Sitting in my office in Robinson A on George Mason's Fairfax Campus, I remember the day in 1983 when
I decided to become a student here. As a nurse educator, I was at the point in my career where I needed to
begin doctoral study. George Mason did not yet have a Ph.D. in Nursing program, but its Doctor of Arts in
Education (now a Ph.D. in Education) program appealed to me.
After dropping off my application, I remember stopping in the campus bookstore. While
browsing through materials there, I was shocked to learn that George Mason was not founded until 1957.
My previous degrees were from the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin, each with
more than one hundred years of rich history. Did I really want a doctoral degree from an upstart university
less than 30 years old?
I applied to both George Mason and the University of Virginia and was accepted to both. I liked
the innovative curriculum at George Mason, which was closer to my home in Winchester, and the
faculty seemed excellent. But I was concerned about the Doctor of Arts in Education degree. Barry Beyer, who
was then director of the program, explained that it was probably one of only two in the country. Would
anyone want to hire me to teach with a degree from a program that no one had heard of from a mostly
I vividly remember sitting in Beyer's office on the third floor of Robinson A and asking him
that question. He was completely forthright with me. He said he didn't know how the Doctor of Arts
program would be viewed by employers but believed it was excellent and that I would graduate with
important skills that would make me marketable as an educator. He was convincing. I decided to leave the
University of Virginia behind and take a chance on George Mason.
It was the right road. I thoroughly enjoyed my doctoral classes. Beyer, Evelyn Jacob, Wayne
Thomas, Mary Silva, Chris Thaiss, Don Gallehr, and a host of other exceptionally talented faculty opened up
an exciting world of learning for me. I remember returning home to Winchester (a 140-mile roundtrip
commute) at 11:30 p.m., after teaching all day and two evening classes, still energized from the intellectual
and social stimulation of my classes at Mason. But in 1987, when I was ready to graduate, I still
wondered whether anyone would hire me.
I was hired. I am now the coordinator of the Ph.D. in Nursing program at George Mason and
inhabit the same office on the third floor of Robinson A that Beyer had when he interviewed me. Now,
students come to me with their questions, and I try to answer them as well as Beyer and so many others at
George Mason answered mine. I look out my office window over the campus and feel the special energy that,
to me, characterizes Mason.
And now, when I go to national and international conferences, I no longer hear, "George
Mason? Where's that?" Instead, I hear, "Oh, you're from George Mason!" For me the road to George Mason
has made all the difference.
Jeanne Sorrell earned her Doctor of Arts in Education degree in 1987 and is now an associate
professor and coordinator of the Ph.D. in Nursing program in the College of Nursing and Health Science
at George Mason University.