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Access to Excellence Podcast
41 minutes | Sep 6, 2022
His sound is renowned
Dr. Michael Nickens, an associate professor of music in George Mason University’s Reva and Sid Dewberry Family School of Music, tells Mason President Gregory Washington how he transforms from his mild-mannered persona into Doc Nix, the flamboyant leader of the Green Machine, the nation’s No. 1 pep band. The band isn’t a mechanical process, Nix says. There are times its members are collectively “exploring the universe in that moment. And those are the moments that feel like we have really accomplished something.” Actor Bill Murray is a fan of the band, and Nix is pretty good on the tuba.
45 minutes | Jul 25, 2022
What it means to build peace
Alpaslan Özerdem, dean of the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, talks to Mason President Gregory Washington about the keys to effective peacebuilding, whether it concerns the war in Ukraine, gun violence or local issues. And don’t miss the discussions about how the Carter School helped broker a peace accord in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and how an alien invasion could help heal the rift between Russia and the West.
47 minutes | Jun 15, 2022
Cori Bush: Action must be the reaction
Rep. Cori Bush, Missouri's first Black congresswoman, talks to George Mason University President Gregory Washington about the importance of the class she is teaching this summer at Mason. A pastor, teacher, nurse, and a Black Lives Matter activist in Ferguson, Mo., Bush explains her unusual path to Congress, and doesn’t flinch when discussing issues surrounding race and policing.
42 minutes | May 20, 2022
Russia’s war in Ukraine tied to corruption, organized crime
Louise Shelley, a University Professor and director of Mason’s Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center explains to Mason President Gregory Washington the connections between the war in Ukraine and Russian corruption and organized crime, and how criminals and terrorists take advantage in diverse ways of the globalized world in which we live. Shelley’s center exposes that criminality and recently helped take 55 million counterfeit and sub-standard medical masks out of circulation worldwide with the takedown of more than 50,000 online marketplaces and social media posts.
39 minutes | Apr 19, 2022
Promoting a scientific worldview
Jim Trefil, a physicist and Robinson Professor at George Mason University, explains to Mason President Gregory Washington the importance of a scientific worldview. The author of more than 50 books and one of the developers of the modern theories about quarks as a fundamental component of the universe, Trefil is helping pioneer a new way of teaching science and says you don’t have to be in a lab to learn. ‘You live in a world full of science. Oh, and just FYI, Trefil says, ‘There is life even if you’ve been rejected by Playboy.’
41 minutes | Mar 15, 2022
On Ukraine, Russia, China, and a very messy world
Larry Pfeiffer, director of George Mason University’s Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security, explains to Mason President Gregory Washington about Vladimir Putin’s real agenda in Ukraine. He also details why the war in Ukraine matters to the United States, even though the U.S.’s long-term geopolitical, economic and technological challenge is from China. Pfeiffer also asks Americans to guard against autocracy at home, because, as he said, it doesn’t take much for a country’s values to be subverted and freedoms suppressed.
50 minutes | Feb 18, 2022
Charles Chavis: The truth will set you free
Charles Chavis, an assistant professor of conflict resolution and history at George Mason University, and director of African and African American studies at Mason, talks about his new book that explores the lynching of a young Black Man in Salisbury, Md., and how understanding his story and the Black experience in the United States can help find ways to fight anti-Black violence. Chavis also pushes for a National Truth and Reconciliation Program to give the country the chance to reset and “deal with the truth.”
46 minutes | Jan 12, 2022
Foods you can lose to climate change
Ted Dumas, an associate professor of psychology, is an experienced researcher who is ringing alarm bells about the damage from climate change. His book, “If Food Could Talk: Stories From 13 Precious Foods,” explains how foods such as coffee, chocolate, bananas and avocados could soon disappear for good. Dumas tells Mason President Gregory Washington how the book came about, how these foods can be saved – a pooping bear in Japan might provide a way to save cherries – and how the book was almost entitled “The Last Chocolate Kiss.”
50 minutes | Dec 8, 2021
Reimagining Santa Claus
Want to listen to a conversation with real holiday spirit? Thalia Goldstein, an associate professor of applied developmental psychology, tells George Mason University President Gregory Washington about how kids benefit socially and emotionally from finding out Santa Claus isn’t real. As for finding out herself as a child, Goldstein, whose research focuses on the effects of pretend play and theater on children’s social and emotional skills, says she’s still disappointed.
