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Mon, 04/12/2023 - 9:05pm

Photo Courtesy Sofya Vetrova

The Difference Baker is a new addition to Mason dining to help Mason create a more inclusive dining experience.


​​The Difference Baker is bringing students together by offering food and baked goods free of 7 of the 9 main allergens. Located in the Nguyen Engineering Building, The Difference Baker is the nation’s first Certified Free From retail location on a college campus.

In a post by gfreefriends on Instagram, Mason was praised for creating a more inclusive dining experience for those with dietary restrictions.

Marketing Director of Mason Dining Sofya Vetrova said, “[The Difference Baker] have set a new standard for campus dining at George Mason by offering a wide range of menu items that cater to diverse dietary needs.” 

Their products are gluten, peanut, tree nut, soy, fish, sesame and crustacean-free. Additionally, The Difference Baker provides dairy-free, egg-free, legume-free dishes, as well as keto and vegan options.

The Difference Baker is one part of Mason’s goal of dining inclusivity. This fall, Mason became the first Spokin Verified College. Spokin is a platform dedicated to helping individuals with food allergies by providing ingredient lists and allergen information.

Additionally, this fall Mason Dining launched the Simple Zone, an allergen-friendly pantry located on the first floor of Southside, and The Spot, an entirely plant-based dining hall. Mason Dining also partners with two local vegan businesses, NuVegan and Sweet Vegan Eats.

Vetrova explains, “inclusive dining is not just about meeting dietary preferences; it’s about creating an environment where everyone can enjoy delicious and wholesome meals.”

To learn more or to get involved with Mason Dining, Vetrova suggests visiting or joining the Student Culinary Council.

Students with dining suggestions or concerns may reach out to Mason Dining by texting “TellSouthside,” “TellIkes,” “TellTheSpot,” “TellTheGlobe,” or “TellRetail” to 82257. Or by using the HappyOrNot machines located at Southside, Ike’s, and The Spot.


Mon, 04/12/2023 - 8:36pm

Photo Courtesy of Ali Ali

The 2023 baseball squad came out to celebrate a spectacular campaign in a familiar setting.


Picture this: A rowdy arcade filled with video games and vibrant colors, and nestled in the back of such a fun environment, a dining hall reserved for Mason Baseball. On Nov. 10, the group celebrated their 2023 season with a conference championship ring ceremony. The venue was Dave and Buster’s located in Fair Oaks Mall.

It is not a familiar path to secure a low-tier berth in a conference tournament, dominate, make it to the championship matchup and win it all. The George Mason Patriots baseball program did just that. Keynote speakers at this event included Deputy Athletic Director Todd Bramble and Head Coach Shawn Camp.

While addressing a crowd at Dave and Buster’s with the program’s players and coaches, administrative staff, recruits, family members and club donors, Camp gave the audience his thanks for their contributions to the team as well as an appraisal to this past season. “It was a magical season for us,” Camp said. “Everything goes to our players… you guys are everything to our program because you had more grit than anybody I have ever been around in sports. I appreciate you guys!”

Camp is not the only one to hold such admiration for the team as his players held the same feelings for the first-year coach. Speaking about his head coach, center fielder Jordan Smith laid out how impactful Camp was for the team. “The atmosphere was absolutely electric, and we get it from Coach. We kind of just bounce off him. He’s a big, big energy ball… so when you’ve got a guy like that it helps the team a lot,” Smith said.

After speaking to the crowd, the coaches, players and athletic training staff were handed their own championship ring. Once that happened, each player took pictures with the coaches and family members behind the center podium adorned by the conference championship trophy.

The event was mostly undeterred by the noise surrounding the play area of the venue. To someone who does not understand why Dave and Buster’s was the ideal location for this ceremony to take place, Camp said a trip to Dave and Buster’s sparked the team’s turnaround. “We win one game, lose one game, win two, lose two…,” Camp said, “We could never get over the hump. In college baseball, it is really hard to win. It does not matter who you are.” 

It was after this first retreat to Dave and Buster’s that the Patriots would go on to amass a 22-6 record which included their run in both the Atlantic 10 conference tournament and NCAA tournament play. The team recorded 164 stolen bases and utility player South Trimble led the team with 30 stolen bases. 

“As a team, we did want to steal a lot of bases this year. We knew that we could exploit other teams by doing that as that was a big part of our game: to get runners in scoring position,” Trimble said.

Both Camp and Coach Ryan Ricci were a part of Bill Brown’s coaching staff prior to 2023. Ricci served as a graduate assistant and currently serves as Pitching Coach for the staff. He spoke to Fourth Estate on the dynamic Brown and Camp have had for him taking the reins as Pitching Coach. “They both bring different skill sets to the table and I think they both complemented each other very well. I’ve just been fortunate to be around those guys and learn from two brilliant mentors like those two.”

Catcher Connor Dykstra, who recorded a team-high 48 RBIs and 18 doubles in 2023, took a couple of hits at home plate throughout the season. When asked about those incidents Dykstra said, “I felt like my teammates were counting on me… it’s not going to hurt forever. I just wanted to be out there as much as I can and I’m not going to let a little bruise keep me off the field because I like being out there with the guys and helping them win.”

Right fielder Derek Wood’s walk-off double against St. Joseph’s sealed a conference tournament berth for the Patriots. “Throughout the fall and in those early weeks in the spring, just getting ready trying to make the case for right field, I felt like it did a pretty good job of that. The ability to put my best foot forward and do whatever I could to be a valued member of the team was what really mattered to me,” Wood said.

Ricci chimed in and spoke highly of one pitcher who could see some work in the upcoming campaign, Nick Martins. “He had a great fall for us although last spring didn’t go the way he wanted to… But he worked extremely hard all summer and was pounding the strike zone throwing off-speed pitches over the plate and he is definitely in the running for one of our starting jobs in the spring.”

After a great 2023 season, Mason will look to make noise, just like the atmosphere of Dave and Buster’s, and build another solid run in 2024.


Mon, 04/12/2023 - 8:26pm

Photo Courtesy of James Carlisle

Meet the Mental Health & Well Being Awareness club.


The Mental Health & Well-Being Awareness Club is a new Registered Student Organization (RSO) centered around the emotional well-being of students. The club’s focus is to bring  students together while simultaneously providing them with access to mental health resources and to offer listening ears.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Health, about 1 in 5 young adults have mental health conditions, which could apply to Mason students who suffer from mental illnesses. 

The resources at Mason have expanded and can be found in places like the Mental Health & Well-Being Awareness Club, which aims to make a positive impact on students’ lives.

The club’s mission statement, created by Senior Dawit Thomas, aims to enhance mental health awareness, promote individual empowerment and to provide a safe environment.

The club has a discord server where they can chat about an array of topics with each other. There are unique features on the server that help fulfill the club’s mission statement. 

“Students help and support one another through conversation and positive interactions while creating a safe place to make valuable connections and camaraderie amongst students,” Thomas said.

“Our club stands for positivity, creativity and growth,” President, Junior Mohammad Fahim Rahman said. “What inspired our club was our ambition and desire to create connections and a support group towards our mental health and well-being.” The Discord group serves as a safe space for all students to build relationships and support systems via the online world.

