George Mason University

News at Mason

When they think of Mason, they think community

September 27, 2018   /   by Claire Underwood

Student body president Bekah Pettine (right) and vice president Erik Truong said participation in Student Government helped shape their perspectives and priorities. Photo provided.

Bekah Pettine said she was an introvert in high school. Erik Truong said the same about himself, and that he was more focused on his school work and job than the social scene.

In that context it might seem surprising that Pettine is now George Mason University’s student body president and Truong is vice president. But both said their experiences at Mason helped broaden their priorities with a focus on inclusion through campus community building.

“After coming to Mason, I learned that you really need to build a platform for yourself in order to reach your goals,” said Pettine, who, like Truong, is a senior majoring in government and international politics. “I’ve become much more inspired to take charge of my life.”

For example, Pettine said she once doubted her intention to become an attorney because she was afraid of taking the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) and bar exams.

“But after becoming part of Student Government, I gained leadership skills and the confidence to speak both for myself and others,” she said. “Now I have the confidence to take the LSAT next year and apply to law schools.”

Truong said he went through a similar transformation.

“I visited Mason for a journalism conference when I was a junior in high school and knew immediately that I loved the community,” he said. “I realized that if I really wanted to push my comfort zone and learn what I wanted in life, I would have to go far from home and start over. It’s been three years at Mason so far, and I’m still loving it!”

Those experiences, both said, provided the impetus to become student leaders and encourage their fellow students to be more involved in campus life.

Pettine, who is pursuing a second major in communication, said she wants to find ways to bring more students and campus organizations to Student Government meetings to enlarge the variety of ideas. Truong said he thinks that encouraging students to attend campus sporting events will bring them together. Both agree that input from students, staff and faculty should be considered when thinking about programs that help students find their place at Mason.

“We really want to involve students in decisions, especially committees from student organizations,” Pettine said. “They can present their ideas to Student Government, and we can all work together to make changes and implement their ideas around campus.”   

Said Truong: “We want to make sure students know what kind of resources are available to them to make campus more inclusive, and let them know that they can come to us with any ideas or issues.”

Ben Endres, Mason’s assistant director of Student Involvement and the faculty advisor for Student Government, said he is excited to work with Pettine and Truong because they are “committed to the university in a way I haven’t seen in a while. They’re really interested in trying to figure out what the students are looking for out of Student Government and making it a better-functioning and purposeful organization.”