Student Snapshots

In each student snapshot, an Honors College student answers question about their Honors College experience. 

Student Snapshots

Name: Audrey Butler

Year: Sophomore

Major(s): Communication

Concentration(s): Media Production and Criticism

Minor(s): Film

Hometown: Farmville, VA

Why I chose the Honors College: I loved the idea of a supportive academic community! The perks of choosing classes earlier and having smaller class sizes were also enticing.

What I learned: I am definitely more prepared in creating and giving concise presentations on research. My HNRS 110 professor, Dr. Hoefer, helped me a lot in adapting my project for an exhibition, and participating in that opportunity was such a great experience!

What I liked about my HNRS classes: I love the sizes and discussion-based styles of the classes. The Honors curriculum offers classes with such a variety of perspectives in subjects I otherwise would not have thought much about. I have taken Honors classes ranging from a look into the rumors of Queen Elizabeth’s love affairs to how world borders and migration issues are depicted in films.

What my research experience has looked like so far: My first experience with research at George Mason was in HNRS 110 with my project on the representation of zombies in films after the 9/11 terrorist attack, primarily in their representation of xenophobia. As someone who does not seek out scary movies, I previously had little familiarity with the genre. The project opened my eyes to the subtle way films can express fears, ideals, and a call for change to a mass public.

What’s been cool: I’ve loved playing intramural soccer at George Mason and performing on trumpet with friends at a local church! I also discovered ballroom dancing, which has been so much fun. Off campus, my friends and I enjoy exploring D.C. and cute shops in Fairfax.

Internship & job opportunities: I’m the writing intern for the Honors College Communication Team!

What it was like in the LLC: Joining the Honors College LLC freshman year was one of the best decisions I made when coming into college. The community is so supportive and really helped me get involved early on!

I wish I had: gone to more Honors College events. I wasn’t able to go to the pancake breakfast or the D.C. trip, but they sound like a lot of fun – the events I did go to certainly were!

I’m glad that: the Honors courses gave me a chance to explore new topics!

What I’m looking forward to: more internship opportunities and interesting classes.



Name: Sophia Chapin

Year: Junior

Major(s): Environmental Science

Concentration(s): Conservation

Minor(s): N/A

Hometown: Springfield, VA

Why I chose the Honors College: I applied to Mason late and ended up being accepted to the Honors College after my initial acceptance to the university. I was interested in a college experience that would let me grow and be curious in more than one dimension. The Honors College really catered to my personality as a student because of the multidisciplinary approach; I can engage with a variety of other disciplines that feed my creativity and connect with what I’m learning within my major-specific coursework.

What I learned: In HNRS 110 Principles of Research and Inquiry, I contemplated whether the Starbucks pledge to ban straws was greenwashing or not and  — I’m not sure. The class that was most out of my comfort zone was HNRS 122 Reading the Arts: Exoticism in Music, which filled my arts requirement. I ended up loving the topic and talking about discourses in Western music and culture at every opportunity. Now, there’s a running joke that I hate David Bowie, which I don’t. I did a lot of self-reflecting in HNRS 130 Identity, Community and Difference: History of Our Selves, and something I learned is that the line between realist and idealist is confusing. I think others would describe me as idealist, but I like to say I’m a realist. The problem is you can’t be both, and you’re usually only ever one. My HNRS 360 Multi-Disciplinary Topics: Energy and Culture Research Seminar both made me panic for the future in a world with climate change and feel inspired that systematic change is possible, and around the corner. The sooner we embrace it, the better.

What I liked about my HNRS classes: Most of my classes moved away from lecture to Socratic seminar-style discussions and in-class research. I liked being able to answer questions and problem-solve collectively. If that’s not you, don’t fret: my professors always provided opportunities to earn credit in other formats. There’s usually both individual and group projects, and for me it was also a requirement to learn how to cite sources in more than one disciplinary style. The class size was always small enough to learn most students’ names and have the space to build real connections with professors.

