George Mason Panelists Make Sense of Senseless Tragedy

By Daniel Shyti

Two months later, the nation is still reeling.

The death of Trayvon Martin, an African-American Florida teenager, has sparked nationwide concern over the lingering traces of racism in American society.  Last Wednesday, GMU held a panel discussion to examine this subject.

Hosted by Dr. Joseph Williams of the Counseling and Development Program, the event featured six panelists from GMU providing various points of view.  Many of the panelists are currently professors or assistant professors and hold doctorates in fields such as psychology, sociology, and communication.  As Williams said, it is important for the GMU community to gain a “stronger understanding of the larger implications of the death Trayvon Martin.”

Florida state law includes a “stand your ground” provision, which states that the use of lethal force can be justified if an individual feels threatened.  But as Dr. George McMahon, another Assistant Professor in the Counseling and Development Program asked, “What society do we want to live in?  Do we want to live in a society where your ungrounded fear absolves you from guilt?”  In this case, the panel agreed that shooter George Zimmerman’s fear was ungrounded, because the only thing remotely threatening about Martin’s presence was the fact that he was a young black male wearing a hooded sweatshirt.

GMU doctoral student and Fairfax County Public School psychologist Reston Bell weighed in on this matter, describing the way African-American youths are pressured into believing that it is their own fault if another individual finds them intimidating.

“We’re pushing our young men into boxes,” she said.  “We’re asking them to contort themselves to appear less threatening.  How detrimental is it to teach someone that they have to feel small to live?”

The full scope of Martin’s death encompasses a number of issues in American society, and GMU is doing its part by encouraging this hot-button dialogue.  It was impossible not to come away from the discussion without a heightened sense of social awareness, which is a step in the right direction to create the social change necessary to put an end to racial injustice.

Cultures of Resistance: The Human Spirit Lives On

By Daniel A. Shyti

In the same place where companies like Microsoft and Nokia reap their mineral wealth, you will find the same Uranium used for the atomic bombs dropped in World War II.  You will find that pessimism runs deep where a million members of an ethnic group are systematically hunted and killed.  But where life is never guaranteed, people make art to survive.

“Cultures of Resistance,” is an independent film focusing on members of victimized populations around the globe.  Brought to GMU’s Johnson Center Cinema courtesy of the Middle East Studies Program, “Cultures of Resistance,” (directed by Iara Lee)  contains footage compiled since 2003 on five continents.

The documentary offered a rare opportunity to attach a face and a name with people living in tragedy – from genocide in Rwanda to industrial exploitation in the Congo.  More specifically, there was a focus on the valiance of the human spirit manifested in the form of artistic expression, which somehow manages to thrive in even the most devastated regions of the world.  The film stresses the powerful role art can play in galvanizing a revolution.

Though non-violent protest is not a new concept, it is rare to have such an unobstructed view into the lives of the peaceful protestors as offered in “Cultures of Resistance.”  The film truly accomplishes its goal of removing the viewer from their own, narrow, cultural scope by launching them straight into the everyday chaos of afflicted societies.

There is usually minimal background information provided about the nation under scrutiny and the plethora of cultures are blurred together with little transition.  Rather than obscure the message of the documentary, however, this actually enhances it.  You are forced to see these people not as citizens of a foreign land, but as human beings with whom you can relate to on an emotional level.  You feel bombarded by images of mutilated ex-child soldiers and landmine victims, and yet you also see people making poetry, music and graffiti to cope with and overcome adversity.

“Cultures of Resistance” has an altruistic message that encourages cultivation of the mind and soul in spite of in spite of conflict in the political sphere.  Most of us have seen the recent explosion of the KONY 2012 campaign, which is now entangled in controversy, but “Cultures of Resistance” offers something that cannot be ignored – a sense of value for human life.


Mason’s Peep-tastic Contest

By Rachel Newdorf

Peeps aren’t just Easter candy. Every Spring in the D.C. Metro area they get transformed into art.

For the past six years, The Washington Post has held a contest using the beloved marshmallow Easter candy. Popular culture, historical events and local phenomena are transformed into creative dioramas featuring the sugary and marshmallow-y treat in the most creative ways.

But The Washington Post isn’t the only one with Peep fever. The Honor’s College at George Mason University has held its own annual Peep Diorama Contest for the past two years.

“I thought it was the coolest thing in the world,” says David Anderson, the Living and Learning Community Coordinator in the Honor’s College at GMU, who  loved the Post’s annual contest and decided back in 2011 to bring the contest here to Mason.

