Welcome Week: Ask Me about the ‘Ask Me about Mason’ Booths

Posted: August 28, 2014 at 4:07 pm, Last Updated: September 1, 2014 at 9:49 am

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By Buzz McClain

“Does the RAC provide free towels?”

“Where’s the taxi stand?”

“What’s Mason’s endowment?”

Volunteers work at "Ask Me About Mason" booths during Welcome Week at the Fairfax Campus. Photo by Alexis Glenn.

Volunteers work at “Ask Me About Mason” booths during Welcome Week at the Fairfax Campus. Photo by Alexis Glenn.

Welcome to the world of the volunteers at the six Welcome Week Ask Me About Mason Booths on the Fairfax Campus, those white tents strategically placed around the grounds. The 300 faculty members, staff members and student volunteers take up to six half-hour training sessions in the weeks before school opens. Philip Rippa, office manager of George Mason University’s Leadership Education and Development Office and coordinator of the Ask Me answerers, briefs them on what questions they might encounter during their one-hour shifts throughout the week.

Still, some questions are harder to prepare for.

“Everyone asks where a particular building is but we’ve had a few this year ask not just where the building is, but where in the building their classroom is,” says Patrick McCavitt, a director in Auxiliary Enterprises and a multi-year volunteer. As an answer, McCavitt simply directed the new student to the building and let them figure it out from there.

“I had someone ask where Bull Run Hall is,” says sophomore Chad McCutcheon, a criminology, law, and society major at the booth near Starbucks on Patriot Circle. Alas, Bull Run Hall is on the Prince William Campus.

“I also had someone ask where they could get an ‘I [heart] Mason Korea’ T-shirt,” he adds.

Umm, nowhere?

“They were disappointed those were given out last year.”

Some 300 Mason students, faculty and staff members take up to six half-hour training sessions before manning the booths.

Some 300 Mason students, faculty and staff members take up to six half-hour training sessions before manning the booths.
Photo by Alexis Glenn.

Among the questions volunteers struggled to answer in any manner:

“Where’s the free food?”

“I’m supposed to meet my friends, do you know where they are?”

“Where’s the all-day $3 parking?”

This last question was asked of volunteer Alexis Patull, a junior forensics science major who knew the names of the original four buildings (Krug, Thompson, East and West). As for that cheap parking? Answer: At the Field House.

One student wanted to know what to do if you show up for class, but no one else does. The volunteer suggested emailing the professor. While they were at the booth, the student checked the time of the class, only to learn it didn’t start for another 45 minutes. That might explain the empty desks.

“Where are the nursing simulation labs?” a student asked volunteer Joanne Hawk from the College of Health and Human Services’ student affairs office. It was a good question about a little-known facility and one of the School of Nursing’s coolest classrooms. Answer: Robinson Hall A, Room 356.

Buildings that change names over the summer can throw off even upperclassmen, says volunteer Jana Fryman, program coordinator of the Living Learning Communities. University Hall and Mason Hall have always confounded some, she says, but now those looking for University Hall need to know to look for the Alan and Sally Merten Hall, which became official on June 23.

Volunteers have a few of their own questions answered, whether they ask them or not. “I learn something about Mason every year at an Ask Me Booth,” says Amena Johnson, program coordinator for Mason’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning Resources.

Write to Buzz McClain at bmcclai2@gmu.edu

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