Faces of Mason

Allie Thompson/Fourth Estate


Student: Maximilian Simkins

What is one interesting thing about you?

At the age of 19, I owned my first investment property. I quickly found out that to run investment properties, [it] takes a lot of work and it is not easy. I learned a lot about the maintenance that homes require, budgeting and how to keep track of money. I also got a lot of information about how certain aspects of a house work … I had to learn because when getting contractors to do work, it’s good to understand the full scope of the work that needs to be done. That way it’s easier to compare prices and find what a fair price is.

What made you start this business? Do you hope to go somewhere with it?

I got started in investment properties because of my parents. Growing up, I always admired my parents not only because of their financial success, but also their work ethic. That’s why when I turned 18, I talked with them about ways I could be financially successful when I got older. One of the main things they stressed to be financially successful is that I had to start investing. Once we talked, I began my journey by getting involved in not only real estate, but also stocks. In the future, I hope to continue to buy multifamily properties and even begin flipping houses. I think I would prefer to be doing these things as something for extra money and not full time.

What is your favorite thing about Mason?

My favorite thing about Mason would have to be the diversity. With the campus being so diverse and with everyone being friendly, it’s easy to make friends from many different places. After making friends from all around the world, it sparked an interest in me for other cultures. It makes me want to travel the world at some point in my life and experience some of the things my friends talked about.

You are majoring in finance and accounting. Do you have a preference?

Currently, I enjoy finance more than accounting. Since a young age, I’ve had an interest in the stock market and investments, and I feel the best way to learn more about them would be as a finance major. I plan to take many classes involving investments and hopefully get a job dealing with them. Although I prefer finance over accounting, accounting is also a lot of fun for me too. I tend to naturally understand financial accounting and I find the classes interesting.

What do you want to achieve in the future?

In the future, I hope to get a job as an investment analyst after college. I want to someday become a portfolio manager or run a hedge fund. To achieve these goals, I know that I will have to work very hard and stay on top of my game. As a junior in college, I feel as though I am already getting towards the end of my college career and I need to stay focused if I want to reach my goals.

Photo courtesy of Farah Mohamed

Alum: Farah Mohamed

What did you study at Mason? What are you studying now? What do you plan to do when you get your degree?

I did my undergrad in economics. And now, I’m taking higher education administration classes at George Washington [University], which is where I also work full-time. I want to pursue my master’s degree over there and then hopefully get a job in international student affairs. I love working with international students, so this is the area that I really hope to specialize in.

Did your time at Mason affect your desire to work in higher education?

It most definitely did. During my last semester at Mason, I got to intern at the Mercatus Center, which is [Mason]’s economics research center. There, I realized that my real passion was not economics—it was higher education. I loved doing the higher education administration aspect of the internship, but I absolutely disliked the econ aspect.

Were you involved with any clubs or organizations while on campus?

Yes. I was in Alpha Kappa Psi, which is a co-ed business fraternity. I was also president of the Egyptian Student Union.

What is your proudest achievement?

So many. No, just kidding. My proudest achievement was being able to integrate into college and have a fun experience there. My freshman year was my first year in the United States, so it was first very difficult for me at the time to create a social life and understand the different educational system. But thankfully, I was able to, and I had an amazing experience at Mason. It’s not really my biggest achievement, but it’s my proudest one. Without it, I wouldn’t have achieved so many things afterwards.

What advice do you have for Mason students?

I’d advise them to try every new thing they encounter. Every experience in college helped shape my career in some way, even if it had a small impact. And in the end, it was the internship that made me change my entire career and realize my true passion.

Allie Thompson/Fourth Estate

Faculty: Bob Vay

What do you do at Mason?

I am the technology and exhibitions archivist in the University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center (SCRC). I help make archival materials in our collections available to researchers electronically. I coordinate exhibitions of SCRC materials in our Exhibit Gallery and I oversee the University Libraries Oral History Program. In short, I try to get people excited about researching history.  

What made you choose the Special Collections Research Center?

