Students in New Course to Create Sustainable Solutions in Fairfax

October 31, 2014

I am very pleased to announce a new course for Spring 2015, that will engage Mason students in the community in a whole new way: social enterprise.  Historically, solutions to community challenges have been the role of the non-profit and government sectors.  But what if we created solutions that were profit-generating, and integrated efforts across local government, nonprofits and the private sector to make them more transformative and sustainable over time?

native plant rescueNCLC 475: Social Innovation in Action, Section 007

In this section of NCLC 475: Social Innovation in Action, taught by myself (Wendy Wagner), students will work with the City of Fairfax Office of Sustainability and local groups around the city (such as high schools and community centers) to reduce waste through composting programs. As a course focused on social enterprise solutions, these projects will have the added goal of being profit-generating for the community organizations and schools who do them.

Mon/Wed 10:30am-1:10

Mondays we will meet in the classroom, with local experts as both guest speakers and consultants to the student teams.  Wednesdays, students will be on-site in the community, gathering research and first-hand experience in order to generate and test their innovative solutions.  This is an NCC Capstone Course, so students will engage in facilitated discussions assessing and reflecting on their own competence in the skills needed to be successful professionals and citizens.

Community Partner: City of Fairfax Environment & Sustainability

If Fairfax residents learned to compost, they would reduce their waste by 60% and save the city nearly one million dollars per year.  How can we accomplish this?  Students will: learn about the logistics of composting by establishing a program in Fairfax community; research successful composting programs in other cities across the country; and propose/test a sustainable plan to engage local schools, community centers and other community groups in regular composting.

For more information:


Posted by: Wendy Wagner,
Assistant Professor, New Century College
SAIL, Director of Community Engagement

Course supported by the Center for Social Entrepreneurship and Social Action and Integrative Learning in New Century College.

NPF Speaker: Cyber Fundraising and Cross Sector Partnerships

October 9, 2014

photoThe 2014 Nonprofit Fellows had yet another great speaker.  This week in Professor Twila Johnson’s NCLC 441: Principles of Fundraising class,  Kate Olsen, formerly of “Network for Good” shared her experiences and some excellent resources.  Topics included cyber fundraising, payment processing and driving traffic.  She now works with a communications consulting firm, and discussed partnerships, including those that cross the corporate and non-profit sector as the emerging “solution economy.”  


October 1, 2014

Hannah blog photot

Guest Blogger from Mason’s 2014 Nonprofit Fellows program:

On Saturday, September 20, 2014, actress and goodwill ambassador for U.N. Women, Emma Watson, appeared before the United Nations to discuss a new campaign called “HeforShe.”  The goal of this campaign is to involve men actively in the effort to end violence against women.   Proponents of the effort to reduce violence against women often acknowledge what women should do to prevent or avoid it, but men have as important a role to play in the effort. During her presentation, Watson asked her audience, “How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel [sic] welcome to participate in the conversation?  Men — I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation.  Gender equality is your issue, too.”

Many critics of Watson’s presentation assumed that she was ideologically feminist, and feminism is too often dismissed as being tantamount to “man-hating.”  This assumption is false.  The definition of the word actually means the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

When I attended the United States Coast Guard Academy, a predominantly male environment, I was subject to unfair, and even at times misogynistic, treatment, because I was among a tiny minority of females enrolled at the academy.  I did not receive the same opportunities as male cadets; the administration, professors, staff, and fellow male students talked down to me; I was harassed, yelled at, and disrespected, often because my male colleagues did not think that women should serve in the armed forces.  In part, for this reason, I left the academy.

Women cannot end violence against women alone.  Men must participate in the effort.  They must recognize that in ceasing to limit women, they will empower fellow citizens, and ultimately their country.

Blogger:  Hannah is a senior at George Mason University with drive and blonde ambition.

The People’s Climate March: Hypocrisy Accusations

September 25, 2014




I have been fascinated by an on-going social media discussion related to the piles of litter left by the 400,000 people who attended the People’s Climate March in New York last Sunday.


 Several photos available from a local NYC paper here.