What my research experience has looked like so far: I researched everything from “Ecolabels for Sustainability” to “Aesthetic, Appreciation, and Appropriation” of Japanese culture by a British synthpop band, Honne, to analyzing the frequency and relevance of news articles on climate change in my group project on “Amazon in the e-commerce revolution: The social and environmental impacts of convenience.” I presented the first and last of those topics at two separate Honors College Research Exhibitions.

What’s been cool: My first year and a half I rowed for Mason’s Women’s Rowing Team, but I also studied abroad during the winter break of my freshman year in Nepal to learn how storytelling can be a tool for wildlife conservation.

Internship & job opportunities: I’m currently the multimedia intern on the Honors College Communication Team!

What it was like in the LLC: I actually lived in the Environment and Sustainability LLC, but I was able to participate in some Honors LLC events my freshman year like the 9/11 Day of Service.

I wish I had: participated in more research, either in the Honors College, OSCAR, or under my professors. I also wish I had begun networking with the amazing faculty in the Honors College and Environmental Science and Policy departments sooner.

I’m glad that: the Honors College accepts AP transfer credits. A year and a half out from graduation, I’m also grateful I had the foresight to meet with my two advisors at least once a semester.



Name: Nathan Crawford

Year: Senior

Major(s): Communication

Concentration(s): Journalism and Media Production

Minor(s): N/A

Hometown: Palmetto, GA

Why I chose the Honors College: Honestly, the Honors College at Mason just fell into my lap. I had always been part of the Honors program through school, so when I applied to Mason, I naturally applied to the Honors College. I knew absolutely nothing about it at the time, however, it quickly became a defining part of my college experience. It was in these classes that I met some of my closest friends and learned about things that have shaped my education ever since. I always tell people that these classes take you out of your comfort zone but give you so much more than you could ever imagine!

What I learned: More than anything, I learned about the world around me. I had the opportunity to learn about various cultures, institutions, and opportunities that together form our world. In one class, the focus was on identity development through autobiographies, while in another I learned how music is built upon culture and helps connect the world. The topics of these classes are far from your stereotypical college class allowing me to be a more well-rounded citizen. 

What I liked about my HNRS classes: Honors classes allowed me to excel at what I was good at, while taking classes on topics that interested me. Although the Honors College requires certain classes, each section of the class is on a different topic. This really gave me opportunities to pick topics that were interesting to me and added to my career goals.

What my research experience looked like: I have always been a journalism and politics nerd – I love seeing how they play a role in our everyday lives. Through the Honors College, I had the opportunity to research “How has the use of new media outlets, such as social media, in modern-day presidential elections, affected the political marketing directed at millennials compared to the traditional approaches to share political ideologies?”

What’s been cool: All four of my years at Mason, I have had the opportunity to serve as a Mason Ambassador, a campus tour guide. We work with prospective students through tours, events, open houses, among other things. It is an amazing experience to meet prospective Mason students from all over the country and world, while having a platform to share my love for Mason!  

Internship & job opportunities: This past summer I had the opportunity to intern with CNN in Washington, DC! I helped produce stories that aired on more than 1,100 CNN affiliate news stations in the United States and internationally. It gave me the opportunity to learn how journalists do live reporting and packaged news differently around the world. Some other highlights from my internship included interviewing former FBI and CIA director William Webster during a World War II memorial event on the National Mall and standing with the press on Capitol Hill for the Mueller hearing.

What it was like in the LLC: I really enjoyed the opportunity to build such a strong sense of community from day one. It was amazing to go to class and see some of my floormates but then have the opportunity to go back to the residence hall and see them again. We were able to build both a social and academic community that has extended way beyond the walls of our residence hall freshman year. 

I wish I had: I wish I had taken more advantage of the opportunities the Honors College provides. Until my third year at Mason, I never really viewed the Honors College as the amazing community that it is. I, instead, just thought of it at a few classes I needed to graduate. 