47 minutes | Nov 19, 2021
The real story of the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving
John G. Turner, a professor of religious studies at George Mason University talks with Mason President Gregory Washington about the real history of Thanksgiving. Were the Pilgrims religious refugees who established democracy and the holiday in New England, or invaders who betrayed their native allies and even enslaved them? Turner also gets to the bottom of the age-old Thanksgiving question: light meat or dark? A fascinating discussion with lots to digest.
50 minutes | Nov 10, 2021
Hakeem Oluseyi calls his education ”a matter of life and death”
Hakeem Oluseyi tells George Mason University President Gregory Washington how he went from a life of crime to being one of the world’s renowned astrophysicists. The Visiting Robinson Professor at Mason also describes what aliens might look like – think a two-foot tall Incredible Hulk – and tells a remarkable tale of how working as a hotel janitor, and eating room-service leftovers to survive, made him understand that his education was “a matter of life and death.”
37 minutes | Oct 13, 2021
How sustainability is good business
Lisa Gring-Pemble thinks business can be a force for good in society. And the co-director of George Mason University’s Business for a Better World Center and co-founder of the university’s Honey Bee initiative is an outspoken champion of that sensibility. Gring-Pemble tells Mason President Gregory Washington how and why business should address world challenges. She also describes how business can drive sustainability success and shouldn’t be measured simply by profits but how it affects the environment and the communities in which we live.
47 minutes | Aug 26, 2021
Talking immigration, DREAMers, the border wall ... and margaritas
For Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a nationally recognized expert on the dynamics of the U.S.-Mexico border and immigration, the border region is like a third country. The George Mason University professor talks to Mason President Gregory Washington about the wonders and dangers of the border region, and why we must be honest about the causes of illegal immigration while stopping politics from driving decision-making.
48 minutes | Jul 28, 2021
At the nexus of policing and society
For Cynthia Lum, a professor of criminology, law, and society at George Mason University, the realities of policing don’t always match what the public thinks of policing. That disconnect doesn’t allow a discussion about the most effective approaches to curbing use-of-force discrepancies. Lum, a former Baltimore City cop, tells Mason President Gregory Washington about how evidence-based policing is part of an overall strategy to fight crime that includes being respectful to the communities with which they work.
50 minutes | Jul 14, 2021
Spencer Crew: At the intersection of museums and social justice
George Mason University history professor Spencer Crew, the first African American to lead a major Smithsonian museum, tells Mason President Gregory Washington about the evolving role museums play in society, and how the Black community in the United States, and those who work with it, are trying to be the conscience of the nation.
38 minutes | Jun 26, 2021
Shane Caswell, co-director of George Mason University's Sports Medicine Assessment Research and Testing Laboratory tells Mason President Gregory Washington about his research that could change how concussions are diagnosed and treated, how Mason students are working in the community as athletic trainers, and what the latest science says about concussions and CTE.
48 minutes | Jun 8, 2021
COVID-19 mental health crisis is the second pandemic
COVID-19 presented individuals with many challenges. Some were obvious, such as how to continue one’s education through distance learning. But some were not as clear cut, such as dealing with anxiety, depression and grief. Robyn Mehlenbeck, director of George Mason University's Center for Psychological Services, talks about how college campuses can deal with those stresses, and why the mental health crises associated with COVID-19 is the second pandemic.
36 minutes | May 14, 2021
Gail Christopher: On racial healing and overcoming a legacy of separation
A false story has been told in this country about people of color, social change agent Gail Christopher says, and it’s time to tell the truth about the “bad idea” of the hierarchy of human value. Dr. Christopher, executive director of the National Collaborative for Health Equity and a senior scholar at George Mason University, tells Mason President Gregory Washington that racial healing includes building a belief system “that is grounded in a deep understanding of our interconnectedness and interdependence as an expanded human family.”
47 minutes | May 4, 2021
With Emergent Ventures, Tyler Cowen puts money where his mind is
Emergent Ventures, which looks for big and unique ideas, has raised $60 million and funded 200 projects. Mason economist and co-founder Tyler Cowen says the grants are “something you can win that’s not about connections.” Push ideas, he said. “Make the world tell you no.” Cowen also talks about how the Fast Grants program is helping fight Covid-19, why having children can help fight climate change and why he is bullish on the U.S. economy.
42 minutes | Apr 21, 2021
Climate change and the misinformation war
There are those who still don’t believe in climate change or that it is manmade. As Earth Day approaches, public health scientist Ed Maibach, director of George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication, speaks about overcoming climate change misinformation, which he calls the world’s most important public health initiative.
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