A brief summary of what I’ve seen posted on a variety of social media outlets:

  • The sheer amount of litter on the streets is an embarrassment, and a symbol of the hypocrisy of these environmental activists.
  • There were no garbage cans on the route, a safety measure, and 400,000 people in addition to the usual New Yorkers on the street.
  • Photos of the garbage clearly contain products from the kinds of multi-national corporations the march was protesting against.
  • This event was a huge success, the litter is not the point.
  • Marches like this do not accomplish anything.
  • Marches like this are a crucial aspect of a participative democracy

I’d be interested to hear from Mason students who have participated in marches, and from those who intentionally do not.  What do marches accomplish?  If their point is largely to be symbolic of the people’s will, what other symbols do their organizers need to attend to?  Is it possible for the organizers of an event like this to control the messages and symbols that emerge? What is your responsibility as a participant?


Mason Service Corps Class: Community Partner Panel

March 31, 2014

For those of you who haven’t heard of it already, Mason Service Corps is a neat program we run here at the CLCE office. It’s a really great way to satisfy some experiential learning credits while also having a say in how you spend it. Here’s how it works: you pick what community organization you want to volunteer for over the semester (or we help you find one), complete 45 hours for one EL credit or 90 hours for two EL credits, and take NCLC 294 that meets once a week for an hour and a half!

Our MSC class this semester is partnering up with some really incredible community organizations, and we had the privilege of hosting them this past class in a discussion panel. We had two guests, Paula Gaudino from the Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute, and Kerry Tousignant from Bethany House of Northern Virginia.

Paula Gaudino and Kerry Tousignant

Paula Gaudino and Kerry Tousignant

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Active Citizens Conference at William and Mary

March 20, 2014

The Active Citizens Conference was a wonderful learning experience where I was encouraged to think critically about service and help diagnose some of the most pressing issue surrounding service and the community.  The theme of the conference was Educating, Uniting & Inspiring Active Citizens and I have to say they accomplished all of those goals. I attended several workshops educating me on the pros and cons of service and emphasizing the thoughtfulness required to serve effectively. If you march into a project with good intentions but do not make sure you are spending resources wisely and research the effects of what is happening good intentions turn bad very quickly.

The keynote speaker Gemma Bulos inspired me to strive for my goals no matter what adversity I faced. Her story of traveling the world with a song and a goal to create a million voices choir inspired me. The idea behind her million voices choir was that one person is just a drop in the water, but it only takes one drop to make a ripple. Her song became about getting clean water to all the dry and desperate areas of the world.  Even though this wasn’t her intention she continued to serve the purpose. She realized she had a real passion for helping others and put herself there to meet the needs of others. I was awestruck by her determination. When I spoke to her after her presentation about it she told me what kept her going was finding hope even in defeat even in desperation.  It was very refreshing to see someone who thrived off of seeing others happy and that is why she served.

I think that while analyzing service it is easy to forget about the reason we do it. Service is for others. That is such a simple reminder but I feel it is so important to be said. Service is help to the needy. When we see the impact of our service we should be rejoicing! It is important to look at service critically and make sure it is done correctly, but let us not lose our passion and our drive that keeps us going in doing so. The reason we analyze service and make it the best it can possible be with the smallest of resource is for others. We as a service community are united to helping others. We are united to making sure we help others in a sustainable way they want to be helped.

I have much hope for the future of service and it’s ability to solve many of the issues of today and the future. It is safe to say I was educated, inspired, and am on my way to becoming an active citizen.

-Michael Galfetti

Feb. 20th, 2014

Left to Right: Kalia Harris, Macey Garner, Patrick Finney, Patricia Mathison, and Michael Galfetti

Left to Right: Kalia Harris, Macey Garner, Patrick Finney, Patricia Mathison, and Michael Galfetti following their conference presentation of The Rose that Grew from Concrete

Alternative Break in Jamaica

March 19, 2014

By James Green

ATTENTION STUDENTS! If you aren’t familiar with Alternative Break offered by the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement, I hope I can persuade you to become acquainted with it! My name is James Green and I am a freshman student at George Mason University. Throughout the beginning of the year I noticed a plethora of pamphlets around campus regarding study abroad trips to many exciting places, but never looked too deeply into them. I’ve always wanted to travel the world, but I brushed the idea of traveling abroad off because I feared the expenses.