I’m glad that: The Honors College takes chances on students. So many of my fellow students feel constricted by curriculum and opportunities through other departments, so I am glad I had the opportunity to have a strong say in my education and opportunities through Honors College. 

What I’m looking forward to: I am looking forward to graduation a little more than a month away! Although it won’t likely be in its traditional format due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am looking forward to celebrating with my friends and family. After graduation, I plan to take the summer to myself before starting graduate school in August.



Name: Kimberly Laura

Year: Freshman

Major(s): Biology

Concentration(s): Biopsychology

Minor(s): N/A

Hometown: Annandale, VA

Why I chose the Honors College: Throughout high school, I took Honors and IB classes with the full intention of graduating with an Advanced Diploma and IB diploma. When it came to apply for college, I had applied to Honors College programs at different colleges. I also knew I would most likely attend Mason during my senior year because it was local. When I was accepted into both Mason and the Honors College, I felt like the choice was clear, so I committed to Mason. I knew I wanted to be in the Honors College because I have always liked to challenge myself and I wanted to be part of a multidisciplinary curriculum. I knew that there were specialized classes in the Honors curriculum and programs that would help me grow as a student.

What I learned: In HNRS 110 Principles of Research and Inquiry, I learned a lot of research skills and was able to practice effective research techniques. As of now, this is the only research experience I have. However, the class prepared me with techniques I will need throughout my time at Mason. Moreover, I am currently taking HNRS 130 Gender, Race and Immigration and this class is very interesting. It is philosophy class that ties philosophical ideas to the social constructs that exist now. This is a course that is far outside of my major, but it provides a global understanding that I value.

What I liked about my HNRS classes: In my fall semester, I had enrolled into the Honors section of Chemistry I. I did this mostly because it fit with my schedule and was worried the class might be too rigorous for a first semester. However, I had a great experience with the class and the professor. What I liked the most about the class was being able to attend the LA’s office hours on a weekly basis. The structure of the course and access to an LA made me succeed in that class. Due to this positive experience, I am currently enrolled in the Honors section for Biology and Chemistry II. I enjoy both of my professors’ different teaching styles and how they challenge their students.

What my research experience has looked like so far: So far, the only research experience I have is from HNRS 110 Principles of Research and Inquiry. However, I applied and was accepted to join an OSCAR Summer Impact Team for this summer. I will be part of a research project about social isolation among older age groups in the U.S. and Japan.

What’s been cool: I was offered a scholarship by the Honors College to attend the STEM Bootcamp the summer before my fall semester. I spent a week with fellow incoming Honors College freshman. I was also able to live on campus and take lectures from STEM professors at Mason. I enjoyed the experience and it eased my stress coming into the fall semester.

Internship & job opportunities: I’m currently the graphic design intern on the Honors College Communication Team. I am also going to start my position as a Community Assistant for Housing in the fall. It’s amazing how many jobs, internships and opportunities there are in the Honors College and at Mason in general. Moreover, my academic advisor and other faculty members inform me of various opportunities in and outside of Mason.

What it was like as a commuter: Honestly it is more difficult to meet fellow Honors students as a commuter – the main time I am with Honors College students is during class. This makes the time I spend with other classmates valuable. The discussions and group projects incorporated in the HNRS classes help a lot with meeting others and discovering other classes I share with Honors students who are in the same major. That also helps with making study groups.

I wish I had: Joined more clubs. Clubs are a great way to meet people and network. I made this one of my goals coming into college, however, it’s easier said than done. I found this very difficult as a commuter. Moreover, club meetings always conflicted with my classes and some meetings are at night. I plan to participate in clubs more next year when I am living on campus.

I’m glad that: I applied and was accepted to the Student Transition Empowerment Program (STEP). I was able to take a summer class and get credit for HNRS 130 as an incoming freshman. I lived on campus and was able to build a connection with other first-generation incoming freshman and mentors. This showed that there was opportunities and support for first generation students and Honors College students.