“We have a mental health check-in feature on our Discord channel that gives members the option to select how they’re feeling by picking a colored heart,” Thomas said. “Red means they’re doing really great, orange equals pretty good, yellow equals doing okay, green means they’re starting to struggle, blue means they’re having a hard time and purple means they need to reach out for support.” 

Rahman emphasizes the importance of togetherness whether that is at a physical event or even on the club’s Discord server where they can chat about an array of topics.  

“We’ve had Friendsgiving. There are no rigid rules. All that matters is that you and your eating mates enjoy yourself.” Rahman said.

Whether the club holds events online or in person, the members emphasize the importance of being there for one another.

Students who are interested in joining The Mental Health & Well-Being Awareness Club may get connected with them through their Instagram or Discord.


Mon, 04/12/2023 - 1:01am

Photo Courtesy of Sydnee Jiggetts

Meet RatedR Models, Mason’s reign modeling troupe that promotes self-confidence and self-expression. 


Most people believe there are set standards to becoming a model. The idea of a model is thought to have a specific body type and attitude. RatedR Models says that being yourself with your own style and personality is all that it takes to become a model. 

Mason’s first Reign Modeling Troupe, RatedR Models, is a student organization established in 2015. Its mission is to promote high self-esteem, self-confidence and to give the ability to brand one’s self through performance-based modeling and fashion. 

RatedR does not have a specific fashion style for members to follow, instead, the style is based on how the models want to dress and express themselves. 

Throughout each semester, RatedR Models organizes photo and video shoots to give models a chance to show out with their own distinctive styles. “When people think of a modeling troupe, they think of America’s Next Top Model where you have to be something specific. For RatedR, we want models to bring their own personalities to their walk,” Senior Nina Durham, President of RatedR said.

The photo and video shoots help models prepare for the spring show in the spring semester each year. Preparation includes members learning and practicing different runway walk styles and posing techniques while also becoming comfortable with themselves in front of the cameras on the runway. 

“RatedR is my first time with more professional runway style modeling. It’s more lively than my other modeling experiences,” Junior Ian Joegriner said. “I’m a naturally energetic person, and RatedR allows me to incorporate that energy and personality into my walk and poses.”

RatedR is composed of first-time models, and those with previous experience in the modeling industry.

Junior Shaleyah McDowell, Vice President, is well versed in the modeling industry. She has been published in two magazines, one of them being Spellbound Magazine, and does freelance modeling in her spare time. McDowell uses her previous and current experience to teach models in RatedR through critiquing them based on her own knowledge.  

With the walk, comes the clothes. For some, being a model for RatedR has inspired the exploration of fashion, and creativity with outfits. 

“I started discovering who I am with my clothes and I wanted to do more with that. Fashion is definitely one of my favorite passions and pastimes,” Senior Ja’Corie Kinsey said, who joined RatedR as a first-time model in spring 2023. 

Joegriner has been modeling for RatedR since spring 2021. He identifies as gender-fluid and the way he dresses is not defined as specifically male or female. “When I joined RatedR, it helped me explore more fluid styles,” Joegriner said. 

RatedR is an inclusive team, and encourages those of any gender and ethnicity, shape or form, to audition and join, especially males. 

“They [males] are scared to try out because they think it’s more of a girl type of team, but it’s not that…we want more males…we want more inclusion on our team,” Senior Savannah White, Co-Vice President said.

A modeling troupe might be intimidating to some, but RatedR is anything but that. “People should join because the environment that RatedR Models offers is very unique; it’s a family,” Durham said.  

Students can follow RatedR Models on their Instagram and TikTok to see when their upcoming shows are. Students who have any inquiries or an interest in joining their team may email them at


Mon, 04/12/2023 - 12:35am

Photo Courtesy of Mitchell Richtmyre

George Mason looks to honor trailblazing alumni who set the foundation for women’s basketball at Mason.


As basketball season tips off, Mason is set for a historic season, commemorating a remarkable milestone: 50 years of women’s basketball. In the winter of 1974, Mason made groundbreaking progress by introducing women’s basketball as one of its first varsity sports. Since this milestone, women’s athletics at Mason have flourished and evolved into an empowering force in college sports today. 

The movement was made possible by the passage of Title IX in 1972. This transformative act not only allowed women in athletics the right to equal opportunities, but also banned any type of sex discrimination in college sports. Title IX opened the door for many women who dreamed of a career in sports. 

Mason’s head women’s basketball coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis is a huge proponent of women’s sports at Mason and the pathway that Title IX gave to women’s athletics.  

“It shows support and dedication to women in sports. We didn’t always have, in this country, the ability to play basketball for scholarships like the men have had for over 100 years. So for us, we are 50 years behind the men in this country,” Blair-Lewis said. “But we are proud of the women who paved the way for us, the pioneers, who played when they didn’t get paid and there weren’t any resources.”  

Mason women’s basketball played their first season during the 1973-74 basketball season. Coach Kevin Colgate led the team in their first season. The team lost their first game against Catholic University of America in a low-scoring game, 19-13. But they ended their first season with a win against George Washington University, 32-27. The Patriots finished their first season with a 3-4 record.

After years of being an established program, the women’s team finally became a Division 1 program before the 1982-83 season. Then for the 1985-86 season, Mason joined their first basketball conference, the Colonial Athletic Association. After 28 years in the CAA, Mason made the switch to the Atlantic 10 Conference, where they currently play. Throughout these 50 years, many student-athletes have been able to grow women’s basketball at Mason and build it into what it is today.  

“It’s inspiring to be a part of [this program]. Women’s basketball hasn’t been as big as men’s basketball. But seeing that there have been 50 years of women who have gone through a lot so that we can be here. It’s inspiring to be a part of that history,” Junior guard Paula Suárez said.

Throughout these 50 years, women’s basketball has not only improved at Mason, but has become a prominent force nationwide. The 2023 edition of Women’s March Madness drew its highest viewership in the tournament’s history. According to SportsPro Media, the championship game between Louisiana State University and the University of Iowa drew 9.9 million viewers on ABC. 

Broadcasters and publications have also started to show more support for women’s basketball, which has increased the visibility of the sport to the public. Now, more than ever, people have avenues to support the basketball players and help the sport grow to new heights. 

“It’s looking very positive. People are embracing the fact that basketball is basketball. The women have a lot to give. Women can be very athletic and can shoot very well. People are starting to see that,” CBS Sports journalist Isabel Gonzalez said. “It’s about visibility [in women’s basketball]. It starts with covering it and letting people know what’s going on. If you put the content out there people will watch it.” 

The college basketball landscape has evolved since Mason played their first game in 1974. Many alumni student-athletes have paved the way for today’s athletes. To honor the alumni who contributed to the program, Mason will celebrate these players and coaches throughout the season. The university will highlight the major milestones that the players accomplished that contributed to the growth of women’s sports at Mason.  

With Mason celebrating the past this season, the future is also something to look forward to. Last season, the Patriots had a winning season under Blair-Lewis for the first time since the 2018-19 season. This season, they are off to their best start in 23 years. 

This will be a special season for the players and staff as they will look not only to honor the past but also set the standard for future women’s basketball players at Mason. 

