think my biggest accomplishment with people in general has to be through the RA role. I love my jobs and I really enjoy coming home to [my residents].
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO BE?
My favorite place to be is—this is very specific—Malden, Massachusetts, in Malden High School in room B332. I did so much growing in that classroom, because that’s where I met my mentor, my history teacher and mock trial coach. He was so important to me, and he still is. The other day I had a complete meltdown, because I didn’t know if I could get into law school, so I texted him and asked for help. And he was very kind, and he was such a great mentor. I miss him so much … He molded me a lot in high school. He [taught me] how debating and conversing [are] important. He helped me realize how important government is.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SEASON AND WHY?
My favorite season is fall because … the summer sucks. I hate the heat, but the fall is the perfect weather for me, because it is cool enough for me to wear jeans and a T-shirt. But also, I can wear a jacket if I want to. It’s just a fashionable season. And pumpkins and Halloween, and the leaves are changing, and it’s so pretty. … You get to the winter, and everything is dead. So, I really like the fall because everything is dying, but you don’t really know it’s dying, because it’s so pretty. I love football and baseball, and I get to watch both in the fall.
Faculty, Ray LeBlanc
WHAT DO YOU TEACH?
I teach women’s and gender studies, most often the introduction to women’s and gender studies—the 200 level.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT TEACHING?
My favorite thing about teaching, specifically teaching women’s and gender studies, is that I always get to see some sort of change or growth. The students [who] begin my class are not the same when they finish. Through the semester, I get to see them think about things that they’ve probably never thought about. I get to introduce them to ideas and other people’s experiences that don’t fit within their daily lives, and I can really notice the difference and the change in students once they’re exposed to those things. That really is my favorite part. They’re not the same at the end of the semester, and that kind of gives me inspiration.
DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE MEMORIES OR EXPERIENCES?
My first women’s and gender studies class as an undergraduate really helped me to be comfortable in accepting that I was gay, and it gave me an experience to think about academically, which I didn’t think was possible. That really shaped how I was going to live my life, but then also my career. … The interesting thing about teaching women’s and gender studies is that we touch on a lot of sensitive issues. I’ve definitely had a lot of students who sometimes accidentally realize things about themselves through the class, and that is always very touching, and that is always very nice. It feels good to make an impact not only academically, but also [to] give people the confidence and knowledge to help make their own personal lives better at the same time.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR BIGGEST STRENGTH AND/OR YOUR BIGGEST WEAKNESS?
My biggest strength is also my biggest weakness in that I think I am so personable. I get along with everyone, but it’s really hard to get people to not take advantage of me, at the same time.
DO YOU HAVE ANY HOBBIES OR THINGS THAT YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL?
So I made the horrible decision to blend my academic work with my hobbies … particularly drag queening and drag performance. So it’s super fun, but also very difficult at the same time. I also run an Instagram for my cats.
DO YOU HAVE ANY GOALS FOR THE FUTURE?
My ultimate goal is to be the director of a women’s studies and gender program. I see myself staying in higher ed.
IF YOU COULD HAVE DINNER WITH ANY ONE PERSON FROM HISTORY, DEAD OR ALIVE, WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
I think a dinner with Maya Angelou would be very fascinating. I had the opportunity to see her a year before she passed, and I think that she would be full of amazing dinner conversations and stories.
Student Org, Black Mambas
WHAT DOES YOUR ORGANIZATION DO?
Our goal/ mission is to share our culture through the art of dance … to help build a community within our university through the love of dance by not only teaching others where various African dances stem from but also what it means to our community.
WHAT MAKES YOUR ORGANIZATION UNIQUE?
What makes our team unique is that our dance stems from our African roots.
WHAT IS YOUR ORGANIZATION’S PROUDEST MOMENT?
Our proudest moment was winning the ASU2VCU dance competition in February 2017.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF BEING IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?
Our favorite part about being a member of Black Mambas is that we are very close and challenge each other to be better [through] each performance.
WHAT EVENTS DO YOU ALL HOLD/HOW CAN PEOPLE GET INVOLVED?
We host a dance workshop every semester that welcomes people who would like to try out the team or simply bust a move with us! We usually get a decent turnout and have a lot of fun.
HOW DO YOU HOPE TO SEE YOUR ORGANIZATION GROW THIS YEAR?
We hope to gain more recognition from the Mason nation this year and hopefully win the competition again in February!
Alum: Ashley Phayme
WHAT DO YOU DO NOW?