What I'm looking forward to: I look forward to gradually taking higher level courses during my time at Mason. My long-term and ultimate goal is to graduate with Honors. I also look forward to taking advantage of all the opportunities that will lead me to complete my goal.



Name: Savannah Martincic

Year: Sophomore

Major(s): Communication

Concentration(s): Journalism

Minor(s): Spanish and Social Justice

Hometown: Oley, PA

Why I chose the Honors College: I had been involved in my school’s gifted program since elementary school, so when I started applying to colleges, it only felt natural to also apply to their honors colleges. Coming from Pennsylvania and being the first one in my family not to go to Penn State, I didn’t know much about Mason or the Honors College, but I quickly learned that it would be the perfect place for me. I knew its multidisciplinary approach would keep me engaged and interested in my coursework and would help me be a more well-rounded student.

What I learned: Above all else, I’ve learned more about the world around me and my role in it. Being able to have serious discussions in a classroom setting about issues like the gender binary and economic inequality with people of different cultures, ethnicities, and economic statuses has been the greatest gift the Honors College could give my education.

What I liked about my HNRS classes: My HNRS classes have always been about interesting topics that I would have never had the opportunity to learn about if I weren’t in the Honors College. And, those small class sizes don’t hurt either! I have made really great connections with all my HNRS professors and I know I can always count on them for advice or a recommendation letter.

What my research experience has looked like so far: I had my first experience with research in HNRS 110. My project dealt with the ideology of white supremacy and the factors that perpetuate it in modern-day America. These factors included an aversion to political correctness, economic status and education, and the impact of mass media. I was even able to present this research at the 2019 Spring Research Exhibition as a finalist for the Schwartzstein Prize for First-Year Research.

What’s been cool: I’ve loved all the opportunities to get involved that Mason and the Honors College have provided me. I am a Senior Editor for Her Campus George Mason and the Assistant Opinion Editor for Fourth Estate. I am also the social media chair for Mason’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a member of the Honors College Recruitment Team!

Internship & job opportunities: I started out working at the Office of Admissions as a telecounselor, a job I got thanks to my connections through the Honors College! I left that job this past fall to take an internship with the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. There, I handle social media and other outreach for a project called the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, which engages medical professionals in climate change activism.

What it was like in the LLC: Coming from a very small town, I was worried about finding a space in Mason’s large community. The LLC provided the perfect opportunity for me to make those connections, especially since I had classes with many of my floormates. I will always be thankful for the connections I made in the LLC freshman year, because those are the people I still call my friends.

I wish I had: turned my HNRS 110 research into a research project with OSCAR. Hoping that I’ll have the chance in the next two years to do some more research, though!

I’m glad that: I took a chance on Mason. Mason wasn’t my top choice school, but the Honors College is absolutely what made me come here and stay here. “When one door closes, another opens,” and for me, Mason’s Honors College was that open door.



Name: Joshua McLean

Year: Junior

Major(s): Film and Video Studies

Concentration(s): Production

Minor(s): Political Communication

Hometown: Chesapeake, VA

Why I chose the Honors College: I have always been curious about the world around me. The Honors College allowed me to pursue that curiosity through research and inquiry. In addition, I knew that the class offerings would allow me to explore unique and challenging topics.

What I learned: In HNRS 110, I conducted research about microplastics and their effect on the environment. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic, unseen by the human eye. They have been found at the bottom of the oceans and inside the digestive tract of a myriad of animal species. The impact of microplastics was concerning to me. Because of this, I was excited that I could do research on the topic for an entire semester.

In addition, I really enjoyed former Provost Peter Stearns’ History of Emotions class. I never knew the role that emotions had played over the course of human history. However, after that class, I have gained a greater understanding of the world around me and why it operates the way it does. That class inspired me to pursue research about the history of jaywalking. In the early 1900s, as cars became more prevalent in Americans’ everyday lives, I learned that fear and shame were used to keep people off of the streets so that cars could use the roads.

