Faces of Mason


Photo Courtesy of Kristina M. Olson

Photo Courtesy of Kristina M. Olson

Dr. Kristina M. Olson, Associate Professor of Italian, Department of Modern and Classical Languages, College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Compiled by Student Media

What motivates you to get up in the morning?

        The joy of being a college professor is that every day I learn something new or create a new way of thinking, either in my teaching or my writing. Teaching, for me, is a lifelong conversation about things that matter, a conversation where I get to witness students discover a new idea or theoretical framework, and where I get to consider something in a new light – through my students’ eyes. The creation of knowledge and the craft of thoughts in writing or in conversations with others: this is the daily work that few other professions give you the chance to do.

Have you ever traveled to another country? Tell us about it.

        I’m a professor of Italian here, so yes, I’ve lived, worked and traveled through Italy various times, beginning when I was fourteen years old. Experiencing the variety of cultures throughout that country and others and measuring those experiences against my life in the United States gave me a critical perspective on my sense of self and society that I would not have gotten otherwise. I certainly would not be what I am today without those experiences abroad.

What do you enjoy most about George Mason University?

        I’ve taught at George Mason since 2005. What I enjoy most about being here is my students: either the community of students we have in Italian Studies or the ones I get to meet in the general education classroom. Mason students are inquisitive, dynamic and engaged, and that makes it a pleasure to be their teacher, and especially their advisor, as they make decisions about how to apply their undergraduate studies to the years after college.

Photo by Nicolas Macotto

Photo by Nicolas Macotto

Student: Woon Gi

Compiled by Ahmed Farid

What Organizations are you involved in on Campus?

I am currently growing spiritually in a welcoming Christian-based community called Mason Intervarsity. In addition, I also volunteer at the WGMU Radio station as well. I am also trying to become more involved in programming projects that are held within Mason SRCT.

What made you want to get involved on campus?

As a commuter student, I understood that joining clubs will allow me to become more involved with campus life. The university includes many clubs and non-profit organizations for the students to get involved in. I also find the high-spirited nature of the students on campus to be quite invigorating.

Why did you choose to become a Mason Ambassador?

I found my summer orientation experience to be truly memorable, and I would like to provide the same welcoming and positive environment for other incoming students. The transition from high school to college can be quite intimidating and challenging, but providing proper assistance and guidance to the new students can come a long way.

As a Mason Ambassador what do you tell future students to get them excited about Mason?

I would tell them that school has many undergraduate programs that will be able to fit the academic need of each student. In addition, the reputation of the school in the Northern Virginia will allow students to become involved in many internship and employment opportunities in the Washington Metropolitan area. The school also provides plenty of extracurricular activities/ school events that students can get involved in.

Photo by Basma Humadi

Photo by Basma Humadi

Organization: Dialogue and Difference

Patricia Maulden, Director

Compiled by Basma Humadi

How did dialogue and difference first start?

Dialogue and difference was put together, probably starting in 2006 at the behest and provost of Peter Stearns. It started out as an assessment of what was going on in campus and that there was a desire for there to be a program that could bring different perspectives on different issues and have a platform for which to discuss differences. I joined the faculty in 2008 and began with one dialogue a semester.

The three dialogues that we have this semester are #MeToo, Corruption, and Perceptions of Truth. Every semester we begin thinking about what the three will be and begin working through that. The idea is it’s not about convincing anyone to change their minds. It is about broadening people’s understanding of the way something can be thought of from different perspectives and different experiential basis.

Generally, we have some panelists who bring different perspectives on the general topic of the night and they speak about ten minutes and we have questions and answers from the floor. Then we begin the facilitated table discussion.

From your perspective, how have you noticed audience responses to these forums? What has been the feedback you’ve gotten from them over the years?

There’s some that come that really don’t like it. They just want to debate and it’s not really a debate forum – that would be a different type of event. Or they feel that maybe the panelists didn’t represent them as much as they would like. It’s really hard to be totally representational.

If my interns and I are putting on a dialogue we will invite a broad swath of people. But if the framing of the event is such that part of that audience feels they will be a minority they will not want to come – and I wish they would because we need to hear those sources. But they might not be comfortable – so there’s that. That’s an ongoing thing and it has been since the beginning but that’s the way that goes.

What would you say you learned from being a part of Dialogue and Difference that you didn’t already know?

I knew people were complex but that was a sort of theoretical frame of mind in some ways. We’ve dealt with a lot of topics – and people are hurting, people are being harmed, people are suffering. The depth of feeling and concern for those things that students [and presenters] have has been very very impressive through the years. For me, I find that very hopeful that there are people doing really solid work for equity, for improvement of policy, for expanding rights. And being concerned for those who are on the sharp end of some of those things and feeling the pain of not having access, or limited access, or not being respected, or their dignity has been removed and how they’re struggling with that to hold onto what’s left of their dignity. I find that to be so human and so hopeful. I see that in small ways in the dialogues. As long as we can engage with each other and listen and try to figure out and grapple – there’s hope.