“I think it’s going to be so exciting to watch because these girls are passionate. They play with passion… and that’s what you are going to see. Us out there on the floor not caring who gets the credit, but just being passionate about the game we love. They just want to win and win together,” Blair-Lewis said.


Fri, 01/12/2023 - 8:03pm

Photo Courtesy of Jordan Giles

The Patriots hit the road for two games after beating NJIT.


Mason men’s basketball defeated NJIT 86-68 on Wednesday night at EagleBank Arena to improve their record to 6-1. The Patriots overcame early struggles and foul trouble to pull away from the Highlanders in the second half.

“These games are hard to come by. I’m just happy certain guys were able to step up,” head coach Tony Skinn said. Mason needed significant contributions from their bench due to starting guards Jared Billups and Keyshawn Hall being limited because of foul trouble. Billups ended the first half with three fouls and would eventually foul out of the game.

The bench contributed 28 points compared to only 13 points from the NJIT bench. This proved to be a major difference between the two teams. Among the bench players that stepped up for Mason was Malik Henry, who recorded nine points and five rebounds in just 10 minutes.

“I think it’s really cool having guys come off the bench, like Baraka [Okojie], Woody [Newton] and Malik [Henry]. And they really affect the game,” starting guard Darius Maddox said. Maddox delivered a strong performance of his own, scoring 17 points on 58.3% shooting. Maddox has now scored in double figures in five of the seven games this season.

The matchup was also a bit personal for Skinn, as one of his good friends, Grant Billmeier, is the head coach at NJIT. The two worked together as assistant coaches at Seton Hall from 2018-21 and at Maryland from 2022-23. Skinn said that Billmeier was a “huge part” in getting him the job at Seton Hall, which helped propel him to his current position at Mason.

“I know how [Billmeier] coaches his guys up. I expected them to give us a fight. We responded in the second half and showed who we are,” Skinn said. After only outscoring NJIT by one point in the first half, the Patriots outscored the Highlanders 54-37 in the second half, while also holding them to 27.6% shooting. 

This defensive identity continues to be a focal point for Mason, as they lead the Atlantic 10 in scoring defense and opponent field goal percentage. Aside from the first half success, NJIT was the latest victim of Mason’s stifling defense. Guards Elijah Buchanan and Adam Hess were the only Highlanders to shoot at least 50% from the field, and they scored 28 and 15 points, respectively.

The Patriots will now travel to face Toledo in their first true road game of the season on Saturday. “We’re going to be tested. I’m looking forward to it, road games are not easy,” Skinn said. After Saturday’s game at Toledo, Mason will travel to face #10 Tennessee. That will be the Patriots’ first game against a nationally-ranked opponent since they played #15 Auburn to begin last season.


Thu, 30/11/2023 - 12:38am

Photo Courtesy of Mitchell Richtmyre

George Mason Men’s Soccer falls short of the A-10 tournament.


The 2023 season concluded abruptly for the Mason Men’s soccer team, starting, and ending in a flash. The team was able to center their leadership roles around Graduate student midfielder Luis Maestre, Sophomore midfielder Asparuh Slavov, Junior forward Souley Diouf, Sophomore midfielder Nicholas Prioli and Graduate student goalkeeper Jaume Salvado.

The team endured ups and downs as they went 5-7-3 overall and 2-5-1 in conference play. They were able to record key wins over the University of Rhode Island and Duquesne University. As leader Maestre said, “…beating Rhode Island was my favorite game of the year since it shifted the dynamic of the season.” These wins in conference play gave the Patriots the spark they needed. This also created a chance for a playoff berth.

One of the impactful players on the Mason squad was Maestre. The 2023 season was Maestre’s one and only season here in the Mason uniform as he made it worth every second, as he tied Souley Diouf with five goals and a team-high nine assists. His team-high in assists was also 5th most in Division I Men’s soccer during the regular season.

Prior to Mason, Maestre spent two years at the Division II University of Charleston, West Virginia, where he was able to score four goals and seven assists. When asked about his time at the University of Charleston, Maestre said, “The difference of D1 and D2 wasn’t much of a difference but there were some games that it was a bit easier.” He also mentioned his time prior to the University of Charleston back in Spain, where, “You play against grown men, the pace is more tactical, more disciplined…compared to the U.S. it’s more athletically competitive and players don’t have experience playing with grown men.”

Although the mentioned struggles the team went through they were able to still exceed expectations as the Atlantic 10 preseason poll had them finishing 13th compared to the actual results of finishing 12th.

The team looks forward to growing and exceeding more expectations in the future as the head coach Rich Costanzo said, “[The] team has grown a lot, the team has been improving throughout the season, trending upwards lot, returning most of the team and a lot of the guys coming back with will allow the team to trend in the right direction.”


Mon, 20/11/2023 - 2:08pm

Fourth Estate/Kaylyn Barnhart

A New York cosmetic company visits Mason with their latest makeup products to share.


Do we have any Babellines in the house? We bet your makeup bags are full after this visit. 

During the beginning of fall on Oct. 4 and 5, New York cosmetic company, Maybelline, stopped by Wilkins Plaza for a pop-up event as part of their Maybelline Press Play Tour to different university campuses across the country. 

The makeup brand came rolling through on their pink, and glamorous tour bus with their latest makeup products on board to share with students. Campus ambassadors on Mason helped the brand educate students on the newest makeup trends, provided beauty tips and gave away free gifts. 

“I got this opportunity through the platform Youth Marketing Connect (YMC), which is a company that helps connect mainly college students and some graduates to companies like Maybelline and many others,” Junior Lauren Pabico said, a campus ambassador for Maybelline’s pop-up event. 

As one can imagine, all of the girls came running when they heard about free makeup gifts and fun on campus. There were some who endured waiting in line for 30 to 40 minutes for the opportunity. “I wanted to get an experience of Maybelline, I’m really new to makeup and wanted to get some advice from the people here,” Freshman Autumn Macklin said.

Although the wait may have been long, good boyfriends will do anything to make their girlfriends happy. “I’m standing here because I want to get a [free] bag for my girl,” Senior Junghwan Jee said. 

There were two options for giveaways that Maybelline’s tour bus offered: The blue and pink pass. The blue pass was given to students who were in-between classes and did not have much time for the full Maybelline experience. They received only a free matte lipstick. 

The pink pass was for students who had time for the complete experience. They were given a tour of the bus, experimented with different makeup products and received a Maybelline tote with various makeup pieces such as lipsticks and mascaras to sample.

“I love Maybelline…I really like their mascara, it’s my favorite mascara to use…,” Freshman Kenna Sarver said. 

Maybelline being on campus was a highlight to most students’ day, and it was a good break from classes for some. For those who missed this pop-up event, don’t worry. Students may look forward to similar events like this on campus in the future.

“As a creator who has worked with multiple brands, I would assume there’s bound to be another brand that comes to campus. If not this semester, [then] next semester in the spring,” Pabico said. 


Fri, 17/11/2023 - 8:52pm

Photo Courtesy of Mason Competitive Cyber Club

Witnessing how Mason CC’s leadership fosters a community of learning and growth. 


One of the largest student-run STEM organizations on campus, while intimidating at first, is also one of the most inclusive and community-focused organizations. 

