Jack Wood Award Recipients for 2018
President Ángel Cabrera (far left) and John Wood (second from the right) present the John C. “Jack” Wood Award for Town Gown relations to Eric Forbes (second from the left), Zeponic Farms, the Media Literacy and Civil Dialogue Skills Workshops partnership between the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution and Fairfax County Public Libraries, Niyati Dhokai and Toni-Michelle Travis
Government Category (Office/Agency, Elected Official/Staff):
Eric Forbes, Solid Waste Management Division, Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, is the I-95 Complex Manager and a graduate of George Mason University. His idea and leadership to transform four acres of the I-95 Landfill Complex into green meadows with grasses, wildflowers, and bees, led to a mutually beneficial relationship between Mason’s Honey Bee Initiative, Fairfax County, and Covanta to rehabilitate the Covanta I-95 Landfill. In April 2017, the hives, each with 15,000 bees, were established to transform a turfed-over, closed landfill into an educational site open to students and school groups. Due to the project’s success, they are doubling the number of hives at the landfill and plan to expand the scope of the project to include research at the landfill around pollutants and contaminants found in pollen.
Zeponic Farms is an urban farming company that grows produce in a compact hydroponic shipping-container farm in Woodbridge, VA. Zeponic Farms began a program with Mason LIFE, a post-secondary program for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, where adults from the Mason LIFE program visit twice a week to help run the farm. The farm’s output is then purchased by Sodexo and used in Mason’s dining facilities as part of the thrust for healthy student meals sourced locally.
Community Member Category:
Jim Green has served George Mason University for over 25 years and is currently the Chair of the University Life Advisory Board. During his tenure as Chair membership has grown by 50%, adding several corporate and community leaders to the Board. He is always connecting board and community members with Mason programs to match their interests. Mr. Green also co-chairs Mason’s Diversity Scholarship Golf Classic, resulting in $600,000 for Mason’s Early Identification Program (EIP) and Student Transition and Empowerment Program (STEP). In addition, during the recent session, Mr. Green advocated with members of the General Assembly to support a budget line item to assist Mason’s EIP and STEP programs.
Partnership Category (an initiative created between a Mason entity and an external organization(s) to benefit both entities):
Media Literacy and Civil Dialogue Skills Workshops is a partnership between Mason’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) and Fairfax County Public Libraries. The two entities teamed up to develop a set of five public workshops that help community members develop media literacy skills, as well as learn and practice how to engage in civil conversations around difficult topics. The workshop series features a revolving set of skills for each literacy topic – web searches, evaluations sources, fact checking, social media feeds, and international news, followed by a dialogue skill – effective listening, collaborative communication, effective speaking, dealing with emotions, and cross-cultural communication. The monthly sessions currently rotate through the Fairfax County regional libraries but will be expanded this year to the community branches of the libraries as well. The partnership with the libraries has provided S-CAR access to work more directly with the local community to build conflict resolution and dialogue skills while providing the libraries with an innovative addition to library programming.
Dr. Niyati Dhokai created and expanded the Hylton Performing Arts’ Veterans and the Arts Initiative. This program serves as an arts and community hub for Veterans, Service Members, their families, and military caregivers, to provide community engagement opportunities with local arts organizations while supporting Veterans as they transition to civilian communities. The Initiative also has a research component on how the arts support Veterans and their families. The program has brought the community together at the Hylton Performing Arts Center to engage with the arts through performances, workshops, lessons, exhibitions, and special events.
Legacy Category (The Legacy award recognizes leadership achievement in town-gown relations over a period of time longer than five years):
Dr. Toni-Michelle C. Travis has been a Mason faculty member for three decades. During this time she has been one of the more externally engaged faculty serving in community organizations, speaking to local community groups via direct contacts as well as through the Mason Speakers program, representing Mason in the media, serving as a member of the Metropolitan Relations Advisory Board, serving as a member of the External Academic Relations Committee of the Faculty Senate, hosting and producing the Capitol Region Roundtable television public affairs program, serving as a member of the Cosmos Club, a private social club for men and women distinguished in science, literature, the arts, or public service, and many other activities. Her external outreach on behalf of Mason is extensive and she is truly deserving of this recognition for her many years of dedicated service and leadership in town-gown relations.
Congratulations to all our award recipients. We greatly appreciate your leadership in strengthening the relationships between the university and the communities we serve.