Honors College's Richard Todd Stafford Recognized with David W. Rossell Quill Award

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On April 13th, Mason held its annual Outstanding Achievement Awards Ceremony. At the event, Honors College Director of Communications Richard Todd Stafford was recognized for his dedication to Mason’s mission through the David W. Rossell Quill Award. 

Man gesturing with both hands in front of laptop on a tripod

The David W. Rossell Quill Award celebrates the strong leadership of its nominees, both within their regular duties and beyond. By dedicating their time and expertise, those presented with this award see potential in their students and put them first time and time again, truly making Mason a better place. 

Richard Todd Stafford is the Director of Communication for Mason’s Honors College and a professor in both the Honors College and Cultural Studies departments. This semester, he is teaching HNRS 361, a multidisciplinary practicum course where students develop unique creative research projects. This is just one of many courses he has taught throughout his ten years at Mason. 

Multidisciplinary learning and collaboration are the hallmarks of Stafford's approach. As Director of Communication, he mentors a communication team of seven Honors College students and one alumnus that represent several majors. The charge of this team is to tell the Honors College's story.  As supervisor of the Honors College Communications Team, Stafford provides professional development guidance and supports interns as they create content including news articles, newsletters, videos, and social media posts.  

Outside of academics, Stafford engages with students through the Climate Change and Energy Transition Book Club and as a committed advisor for the Virginia Environmental Justice Summit, a student-led conference that empowers activists across the state. In the past, he has also helped produce the Cultural Studies "Capitalism, Climate, and Culture" Colloquium Podcast.  

Stafford was nominated for the David W. Rossell Quill Award by Honors College student and President of the Mason Environmental Justice Alliance, Dasha Maslyukova, with the support of Assistant Dean of the Honors College Anthony Hoefer. “I nominated him because I have seen him both in and outside of the classroom helping students engage with topics that they really care about,” shared Maslyukova, citing her interactions with him through HNRS 361, the book club, and planning the Virginia Environmental Justice Summit. 

In addition to his work with students, Stafford is a PhD candidate for the Cultural Studies program, researching the relationships between discourses of “clean coal,” politics surrounding climate change, and practices used by the coal industry. 

Maslyukova is just one of many students who have been positively impacted by Stafford’s mentorship. “I hope that he sees that the students he interacts with really take a lot [from his mentorship] and that he influences a lot of different students, even if they might not tell him that directly. Just having him care about students makes me feel like Mason cares about students,” she explained.  

In addition to acting as an educator and advisor, he serves as an example in his personal life and local community. For instance, Stafford is currently dedicated to the restoration of Happy Creek, a threatened public waterway in his own community of Front Royal, VA.  

“I think that it’s important for students to see professors as active citizens in their own communities,” shared Maslyukova. 

The extra mile he goes to mentor students in a professional and personal capacity is impactful, and it shows through the way his students develop as leaders in their communities, find their own direction, have access to the tools they need, and make meaningful cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary connections. Maslyukova emphasizes the importance of his mentorship to her college experience: “He values his students as people and those connections are something I just really appreciate.” 

Ever since I have met Stafford, he has always put students first and helps them in any way he can. Since I have worked as a Communications Team intern under Stafford the beginning of my freshman year, he has been an amazing supervisor. In addition to that, whenever I needed academic help, guidance, advice or had any question throughout the semester, I would always reach out to Stafford because I knew he could point me in the right direction.

Kimberly Laura, Honors College Graphic Design Intern

As a new member of the Communications Team, I was pretty nervous about getting acclimated to the job and everything it might require of me, but being able to work with Prof. Stafford has been such a welcoming experience. Right from the start, it was clear how much Prof. Stafford cares about putting students’ needs first: he always encourages us to make our school work a priority, does little check-ins on our goals and our lives, and is extremely accommodating. As busy as Prof. Stafford is, he always makes time for students, ensuring that we know what our role is and have the tools to be successful.

Mariam Qureshi, Honors College Writing and Reporting Intern

I was introduced to Mr. Stafford by my Honors College advisor at the end of my freshman year, after admitting to them I had no idea what I wanted to do in the future - other than an interest in communication. Since joining the Communication Team, I realized I could not have asked for a better team, organized, supported, and kept running by Mr. Stafford… My colleagues on the team are some of the most hard-working, talented, and supportive people I know, always ready to take on new challenges - and this is led by Mr. Stafford’s example. He genuinely wants every student to achieve their best, creating opportunities and resources for learning, and always believing in the potential of others.

Audrey Butler, Honors College Videography and Writing Intern

Professor Stafford works hard to ensure that the students he supervises, teaches, and communicates with reach their full potential. No matter how busy his schedule gets, he always takes time out of his day to respond comprehensively to student questions and concerns. Furthermore, he is always looking for new and innovative ways to expand the Honors College's outreach efforts and, in turn, positively leverage University enrollment. When he has an idea, he doesn't hesitate to collaborate with others to implement it, seeking honest input from others while researching how to best carry it out.