Mason’s Competitive Cyber Club, or Mason CC, is one of the largest student organizations at Mason according to the number of social media followers and members of their discord. According to the Mason CC President, Senior Tanner Leventry, the club is not only large in online student membership, it manages to retain a high number of active weekly members. Mason CC focuses on exploring niche subjects in cybersecurity and they help their members hone special skills sets in the broader cybersecurity field. 

Leventry, who majors in Cyber Security Engineering, hosts lecture style presentations during most meetings to bring club members together while discussing contemporary cybersecurity practices and techniques. This helps senior members of the club connect with new members, fostering a community of learning. 

Mason CC is working on expanding their club membership by advertising to other students who have little to no experience working in the cybersecurity field. 

“I really like the [the Mason CC] community aspect, I have a close competitive cyber team that is made up of [Mason CC] members that I am close friends with,” Treasurer Junior Ryan Wong said. “This club is great for helping people get exposed to working in a developer group environment.”

The club improves its members’ technical capabilities by sending them to hacking competitions and having their members compete regularly in capturing the flag challenges. “The club hosts about one ‘capture the flag’ competition weekly that we use for practice,” Junior Sanskar Pokharel, the Competitions Officer for the club said.

Throughout the year, Mason CC competes in statewide competitions such as Cyberfusion and the National Cyber League. These are great opportunities for Mason CC to showcase their skills and also recruit new members. “I first heard about them [Mason CC] at the Cyberfusion event, and that made me interested in being a member,” Junior Cooper Varela said, who is studying Cyber Security Engineering at Mason.

One of the club’s proudest accomplishments was placing first in the Cyberfusion competition. “That really showed the skill of our members, and helped raise awareness for our community at Mason,” Leventry said.

Mason also hosts a cyber competition for innovators called Patriothacks which was successful this year for Mason CC. “We had over 3,000 people in attendance, it was crazy,” Secretary Junior Dylan Knoff said.

Leventry said his favorite part of the club is “meeting new people, the support from our alumni and [working on] making our community special.” 

Those who are interested may learn more about Mason’s Competitive Cyber club through their Instagram, Slack, or Discord.


Fri, 17/11/2023 - 7:07pm

Photo Courtesy of Mitchell Richtmyre

Tony Skinn opens up about his first week as Mason’s head coach.


Men’s Basketball Head Coach Tony Skinn weighed in on how he handled the home opener versus Monmouth on Nov. 6. He is in the midst of his inaugural season at the helm for a program that has only three returning players from this past campaign. 

“I’ve been around this game a long time. I’ve played at the highest level and some really crazy atmospheres, so the nerves were probably not there for me. It was more so just trying to stay focused you know I can lead these guys to victory… that was it.”

He lays out his coaching style in four categories: Attitude, commitment, class and family. “If you have the right attitude, for the most part, you’ll be successful from the basketball standpoint,” Skinn said.  As for commitment, he said, “…there’s a lot of really good basketball players out there that just float with their talent level. But they’re not always committed and so there’s a certain type of commitment that you have to have to play for me.”

For the last two pillars, there is an overlap in messaging. Despite that, it still has a lot of weight within Skinn’s style. “For class, you got to be able to handle yourself in a high degree… because you’re representing not just the university, you’re also representing the name on the back of your jersey.”

To understand how Skinn is in the position he is in today, you have to go back to his professional playing days in 2012. He was gearing up to play for Team Nigeria in that year’s Olympics. “I had an injury… and it was a quad injury: A very tough injury to come back from.” Skinn said. “I had fully separated it and I went through rehab for about a year, year, and a half.”

“Once I started to feel a little bit better I still didn’t feel right in my knee. I remember going back to the doctor and then they had to do another procedure…I woke up to a micro fracture. So, that was kind of when I panicked. I thought to myself: You’re 30 years old; you never had a job before. Basketball was the only job I had ever had.” Skinn said

“I kind of thought to myself: What am I going to do next?” Skinn said.

Luckily, Skinn found a new avenue: Coaching basketball. “I was fortunate that I had some resources with coaching in high school coaching, in AAU. I just kind of just stepped into it. I didn’t really know the landscape; and from there, it just lined myself up to the notion that, ‘I think I have to coach.’”

As for his coaching origins, the first coach he worked under was current Tulsa Hurricane’s Coach Eric Konkol. Skinn said, “…we have always maintained a steady, good relationship and communicated all the time, and he was with Coach [Larrañaga] at the University of Miami. Then he got his first job at Louisiana Tech in 2015; and at that point I was going into my second-year coaching AAU, and coaching high school.” Skinn said.

“He wanted me to be a part of his staff. So, I looked back at it: I would say Eric Konkol gave me my first opportunity. Without Eric Konkol going out on the limb for me with no experience, we wouldn’t be here today.”

Flash forward to 2023. Three home games have come and gone and the first was a win over the Monmouth Hawks. In the game, the Patriots collected thirty-four offensive rebounds and secured eighteen bench points in the 72-61 win. “You got to flip the page and go to the next game…you know once this thing gets rolling, there’s no time to adjust.”

As for Austin Peay, Skinn lays it out clearly what they bring to the table. “You got a Head Coach coming from Northwestern State where he was successful. I truly believe he was a couple of possessions away from going to the NCAA tournament. He’s brought with… what does Deion Sanders say? ‘He brought his luggage with him.’ He has got a group that plays fast. They shoot a lot of threes; in their previous game they shot forty-one threes which is, I mean, that is a lot of threes. So, I expect us to see a team that’s going to play with a lot of confidence”

In that game, the Patriots would contain the Governors’ three-point attack to just three three-pointers made on nineteen attempts. The Patriots would eclipse the opposition with seven made on twenty-five attempts. The Patriots would cruise to a 67-45 win, with their biggest lead at any point of the game being at the 17:07 mark of the second half.

For home games at EagleBank Arena, Skinn expects the fans in attendance to apply what he calls “Patriot Pressure” to opposing teams. “Patriot Pressure is simply this: We’re going to play. We’re also going to play fast. There is a press that kind of gets us going. But overall, Patriot Pressure is not limited to us,” Skinn said.

Skinn leaves a challenge to the school and community. “Patriot Pressure is not limited to us… Fairfax: This is a non-football school, come support the team.” There is still time as there is definitely more basketball to be played in this burgeoning campaign.


Thu, 16/11/2023 - 5:30pm

Photo Courtesy of Mitchell Richtmyre

The Patriots held off a late rally from Pitt en route to a 4-0 start.


Mason women’s basketball upset Pittsburgh 60-52 on Wednesday afternoon at EagleBank Arena. The Patriots withstood a late run from the Panthers to win the game, which was their first victory over an ACC opponent since 2014 against Virginia Tech.

“I really applaud this team’s grit, they continue to find a way to win. [This is] a really big win for this program,” head coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis said. This is Mason’s second victory over a Power Five school since Blair-Lewis’ arrival, as they also beat Florida in 2021. 

The Patriots were in control for most of the game, leading it for over 35 minutes, with their largest lead being 19 points early in the third quarter. Pittsburgh stayed in the game until the final minute, but late free throws from Taylor Jameson sealed the victory for Mason. 

Mason grew their lead thanks to strong three-point shooting, as they shot 53.8% from deep in the first half. Sonia Smith shot 3-6 on three-pointers, all coming in the second quarter. “[Those shots] were just the reads we were making… Coach always says ‘take what they give you,’”  Smith said.