What I liked about my HNRS classes: Each class was relatively small in size, making each one feel like a community in and of itself. In addition, every professor I’ve had has been really invested in helping students learn their class content and assist in the research process.

What my research experience has looked like so far: Most of the research I conducted has been involved writing research papers and making presentations to my professors or classes. Not only have I become a better writer, but I have also gained an incredible understanding of the world around me.

What’s been cool: As a film major, I have been able to help on professional film sets as well as produce my own films. Every semester, the Film and Video Studies department hosts the “Mason Film Festival” where students can showcase the work they had made during the semester. It is super cool getting to see my production company logo and creative work on the big screen.

Internship & job opportunities: I’m currently the Photography and Videography intern on the Honors College Communication Team. I also work for Housing and Residence Life on campus.

What it was like in the LLC: I loved living in the LLC. The floors are designed to promote community building. I am still friends with many of the people I met on my floor freshmen year.

I wish I had: Turned some of my research projects into film projects. I may do this at a later time, but I wish I had done it sooner!

I’m glad that: The Honors College allows you the flexibility to learn about what you are interested in. You not only can pursue research of your choice, but you can also choose from a wide range of classes to take.

What I’m looking forward to: I am currently applying to summer internships and working on a documentary project that I hope to finish filming this summer.



Name: Elise Mertz

Year: Freshman

Major(s): English

Concentration(s): Literature

Minor(s): Digital Humanities, German

Hometown: Palmyra, VA

Why I chose the Honors College: I loved how much Honors students supported each other and built a community together! Plus, I was excited about the smaller, more discussion-based classes as opposed to giant lecture halls.

What I learned: HNRS 110 gave me an excellent introduction to research at a college level, as well as on how to present that research to others. Those skills have already come in handy since I had to complete a research paper for another class that I took this semester; because of my 110 experience, I knew exactly how to tackle the project. In HNRS 261, a practicum course that aims to solve a real-world problem, I was part of a team of students tasked with redesigning Honors College Connects, an extracurricular service organization, into a for-credit course. That experience taught me so much about project management, leadership, and professional-level collaboration.

What I liked about my HNRS classes: The discussion-based approach that most professors bring to Honors classes makes them so engaging and often genuinely fun. The classes also have narrow, focused topics, so it has been easy for me to find classes that I personally care about. So far, all my HNRS classes have taught me about topics I’m interested in and helped me engage with issues that are important to me.

What my research experience has looked like so far: During HNRS 110, I conducted a literature review on correlations between overexcitabilities and gender in gifted adolescents. Overexcitabilities are also called intensities and refer to a range of behaviors from high energy levels to powerful emotional reactions. One of my favorite aspects of doing this research was that it had nothing to do with my major, but HNRS 110 still gave me an avenue to explore it when I might otherwise never have learned about it. At the end of last semester, I participated in a research exhibition organized by the Honors College, which gave me a brand-new experience of presenting my research. I also put together a video presentation this semester for Mason’s first Virtual Research Exhibition!

What’s been cool: It’s been amazing to live so close to Washington, D.C. After just a short time on campus, I’ve been able to spend time doing everything from studying at the Library of Congress to going to see ZooLights, the National Zoo’s annual Christmas light show.

Internship & job opportunities: This past semester, I had two great opportunities. First, I had an internship at the Historic Records Center of the Fairfax Circuit Court, where I worked in the county’s archives to preserve documents over a century old. After moving to virtual work, I was still able to complete the internship by doing research with online databases of historical documents. I also had a job through Mason’s Early Identification Program, where I worked as a tutor for eighth-graders in the area. The experience helped me learn so much about teaching and supporting middle school students!

What it was like in the LLC: The Honors LLC was a great way to meet other freshmen in the Honors College and start building connections with my peers from day one. I made some really great friends on my floor, and my experience inspired me to become an LLC Resident Assistance next year!