I was employed by the National Archives and Records Administration when I heard about an opening at George Mason University. I thought it would be wonderful to work at the university I graduated from just over a year earlier. Besides, one of the main subject areas SCRC collects is materials related to the history and growth of George Mason University, a topic in which I’ve always been interested.   

You not only work at Mason, but graduated from here as well. Did you know back then that you wanted to work here?

I did spend a lot of time in Fenwick Library when I was a student at Mason back in the 1980s. I do recall several times thinking to myself that I would love to have a library job, but I didn’t think at the time that I would spend over 25 years here.   

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

That I’ve always daydreamed about being a stand-up comedian. I love to talk into a microphone and have, over the years, put together “material” in my head but I never got up the courage to actually try it out. Someday.

What’s your greatest accomplishment?

Accomplishments: To graduate with two degrees from George Mason University, work in a job that I enjoy with people that I enjoy being with, to marry the love of my life and be blessed with a beautiful and talented daughter.

What’s the one thing you would like to say to students at Mason?

Take advantage of your time here at Mason. Discover all of the free learning and personal growth opportunities, cultural events and other benefits that your university and the libraries offer to you every day.

Allie Thompson/Fourth Estate

Org: The Mural Brigade

What does your organization do?

The Mural Brigade’s mission is to make Mason’s Fairfax campus more beautiful with different types of public art. Through the addition of public art on campus, we hope to foster a sense of community and expand awareness about various social issues and perspectives. We also hope to make Mason a destination for public art festivals throughout Northern Virginia for years to come.

Our other goal is to give students the opportunity to learn art and arts management skills in a fully grassroots, student-driven environment. We also provide funding for students interested in creating their own public art projects.

Do you need to do be an expert at the mural arts or drawing to join the organization?

You definitely do not need to be an expert or have any experience with art to become a member. We pride ourselves on being an extremely diverse team.

What kind of events do you guys hold on campus and how can people get involved?

We hosted our inaugural Mural Day and Contemporary Mural Arts Festival at Mason in April and October of 2018. The theme of these events was WALLS. Mural Day was a smaller event that celebrated a finished mural by then-student, Reed Griffith, and professional artist MARICAMA. Reed’s mural can be found at the MIX, and MARICAMA’s mural is installed on the side stairwell of the Art and Design Building. The larger festival that we held in October celebrated the addition of a third mural by Imani Shanklin Roberts that was installed on the windows of Skyline.

This semester we will be hosting a Decades Dance Party. The Decades Dance Party will be our way to get our name out on campus and a celebration of the final mural in the WALLS project.

We will be hosting our second Contemporary Mural Arts Festival in 2020 with the theme of Water/Fire. This festival will showcase professional and student artists who create environmental public art. The art may be focused on expanding awareness about environmental issues, creating sustainable infrastructure or focus on certain areas of the world that are especially impacted or at risk for natural disasters as a result of climate change.

We also paint smaller indoor murals on and off campus, so we host Paint Parties to complete these murals as a team. These Paint Parties are open to the Mason public and will be publicized in advance on our social media

For anyone interested in getting involved with the Mural Brigade, please attend one of our General Body Meetings on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. in Provisions Library room L001 of the Art and Design Building.

We also are active on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @muralsatmason. Check out our website at www.gmu.edu/org/muralbrigade too!

What is the best thing about joining the Mural Brigade?

Being a member of the Mural Brigade is beneficial in many ways. We give our members opportunities to expand their professional and social networks, as well as offer experience and skills that can be added to their resume. Members get experience in grant writing, event planning, marketing, painting and art installation, collaborating with a team and outside entities and fundraising.

How do you hope to see your organization grow this semester?

We hope to see the Mural Brigade grow into a larger team of brigadiers. We also hope to expand our reach beyond campus and grow our reputation with non-Mason organizations and entities. Not only do we want to make Mason’s Fairfax campus more beautiful with public art, but we also want to make the surrounding Fairfax community more beautiful and aware of the power of art to create social change and build consciousness.