Mason also received contributions from transfer Ta’Viyanna Habib, from Indian River State College, who scored 10 points and got two steals. Habib was motivated by playing against a Power Five school. “We came in as an underdog. So it’s like [we] had something to prove,” she said.

Despite the hot start, the Patriots struggled offensively in the second half and maintained their lead with strong defense. “We just made sure that we locked in on defense. We had to get stops,” said Smith. Mason held Pittsburgh to 36.1% shooting from the field and 17.6% on three-pointers. 

Pittsburgh rallied late behind 18 points from Aislin Malcolm. A layup from Malcolm cut the Patriots’ lead to five with a minute remaining, but the Panthers’ poor shooting was too much to overcome. The Patriots responded to each of the Panthers’ runs. “We needed to lock in. They made their run, so it was time to finish with ours,” Habib said.

The Patriots are now 4-0 for the first time since the 2000-01 season, when they started 5-0. They will look to continue their success under Blair-Lewis, as they are one of four remaining unbeatens in the Atlantic 10. Their next game is Saturday at 3 p.m. against Robert Morris at EagleBank Arena. It will be the last home game for the team until conference play begins on December 30.


Thu, 16/11/2023 - 4:33pm

Photo Courtesy of Julian Lee

Spider-Man brings new representation to superhero movies.


In 2018, Sony Pictures released “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” …and it was ground-breaking.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” quickly became one of the most successful movies in the Spider-Man franchise, with the film winning an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2019 and ranked 12th in IMDBs Greatest Movies of All Time

But, why?

The story of Spider-Man follows a familiar narrative shown in almost every movie. Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider that gives him arachnid-like powers. The mysterious vigilante then dawns a spider suit, fights crime, suffers losses and goes to school the next day. 

With a storyline repeated within all films, you would assume these movies would get old. However, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” breathed new life into what the average moviegoer knew about Spider-Man, as the film deviated from the regularly utilized story structure and instead ventured into the Spider-Man universe.

The film follows the story of Miles Morales, a half African American and half Puerto Rican student from New York, who is struggling to come into his new role as “the one and only Spider-Man”… Or so he thought. 

Throughout the film, Miles encounters various Spider-people who help him on his journey across the Spider-Verse, realizing he isn’t alone and that his once unique problems are not his to bear alone. 

However, what distinguishes Miles’ portrayal from previous Spider-Men is his ethnic background and the culture he was raised in, which acts as a defining component for Miles being a distinctive and realistic character. For the first time, someone other than Peter Parker plays Spider-Man on the big screen, making Miles’ version unlike any Spider-Man films that came before.

Miles Morales represents those who come from similar backgrounds, whether it be with his experiences or the hardships he faces outside of being a crime-fighting superhero, making his relatability a strong selling point that the film effectively portrays. But Miles’ legacy did not stop here. 

In the recent 2023 film, “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”, Miles Morales’ story is continued, but this time, it introduces a whole new dimension of Spider-people, providing more representation in media. 

Among the hundreds of unique Spider-people that graced the screen was Miguel O’Hara, a Latino Spider-Man from the year 2099 who acts as the film’s antagonist, and Pavitr Prabhakar, an Indian Spider-Man from Mumbai.

Not only is this inclusion of ethnic and racial diversity important, but the differences in their lives outside the mask help the viewer further relate to these characters. Representation can mean so much in the media and to be able to see yourself in the characters is empowering. 

This is why the character of Spider-Man is such an important character. 

The person under the mask can be anyone. 

Spider-Man Creator, Stan Lee, stressed the importance of Spider-Man’s ambiguity and how personal it can become. 

“What I like about the costume is that anybody reading Spider-Man in any part of the world can imagine that they themselves are under the costume,” Lee said. “…And that’s a good thing.”

The vast amounts of Spider-people further solidify the point that we aren’t alone. This point is not only hammered into Miles but into the audience as well. 

I have personally never seen someone exactly like me be the main character on the screen. As an Afro-Latina, seeing Miles Morales take center stage and watching him fail and succeed throughout the movies made me feel seen. 

As I see Miles battle to find a way to balance his goals in life while also dealing with the expectations of others, I can see myself in that struggle.

Miles is seen struggling to balance his responsibilities as a student, a son, a friend and a hero. Being able to confidently identify myself in these assigned roles can be a heavy task. 

As I see Miles swinging across the screen, I can see myself being that hero. Despite struggles of identity, I recognize that I can help others in every role I am given. 

Miles serves as an inspiration to me, proving that I can live up to my own expectations of my identity while breaking through stereotypes placed on me by others. 

As audiences watch their favorite Spider-people swing, fall, and get back up, they may see themselves in those heroes.


Thu, 16/11/2023 - 4:18pm

Fourth Estate/Erica Munisar

Mason professor Al Fuertes stresses the importance of Human Trafficking awareness.


According to AP News in Jan. 2021, ex-Fairfax county officers were on trial for allegedly protecting a sex-trafficking ring based in Alexandria, Virginia. According to the Washington Post years later in Jan. 2023, the jury found that the Fairfax police did not protect a sex trafficking ring. The verdict was met with split opinions by the plaintiff and defendants.

According to Human Trafficking Courts, or HTCourts, The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 140 cases of human trafficking in Virginia in 2021. 

People who are victims of human trafficking may be subjected to various forms of trafficking, with the most prevalent reason being sex trafficking in Virginia.

According to HTCourts, “Human trafficking affects between 150 to 300 victims every year. Over 80% of the cases each year involve sex trafficking.” 

With this issue being in close proximity to Mason’s campuses, Professor Al Fuertes believes the Mason community should be more aware of the dangers of human trafficking. 

According to Fuertes, human trafficking is a rampant issue in Northern Virginia, or the NOVA area. 

With a background in conflict analysis and psychosocial trauma healing, Fuertes teaches course INTS 417, Human Trafficking and Smuggling, which sheds light on the reality of human trafficking. 

“We try to learn about the nature dynamics of human trafficking [and] also [understand] that many of those who are being trafficked were also being smuggled.”

In the course, students are exposed to tactics used by human traffickers and smugglers take advantage of people who find themselves in vulnerable situations. Students are also introduced to the ways higher institutions and corporations aid in the continuation of the trafficking business.

Fuertes explains that the most rampant forms of human trafficking in the NOVA area are sex trafficking, drug trafficking and debt bondage. Many of the victims of these forms of trafficking are those who arrive into the country through human smuggling.

“Many employers take advantage of their vulnerability,” Fuertes said, “…knowing that most likely they will not report the case to the authority for fear of deportation or being detained.”

According to the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center, “Individuals who experience human trafficking often experience a lack of long-term employment and a livable wage, wage theft, and illegal deductions from their paycheck.” 

Human trafficking operations may not be easily identifiable to those unaware of its nature. Fuertes explains that most operations are under the table and become covered up as a reputable business. 

“Many of the workers in our salons and spas are also people [that] were smuggled and ended up being trafficked,” Fuertes said. “Their travel documents are confiscated by the owners. That’s one of the ways traffickers control their victims.” 

