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Access to Excellence Podcast
George Mason University
Hosted by George Mason University President Gregory Washington, who explores the grand challenges facing students and higher education.
Dec 1, 2023
Are we headed for an internet apocalypse?
Peter Becker, a professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department in George Mason University’s College of Science, talks with Mason President Gregory Washington about how a predicted major increase in solar storm activity could be a prelude to an “internet apocalypse.” Can we prepare? What could be the consequences? What are the economic implications? A $14 million federal study Becker is leading with the Navy could provide better predictive capabilities and help us better understand exactly what’s at stake.
Nov 10, 2023
The critical importance of shared humanity
Melissa Perry, dean of George Mason University’s College of Public Health, is an ardent proponent of virtual reality and AI as tools to help solve the nation’s health challenges. But, as she tells Mason President Gregory Washington, a technology overload has also helped create an “epidemic of loneliness” that has heightened the importance of a shared humanity and “being present for each other.” Perry also discusses her suicide attempt as a teenager that ultimately inspired her career in public health.
Sep 8, 2023
The tension between war, justice, and peace
Karina Korostelina, a professor of conflict analysis and resolution in George Mason University's Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, conducts research with global implications that not only applies to countries and groups in conflict but societies as well. She tells Mason President Gregory Washington that Ukraine’s war with Russia, at its end, will present enormous problems with the reconciliation of people and territories. A look behind the scenes at Korostelina’s remarkable research and what it tells us about human nature and how we can find peace after conflict.
Aug 4, 2023
Nikyatu Jusu is elevating the horror genre
Nikyatu Jusu, an assistant professor of directing and screenwriting in George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, talks to Mason President Gregory Washington about her movie “Nanny,” which won the grand prize at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, and why the horror genre is not all “jump scares.” Just as often, she says, the monster is a commentary on human nature and the way we treat each other and ourselves. A fascinating conversation with this gritty street filmmaker who went from studying biomedical engineering to putting non-traditional protagonists into fantastical worlds. Discover more: https://www.gmu.edu Connect with George Mason University on social media: * Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/georgemason * Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/georgemasonu * Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/georgemasonu * LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/school/georg... ----more---- * Connect with President Gregory Washington on social media: * Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GMUPres * Twitter: https://twitter.com/GMUPres * Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/presidentgr... * LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gregorywa... #MasonNation #GMU #GeorgeMasonUniversity #Fusion #FusionEnergy #LearnFromLeaders #MasonScience #HonorsMason
Jul 5, 2023
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe: ’I don’t have any regrets’
Andrew McCabe, the former deputy and acting director of the FBI, and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at George Mason University, gives a masterclass on the indictment of Donald Trump under the Espionage Act, and goes deep with Mason President Gregory Washington into some of his career's most controversial and important moments. That includes his assessment of the investigation by Special Counsel John Durham into whether the FBI should have examined whether Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign coordinated with Russia. McCabe called Durham’s report “flawed and politically motivated from the beginning.”
Jun 2, 2023
The metaverse, crypto, and the evolution of the internet
What exactly is the metaverse? Some say it is the future of the internet — a broad shift in how we interact with technology, including new and more ways to collaborate in virtual worlds. Others say it creates even more infringements on privacy and creates chances for identity theft. Foteini Baldimtsi, an assistant professor in George Mason University’s Department of Computer Science, and James Casey, an associate professor in Mason’s Computer Game Design program talk to Mason President Gregory Washington about what the metaverse is, and could be, and how the volatile world of cryptocurrency fits in.
Apr 28, 2023
Everything is business
Business is at the heart of everything. So says Ajay Vinzé, dean of Mason’s School of Business. In a conversation with George Mason University President Gregory Washington, Vinzé joined Paula Sorrell, associate VP for innovation and economic development at Mason, to celebrate National Small Business Week, and discuss how Mason Enterprise is an economic engine for Northern Virginia, and how the School of Business is changing the way business is taught.
