College of Humanities and Social Sciences
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

A Two-Way Conversation with Seniors — Over Lunch

by Brooke Braun

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Students eat lunch with Dean Jack Censer.

Considering the fact that the College of Humanities and Social Sciences separated from the College of Science in 2006 and a new dean was appointed, not to mention the name of the college changed twice, it is possible that many members of the Class of 2008 suffer from a sort of identity crisis. At the very least, it is doubtful that at the beginning of the academic year, many could pick the Dean Jack Censer out of a line-up. Above all, many students may not know where they can go to engage in a constructive dialog about their Mason experience. But, that is rapidly changing. At the start of the 2007-2008 academic year, the college kicked off a new senior programming initiative, spearheaded by Evan Baum, Director of Undergraduate Academic Programs.

“Research pretty clearly indicates that attitudes towards alumni involvement and giving from undergrads is formed during the senior year,” said Baum. “It is extremely important for the college to begin cultivating relationships with our seniors as alumni during their final year at Mason.”

Immediately following college convocation in May 2007, Censer and Baum began to brainstorm ways to further engage seniors so that convocation would become the culmination of a larger set of activities instead of an isolated event. In late August 2007, about 100 seniors with majors declared in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences gathered for an informal picnic on the plaza between Mason Hall and the Center for the Arts to reconnect with each other and to meet Censer face-to-face. At the same time, Baum initiated a monthly e-mail newsletter, exclusively for seniors, that compiles all of the important information, deadlines, dates, and events pertinent to their success in the college. Throughout the year, the college has held multiple resume-building seminars for seniors and young alumni, as well as seminar dedicated to financial planning.

Perhaps the greatest forum for a two-way conversation with graduating seniors is exactly that, an in-person conversation, over lunch, between seniors, the dean, and a few members of the dean’s office staff. At the end of September 2007, Baum began inviting all students within a major to attend a lunch with the dean at Damon’s. The first twelve that responded secure a space on the list, and any other responders are wait-listed. Additionally, the Career Counselors from University Career Services for the selected majors are also invited to attend.

Over the last academic year seven lunches took place. The lunches were extremely informal and there was no set agenda; students talked candidly with Censer and his staff about their experiences at Mason—both the pluses and the minuses—and shared their plans for the future. Censer also shared stories from his personal and professional experiences. 

“The longer we wait the more we lose out on the opportunity to establish positive relationships between students and college for the future,” Baum said.

Based on the success of the senior programming, the college is considering expanding the breadth of programming offerings to other classes. Censer and Baum have already decided to host more lunches in the 2008-2009 academic year.

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