This year’s contest asked the students to create a diorama including their favorite scene from a movie, television show, book or historical event. Characters had to be made out of Peeps, but students could manipulate them in any way needed to make their diorama as close to the real thing as possible.

Unlike the Post’s contest, Peeps were given to students who signed up for the contest.

“We wanted to provide the peeps for those students who didn’t have the transportation to go out and get them themselves,” says Anderson, 30.

But, they didn’t have to spend much of their candy budget —  last year, there was only one entry, “Kill Peep.”

This year, there were three entries: “Tarzan of the Ape-eeps” by Mary Wells, “Peep Trek,” by Natalie Losik, and “The Peeps of Being a Wallflower,” by Caroline Kim.

Kim, a 20-year-old junior majoring in both History and English found out about the contest through the Honor’s program weekly e-mails to students.

She decided to re-create the most popular scene from her favorite movie “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” when the three best friends, Charlie, Sam and Patrick are driving under the Fort Pitt Tunnel after homecoming and Sam’s dress is inflated by the wind.

It took her a couple of days to craft the peeps, clay, poster paper, acrylic and construction paper into her diorama.

“The Honor’s College thought Sam and her dress were a potato sack,” says Kim, from Annandale. “I enjoyed it and would do it again.”

Natalie Losik, 22, from Hampton, Va., didn’t have time to enter the contest last year, but with this year’s deadline, March 30, being so close to spring break, it gave her an opportunity to work on her diorama “Peep Trek.”

Working on it a bit everyday during the break, Losik made a shoebox look like the bridge of the Star Trek Enterprise. She used foam core, toothpicks and wooden skewers to hold the Peeps up.

Using the original “Star Trek” television series as her inspiration, the senior majoring in Global Affairs,  got her idea after polling her family and friends over Facebook.

Mary Wells, a freshman from Stafford, Va., used real plants and rocks, Peeps, paint and an old t-shirt for the Peep’s clothing — and created her Tarzan diorama in only two days.

“After getting the Disney song from the Tarzan movie stuck in my head, I thought it would be fun to create it with peeps,” says Wells, 18, an English and Theater double major. She plans to enter next year, too.

To see the dioramas in person, go to Enterprise Room 302.

Peep Trek

Wallflower Peep

tarzan peeps

Mason Duckies

By Rachel Newdorf

These ducks don’t live in a pond or go quack. Most aren’t even yellow.

Mason Dining Duckies, the collectable duckies that are offered through Sodexo, Mason’s food provider, are given away at Mason dining facilities like South Side or the new Subway when you purchase any food item. Since they started to be given out, over 2,000 are given away every semester.

What makes them so special? They are coveted collectors items that are given away only at certain times, like holidays and at Mason events. To know when and where to get them, Mason Dining announces when and where the duckies will be given away on their Facebook page ranging from days to hours before they become available.

It all started two and a half years ago when Sodexo’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Denise Ammaccappane was looking for something that students could collect and get involved in.

A random Internet search led her to the inexpensive rubber ducks from a website called that came in all different shapes, themes and sizes. Loving the idea, she went around to her colleagues, who thought she was crazy. But students she spoke to loved the idea, so she decided to start offering duckies at different dining establishments around campus.

“The series became really popular,”said Ammaccappane, 55. “When we held our Duckie Contest, people would send in such creative ideas that they inspired us to keep the program going.”

Creating rubber duckies in all characters, some being holiday themed with others just being fun and goofy- like an alien or the popular robot duckie, Mason Dining found their way into being more a part of the Mason community as a whole.

Amiee Acreneaux, a sophomore Foresnic Science major from Manassas, Va., loves collecting Mason Dining Duckies. So far, she has 20 different ducks.

“The detail and the different kinds grab me,” Acreneaux, 19 said. “I think that they’re cute and fun.”

Having been on a hiatus this semester, Sodexo hopes to bring more Dining Duckies back later this spring and next fall.

“We wanted to make someone’s day just because,” Daliana Gandarillas explains. Gandarillas, 25, who works at Sodexo on campus and lives in Springfield.

To see when and where a new duckie will debut, check out Mason Dining on their Facebook page at

Lucky Ducks
Monster Ducks

Third Times the Charm for GBAY


The Patriot Duckie was just one giveaway that was given to those who bought tickets to GBAY


By Rachel Newdorf

There are some things you can’t buy on eBay — like better parking spots, or the chance to create and name your own food on campus. But, you can buy it at GBay.

The third-annual student benefit auction was held Thursday March 1 at the Johnson Center. Tickets were $5 in advance and $7 at the door — and raised more than $5,600 for the Mason Scholarship fund.