I wish I had: known that it’s normal to feel homesick! I was homesick quite a bit, especially in my first semester, and I thought I might be doing something wrong that was preventing me from settling in. Looking back, though, I can see how much sense it makes that it took a little time to adjust! After all, going to college is a big change.

I’m glad that: I got involved in organizations early on. Through Honors College Connects, the Honors College Recruitment Team, and Ballroom Dancing club, I had lots of fun times, made friends, and learned a ton!

What I’m looking forward to: Playing intramural soccer with my friends! We had put together a team for this spring, which of course got cancelled, but I’m looking forward to playing soccer for the first time in the next few semesters.



Name: Gabriella Hensinger

Year: Senior

Major(s): Global Affairs and Conflict Analysis & Resolution

Concentration(s): Human Security/Global Engagement

Hometown: Garnet Valley, PA

Why I chose the Honors College: I knew when I was applying to universities that I would love to be a part of an honors college. In high school, I took all honors and AP classes and was part of three different national honor societies. I chose the Honors College at Mason because I wanted to be part of a community that shared an academic focus. I also was very excited about the ability to live in the LLC to build my sense of community and have an alternative curriculum structure. Priority registration is a huge plus, too.

What I learned: to pursue opportunities. I applied to everything that interested me, even if I felt that I was not the most qualified or it was outside of my comfort zone. Because of this, I ended up gaining experiences I never would have had if I had not taken the chance.

What I liked about my HNRS classes: I really love Honors College classes because they are not your traditional general education requirements. Instead, they are specifically designed to reflect what is relevant in the world today. My favorite Honors class was in Fall 2018, and its entire focus was on the midterm election. We tracked specific congressional races, talked to actual Virginia voters weekly, and discussed the political implications of the election. Honors classes have allowed me to pursue classes in subject areas which interest me while still fulfilling my graduation requirements.

What my research experience has looked like so far: Honors 110 gave me foundational research skills which I have used in most of my classes, and in internships. It’s a really unique class because it allows you to develop and tailor your research skills specifically to your field of study. As a junior, I interned for a Hungarian think tank and was expected to conduct my own independent research. The skills I learned in HNRS 110 aided me in researching asylum procedures in Hungary and the United States. My internship was very impressed and ended up posting my final paper on their website!

What’s been cool: By far the coolest thing I have been able to do during my time at Mason was study abroad. I spent an entire semester in Budapest, Hungary with other Mason students Spring of 2019. As part of the program, we took classes taught in English by Hungarian professors and were individually placed in internships. I was also able to travel to 10 different countries during my time there. Living and learning in a foreign country was an invaluable experience for me and has given me new perspectives which I continue to use every day.

Internship & job opportunities: During my time at Mason I have had the opportunity to hold four different internships and a part-time job on campus. I have interned for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, The Center for European Neighborhood Studies, and for the U.S. Department of State Office of International Religious Freedom. On campus, I work for the admissions office and call prospective students. All of these experiences have provided me with tons of different skills and each one has been its own learning experience.

What it was like in the LLC: The LLC completely defined my Mason experience. As an out-of-state student, it provided me with the foundation I needed to attend a school where I knew no one else. As a floor, we had so many activities, including regular movie nights, late night dinners at Southside, and on campus events. It was always comforting to be able to walk into the common room and talk to other people whenever I wanted or needed the company. Today, I still am very close friends with a lot of people from my time in the LLC and have even lived with several of them again.

I wish I had: gotten more involved during my first semester. I was super nervous and unsure where I was really going to fit in on campus. My second semester I became super involved by joining a Greek organization, becoming a university tour guide, and getting an on-campus job.

I’m glad that: I chose Mason. It has proven time and time again that this school was the best fit for me. My Mason experience has provided me with opportunities I would never be able to have anywhere else and has defined me as the person I am today.

What I’m looking forward to: graduating! While I still have a couple of semesters remaining, I am excited to take all that I have learned and apply it in the real world. Interning and living away from home has prepared me to take it on.