By M. Leigh Harrison
The Country Club of Fairfax welcomed advisory board members and trustees from across the university community on Friday, June 5, as it hosted the 2015 Volunteer Leadership Summit. The idyllic setting offered some of George Mason University’s advisors and advocates a well-deserved opportunity to rest and reflect—along with an exciting glimpse into the future.
Thanks to the breadth of expertise available at Virginia’s largest public research university, the summit offers a unique opportunity for donors and friends to benefit from professional development. This year’s opportunities centered on George Mason’s commitment to improving the lives of its donors and friends as well as students, faculty and staff.
Professor and clinical psychologist Todd B. Kashdan, senior scientist at Mason’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being and author of “The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self—Not Just Your “Good” Self—Drives Success and Fulfillment,” presented key elements from his research into the unexpected benefits of stepping away from one’s “emotional thermostat” to experience even negative emotions as they come.
Nance Lucas, the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being’s executive director as well as an associate professor at New Century College, walked participants through the results of their personalized Gallup StrengthsFinder surveys. The interactive presentation emphasized the range of gifts and talents present as well as the strong “business case” for embracing the complementary strengths of colleagues in the workplace.
The centerpiece of the half-day gathering was a “State of the University” presentation with a Q&A session by President Ángel Cabrera. Instead of focusing on what makes Mason successful, Cabrera set out to discuss the reasons for its success—and how investments in Mason have mattered for students, the region, the Commonwealth of Virginia and ultimately the world.
At Mason, Cabrera said, “We help young people with raw talent and position them for places where luck can happen to them. We deliver a transformative reality. There is a ‘before’ and ‘after’ in the lives of our students. They come to Mason from all walks of life, and we help bring them from A to B thanks to the work of our faculty. We deliver a major impact at scale, and getting that story out is the number-one task before all of us—board members, faculty, staff—here today. We need to get the story out as widely, loudly and clearly as we can.”
Exciting things are afoot, Cabrera concluded, pointing to the growth of the university endowment and recent announcement of the EagleBank Arena at George Mason University as pace-setting examples for meeting future needs—including an expected threefold increase in research funding required during the next 10 years to maintain a “significant university at the heart of a sophisticated economic region.”
Philanthropy helps seize key opportunities, Cabrera said, and “helps tell the story of all those who have believed in this university’s success.”