Holly Mason Badra is the Associate Director of Women and Gender Studies. Her research predominantly focuses in Kurdish literary tradition, Kurdish poetry in translation, and Kurdish female and nonbinary writers.
1. Can you tell us a little more about your history with George Mason?
My relationship with GMU began in 2014 as a graduate student pursuing my MFA in Creative Writing (poetry). While in that three-year program, I also held a GTA position, which allowed me to tutor in the writing center, facilitate the weekly graduate write-ins, and teach undergraduate courses (such as English 101 Composition, English 201 Introduction to Literature, and English 396 Introduction to Creative Writing).
2. Prior to joining the WGST team, you worked in the GMU English Department as the Graduate Admissions Coordinator and Fiscal Manager. Can you tell us a little more about your journey and what led you to your current career path?
After I graduated from the MFA program in 2017, I spent two years teaching outside of GMU. I wasn’t happy though. I wasn’t thriving. I found myself working in environments that did not allow me to bring my full self into the workplace nor to work with the energy and creativity that I had been accustomed to in my time at GMU. I was talking to my partner (my now wife), and she asked when I was happiest in work, and I said it was when I was at GMU because I could have my hand in so many different projects and felt supported both professionally and personally. So, I heard that the grad coordinator position was open in the English department, and I’m so grateful I got it. It was a perfect fit, and I really enjoyed that job and the students and colleagues so much! I am also so excited to be a part of the Women and Gender Studies program in the Associate Director role, as I see this position as an opportunity to spread my wings, grow, get back into the classroom, and hopefully expand impact. I wrote on my vision board a couple years ago that I want to support change makers, and I see this position as a way to do that!
3. You received your Creative Writing (Poetry) MFA from GMU in 2017. You also have several publications that include poetry, reviews, and interviews. What is your biggest advice to other young writers in CHSS?
Oh, gosh, tough question! I wish I had good advice. Honestly, I myself have become discouraged with all of the rejections. Submitting creative writing and even reviews and essays can feel so personal and vulnerable. So when the rejections stack up it can feel heavy. If you really believe in your work though, you should keep submitting. (I should take my own advice). Also, sometimes it’s useful to get feedback from others that you trust. I love publishing reviews and interviews though because it's a great way to remain engaged in the literary community and uplift writers who may not yet be widely read or have as large of a platform as they should. So, if your own creative work keeps getting rejected maybe take a pause and work on reviews or interviews. For interviews, the biggest tip I have is to not be afraid to reach out to a writer who you think might say “no.” It can’t hurt to ask.
4. If you were in an elevator with someone for a brief period of time and had to explain Women and Gender Studies and its importance, what would you say to them?
Women and Gender Studies is often the space where theory meets practice. As an academic field, we empower scholars and change-makers with the knowledge needed to move through society mindfully and equipped to address equity related issues. Our program and center offer a physical space of radical hospitality—where harm is addressed and rectified but also avoided from the start. Students (and faculty and staff) need that space—where they can breathe deeply, exchange ideas without hesitation, and receive valuable feedback and insights.
5. Can you tell us more about your involvement with President Washington’s Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Task Force and CHSS’ Inclusive Excellence advisory council?
Honestly, I was so grateful to be a part of the ARIE initiative mostly because I was able to be in a zoom room with some of the university’s most DEI-dedicated individuals and learn from them. I offered ideas, feedback, and suggestions in our meetings and through the formal feedback processes that were established. But ultimately being a part of that effort taught me a lot about leadership (especially effective leadership) from observing the way the various leaders of that group established non-hierarchical pathways for everyone involved to contribute to the plans.
6. What are your hobbies outside of your work at Mason?
I love hiking! I enjoy going to my wife’s softball games. I adore reading for pleasure when I get the chance.
7. How would your students describe you?
Well, based on feedback I’ve received, students describe me as helpful, caring, and warm. Some other words that came up in my teaching evaluations were: enthusiastic, passionate, and encouraging. One of my favorite sentences from an online evaluation says that “she genuinely cares about every single student, embraces diversity, and never belittle anyone’s ideas.” That feels so important to me as an instructor and feminist. If I can make students feel heard and valued—I’m doing my job (if they learn a lot, I’m doing the other part of my job)! I LOVE working with Mason students—they’re incredible!
For more information about Holly, visit: https://hollymorganmason.com/
October 20, 2022