Fuertes advocates for the widespread knowledge of how and why human trafficking occurs and urges lawmakers to take legal action against practices that allow human trafficking to take place. 

“We need to educate ourselves about the complexity of human trafficking, that it’s not just local, but it’s actually a transnational organized crime,” Fuertes said. 

“We’ve got to have strict anti-human trafficking legislations. If we want to help address this problem, then we have to train our local authorities, lawyers and judges.”

Fuertes addresses change at the local level as well as higher institutions. He explains that college students can help combat human trafficking by being a conscientious consumer and urging politicians to be more aware of this situation. 

“Be more intentional in buying Fair Trade products, where the workers are actually given their fair share, not just in terms of salary, but they’re also provided with a good livable working [and] living conditions,” Fuertes said. 

“Support legislators, government leaders [and] politicians who are concerned about human trafficking.” Fuertes said. 

People who find themselves in a trafficking situation or witness someone who may be in a trafficking situation may call the National Human trafficking hotline or refer to the Blue Campaign website for more information on how to report a case of suspected human trafficking.


Thu, 16/11/2023 - 3:31pm

Photo Courtesy of Bardia Assefbarkhi

The present imploding, with promises from the past haunting us.


In a world consumed by the pursuit of progress, the past looms large in our cultural landscape. Within our modern, digital society, we find ourselves caught in a maze of unexpected detours… nostalgic journeys back to bygone eras. Whether it’s in the realms of music, cinema or video games, art appears to be confined to existing styles. Talented artists skillfully resurrect the sounds and aesthetics of the past, prompting us to confront a troubling question: Are we trapped in an endless cycle of indulging in retro culture, yearning for a time that has long faded away?

Enter philosophers Jacques Derrida and Mark Fisher, who offer insights into this phenomenon. Derrida introduced the concept of hauntology, proposing that we never fully experience the present. Instead, our current experiences are influenced by both the past and the future. For example, when we listen to music, it’s not just the individual notes that matter but also their connection and creation of a melody. 

Hauntology, as popularized by Fisher, describes a cultural haunt that lingers through our media, art and entertainment… a peculiar situation where we paradoxically seek to live our future anticipations by revisiting the past. Fisher also introduced the notion of a “lost future”, a future that never materialized yet continues to haunt us.

According to Fisher, the pervasive dominance of the current system in every aspect of our lives has led to a decline in anticipating the future and envisioning new possibilities. Instead, the prevailing system demands short-term solutions, immediate outcomes and the repetition of established sociocultural forms.

A notable musical embodiment of hauntology is John Lennon’s iconic song, “Imagine.” Lennon encourages listeners to imagine alternative futures and possibilities, expressing the belief that such imaginings “aren’t hard if you try.” However, this song and its aspirations have sparked controversy among those resistant to change. 

Conservative columnist and unsuccessful screenwriter Ben Shapiro, for instance, created an entire YouTube video criticizing Lennon for daring to envision a better future… a future where material possessions are forsaken and people do good deeds without expecting heavenly rewards.

This phenomenon is not just reserved for music and entertainment; it seems even in politics, daring to dream of a better world is met with scuffs from an exasperated public. In America, a place where mass shootings and gun violence are common occurrences, where wildfires burn entire states down and recreate scenes straight out of “Blade Runner 2049”, where many people can’t call ambulances during emergencies in fear of medical debt, and where the Senate has turned into a graveyard of progress, the most common belief seems to be a nihilist sense of futility, that this is how we are supposed to live and that all attempts to fix it will be completely perfunctory.

A professor once told me that young people tend to be left-leaning because they have nothing to lose, but older folk tend to be conservative because they have something to conserve, a sentiment popularly expressed by Churchill. However, these statements are simply trapped within the confines of the current system, lacking courage or imagination. 

In reality, the present is scorching. We live with promises from the ghosts of the past that still haunt us, yet a love letter from a future clawing through the borders of possibility, a future repeatedly failed and refused existence by the limits of politics, economics, and fear, is crying to be born, shouting at us that one day it will return to our side.


Thu, 16/11/2023 - 3:05pm

Photo Courtesy of FinisherPix

A Mason student veteran runs the 48th Marine Corps Marathon for his first time.


“Every Marine has Nov. 10 ingrained in their minds since their days in bootcamp. It’s a great day to remember the time served, the friendships made, and just a day of reflection as to what one went through during that era of their life,” Junior Fernando Aguila, a Marine Corps veteran and student at Mason said.

On Oct. 29, one week before the 248th Marine Corps birthday and Veterans Day, Aguila celebrated the dates by running in the 48th Marine Corps Marathon, or MCM, for his first time. 

The MCM, also nicknamed “The People’s Marathon”, organized by the Marine Corps Marathon Organization, is one of the largest marathons in the United States with people from all over the country, and world partaking in while recognizing those who have served in the military, past and present. Runners get to experience running 26.2 miles through distinctive sites and landmarks in Northern Virginia and the nation’s capital such as the Pentagon, the National Mall, Georgetown, Crystal City and then crossing the finish line at the Marine Corps Memorial

Aguila got out of the Marine Corps in April 2021 after four years of service as a mortarman. Shortly after getting out, he dealt with a micro tear in his left achilles tendon and was on crutches for nine months and attended physical therapy. 

“After hobbling around and being frustrated with my limited mobility for nine months, I told myself I would never take that [physical mobility] for granted, and started my journey with running,” Aguila said.

And so he did. Aguila had a new zest for life and made it a goal to continue to stay active. He said, “I threw myself into running and fell in love with the community and the feeling of knowing I am putting good miles into my soul with each run.” 

Since then, Aguila picked up running as a hobby and has completed many races including various half marathons and a Spartan Ultra 50k race. 

“Last year, I ran the Marine Corps 10k which takes place during the marathon, and told myself that I would be back for the marathon the following year. I did what I said I was going to do,” Aguila said. 

Despite Aguila being a full-time student at Mason, working part-time and expecting a baby at the end of January 2024, he managed to find the time to train for the MCM by running two to three times a week, and also by running five races hosted by the Marine Corps Marathon Organization during this year. 

“Throughout this time, I met a plethora of like-minded individuals who have served or are simply other running enthusiasts,” Aguila said.

On the day of the marathon, Aguila stepped foot into an exciting environment. There were more than 23,000 runners on the course, most of whom spent this year training for the MCM and were ready to challenge themselves physically and mentally. He said, “Walking up to the start [line] and hearing the announcer motivate [the runners] before the run added to the ambiance.”

Most runners shared a similar goal that day which was to cross that finish line. Aguila proudly finished the MCM, his first marathon race, with a time of 6:35:25. “I am proud of my time because I set a goal for myself and met it, amidst everything I had going on,” Aguila said. “This was a way to prove to myself that I can set out to dream big for something like this.” 

Aguila plans on running the MCM again in the future, and also aspires to run various other marathons held around the world. 

“Running the MCM is special, seeing all the Marines present, finishing at the Iwo Jima Memorial and having that eagle, globe and anchor medal put on you after completing the run is an amazing feeling.”


Tue, 14/11/2023 - 12:49am

Fourth Estate/Allison Alberty


Hello Patriots! November 13th marks World Kindness Day, a global celebration of compassion, positivity, and good deeds. This week, let’s celebrate by lending a helping hand or by offering a simple gesture, as the smallest act can make a significant impact. 

