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On the edge: New Mason students encouraged to grow outside their comfort zones

August 23, 2019

The newest George Mason University Patriots made their way to EagleBank Arena for New Student Convocation on Friday, August 23.

The student group, including approximately 3,800 freshmen—the largest and most diverse class in Mason history—and about 3,000 transfer students, one of the largest transfer classes to Mason, were introduced to campus leaders, heard about Mason’s values of diversity and inclusion, and learned about opportunities available to students.

“One of the most exciting parts of the academic work we do here is the diversity of opinion that we hear in our classroom and that we value from each other,” said Mason President Anne Holton who gave opening remarks and welcomed students. “That richness of perspective is a huge value of what we offer you here, and all of you belong here at Mason.”

Holton offered students three pieces of advice for their time at Mason: make connections, take care of yourself and others, and have fun living and learning together.

Camden Layton, Student Government president, echoed Holton’s advice, adding that if students take advantage of every opportunity, “your time here at Mason will surely be everything you want it to be and more.”

New students were also challenged to go outside their comfort zones.

“How will you use your time at Mason to prepare you…to make maximum impact on the challenges that we’re facing [in the world today]?” asked associate psychology professor Lauren Cattaneo, who gave the keynote address.

Her suggestion took the form of “The Edge Effect,”which is what happens when two different ecosystems converge. In that area of convergence, she said, there is increased biodiversity.

“It teaches us that at the edge, at that really uncomfortable place between old and new, is where much more potential for growth lies,” Cattaneo said, encouraging students to reach toward that edge personally, interpersonally and in their social environments. 

The event also included energetic performances from the Green Machine—rated the No. 1 pep band in the nation by the NCAA, a performance of “Patriot Pride” by the Patriot Quartet, and the national anthem sung by senior and University Chorale member Nancy McClain.

Between the words of advice and spirited atmosphere, the event resonated with students.

Wardah Chaudhry, a freshman studying public health, said she was worried about how she would fit into the Mason community as an off-campus student, but hearing about university life changed that.

“This event really helped me connect to the incoming class and didn’t make me feel distant from everyone else,” Chaudhry said.

Sabrina Williams, a freshman studying health administration, said, after the event, she was excited to be a part of the community and was looking forward to learning more in her classes and taking advantage of extracurricular opportunities.

First-year PhD student Aayushi Hingle sensed the connection as well.

“I really felt like I belonged. I felt school spirit, and it was amazing,” Hingle said. “I’m excited to step out of my comfort zone and learn from all the different perspectives that I’m going to get to interact with.”