The sold items like a signed Sergei Federov hockey stick and an autographed Torrey Smith football — and experiences like lunch with Coach Paul Hewitt.

In three years, the event has raised almost $25,000 in scholarship money.

“Maybe in the future we can set up a GBAY scholarship,” says one of the event organizers, Mark Mansdoerfer, a 20-year-old Business Management and Accounting major from Lunberton, N.J.






Taking the Mic on Their Own Volition

By Daniel A. Shyti

Before Monday, March 5, I didn’t know very much about Volition, GMU’s art and literary magazine.  To be completely honest, I didn’t even know we had one.  But with events like last Monday’s open-mic night, the magazine staffers are hoping to change that.

“We’re trying to revamp our image,” said Hannah Wing, 21, a junior biology major and co-editor in chief of the Magazine.  “Really, we want to let people know who we are, considering we don’t even have much of an image to begin with.”

Volition tried hosting an open-mic night last year, but only four people attended and they were all on the magazine staff.  This year’s event, however, brought in approximately 50 people to hear original music, prose, and poetry.

After last year’s failure, the staff worked really hard to draw a crowd. Co-editor-in-chief Katherine Morgenegg says that in addition to promoting it on their blog and Facebook page — they made flyers, did commercials on GMU’s radio station and the school’s cable network — and they put an ad in the Broadside.

A variety of acts shared the Johnson Center Bistro stage, from bedroom poets and guitar pluckers to rehearsed musical acts like Scary Mercedes. Now, the magazine is already planning another event.

“We’ve really wanted to do a slam poetry competition,” said Katherine, 20, a junior majoring in Russian Language and Creative Writing. “We kind of gave the idea a test drive with the open-mic night.  We’ll definitely have more events like this in the future.”

Volition is planning to print their 13th volume this Spring.  If you would like to contribute to the magazine, submit your original work to by April 4.  Submission details can be found at

Art Olympians take the Challenge!

SoA Olympics

By Rachel Newdorf

Millions around the world will be watching the summer Olympics in London this year.


Can’t afford a ticket across the pond? Mason is offering their own Olympics this Spring.


On April 5, the first ever School of Art Olympics will take place in the Art and Design building. With events involving art and art programs here at school, students and faculty will take part in a variety of different competitions including Pictonary and candy sculpting (just so you get the idea).


The Focus Group, the organization hosting the event, was started by a group of students passionate about photography.  Wanting to have a place where students can network, build their portfolio and share a common passion about photography, the Focus Group invites all who are interested to be a part of their organization.


“We are trying to build a sense of community at SoA,” says Stephanie Booth, the 30-year-old president of the Focus Group and master’s student from Alexandria.

Sean Salyards, the Group’s faculty advisor came up with the idea of the Olympics — he did something similar when he was in graduate school and wanted to try it out at Mason.

The goal, he says, is to improve “fellowship and community” among art students.

The Focus Group meets every Friday at 10:30 a.m. in the School of Art room L011 and is currently focused on organizing the event up until the April 5 launch date.

If you are interested in joining the event or helping out, visit the event’s Facebook page at

You can also RSVP to the event at

Just interested in the Focus Group? You can find their page here at


The Muppets Take Mason!

By Samita Mason

A giant, green balloon with Kermit the Frog’s face floats in the air as visitors approached the Johnson Center Cinema Friday night where the Weekends at Mason (WAM) department was sponsoring a free event for students, $2 for outside guests to watch the movie, “Muppets Takeover!”

Flyers, Kermit masks and muppet posters were just some of the muppets memorabilia that were displayed at the entrance of the cinema. There were also the it’s-not-easy-being-green cupcakes in the lobby.

“There is a caricaturist that will muppify you,” said Millod Shahsiah, 21, a junior studying Global Affairs from Virginia Beach, Va. who was working at the event.

Doors to the event opened at 7:30 p.m and in 15 minutes, Caitlyn Veisely, a 23-year-old graduate student majoring in Health Communication, had handed out 50 muppet tote bags.

“Who knows about your Muppets, people?” asked Shahsiah, beginning trivia for pre-show movie goers.  The first question, “What are the names of Hensen’s hecklers?” read by Shahsiah as it showed on the big screen. Hands quickly flew in the air. “Statler & Waldorf,” screamed out Ian Watts, 16, from Fairfax, Va., who was attending the event with his mother Susan Watts.

Ian won a Muppet keychain.

There is one event every weekend. Details for each weekend’s event can be found online at the WAM website. “Our job is to brainstorm on events that people would want to attend,” said Shahsiah, a WAM Program assistant. “I just want to make sure people get involved and have something fun to do. Everyone loves free things.”