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Graduation profile: Mason senior knows what she wants, and goes after it

May 18, 2018   /   by Damian Cristodero

Mason senior Chrysanthi Violaris, with then-fellow Mason student Simon Bull, measuring human long bones. Photo provided.

Chrysanthi Violaris has a decision to make this summer.

The George Mason University senior anthropology major is taking a year off before plunging into a six-year graduate program.

The question is, does she want to return to her native Cyprus to work on archaeological digs, continue her part-time gig at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, or, maybe, depending on how her applications are received, work for a scientific journal.

“It’s a waiting game at this point,” she said.

That is not Violaris’ preferred mode of operation.

She has worked for four years with Bethany Usher, George Mason’s associate provost for undergraduate education, researching the growth, development and selective mortality of children in pre-industrialized communities around the world.

At the Natural History Museum, Violaris is helping put together a field guide for researchers in Kenya, which includes exploring the pictures and specimens from Teddy Roosevelt’s Smithsonian-sponsored 1910 trip to then-British East Africa.

“Everything is labeled with his signature,” said Violaris, a member of Mason’s Honors College, “so it’s pretty cool.”

“She’s diligent and reliable and has that curious edge that makes her a joy to work with,” Usher said. “She is a model of the kind of Mason graduate we want to have, a scholar and a citizen who is prepared to act.”

Violaris came to the United States from Cyprus at age 9 with her family, which settled in Richmond, Va.

She said she always knew she wanted to study anthropology, archaeology and history. She also wants to work in a museum, so when searching for a university, she concentrated on the Washington, D.C., area.

“I knew it was somewhere I could feel comfortable and succeed,” Violaris said of Mason. “It was a place I could make a home.”

Part of that, she said, was the diversity of the campus.

“The part of Richmond I was in was not terribly diverse,” Violaris said. “So it felt really good to come to a campus with all of these different communities and languages and cultures.”

As a Mason Ambassador, Violaris has been an active advocate for the university. But it has been the culture of exploration and research with Usher that has been most rewarding.

Their research found that children of past cultures were, generally, shorter than children today. But it also found that diseases, such as anemia and malnutrition, can be observed in bones that indicate shorter height.

That means long bones are not always an accurate way to judge the age of a juvenile skeleton, Violaris said.

“My research will benefit me because not only do I now possess the knowledge to be an active member in my field, I can get a head start in what makes me passionate,” she said.

Topics: Graduation