This week…

Executive Director Instructor, Kelly Dunne of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, received a Pat from Zareena Khan, the Assistant Director of Student Well-being Programs who said, “Kelly, thank you for assisting me in creating, and then recreating, the INTS courses for the Well-Being RLC! Every semester I have been at Mason, you have been so helpful in this process, and I appreciate it. Thanks for all that you do!”

Director of Intelligence Studies Program and Assistant Professor, Teresa Gudaitis of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, received a Pat from student Ryan Bibbee who said, “Don’t tell anyone, but you’re the coolest faculty member I have ever spoken to. When I left your office after I interviewed you, I was SPEECHLESS and knew I was SUPER interested in intel and I HAD to take your class. I have never felt like that about school in my life and I can’t wait for this semester to be over so I can experience really doing something I am confident I’ll love too! Your passionate expertise is contagious! THANK YOU!!!”

Student Jessica Bowie received a Pat from student Norah Francis who said, “Jessica is such a kind-hearted soul who is always there for me when I need her as a friend.”

Graduate Program Specialist, Cecelia Kimes of the College of Engineering and Computing, received a Pat from student Venice Chan who said, “Thanks for all the work that you do to run our department and always helping me out.”

Alumni Sabahat Munir received a Pat from student Ayra Islam who said, “Thank you for being an amazing mentor and always supporting me in my journey at Mason. Always guiding me :).”

Till next time Patriots, visit to nominate a Patriot and check back in next week to read more Pats from the Mason community!


Mon, 13/11/2023 - 11:31pm

Photo Courtesy of Amelia Jane Sand

George Mason students protest Israel-Hamas war.


Editor’s Note: Fourth Estate uses language in accordance with AP style guidelines. For more information on the use of the “Israel-Hamas war”, please visit the AP Stylebook.

“Free, free Palestine! From the rivers to the sea: Palestine will be free.”  

That was the call on Thursday, Nov. 9 at 12:30 p.m. during a protest held on Wilkins Plaza by Students For Justice In Palestine, also known as SJP. Prior to the protest, the group posted to Instagram that the purpose of their protest was “…to demand that our universities cut ties with military contracting companies that are responsible for the loss of life, destruction of homes, and the displacement of thousands of families in Palestine.” 

Protestors filled Wilkins Plaza at the center of campus between the Johnson Center and Horizon Hall. Many of the students covered their faces with scarves so they could not be identified. Students wrapped in Palestinian flags stood together around the SJP protest organizers as the chanting continued. Hand-written signs in red, black, and green echoed their chants. Beneath their feet, messages scrawled in colorful chalk spelled out their thoughts: “Free Palestine.” “No Justice, No Peace.” 

For some students, they shared that the war is personal. “I have 46 family members who have died from the Israeli bombs,” one Mason protestor said. “My family is crying every single day.” 

The pro-Palestinian protestors shouted “Viva! Viva Palestine!” 

Prior to the protest, Mason administrators put protective measures as mentioned in a university-wide email from the Office Of The President on Nov. 2. The measures, such as a higher police presence on campus, were put in place to ensure students are safe while practicing their right to free speech. Campus police were on standby at the start of the protest, with three officers and a K-9 police dog nearby. 

Dr. Creston Lynch, Assistant Vice President of University Life, was also at the protest. “I am here to ensure our students’ rights to express themselves in the form of their First Amendment right,” Lynch said. 

Thursday’s protest at Mason follows a recent pro-Palestinian protest in a congressional office building in which more than 20 college students, some from Mason, attended to demand free speech protections when protesting on college campuses. According to the Washington Post, it was reported that 10 protesters were arrested following their interruption of the congressional hearing. 

“I do feel safe,” one Mason student said on Thursday’s protest. “I have a lot of Arab friends, a huge Arab community that supports each other here.” The student added, “I feel like the Arab community here is very large. They have a voice here at Mason.”

Within minutes of the protest beginning, the pro-Palestinian protestors were joined by pro-Israeli counter-protestors, most of whom were not Mason students. Carrying large Israeli flags and signs with slogans that said, “We stand with Israel,” they made their way to the center of campus.

The police presence increased from three officers to eight as the pro-Israeli protestors approached the plaza. An SJP protest organizer, wearing an orange vest, instructed Mason protestors to: “Turn your backs towards them [pro-Israeli protestors], do not look at them, don’t pay them any mind. Do not give them any attention.” 

The pro-Israeli protestors shared remarks with pro-Palestinian protestors. “Show us your ugly faces…You support murders…You are against America,” they said. “You’re a coward! Coward’s cover faces just like Hamas.” 

The pro-Palestinian protestors responded, “You killed tens of thousands of people, and you’re calling me a coward!”

Observing the interactions between protestors and police presence, Dr. Lynch noted how delicate he believed the situation was.

“I see them [the police] being very careful to make sure that everybody’s rights are upheld and protected…as this is a public space and…freedom of expression is…something that is not only important to the…academic enterprise but also [to] democracy. I think they’re being careful…not to encroach upon anybody’s rights to freedom of expression, while keeping them safe.”   

Palestinian students in the protest shared that the Israel-Hamas war affected them personally. One Palestinian-American student said, “This issue did not just come up on Oct. 7. People just keep asking us to condemn, condemn, condemn. I won’t condemn it because I feel that no group forms just because they want to or because they want to terrorize people,” they said. 

“Every single group like those forms because of unfulfilled needs. They form because the system is against them. They form because they are not getting proper treatment…Does it sound like two states who are equally governed and have equal power?” the student asked. 

“I stand with Palestine. Free Palestine. I’m Palestinian. I’ve never been to Palestine.” The Palestinian protestor said. 

“These people don’t see us as people,” one SJP protest organizer said. 

“They called me a terrorist,” one student said as they stepped away from the protest. 

Throughout the protest, the pro-Israeli protestors were heard chanting: “Sheep, sheep, you’ll be the first to be slaughtered!” 

When asked to comment on the protest, pro-Israeli protestors declined.

Following the protest, SJP released a statement in a post reflecting on their interactions with the pro-Israeli protesters. According to another post, SJP will be holding their next protest on Nov. 14 at 2 p.m.


Sun, 12/11/2023 - 8:37pm

Photo Courtesy of Aditi Goel

Diwali invites those to a festival of light, love and renewal. 


Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, illuminates on Nov. 12 this year. This letter appreciates the traditional values and cultures of our holiday. I will guide you through different aspects of Diwali and what they mean to me as a student, a daughter, an employee, and most importantly as a human being.

When we light a candle, it feels like we’re melting away negative thoughts. The wisdom within each of us fuels our journey, akin to the oil that keeps our lamps burning. Here, lighting candles symbolizes lighting our inner happiness, sharing the fragrance of hope and preserving a sense of self-worth. It’s about radiating goodness from the heart in all our thoughts and actions.

Next, we exchange gifts, candies and sweets during Diwali. It signifies the joy and contentment we share. It enhances and sweetens our relationships with ourselves and others. Next time you go Trick-or-Treating, think about this.