Feb 15, 2023
Black Dance: Housing the past and the present
Lawrence Jackson says colonialism brought an end to authentic African dance. But the associate professor of dance at George Mason University, who in 2011 co-authored and edited a special edition on Black dance in the Journal of Pan African Studies, explains to Mason President Gregory Washington how Black dance keeps those African cultural traditions alive and is an affirmation of identity and independence. And did you know that tap, jazz, and ballroom dancing have African roots? Jackson explains.
Jan 25, 2023
Missy Cummings: Artificial intelligence is artificial and not intelligent
Missy Cummings, one of the country’s first female fighter pilots and director of George Mason University's Autonomy and Robotics Center, calls herself a tech futurist, charged with making tech work better and safer. In a conversation with Mason President Gregory Washington, Cummings is unflinching in her critique of AI’s strengths, weaknesses and shortcomings, as well as that of humans. There is a lot to like about AI, Cummings says, but she calls out bad tech where she sees it, including in the vision systems of self-driving cars and Tesla’s Autopilot. There's also a lot to like, Cummings says, about Mason's new Fuse building on its Mason Square Campus. When open in 2025, the building will will house R&D labs, corporate innovation centers, incubators, accelerators which will help advance the digital innovation goals of university, industry and community innovators.
Dec 13, 2022
Describing history through the eyes of ordinary people
Helon Habila, a professor of creative writing at George Mason University, and an acclaimed international author, has never shied away from important issues. In a fascinating discussion, Habila, the author of four novels, tells Mason President Gregory Washington about his process of combining compelling narratives and characters with current examples of oppression and exploitation, and how his factual account of the 2014 kidnapping in Nigeria of 276 young girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram forced him to confront his homeland as he had never seen it.
Nov 16, 2022
The absurd fallacy of a hierarchy of human value
When Gail Christopher, executive director of the National Collaborative for Health Equity and a senior scholar in George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, talks about “ensuring a future,” she’s really talking about creating a system of equity that produces opportunities for everyone. In her second podcast with Mason President Gregory Washington, Christopher expands on the idea that academic institutions are essential for shifting the cultural ethos to one that is not racist, and discusses the Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Conference recently held at Mason.
Oct 18, 2022
Are the midterm elections the most consequential in our time?
Are the midterm elections the most important in our time? Maybe, maybe not. Jennifer Victor, associate professor of political science in George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government, and Mason president Gregory Washington wrestle with that, and you might be surprised at the answer. Want more surprises? Then hear why high voter turnout could be a double-edged sword for our democracy and how the parties misread the electorate. And just what is “thermostatic politics?”
Sep 6, 2022
His sound is renowned
Dr. Michael Nickens, an associate professor of music in George Mason University’s Reva and Sid Dewberry Family School of Music, tells Mason President Gregory Washington how he transforms from his mild-mannered persona into Doc Nix, the flamboyant leader of the Green Machine, the nation’s No. 1 pep band. The band isn’t a mechanical process, Nix says. There are times its members are collectively “exploring the universe in that moment. And those are the moments that feel like we have really accomplished something.” Actor Bill Murray is a fan of the band, and Nix is pretty good on the tuba.
Jul 25, 2022
What it means to build peace
Alpaslan Özerdem, dean of the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, talks to Mason President Gregory Washington about the keys to effective peacebuilding, whether it concerns the war in Ukraine, gun violence or local issues. And don’t miss the discussions about how the Carter School helped broker a peace accord in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and how an alien invasion could help heal the rift between Russia and the West.
Jun 15, 2022
Cori Bush: Action must be the reaction
Rep. Cori Bush, Missouri's first Black congresswoman, talks to George Mason University President Gregory Washington about the importance of the class she is teaching this summer at Mason. A pastor, teacher, nurse, and a Black Lives Matter activist in Ferguson, Mo., Bush explains her unusual path to Congress, and doesn’t flinch when discussing issues surrounding race and policing.
May 20, 2022
Russia’s war in Ukraine tied to 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.