Building Bridges Through Volunteer Leadership

Advisory board members and trustees from a variety of schools and colleges at Mason gathered at the Hyatt Fair Lakes last Friday, May 20, for the annual Volunteer Leadership Summit, enjoying a luncheon followed by several presentations and a Q&A session with President Ángel Cabrera. More than 19 volunteer boards were represented at this year's summit. Between fascinating engineering challenges, ways for Mason leaders to involve new Patriots in their companies, and an intriguing breakdown of the current presidential election, this year’s Volunteer Leadership Summit helped to create and strengthen connections across the university.

Keynote speakers hailed from Mason Career Services; the Volgenau School of Engineering; and the Schar School of Policy and Government.

Career Services’ Saskia Clay–Rooks, who spoke first, offered a detailed presentation on the many ways for our volunteer boards, their members, and corporate affiliations to help Mason students build bridges into the wider community as alumni. Her talk focused on the Take a Patriot to Work Day program, which provides students with a one-day externship shadowing opportunity that also allows businesses to identify talent and build a pipeline for future employment needs.

Dr. Liza Wilson Durant, chair of the Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering at the Volgenau School of Engineering, offered an exciting presentation on the significant bridges being built between local industry and the Volgenau School. These partnerships enable Mason students to forge relationships and benefit from opportunities that they might not get otherwise. Sometimes it's the opportunity to build a concrete canoe—Mason students created their fastest one as recently as April 2015—and sometimes actual bridges are the result. Just this past year, according to Professor Durant, Mason's civil engineering students advanced to the Steel Bridge Competition finals in Utah. Neither feat would have been possible without existing as well as evolving partnerships with local industry.

Dr. Bill Schneider, professor at the Schar School and current visiting professor at UCLA, has covered every presidential election since 1976; he is the recipient of both Peabody and Emmy awards and was the Omer L and Nancy Hirst Professor of Public Policy at George Mason from 2009-2012.  Dr. Schneider reflected on bridges of another sort. As the nation paves the way towards a new era in politics with the upcoming election, he observed, there are many questions and debates regarding the leading candidates.  At the summit, Dr. Schneider provided an in-depth analysis of the current presidential election and how it compares to previous elections the country has had, as well as the leading candidates, their affiliations, and his predictions for voters. His presentation sparked an excited and involved discussion among the attendees of this year’s summit.

The event concluded with an informational Q&A with President Cabrera, who shared reflections about his vision for the university with an enthusiastic spirit and obvious love for Mason. The questions ranged from sports to medicine and sparked a lively conversation. Attendees left the day armed with new perspective, and new information, on how to forge connections that will help Mason students and faculty thrive.

May 25, 2016 / CM