On Diwali, we create a rangoli in our homes, a design crafted from colored sand. It mirrors our vibrant nature. As diverse colors meld into beautiful art, individuals with varying personalities unite to form a beautiful, joyous world.

People also enjoy buying new clothes on Diwali.

Think about a time you wore a new dress. How did it make you feel? It brings a sense of newness and excitement. When feeling stuck, take a break and return with a fresh start. A new perspective can enrich anything.

In the month leading up to Diwali, there is an emphasis on cleaning our physical space, even those nooks and crannies where dust might go unnoticed. Whenever I clean out my closet or my study desk, I experience a refreshing sense of cleanliness. It clears the mind and sharpens our focus on priorities. Additionally, it paves the way for a clean heart free from jealousy, comparison, irritation or disappointment.

Families will often host Diwali parties to foster togetherness and cheerfulness, as it serves as a good reminder to be in the company of those whom you feel comfortable with and make you smile.

When we gather on Diwali, we pause to worship and embrace our inherent divine values. This invites good health and prosperity into our lives, amplified by our commitment to sincerity and authenticity toward ourselves and others.

Following this, we ignite fireworks and crackers, symbolizing excitement, bliss, joy, and abundance. Achieving our dream job, finding a partner with whom we can be ourselves, walking in a graduation ceremony or receiving recognition for a significant project: What do we feel? Sparkles of happiness.

Diwali is celebrated after Dussehra, a time when we commemorate the victory of good over evil. In moments of contemplation, ask yourself: “What makes me happy from within?” 

From this day forward, let each day be a celebration of being alive. Burn away negativity, surround yourself with good people and express gratitude for life’s blessings.


Fri, 10/11/2023 - 7:12pm

Photo Courtesy of Mitchell Richtmyre

Transfers lead the way as Mason starts the season with a victory.


Mason men’s basketball defeated Monmouth 72-61 in Monday’s season opener. The Patriots were led by transfers Amari Kelly, from UNC Wilmington, and Darius Maddox, from Virginia Tech, who each scored 17 points. 

“It’s the first of many and I’m happy with the effort,” said head coach Tony Skinn. The victory is Skinn’s first as a collegiate head coach after eight seasons as an assistant coach at various schools. And while the Patriots only trailed for 27 seconds, Monmouth kept the game competitive until the final minutes.

Monmouth had a strong defensive showing, particularly when they played zone, which helped them get within four points with eight minutes to play. Kelly and Maddox then hit back-to-back three-pointers to extend the Patriots’ lead. 

Due to the offseason coaching change, Mason’s roster experienced an overhaul, with multiple new players entering the program, and those additions paid dividends immediately. Kelly and Maddox led the way, and fellow transfers Woody Newton and Keyshawn Hall contributed 10 and 7 points, respectively. Hall also recorded 10 rebounds. 

“With the work we’ve put in, it doesn’t surprise me that these guys have stepped up. And I think we’re deep and talented enough where it’s going to require different guys on different nights to be able to step up,” Skinn said. And while the transfers stepped up offensively, the entire team delivered a stout defensive performance.

Mason held Monmouth to 33.8% shooting and outrebounded the Hawks 48-36. The Patriots also blocked 7 shots, 3 of which came from Kelly. “On a night where, offensively, we were out of sync… defensively we stayed in it,” Skinn said.

While offensive success is important, the team prides itself on its defensive performance. “Defense wins championships, so that was huge for us. That’s our goal every game,” Kelly said of the team’s defensive effort. Maddox agreed with Kelly, adding that it is important to “keep that energy [on defense] and build on leads.”

Despite the loss, Monmouth received strong performances from Xander Rice and Jack Collins, who scored 21 and 17 points, respectively. They were the only two Hawks to score in double figures. Outside of those two, Monmouth struggled to produce offensively, mainly because of the Patriots’ strong defense.

Next up for the Patriots is a home game against Austin Peay on Friday night at 7 p.m. at EagleBank Arena. The Patriots will be looking to start 2-0 for the first time since 2021, when they started 4-0. 


Wed, 08/11/2023 - 6:49pm

Photo Courtesy of C.J. Marshall

Mason student explores the intersection between Computer Science and modeling.


Junior Nasrin Ali’s first foray into modeling was during her senior year of high school, when she and her friend participated in her brother’s photoshoot for Elevate & Motivate Music. Back then, she was nervous about being in front of the camera. After the experience, she found a new passion.

Ali first worked with a modeling agency in 2021 when one of her friends, who is also a model, encouraged her to send her portfolio to an up-and-coming mother-model agency, Black Agency. She took her chances, submitted her portfolio and got signed.

Currently, she is signed with VisualsDMV and does freelance work. Her photographers have beautiful visions and creative ideas, and it excites her to help carry them out.

“There is nothing I love more than being in front of the camera. I think it’s a beautiful thing to be able to help people carry out their creative visions,” Ali said.

In addition to modeling, Ali is also majoring in Computer Science. She is a Samsung ambassador, giving her a platform to bridge the gap between her academic pursuits and her creative endeavors. From capturing breathtaking moments with Samsung cameras to enhancing her modeling portfolio through advanced photo editing on Samsung tablets, she is constantly inspired by the intersection of technology and art. 

“Through this collaboration, I am not only shaping my own future but also contributing to the ever-changing landscape of technology-driven creativity,” Ali said. 

Ali has participated in programs such as the Columbia University Girls in STEM Initiative, Kode with Klossy, Girls Who Code, Exelon STEM Academy, Google Code Next and the Google Computer Science Summer Institute. Her most recent experience was as a software engineering and product management intern at Microsoft with Xbox Studios

These programs have allowed her to fine-tune her passions, which include helping people, fashion and all kinds of art. After completing her degree, she hopes to develop and improve AI used to detect cancer, increase diversity when testing these technologies and complete research on how algorithms can present more accurate information.

“My heart lies in the world of research, particularly in AI. This fascination isn’t merely academic; it’s deeply personal,” Ali said. “The memory of my grandmother, whose life was claimed by cancer, fuels my determination.”

Ali plans to pursue her Masters and Ph.D., immersing herself in research that could potentially redefine how our society approaches and combats this devastating disease. She aspires to not just improve existing solutions but also to pioneer new ones and create pathways to early detection that could save lives and offer hope to families. 

Along with her current professional goals, Ali is also a tutor, mentor, and educator who aspires to develop and create a safe haven for young minds, particularly young Black brains. To fulfill her goals, she hopes to build a nonprofit that will provide free computer science education and mentorship while instilling confidence, sparking curiosity, and cultivating a feeling of belonging.

“I see this program as more than an educational institution; it’s a family. It’s a community that doesn’t just end with graduation. It continues, providing avenues for alumni to give back, to mentor the next generation thus creating a perpetual cycle of support and empowerment.” Ali said.

She envisions herself as a creator, weaving together intricate codes and seamless designs to develop applications that enhance lives. From user-friendly healthcare apps to innovative educational platforms, Ali wants her skills to translate into tangible, accessible tools that empower individuals and communities. 

Through every click of the shutter, every brush of makeup and every stitch of fabric, being a model allows Ali to express her story and connect with others. As she continues on her journey, she is endlessly grateful for the love that fuels her passion.

Students who are interested can see Ali’s work on her portfolio, Instagram and career-related experiences on LinkedIn.