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Mason Memories

The Other Road

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 unknown university?

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.

Do you fondly remember certain places within the George Mason community that exemplified the "college experience?" Did you befriend a mentor/professor at George Mason who influenced your life? If so, tell us about it! Send your submission to Alumni Affairs, MS 3B3, George Mason University, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax, Virginia 22030-4444. Please keep submissions to a maximum of 500 words.

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