“I miss them so much,” she said.
Puhl, who is May Employee of the Month, works diligently to ensure students have meaningful experiences at Mason. Her coworkers also praise her drive and leadership skills.
“In all her work, Aysha keeps her eye on excellence,” said Devon Janes, assistant director of residential academic engagement. “Her incredible leadership, student-centered focus and innovative approach to change make her an excellent Mason employee.”
Born and raised in Northern Virginia, Puhl graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and earned a master’s degree in higher education administration from the University of Maryland. She’s worked at Mason for 13 years, switching jobs until she landed at Housing and Residence Life.
“I like to know that I am having a significant impact on the student experience,” Puhl said. “Working in this job, we see students at their best and sometimes at their most vulnerable, so it means a lot to me that we are able to create trust, help them and provide them with a positive residential experience.”
Puhl’s job entails ensuring that residential students have opportunities to grow and challenge themselves. Puhl has helped develop and strengthen Mason’s Living Learning Communities model in which students take a class together and live in the same residential hall. In addition to common coursework, students have activities together. With the pandemic, the program had to reinvent itself and move to a virtual platform and welcome nonresidential students.
“She continuously surrounds herself with folks from different backgrounds, perspectives and expertise and welcomes them to spaces to support her team’s work,” said Christian Rafael, assistant director for staff development, engagement, and on-boarding. “Aysha takes time to create buy-in, to understand the needs of others, and it is because of that, we have been successful.”
How she got to Mason:
I’m from the Northern Virginia area. After my mother died, it became really important to me to come home and be with my father and the rest of my family. I started looking for jobs in Northern Virginia, and so it made sense for me to look at Mason. While I’ve changed jobs over the years within the university, Mason is my home.
Best day on the job:
The first day of the academic year is one of my favorite days every year. I miss the students in the summer, and I love the energy when they come back, so full of possibilities.
What she likes best about working at Mason:
The culture of innovation and the diversity of the students. The culture of innovation means if I go to a supervisor or a colleague and say, “Let’s try something new,” the answer is, “Let’s try it.” I also like that the students come from diverse backgrounds, and many of them are first-generation students. I can make a difference in their success in life.
What she does when not working:
I spend time with my family, taking my kids to soccer practice and dance. I love to cook. I cook a lot of Cuban and Puerto Rican dishes because they remind me of my family and my heritage. I also love home décor, so will just completely turn over a room in our house when I feel like it needs a refresh. Before the pandemic, I loved throwing parties, but I haven’t done that in a while.