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Access to Excellence Podcast
Hosted by George Mason University President Gregory Washington, who explores the grand challenges facing students and higher education.
4 days ago
Russia’s war in Ukraine tied too corruption, organized crime
Louise Shelley, a University Professor and director of Mason’s Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center explains to Mason President Gregory Washington the connections between the war in Ukraine and Russian corruption and organized crime, and how criminals and terrorists take advantage in diverse ways of the globalized world in which we live. Shelley’s center exposes that criminality and recently helped take 55 million counterfeit and sub-standard medical masks out of circulation worldwide with the takedown of more than 50,000 online marketplaces and social media posts.
Apr 19, 2022
Promoting a scientific worldview
Jim Trefil, a physicist and Robinson Professor at George Mason University, explains to Mason President Gregory Washington the importance of a scientific worldview. The author of more than 50 books and one of the developers of the modern theories about quarks as a fundamental component of the universe, Trefil is helping pioneer a new way of teaching science and says you don’t have to be in a lab to learn. ‘You live in a world full of science. Oh, and just FYI, Trefil says, ‘There is life even if you’ve been rejected by Playboy.’
Mar 15, 2022
On Ukraine, Russia, China, and a very messy world
Larry Pfeiffer, director of George Mason University’s Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security, explains to Mason President Gregory Washington about Vladimir Putin’s real agenda in Ukraine. He also details why the war in Ukraine matters to the United States, even though the U.S.’s long-term geopolitical, economic and technological challenge is from China. Pfeiffer also asks Americans to guard against autocracy at home, because, as he said, it doesn’t take much for a country’s values to be subverted and freedoms suppressed.
Feb 18, 2022
Charles Chavis: The truth will set you free
Charles Chavis, an assistant professor of conflict resolution and history at George Mason University, and director of African and African American studies at Mason, talks about his new book that explores the lynching of a young Black Man in Salisbury, Md., and how understanding his story and the Black experience in the United States can help find ways to fight anti-Black violence. Chavis also pushes for a National Truth and Reconciliation Program to give the country the chance to reset and “deal with the truth.”
Jan 12, 2022
Foods you can lose to climate change
Ted Dumas, an associate professor of psychology, is an experienced researcher who is ringing alarm bells about the damage from climate change. His book, “If Food Could Talk: Stories From 13 Precious Foods,” explains how foods such as coffee, chocolate, bananas and avocados could soon disappear for good. Dumas tells Mason President Gregory Washington how the book came about, how these foods can be saved – a pooping bear in Japan might provide a way to save cherries – and how the book was almost entitled “The Last Chocolate Kiss.”
Dec 8, 2021
Reimagining Santa Claus
Want to listen to a conversation with real holiday spirit? Thalia Goldstein, an associate professor of applied developmental psychology, tells George Mason University President Gregory Washington about how kids benefit socially and emotionally from finding out Santa Claus isn’t real. As for finding out herself as a child, Goldstein, whose research focuses on the effects of pretend play and theater on children’s social and emotional skills, says she’s still disappointed.
Nov 19, 2021
The real story of the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving
John G. Turner, a professor of religious studies at George Mason University talks with Mason President Gregory Washington about the real history of Thanksgiving. Were the Pilgrims religious refugees who established democracy and the holiday in New England, or invaders who betrayed their native allies and even enslaved them? Turner also gets to the bottom of the age-old Thanksgiving question: light meat or dark? A fascinating discussion with lots to digest.
Nov 10, 2021
Hakeem Oluseyi calls his education ”a matter of life and death”
Hakeem Oluseyi tells George Mason University President Gregory Washington how he went from a life of crime to being one of the world’s renowned astrophysicists. The Visiting Robinson Professor at Mason also describes what aliens might look like – think a two-foot tall Incredible Hulk – and tells a remarkable tale of how working as a hotel janitor, and eating room-service leftovers to survive, made him understand that his education was “a matter of life and death.”
Oct 13, 2021
How sustainability is good business
Lisa Gring-Pemble thinks business can be a force for good in society. And the co-director of George Mason University’s Business for a Better World Center and co-founder of the university’s Honey Bee initiative is an outspoken champion of that sensibility. Gring-Pemble tells Mason President Gregory Washington how and why business should address world challenges. She also describes how business can drive sustainability success and shouldn’t be measured simply by profits but how it affects the environment and the communities in which we live.
Aug 26, 2021
Talking immigration, DREAMers, the border wall ... and margaritas
For Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a nationally recognized expert on the dynamics of the U.S.-Mexico border and immigration, the border region is like a third country. The George Mason University professor talks to Mason President Gregory Washington about the wonders and dangers of the border region, and why we must be honest about the causes of illegal immigration while stopping politics from driving decision-making.
