George Mason University

News at Mason

Mason Staff Senate: Giving a Voice to All Staff Members

February 6, 2012

By Joey Carls, chair of the Staff Senate, and Kathrin Breitt Brown, Staff Senate administrative assistant

The 15 members of Mason’s Staff Senate welcomed five new senators to the team during their annual retreat in early January. At the retreat, the new senators received training in “appreciative inquiry” and “action learning,” two skill sets that can help the Staff Senate as it does its work.

The purpose of the Staff Senate is to give a voice to each of Mason’s classified and nonstudent wage staff members, whether he or she is a full-time employee, a part-time employee, a teleworker or a shift worker.

Staff senators bring a wide array of life and work experiences to the table, and these varied interests contribute to the richness of the discussions among senators.

Senators run for seats for a variety of reasons. Some senators are inspired by colleagues and former senators, while some have a strong drive to serve the Mason community. Others desire to understand the “big picture” of university operations.

While there is no definition of a “typical” senator, each member of the Staff Senate has a common goal: to get more deeply engaged in making Mason a great place to work and learn.

Senators become part of a larger community and gain a broader perspective of the university and all its facets. Through meeting with constituents and interacting with Mason leadership, senators achieve the goal of being the voice of Mason staff.

Being a senator requires a high level of dedication since senators often work on projects outside the normal workday. The job also requires patience since the process of change is often slow and cumbersome. In the end, however, the time spent by each senator leads to meaningful outcomes – big and small – for the campus community.

The process of becoming a staff senator begins with being nominated. Classified and nonstudent wage earners may nominate themselves or be nominated by a colleague. Both new and veteran employees are encouraged to run. Campus-wide elections are held in March and October. Terms begin in July and January. Senators serve a two-year term; at the end of their term, they may opt to run for re-election.

The next nomination period is Monday, Feb. 6, through Friday, Feb. 17. Elections take place Monday, March 5, through Friday, March 9. Senators elected in March will begin their term on July 1, 2012, and end their term June 30, 2014.

The Staff Senate is as strong as its members make it. We encourage all Mason staff to get engaged with the Staff Senate. Nominating yourself or a colleague for Staff Senate is most important, but you can also engage by:

  • Voting in the March elections
  • Talking with a current senator (the roster is on our website)
  • Attending a general meeting (held the first Tuesday of each month)
  • Attending a Staff Senate-sponsored event

More information on the election process can be found on the Staff Senate website or by contacting Staff Senate Chair Joey Carls at, 703-993-9162, or Kathrin Breitt Brown, Staff Senate administrative assistant, at, 703-993-4141.

Staff senators at their recent retreat. First row, from left: Renee Younes, Ginnie Mahoney, Kathrin Breitt Brown (administrative assistant). Second row: Amanda Meiklejohn, Laura Harrison, Cathy Ryan. Third row: Darlene Montgomery, Stacey Remick-Simkins, Karen Underwood, Joey Carls, Toshiko Uchiyama, Gail Hodges. Fourth row: Tya El, James Martin, Kevin Diffily, Sara Montiel, Christine Nienaber Shotwell, Susan Brionez. Photo by Alexis Glenn