Alternative Break trips offer the opportunity for international and domestic service at relatively low costs (compared to traditional study abroad trips), less duration of time from home (average of a week), as well as scholarship availability to help offset the costs! I researched more into the programs offered and found that they span from cultural emersion trips in Israel, to sustainability awareness trips in Florida. The trip I found fitting to my service interests was a trip to Jamaica focusing on elementary education.

After arriving in Jamaica, our group of twelve Mason students dove right into our educational mission. When we went to the school for the first time, I immediately took notice to how tarnished the buildings were. The school contained two small structures, totaling four classrooms, and around sixty students –only staffed by two teachers. We decided to find some ways to help around the school other than solely assisting with teaching. JimmyOur group decided that half of us could aid the teachers with their curriculum in the classroom, and the other half could stay outside to repaint the faded pink walls of the school. We also agreed that it’d be nice to switch the jobs of the groups halfway through the day, allowing everyone the opportunity to impact the students in the classroom. I enjoyed both painting and teaching because I knew that we were having a large impact on the school physically as well as with the students. Inside the classroom we read books, played games, and talked about our lives. The kids loved us, and we loved them!

Leaving them on the final day was the most difficult part. In a week’s time I had grown close to many of the students, and I didn’t want to go so soon. They all walked out of the class and into their vans to go home, hugging each of us at the door. It was a sad moment, but a moment that allowed me to feel as if I did truly have a positive impact on their lives –it felt great!

Our last two days were our “fun” days (even though the entire trip was a blast), where we were able to explore the area surrounding Treasure Beach. We went on a boat tour in the serene blue ocean where we were greeted by dolphins, we traveled through Black River –greeted by sunbathing crocodiles, and visited the most amazing set of waterfalls I’ve ever seen! The Jamaican people were kind and accepting, and taught us a lot about their culture! Last but not least, the food was spectacular! Jamaican food seems to be simple, but it tastes like you’re eating food from the finest of restaurants!

These priceless memories and experiences are not available to anyone and everyone, but as a George Mason student, they are accessible to you! I encourage everyone to look into the programs, as you will find life changing experiences in each and every alternative break trip offered! Your life is an adventure, you just have to choose how interesting you want that adventure to be!

Innovation Food Forest

February 19, 2014

When I mention the Innovation Food Forest, most people don’t know what I’m talking about. However once I say “All of those bushy green plants along the walkway beside Innovation Hall,” usually people know exactly what I mean.

Russian Comfrey in IFF, August 18th, 2013

I myself slowly became familiar with the Innovation Food Forest and the famous bushy green plants (which, by the way, are called Russian Comfrey). Finding out that it was actually a permaculture garden, naturally I jumped at the chance to volunteer as part of my service learning hours for Sustainable World (NCLC 210).

What is permaculture you might ask? It’s a method of gardening that strategically groups plants that will foster each other’s growth, whether it’s by attracting certain pollinators or enriching the soil with vital nutrients. In the concept of a food forest, a garden or “forest” will eventually be able to sustain itself with little to no care.

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Challenging? Yes. Worth it? Definitely.

February 18, 2014


by Annette Dipert

My semester as a nonprofit fellow was both the most difficult and most rewarding semester of my Mason career. The internship, courses, professors, and people all combined into what turned out to be a life-changing experience.

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In Being a Nonprofit Fellow

January 30, 2014


by Najeeba (Najee) Gootee

       Saying I learned a lot in my short semester as a nonprofit fellow would be an understatement. It was one of those experiences where I knew I was learning, obviously because it’s school, but it wasn’t until the very end that I reflected upon the last few months and was really aware of just how much I, and we, had accomplished. Being in a learning setting with just 15 students and 3 very hands-on professors makes for the most ideal learning environment I could ask for. I made spectacular friends along the way who were able to relate in every little assignment and reading we had. There was always someone to sit with, talk with, eat with, or study with and even better, to compare internship experiences with. We learned how to think and discuss as leaders, how to act in a nonprofit workplace, and how to create social innovation in our community. We even had some rockin’ field trips! This just barely scratches the surface about how amazing my semester was but I know I could not have had a better opportunity to solidify my decision to enter the nonprofit world than by doing this program.