Jack Wood Award Recipients for 2019
President Ángel Cabrera and John Wood present the John C. “Jack” Wood Award for Town Gown relations to an outstanding group of leaders building the relationship between the university and the community. Back row, left to right: Legacy Award recipient R. Christian Jones; Government category recipient Councilman Jon Stehle; Partnership category recipient representing the Focus Program, Padmanabhan Seshaiyer; Presenter John Wood; and Student category recipient Tim O’Shea. Front row, left to right: President Angel Cabrera; Partnership category recipient representing the Focus Program, Kelly Knight; Business/Non-Profit category recipient representing The Dream Project, Lizzette Arias; Partnership category recipient representing the Focus Program, Danielle Craddock; and Faculty category recipient Lauren Cattaneo.
Tim O’Shea, Executive Secretary for Government and Community Relations, Student Government, has spent his time at Mason helping his peers become more engaged citizens in their community and state. In his role for Student Government, Tim designed and directed the creation of an online guidebook for civic engagement for students. He led members of Student Government to make legislative appointments, created briefing books on legislators, and trained students in Government Relations 101 as a part of Mason Lobbies, which brings a group of students to Richmond to advocate for the university’s legislative priorities. The Mason students were recognized in the House and Senate, and met the Governor for a photo opportunity.
Dr. Lauren Cattaneo, Associate Professor of Psychology, functions as a bridge between Mason and organizations working to solve social problems. Her greatest impact in building town-gown relations is through a community-based learning course she developed called Community Engagement for Social Change, which has been offered every semester since 2012. In the course students learn about the social issue of poverty, and volunteer for 20 hours with a community partner who serves clients in poverty through collaborations Dr. Cattaneo has developed. Dr. Cattaneo and her students typically work with five to eight community partners per semester. Organizations count on the steady stream of volunteers, and student get hands-on experience and learning opportunities. The professional networks Dr. Cattaneo has created have also been extended to other faculty who are interested in creating opportunities for students in the community, building our town-gown relations.
Government Category (Office/Agency, Elected Official/Staff):
Jon Stehle, Councilman, City of Fairfax, has been an incredible leader within the Fairfax community, while keeping the interests of and partnership opportunities with Mason students in mind. He has frequently reached out to Student Government, attended Student Senate meetings, and supported and participated in Town-Gown initiatives like Mason Rock the Block. Councilman Stehle has established personal relationships with many members of Student Government and makes it a priority to include students in relevant city business, including the comprehensive planning process. Through his inclusivity and transparency, student involvement and attendance to City Council meetings and Mason/Community Forums has increased, and information from those meetings has been incorporated within Student Senate reports.
The Dream Project is an organization founded to assist low-income immigrant students whose immigration status creates barriers to a college education. The organization has partnered with Mason leaders and students to achieve its mission and serve this marginalized group of young adults at Mason. The Dream Project provides college scholarships, and last year 22 of the 95 Dream Project Scholars where Mason students. In addition, the organization works closely with Mason’s student organization, Mason Dreamers, and has facilitated connecting Mason student researchers to scholars for research projects regarding this unique group of Dreamers. The Dream Project has also provided a leadership role and visibility to Mason’s President, Dr. Cabrera, who has been a keynote speaker at Dream Project events and currently serves as an Advisory Board Member.
Partnership Category (an initiative created between a Mason entity and an external organization(s) to benefit both entities):
The FOCUS program, a partnership between Mason’s College of Science and the non-profit GIRL, Inc., exposes middle school females in Northern Virginia to a variety of disciplines within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), at an age where studies have shown the interest in STEM begins to significantly decline, and provides them a week-long educational experience. The first four days are centered around a different letter of STEM, and on day five the participants have an opportunity to collaborate and present one of the topics from the week in a poster session with invited faculty, students and family. There is also a “Leadership and Entrepreneurship” component which gives the students an opportunity to meet successful women working in STEM fields.
Congratulations to all our award recipients. We greatly appreciate your leadership in strengthening the relationships between the university and the communities we serve.