George Mason UniversityAlumni

Keeping in TouchAlumni Chapters|E-mail Directory|Personal Updates|Publications|Board of Directors|Alumni Office Info

Getting InvolvedActivities/Events|Career Development|Facility Resources|Volunteer Information

Knowing the BenefitsAwards and Scholarships|Health Insurance Plans|Mason Visa

Mason Memories

I gained many valuable things during my undergraduate and graduate years at Mason. Along with the treasured and lasting friendships that began during those times and have developed over the years, there's also one particularly noteworthy academic experience that made a lasting impression. In fact, that experience taught me skills and tools I still use daily.

Every other Saturday morning during spring semester 1991, 16 women gathered in Thompson Hall for a graduate-level communications class with Ben Broome. The subject of the class--Group Approach to Complex Problem Solving (or something like that)--sounds simple enough, but I do believe at times Dr. Broome wondered how he was going to bring us to consensus, for this is the technique he sought to teach.

The class mostly comprised individuals interested in facilitating groups. So, as a group, our task was to answer these questions: "If you were to teach someone how to facilitate a group or how to be a good facilitator, what skills and abilities would he or she need to learn? How would you teach each skill or ability? And in what order would you teach each element?" One complex problem; 17 people, including Ben; one semester; reach consensus to solve the problem. How?

Enter food. It didn't hurt the learning process to start each class with breakfast. I particularly remember the orange blossom mini-muffins--maybe because I was responsible for bringing them each time. But I also remember the different kinds of breakfast foods, including pastries, bagels, and flavored cream cheese. If memory serves me correctly, I'm sure we grazed all day.

We did much more than eat, though. We read, discussed, disagreed, negotiated, laughed, brainstormed, evaluated, argued, supported positions, and introduced new ideas. We learned to introduce new concepts articulately, speak more intelligently, involve all stakeholders, reframe questions, see things from other viewpoints, respect individuals while challenging ideas, define terms, set parameters, make compelling arguments, support ideas with facts, and see the big picture without sacrificing the importance of the pieces of the puzzle.

And, in the end, we did agree. We reached the goal by reaching consensus. We were, in fact, a great piece of anecdotal research in the making. The work product was good--applicable then and equally applicable in today's workplace.

Periodically, I look at the map we created of the route to becoming a good facilitator. It still holds value for me today as an educator, and it always brings back great memories of a great class that taught great lessons for life. And Debby Landis--are you still out there?

Nancy Woolever earned a B.S. in business administration in 1983 and an M.A.I.S. in human resource development in 1993. She currently serves as manager of education at the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Va.

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.

Director's Letter | President's Letter | Association and Chapter News

Articles | Transitions (Class Notes) | Alumni Features