Mason Employees Don Caps and Gowns

Posted: May 14, 2010 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: May 13, 2010 at 3:31 pm

By Robin Herron

Among Mason’s 7,783 students who will celebrate their graduation this year is a group of people who are Mason employees as well.

They have discovered that one of the many benefits of working at Mason is a tuition waiver for full and part-time faculty and staff. Some Mason employees have used the benefit to take a few courses for professional growth, but others have used the benefit to earn a degree or finish a degree.

Following are profiles of a few Mason employees who will earn diplomas this year.

Aubrey Cote

Aubrey Lynn Cote, student services administrative assistant in the School of Public Policy, (SPP) is so busy right now attending to the details of the school’s convocation that takes place tonight that she barely has time to think about her own graduation.

But Cote will break away this morning to attend the convocation of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, where she will receive a BA in government and international politics with a minor in history and a minor in tourism and events management.

She also plans to attend Saturday’s Commencement; her family from Winchester, Va., will also attend both ceremonies.

Cote started working on her BA when she joined SPP as a part-time fiscal aide six years ago. Gradually, she assumed more responsibility and became a full-time worker three years ago.

“I’ve been able to grow in this position,” she says. “Over the years I have been given more responsibility and have been truly given a unique opportunity to develop professionally while finishing my degree.”

Cote says she chose her area of study “because I’m a political junkie who is fascinated by international politics it how it impacts policy.”

For her history minor, she focused on Islamic studies. She added the tourism and events management minor because “It enabled me to utilize what I was learning in the classroom and bring that knowledge to my day-to-day responsibilities.”

For now, Cote plans to sit tight where she is.

“I love working in Arlington, and when the new building [Founders Hall] opens, it’s going to be a great new space to work in and a wonderful opportunity for the school to grow.”

She adds, “One of the most interesting aspects of working for the School of Public Policy is my interaction with such intelligent and talented staff and faculty — it’s such a different dynamic than anywhere else. I am truly lucky to be working in such a professional and entrepreneurial environment.”

Although Cote can see a master’s degree in her future, “I think I’ll take a semester off,” she says.

Lori Petterson

Lori Petterson

Lori Petterson. Creative Services photo

You might not guess it from her current job title (department manager for the Department of Public and International Affairs), but Lori Petterson has always had an interest in the arts.

Not only does she have a BA in performing arts from the University of Virginia, and a BIS with a concentration in theatrical writing from Mason, but she’s about to add a master in arts management to her academic credentials.

“I love to study here,” she says. “The tuition reimbursement is great.”

All that is left to do before she collects her newest diploma is to complete an internship this summer with the Richmond-based James River Writers. She’ll be helping them to plan events, raise funds and coordinate catering.

She’s counting on her husband, Dennis, who works in Mason’s power plant, to get through this last phase of her education. “It helps to have a spouse to take over the chores at home,” she says.

A 26-year state employee who worked for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for 10 years, Petterson says her VDOT co-workers teased her about getting “a cushy job” when she joined Mason.

“No more flagman duty on [Route] 123 and Main Street in waist-deep snow,” she says, chuckling.

Petterson worked for seven years for Mason’s Center for the Arts, where she was a fiscal technician.

Even though her current job may seem removed from the arts, Petterson says her arts management program provided budget and finance skills that she has applied in her daily work.

She’s also used newly acquired grant-writing skills to apply for a grant from the Meyer Foundation to purchase school supplies to donate to needy children in Fairfax County.

After she attends today’s College of Visual and Performing Arts convocation, she says, “I plan to enjoy myself.”

She’ll head to Orange County, Va., for a celebratory barbeque and see family members who couldn’t attend the convocation.

Patrice Winter

Patrice Winter

Patrice Winter. Photo courtesy of Patrice Winter

The initials after Patrice Winter’s name tell only part of her story: PT, MS, FAAOMPT. The first two are easy: she is a registered physical therapist (PT), and she has an MS (in physical therapy). The FAAOMPT stands for Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists.

Winter practiced physical therapy full time for more than 30 years; she spent 17 of  those years as owner of Trinity Physical Therapy in the City of Fairfax. After a lengthy and fruitful career, she decided to explore other career and interest options.

First, she achieved a lifelong dream of being a politician – she was elected to the Fairfax City Council in 2002 and served until 2008.

In 2006, she began a master’s program at Mason in health systems management with a concentration in executive management through the Department of Health Administration and Policy in the College of Health and Human Services (CHSS). She undertook the degree because “it’s a really good base for doing other things, and the program is topnotch.”

A year later, she sold her PT practice and joined Mason’s Human Resources and Payroll as a part-time eldercare coordinator. That job has expanded to include life planning as well.

Last spring, Winter joined the CHHS faculty and began teaching Health Aspects of Aging in the Department of Global Health, under the direction of Lisa Pawloski. Shortly afterward, Winter also became a researcher in Lynn Gerber’s Center for Study of Chronic Illness and Disability – all while continuing to hold the part-time HR position.

As if that weren’t enough, as a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association, Winter is frequently interviewed by major news outlets. For example, she says, “I was on Channel 8 News in April talking about gardening as exercise.”

Winter was an integral part of the effort to establish the Wellness by Mason program, a collaborative project between HR and CHHS. Being able to help design a program like Wellness by Mason is one of the things Winter loves about the university.

“You can really bring an entrepreneurial spirit here and take initiative,” she says. “I love working for a university. Everyone here is so great. It’s been such a good experience.”

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