Jul 28, 2021
At the nexus of policing and society
For Cynthia Lum, a professor of criminology, law, and society at George Mason University, the realities of policing don’t always match what the public thinks of policing. That disconnect doesn’t allow a discussion about the most effective approaches to curbing use-of-force discrepancies. Lum, a former Baltimore City cop, tells Mason President Gregory Washington about how evidence-based policing is part of an overall strategy to fight crime that includes being respectful to the communities with which they work.
Jul 14, 2021
Spencer Crew: At the intersection of museums and social justice
George Mason University history professor Spencer Crew, the first African American to lead a major Smithsonian museum, tells Mason President Gregory Washington about the evolving role museums play in society, and how the Black community in the United States, and those who work with it, are trying to be the conscience of the nation.
Jun 26, 2021
Shane Caswell, co-director of George Mason University's Sports Medicine Assessment Research and Testing Laboratory tells Mason President Gregory Washington about his research that could change how concussions are diagnosed and treated, how Mason students are working in the community as athletic trainers, and what the latest science says about concussions and CTE.
Jun 8, 2021
COVID-19 mental health crisis is the second pandemic
COVID-19 presented individuals with many challenges. Some were obvious, such as how to continue one’s education through distance learning. But some were not as clear cut, such as dealing with anxiety, depression and grief. Robyn Mehlenbeck, director of George Mason University's Center for Psychological Services, talks about how college campuses can deal with those stresses, and why the mental health crises associated with COVID-19 is the second pandemic.
May 14, 2021
Gail Christopher: On racial healing and overcoming a legacy of separation
A false story has been told in this country about people of color, social change agent Gail Christopher says, and it’s time to tell the truth about the “bad idea” of the hierarchy of human value. Dr. Christopher, executive director of the National Collaborative for Health Equity and a senior scholar at George Mason University, tells Mason President Gregory Washington that racial healing includes building a belief system “that is grounded in a deep understanding of our interconnectedness and interdependence as an expanded human family.”
May 4, 2021
With Emergent Ventures, Tyler Cowen puts money where his mind is
Emergent Ventures, which looks for big and unique ideas, has raised $60 million and funded 200 projects. Mason economist and co-founder Tyler Cowen says the grants are “something you can win that’s not about connections.” Push ideas, he said. “Make the world tell you no.” Cowen also talks about how the Fast Grants program is helping fight Covid-19, why having children can help fight climate change and why he is bullish on the U.S. economy.
Apr 20, 2021
Climate change and the misinformation war
There are those who still don’t believe in climate change or that it is manmade. As Earth Day approaches, public health scientist Ed Maibach, director of George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication, speaks about overcoming climate change misinformation, which he calls the world’s most important public health initiative.
Mar 29, 2021
The coronavirus as Rubik's Cube -- Part 2
Epidemiologist and public health expert Saskia Popescu talks COVID-19 from policy to the front lines, including fractures in our critical infrastructure and what she tells Mason President Gregory Washington is the false dichotomy between public health and the economy. A fascinating conversation that informs and enlightens.
Mar 10, 2021
The coronavirus as Rubik's Cube -- Part1
How hard was it to get things aligned to fight COVID-19? In the first of a two-part series exploring the pandemic and its effects, Mason epidemiologist Amira Roess explains what we know about the virus and how the U.S. response could have been better, from public policy, to research, to vaccine distribution and acceptance. And we’re not out of the woods yet.
Feb 21, 2021
Doing the work: Anti-racism, inclusion and disrupting inequality
How are anti-racism efforts building on college campuses? How will Mason affirm its core values and mission of inclusion? President Gregory Washington speaks with Wendi Manuel-Scott and Shernita Parker, co-directors of Mason's Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Task Force about the university's commitment to be a national leader in this dialogue.
Feb 17, 2021
'It's important who tells the stories'
In this fascinating conversation, President Gregory Washington speaks with Kevin Clark, director of original animation for preschool programming at Netflix, about how technology and economics are helping fuel the rich entertainment content highlighting people of color, and how that programming can be a conduit for anti-racism efforts.
Jan 29, 2021
Creating a safer return to campus
On Jan. 22, Mason President Gregory Washington spoke with Mason scientists Lance Liotta and Virginia Espina, who head the university’s effort to push the boundaries of technologies that are keeping its three university campuses safe from COVID-19. That includes a rapid-result, saliva test and development of an antibody test that can track a body’s response to the virus and vaccine.
Jan 13, 2021
The climate change imperative
Fighting climate change is a global imperative, and the consequences of inaction could be dire. But Mason's Andrew Light, who helped negotiate the Paris Agreement on climate, tells Mason President Gregory Washington that for the go-getters, opportunity awaits.
