Jack Wood Award Recipients for 2021
Nominated by Keith Renshaw, Department Chair/Professor, Psychology, the faculty recipient, Dr. Robyn Mehlenbeck, Director for George Mason University’s Center for Psychological Services, is being recognized for her numerous partnerships with community organizations to facilitate mental health. Partnerships include Inova Healthcare System, Pediatric Services of Virginia, Virginia Department of Veterans Services, and Fairfax County Public Schools. Most recently, she also launched a COVID-19 support line for essential workers, allowing any essential worker in Virginia to access FREE support care and, if needed, more in-depth mental health care. Through all of these partnerships, organizations and community members receive top-notch, evidence-based mental health care, and Mason students receive training in delivering mental health care under the supervision of licensed providers on faculty. This includes Mason undergraduate students (in limited capacity as legally permitted), and graduate students in Mason’s Counseling program (CEHD), clinical psychology program (CHSS), and social work program (CHHS).
Jazz4Justice raises public awareness and funds through their concerts for Legal Aid and music scholarships by forming collaborative partnerships between Mason Jazz and the legal community. Jazz4Justice is the brainchild of local attorney Edward L. Weiner, conceived in 2000 while he attended a Jazz recital by the George Mason University School of Music. As a Past President of the Fairfax Law Foundation, he saw an opportunity for these two organizations to work together on a mutually beneficial project that would also strengthen connections with the local community. Eighty-six percent (86%) of low-income Americans who have civil legal problems receive inadequate or no legal help. Seventy-one percent (71%) of low-income households experienced at least one civil or legal problem in the last year. (Source: 2017 Justice Gap Report). This discrepancy between legal representation for civil cases and the need for legal services for low-income individuals is known as the “Justice Gap.” Professor Jim Carroll, Founder of Jazz Studies at Mason, partnered with Attorney Weiner, and the first Jazz4Justice concert was held in 2002. Jazz4Justice will be presenting the 20th anniversary concert in the Center for the Arts on November 20 this year. To learn more about Jazz4Justice, visit https://www.jazz4justice.com/.
Government Category (Office/Agency, Elected Official/Staff):
Nominated by Paul Liberty, Vice President for Government and Community Relations, the Government
Category includes co-recipients from the Virginia General Assembly, Senator George Barker and Delegate David Bulova. Senator Barker and Delegate Bulova introduced critical new legislation to give George Mason University greater autonomy, similar to the governing flexibility that has been granted to other top research universities in Virginia. Senator Barker and Delegate Bulova successfully won Tier 3 status for Mason with unanimous support from the General Assembly.
The work these two civic-minded leaders performed will not just benefit the university, but they have built and strengthened the bridge between Mason and the communities it serves for many years to come.
Partnership Category (an initiative created between a Mason entity and an external organization(s) to benefit both entities):
This year we recognize the partnership initiative, Connecting Fairfax City for All, between the City of Fairfax and George Mason University’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution.
The City of Fairfax recognized the need for a broader community conversation around the issues of racial and social equity, systemic racism, symbolism, and identity. Evolving views about who and what should be memorialized in public spaces and on public land presented an opportunity for the City of Fairfax to examine its nomenclature.
By partnering with the Carter School, city residents are participating in thought-provoking conversations that connect current realities with the city’s historical past. Confederate-related street and place names, historical markers and monuments, and elements in the city seal will be discussed in the context of how these symbols reflect the City Council’s goals of inclusivity and building community. The City Council will consider the recommendations in 2021 before making decisions regarding the city’s nomenclature.
Carter School graduate students from the fall 2020 and spring 2021 classes have been involved in the project through supervised and mentored opportunities to build their own skills and marketable experience. This partnership benefits city residents and Mason Carter School students, and has them working side by side on these important issues.
Innovation Award (recognizes a short-term town-gown program that is created to meet a timely need):
Only the second time this category has been awarded, George Mason University recognizes EduTutorVA. The massive education disruption, caused as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, has widened the already alarming gaps for K-12 underserved students. EduTutorVA was created to provide free individual or small-group tutoring by trained college students and alumni, including those from Mason and Northern Virginia Community College. The students receive targeted support in core academic areas, and the tutors receive a positive introduction to the teaching profession. To learn more about EduTutorVA, visit https://www.edututorva.org/.
Congratulations to all our award recipients. We greatly appreciate your leadership in strengthening the relationships between the university and the communities we serve.