INTERVIEWS BY BASMA HUMADI, MANAGING EDITOR AND HAILEY BULLIS, ASSISTANT CULTURE EDITOR
Student: Bria Reel
WHAT IS THE QATAR MALONE FELLOWSHIP AND HOW DID YOU GET ACCEPTED?
The National Council on U.S. Arab Relations and the Qatar Embassy announced the 2018-2019 Qatar Fellowship, an expenses-paid travel and fellowship program open exclusively to Model Arab League-affiliated professors and students. As a student with a history with the council and holding high interest in the region, I decided to apply.
WHAT’S SOMETHING ABOUT YOU MOST PEOPLE MIGHT NOT KNOW?
I am really good with directions. It seems very minuscule, but it’s one of my hidden talents. For example, even in foreign countries I only need a day to figure out my way around the city, and I pretty much sound like a local the next day. Since I was a kid it’s been like that. If I’ve been a certain way one time, I can always remember my way back home. My parents say it’s because I love to travel and it’s something that’s in my blood.
WHAT DID YOU DO WHILE IN QATAR?
In Qatar I had the opportunity to have an immersive experience in the country’s culture, society and economics as well as government priorities, concerns and needs as they pertain to Qatari-U.S. relations and Qatar’s role in regional and world affairs. In [the] country I had the privilege to be introduced to a broad range of government and business representatives, academics, policymakers, specialists and student peers as well as traditional and modern Qatari culture and life. Such as visiting the FIFA 2020 committee, the country’s different ministries and even excursions like sand duning.
WHAT’S SOMETHING YOU’LL TAKE AWAY FROM THE EXPERIENCE?
During my visit, I gained so much information, connections and perspectives that I have never had before. And this experience I firsthand was able to ask different foreign ministers direct questions about their country. In addition to that I have met peers nationally and internationally that share the same interests that I do, as well as in many other fields of professional life.
WHAT ARE YOU STUDYING AT MASON AND WHY?
At Mason I am a dual degree major. My first major is in government and international politics and my second major is an Arabic language. Since high school, I have been highly involved in the international relations and global studies fields and it is also where [I] launch (sic) my Arabic education. Therefore, I decided to continue into my collegiate studies.
Organization: Masonic Dance Collective
Presidents: Beth Jenkins & Emma Presing
HOW DID YOUR GROUP BEGIN?
Beth: So, I transferred this year from VCU and when I was coming here, I realized I really wanted to have my own company. [Me and Emma] didn’t really know each other. I just knew of her, that she is … an assistant at Intrigue.
Emma: That’s a dance convention … Both of us attended conventions and competitions growing up as studio dancers. And at these conventions, there are scholarship opportunities, and I was an assistant at one of them and Beth attended … We probably interacted briefly but we weren’t really friends with each other.
Beth: We were Facebook friends for whatever reason. So I saw that she went to Mason, and I messaged her and asked her about the dance scene around here and asked if she was interested in starting a dance company. And she was super on board.
SO, THE MASON DANCE COLLECTIVE IS A DANCE COMPANY?
Emma: That’s our ultimate goal. Right now, to try to build interest and meet more people who are interested in what we are trying to do at school is by hosting a series of free classes. Before you can set pieces and take the time and raise the money to put on a show, you need to have the people. We’ve been hosting a lot of free classes. We had our first round before winter break. Our main thing right now is providing free dance classes for all Mason students, and they’re welcome to bring outside people.
THESE CLASSES ARE FOR ALL DIFFERENT LEVELS OF DANCERS?
Emma: Yeah. Last time we did an improv class, which was a free space. Any level, you can do it and it wouldn’t make your head hurt. Then afterwards we had a more advanced contemporary class. But we are thinking of probably doing a night of beginner classes for people with little to no experience so that we can better cater to those levels. Same thing with offering intermediate or advanced classes, so that people are getting more of a personalized experience.
WHAT EVENTS ARE YOU GUYS PLANNING FOR THIS SEMESTER?
Beth: We are going to continue having free classes. Making that into a consistent thing, hopefully.
Emma: [Also] hosting some kind of showcase. Even if we don’t have company pieces, but putting together stuff with friends that we know well already.
Beth: We definitely want to create a few choreographed dances that we can perform. Because not a lot of people get a chance to perform. We have a lot of short term and long-term goals. So that’s a medium-term goal.
Emma: It requires a lot more time that (sic) many people realize to put together something. The main thing that inspired us to make this a thing was us both not being dance majors. It is really hard at Mason to find opportunities for people who are serious dancers to find the time or who don’t necessarily want to major in dance.
Beth: Definitely. We want to audition people in to create a team and then make a production. I’ve been working a production and writing. To have a tech team. The whole thing.