Josh McLean, Honors College Videography Intern

It really does not surprise me at all that Professor Stafford won this award. If anything, he should have received it so much earlier! In my academic career, I have taken HNRS 261 and 361 with Professor Stafford. Outside of courses, I have been interning with the Honors College Communications Team ever since a quick conversation at his office hours one day. I have been blessed to have such a wonderful teacher and guide throughout my undergraduate journey. He has given me countless tips and techniques on studying, note-taking, time management, and conflict resolution in my everyday life. During my lowest times, he has always been extremely understanding, sympathetic, and flexible. I am so entirely grateful to have a mentor that cares for my well-being and is willing to work with me throughout it all. When my peers ask me what Honors courses they should take, I zealously encourage them to take a course or two with Professor Stafford because, in all honesty, he is singularly one of the best professors and mentors I have ever had!

Andreana Lin, Honors College Lead Communications Intern

I first met Mr. Stafford as my HNRS 361 professor last semester. During that course, I wanted to research and develop a creative project regarding my field of study, marketing, and applying to my marketing job. While excited for my project, I was overwhelmed by the scale of it however, Mr. Stafford guided me through the process and provided several networking opportunities that have been extraordinarily helpful. Since then, Mr. Stafford welcomed me into the Honors College Communications team and now I work with brilliant and creative peers under his leadership. It is evident that, in the classroom and the virtual workplace, Mr. Stafford cultivates a healthy environment where self-expression and creativity is welcomed.

Juan Escalera, Honors College Social Media Intern

I met Stafford last year in HNRS 360, which is in my top two Honors College courses. I enjoyed that class because it intersected with my own research interests around climate change while allowing me to approach the topic from a different discipline. At the same time, I was applying to work on the communications team. I’m studying environmental science, so I was hoping not to be overlooked for a role I might be qualified for just because of my major. I have always been drawn to writing, media, and photography, but Stafford is the first person who really affirmed that there was a space out there for me. He has always let me cover the stories I was most interested in, and at the same time, has pushed me to take on new roles and opportunities. I am extremely grateful for his advice and his dedication, but most importantly, I am lucky to have a role model that inspires me to pursue my goals.

Sophia Chapin, Honors College Multimedia Intern

Each and every day, Professor Stafford exhibits the values of George Mason University. I would argue that these define who he is as a supervisor, professor, and mentor. He is the perfect candidate to have won this award! He gave to me that which he gives to each of his students, as well as the interns he supervises: a sense of community, an environment in which to learn, and a challenge to be the best version of myself. As our professional relationship grew, he continued to look for ways to mentor me throughout my undergraduate education, as well as ways to use my internship to benefit me both inside and outside of the classroom. To be frank, I would not be where I am today without the opportunities and guidance from Professor Stafford.

Nathan Crawford, Honors College Social Media Intern and alumnus

I met Mr. Stafford when I joined the Honors College's Communications Team during my junior year. Immediately, I noticed that Mr. Stafford greatly valued the thoughts and ideas of every student whom he encountered. He helped to make the Communications Team an efficient, collective unit by both listening to and collaborating with students on innovative ideas to make the Honors College as a whole feel like more of a community. Mr. Stafford has a gift for seeing the potential and talent in others, even when they may not notice those said traits in themselves. Working with him on the Team affirmed my love for editing and publishing, and his guidance and advice have stuck with me in the workplace as I continue to collaborate on small teams to achieve a common goal. Mr. Stafford is a great example of what good leadership and mentorship looks like through his openness to the ideas of others and his ability to bring out the best in people.

Zaria Talley, former Honors College Lead Communication Intern and alumna

Mr. Stafford engages and supports his students not only in class, but outside of class through their passions such as helping students to plan the Virginia Environmental Justice Summit (VEJS) and Honors College Connects (HCC) Program. As a student with little experience on the marketing team in planning the second annual EJ summit, Mr. Stafford would always take the time to share his wisdom on how to market and engage different audiences to participate in our conference through helping us define our goals, how to best utilize different social media platforms, create a social media toolkit, and support us in creating a video with the Honors College Communications Team. In HCC, with support from the Honors College Communications Team, he continued his support in its first year as a curricular and extracurricular program in helping us learn how to encourage students to take the class and incorporate institutional memory through the creation of videos and a website redesign. I most admire Mr. Stafford for always taking the time to meet with students and providing a space to ask for feedback and improvement. He was one of the first Honors College professors I met that has supported me from my first year at Mason from encouraging me to continue my HNRS 110 research at the winter research exhibition to his support in creating a reading group for students to meet about their interests.

Julia Hakeem, Honors College student

Professor Stafford is a special person and professor. He stimulates people intellectually; he has honestly shown me just how complex and intricate and interesting the world really is, but he has done it in a wondering, welcoming way. He cares about students and treats them as intellectual peers. He is self-aware and humble and encouraging.

Finn Fisk, Honors College alumna

Mr. Stafford by far has been the most influential and supportive professor I’ve had during my time at Mason. I first had the opportunity to learn from him during my HNRS 360: Multidisciplinary Topics: Energy and Culture Research Seminar, where he helped guide my research into being something that I felt very proud of presenting at the in-person and virtual Honors College Research Exhibition. Since then, he has continuously been someone who is willing to go above and beyond in terms of looking for opportunities, supporting student work and activities, and just providing truly valuable guidance. I feel very lucky to have met Mr. Stafford, and he has helped motivate me to keep being curious in my studies and is a real source of support while navigating my college years.

Olivia Garcia, Honors College student