I’m a meeting planner.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR CURRENT MASON STUDENTS?
Current students should definitely try to not only find their niche, but … also try different avenues. There are so many different organizations that are there and different people you can meet based off of just stepping outside of your comfort zone. I know that some of my closest friends had joined multiple organizations within the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) and also some of the international fraternities and sororities either for majors, such as business or development, or social organizations and activities.
HAVE YOU TRAVELED ANYWHERE?
I have—I’ve traveled internationally [to] a few different places. I started off in Canada, I went to Honduras, Mexico, Belize, Cayman Islands, I went back to Mexico—I came there from the Dominican Republic. I just recently came back from South Africa.
OUT OF ALL OF THE PLACES THAT YOU HAVE VISITED, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE?
Probably South Africa, there was a different type of beauty there, there was a different sense of fellowship and camaraderie that I felt once I stepped, not only onto the continent, but then also the country. So, we started off at Johannesburg, and Johannesburg vs Cape Town—they all had a different feel, they all have their different vibe … But no matter where I went I always felt … that sense of connection. Complete strangers think they have like similar features to either me or someone that I knew and it just felt like a big family when I was in Cape Town, especially in Cape Town.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO YOUR FIELD?
I had a internship with the Big Brothers Big Sisters, I want to say, maybe, shortly after I graduated … it started off as administrative and then it just kind of trickled into event planning. I was in a meeting one day and they were looking for ideas to rally [and] further engage … their mentees and their mentors. So just kind of like having the space to speak up and share some of my ideas with them kind of led into the foundation.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR BIGGEST STRENGTH?
Definitely perseverance is probably going to be my biggest strength. There’s a lot of doors that are going to be shut in your face, there’s a lot of people who are going to try to speak negatively to you either about what field [you are] in or how to accomplish your goals, and it is really helpful especially when you don’t have the courage to listen to yourself, to surround yourself with people who can do that for you until you start really believing in yourself. So, perseverance is really my biggest strength.
WHAT MAKES YOU UNIQUE?
As a person, what makes me unique is probably just my outlook on life. I remember my parents always telling me that I’ve always like done my own thing and been my own person.
Student, Symone Sparks
ARE YOU INVOLVED IN ANY ORGANIZATIONS AT MASON?
Yes. I am a director of programming specializing in performances and special guests for the Patriot Activities Council (PAC).
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING THAT YOU’VE DONE AT MASON?
My favorite memory at Mason was my first event that I planned for PAC, which was One Love … last year. It’s our annual cultural event where we celebrate all the different cultures at Mason, and it was the best attended event that we had the whole semester. And it was my first event ever, so I was so scared. I was like I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m pretty sure this is all going to go to s—. The first like hour of the event, I was just freaking out and stressed and yelling at everybody, and I didn’t mean to. It ended up being a really great event and everyone had a good time and everyone was telling me, “Oh I had a really good time.”
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WHEN YOU GRADUATE?
Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to work in the entertainment industry, but I’m not talented enough to be an actor or singer or anything like that. I want to be a publicist … But then I also really like crisis communication, so if I could find a way to bridge those two—almost like the Olivia Pope of the entertainment industry, but not because I don’t want all that drama … I want to stay as far away from politics as I can physically get. So that’s as close as I think I can get without having to straddle entertainment and politics.
WHAT’S SOMETHING THAT YOU’VE WANTED TO TRY BUT YOU WERE TOO SCARED TO?
So like I always play it safe. Even coming to Mason, I was 70 percent sure I would get in, and I only applied to schools where I was pretty sure I was getting in because I’m scared of rejection. … I don’t [take] classes that I think are too hard. So maybe something I’m scared to try is taking a hard class or taking something I know I’m not good at.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD?
My favorite place in the whole world is in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. … The Smoky Mountains [are] so beautiful, and when I go to Gatlinburg, it’s for a family reunion and we rent out this mansion with a bunch of families. … We stay there for a weekend. It’s just so beautiful and you kind of forget about the rest of the world. Well, we have cell signal and Wi-Fi, so I know what’s going on in the world, I just don’t want to know because I would rather spend time with them.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST DREAM AND/OR FEAR?
My biggest dream is to never have to worry about anything like … money or bills or anything. To just know that I’ve got that, and I can do whatever I want, and to have a job where it’s not a like a job, but it’s a good time. My biggest fear [is] maybe to fail … I don’t know. I just don’t like failing, so maybe one of those epic fails.