Faculty: Leslie Durham
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
I love working with our students. The S-CAR [School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution] students are super passionate and they always come in with some awesome ideas and it’s extremely refreshing and invigorating to work with students that have so many different areas of interest and really want to make the world a better place … I come from a counseling background, so I love being able to help our students and just find their way and beyond and kind of get to know them and build relationships.
WAS THERE A REASON YOU ENDED UP AT S-CAR VERSUS ANOTHER DEPARTMENT?
It was completely random but I really think I was guided here, I know that sounds kind of cheesy, but I really do because I didn’t know S-CAR existed before—like a lot of our students, frankly. So when I was applying for jobs at Mason and was thinking about doing academic advising I was kind of exploring that whole area and saw S-CAR and started doing research about it and was like ‘Wow, that’s something I would’ve completely studied ‘cause my undergraduate was in archeology and my masters is in counseling and it kind of combines that whole anthropological, psychological thing together.’ So I was like, ‘Wow, that would’ve been right up my alley.’
WHAT’S SOMETHING ABOUT YOU MOST PEOPLE WOULD NOT KNOW?
That I dance flamenco. I lived in Spain for almost four years and have always been enthralled and excited and completely fascinated by flamenco since I was a little kid. So when I moved there I was like, ‘This is it, this is my opportunity,’ so I flew myself into flamenco and kept on going. I dance here and I dance a couple nights a week.
WHAT’S SOMETHING YOU’RE MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR LIFE AND WHY?
I would have to say my kids. I have two—I have a seventeen year senior who’s getting ready to go to college, Jackie. And I have Preston, a fourteen year old boy and he’s a sophomore. And they’re just great kids, great human beings, and that was my goal as a parent—to raise really good human beings … I’m really proud of the people they’re being and I’ve invested a lot of time in my kids and so I’m reaping the benefits of that labor a little bit.
At least from my point of view, I used to work with at-risk teens in particular and it taught me a lot of the kinds of things you should and shouldn’t do as a parent and the type of investment you need to make in kids if you want to really not only make them working and productive members of society, but also be people you want to be around and they want to be around you. Because a lot of kids don’t want to be around their parents, they see them as the person that’s the barrier to their fun and success and I never wanted to be that.
Philip Wilkerson: Alumni
WHAT DO YOU CURRENTLY DO AT MASON?
I am the Industry Advisor for media arts, design and most recently sports management and hospitality and tourism. That’s like at the university career services and I meet with students in those industries and employees as well and then I just added on this semester—I am teaching [UNIV] 220, ‘How to pick your major and career course.’
BEING AN ALUMNI, WHAT WAS SOMETHING YOU NOTICED UPON COMING BACK TO CAMPUS?
Well, it’s interesting, I did my graduate school here so I didn’t have the typical … my first experience wasn’t very typical either. You know, I was a grad student, then I got my masters here in the counseling program and I also did my internship at the career center so for me it took me five years to come back and get a job where I did my internship. I would say one of the biggest transitions is me getting older and the kids getting younger. And it seems like … no disrespect to the other kids, but it seems like the generation of kids that are coming through now are a lot more tech savvy. I think this go-around I’ve learned a lot more from the students then I did the first time. Meaning like I would meet with students and just help them with their cover letters, but particularly with this role in this industry I’ve learned so much about social media and technology and videos and editing. Just I’ve learned about the industry by simply working with students.
WHAT DREW YOU TO CAREER SERVICES?
I was an undergrad major in history. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, I was just always kind of floating and you know, it was funny it was when we took the career counseling class … and I loved it because it helped me solidify my values and things I liked. I liked working with people, I like this, I liked that and I was like “Wow, I must be in the right place, counselling must be for me.” And then I was like, “I really like this, I do like talking about people’s feelings and all that in therapy but I don’t foresee myself being a therapist. I don’t just want to work with clients and do therapy, I want to help them tangibly.” What I’ve found about career counselling is that there’s outcomes. With career counselling if someone wants my help and they get a job, that’s a tangible benefit, like I see the evidence that I helped them.
WHAT IS A HOBBY OF YOURS?
Podcasting, I have my own podcast. Shameless plug, ‘Positive Philter.’ Before I had my two kids [I] used to love powerlifting, which I’m going to try to get back into. Out in the community I’m a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, which is a historically black fraternity. They have an undergraduate chapter but I’m in the graduate chapter … I like to network and build community and do volunteer stuff out in the community, watch Netflix, watch movies, spend times with my two boys and my wife. For 2019 I have a list of 50 things I wanted to do this year and one of those 50 things is … I want to take a picture with Dr. Cabrera and I’m trying to do a TED talk, so those are two of the goals I have for 2019.