Dec 16, 2020
Into the eyes of a murderer
What's it like to interview a mass murderer? Professor Mary Ellen O'Toole, a former FBI profiler, fills us in on that and Mason's new Forensic Science Research and Training Laboratory, which will be one of only eight in the U.S. to use donor remains for forensic research.
Dec 2, 2020
How did the election play into our national identity? How did Donald Trump mold the Republican Party in his image? How can we reform the Electoral College? Mason President Gregory Washington speaks with Schar School Dean Mark J. Rozell on where our politics goes from here.
Nov 3, 2020
60 seconds to nuclear war
Professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Martin J. Sherwin discusses his new book about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and tells a terrifying, and not well-known, story of how close we came to nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
Oct 14, 2020
We all have skin in the game
Tehama Lopez Bunyasi, assistant professor in the Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, explains how using our democratic freedoms will help overcome racism in America.
Sep 27, 2020
Would a Trump election loss benefit the Republican Party?
Schar School Dean Mark J. Rozell provides an unbiased analysis of the stakes heading into the presidential debates -- with some debate history thrown in as well.
Aug 31, 2020
The U.S.'s approach to immigration is like 'policy formaldehyde'
Mason's Justin Gest, an expert on immigration and the politics of demographic change, explains why the U.S., from the outside looking in, appears to be a "closed angry giant."
Aug 19, 2020
Is the U.S. experiencing a third Reconstruction?
Mason's Charles Chavis, a historian of the early civil right movement, puts the current protests for racial justice in historical context.
Jul 29, 2020
Investigating the Olympic Spirit
Did you know the torch relay began at the 1936 Berlin Games? With this summer’s Tokyo Olympics on hold, Mason Olympic scholar Chris Elzey examines the Games as an athletic, cultural and political event.
Jul 8, 2020
The ups and downs of policing since Ferguson
Mason professor Laurie Robinson, who during the Obama administration was co-chair of the White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing, explains a complicated legacy.
Jun 16, 2020
The economics of COVID-19 in the Washington, D.C. region
Jeannette Chapman, director of Mason's Stephen S. Fuller Institute, says the region's primarily knowledge-based economy provides a strong foundation for recovery, but some sectors could take two years to rebound.
Jun 3, 2020
Let's talk (from home) about telework
How does Monday and Friday as work-at-home days sound? Mason professors Matt Cronin and Kevin Rockmann discuss how the pandemic could change how we view the office.
Apr 21, 2020
Thomas Lovejoy: The Amazon is at a tipping point
University Professor Thomas Lovejoy, known worldwide as the "godfather of biodiversity," explains why the great rainforest is so imperiled, and how he fell in love with the region he has visited since 1965 and calls "a biologist's gigantic Christmas stocking."
Apr 13, 2020
Let's talk about how we talk about vaccinations
How does rhetoric play into debates about vaccination? Mason professor Heidi Lawrence explains her research into the role that professional communication from physicians, health officials, and researchers plays in shaping public debate and parental beliefs about vaccines.
Mar 10, 2020
Why we go mad for March Madness
Is it the win-or-go-home setup? Is it watching an underdog reach the Final Four, as George Mason did in 2006? Mason sport management professor Craig Esherick, a former head coach at Georgetown, says it's all of the above when it comes to the NCAA basketball tournament. Esherick tells us why the tournament might be the best it's ever been, has a new story about Mason's 2006 run, and discusses different paths to the NBA for high school players. Just don't ask him to fill out a tournament bracket.
Mar 2, 2020
When (three) worlds collide
George Mason University professor Shobita Satyapal and PhD student Ryan Pfeifle discuss their discovery of three galaxies with supermassive black holes at their centers that, when they collide, could shake apart matter and light up gravitational wave detectors on earth. It is a fascinating detective story that was reported in the New York Times and on CNN and was aided by the use of several major observatories.
Feb 27, 2020
Introducing your host: John Hollis
John Hollis is a seasoned journalist, a master interviewer and, as a senior communications officer at George Mason University, his familiarity with his subjects makes for enlightening and entertaining conversations. Join John as he speaks to the thought leaders and newsmakers who make Mason one of the nation's most vibrant educational environments.
Feb 7, 2020
The Enslaved People of George Mason
In 2017, a team of undergraduate students at George Mason University began exploring the history of their school's namesake, George Mason, as a slave owner. The project inspired the university to plan a memorial, to be unveiled in 2021, that honors those enslaved at Gunston Hall. Join host John Hollis, Mason history professor Wendi Manuel-Scott and University Librarian George Oberle as they discuss the lives and culture of the slaves at Gunston Hall, and the Enslaved People of George Mason project.