Alumni Association Celebrates Outstanding Alumni, Students, and Faculty

Posted: April 22, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Ryan Effgen and Colleen Kearney Rich

The George Mason University Alumni Association hosted its annual Celebration of Distinction awards dinner last night in the Johnson Center Dewberry Hall. Each year, the association, along with several schools and colleges, recognizes and honors outstanding alumni, students, and faculty members for their achievements and contributions to the university.

The Alumna of the Year is Zainab Salbi (BIS ’96), founder and president of Women for Women International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women victims of war move from crisis and poverty to self-sufficiency. An Iraqi native, Salbi, whose experience with war in the Middle East sensitized her to the plight of women war survivors, founded the organization at age 23. Under her leadership, the organization has provided nearly $10 million in direct assistance and loans to more than 20,000 women and 90,000 family members in 10 countries. In 1995, President Clinton honored her at the White House for her humanitarian work in Bosnia. Most recently, she testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the situation of women in post-war Iraq.

alumni awards
Zainab T. Salbi (BIS ’96), left, recipient of The Alumna of the Year Award, poses with Connie Kirkland, coordinator of sexual assault services, who nominated her for the award. Salbi is founder and president for Women International, a nonprofit organization

dedicated to helping women victims of war move from crisis and poverty to self-sufficiency.
Photo by Evan Cantwell

Barbara Parker Granieri (BFA ’98) was recognized with this year’s Alumni Service Award. Granieri serves as executive director of Friends of George Mason Dance, a fundraising organization that has enabled the Dance Department to award scholarships to incoming students. She established a working advisory board to which she recruited renowned choreographer Mark Morris to serve as honorary chair. Granieri’s experience and enthusiasm is a substantial resource for George Mason students. Her video documentary on the dance program now serves as a recruiting tool for Mason. Granieri received the 1997 Dance Faculty Award for Outstanding Leadership and was the first student in the dance program to graduate with recognition and distinction.

This year, the Faculty Member of the Year is also an alumnus. Working as a reference and instructional service librarian and an instructor, James B. Young (PhD ’03) has created a technology-enriched curriculum at Mason. He has chaired several committees, including the Electronic Portfolios Task Force and the Libraries’ Task Force on Assessment of Reference Services. As director of the Andros Island Library Project, he organized a public library on a remote Bahamian settlement.

The Senior of the Year is Edwinna Smith, an integrated studies student. Since 2001, she has served as an orientation leader and an orientation coordinator, supervising and mentoring student leaders and coordinating large components of the Orientation Program. Smith has also participated in Alternative Spring Break, working in Detroit with inner-city school children. She has volunteered at the Alexandria Black History Resource Center, New Hope Housing, and the Fairfax Employee Childcare Center. Smith is a member of the University Program Board, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society. She received honorable mention for service to George Mason through student leadership and has been on the Dean’s List.

Vildan Bayramoglu was awarded the John C. Wood and Louise P. Wood Graduate Scholarship. She is enrolled in George Mason’s MBA program, where she works as a graduate research assistant conducting financial analysis research and maintains a 4.00 GPA. A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Bayramoglu graduated from Istanbul University Faculty of Business Administration in 1990. In Istanbul, she worked with the Sufi Women’s Foundation, an organization that helps rural women overcome poverty and illiteracy, teaching adult education classes on basic literacy and household budgeting to rural women who relocate to the city. She also supervised the foundation’s Financial Management Department and helped find donors to fund foundation activities. Multi-talented, she performed the leading role in the film Menekse Koyu and won the Most Promising Young Actress Award at the Ankara Film Festival.

Management major James Hansen was awarded this year’s John C. Wood Scholarship. Growing up in Australia, Hansen was diagnosed with dyslexia while in elementary school. As a young student, he persevered through this challenge and took on additional challenges. In high school, he worked with the Hope Youth Corps, funding his own way to Mexico, where he worked with children at a free medical clinic and helped build a community center. After high school, he worked in computer repair, studying at night at a technical college in Australia. He came to the United States and attended Northern Virginia Community College, where he made the Dean’s List and was a Presidential Scholar. He then transferred to Mason, where he continues to be an outstanding student.

This year’s Peter C. Forame Student Leader Award went to Brandon Baumbach, a second-year government and international politics student with a 3.90 GPA, who uses his outstanding leadership skills to advance the Mason spirit in the student body and local community. As president of the Mason Ambassadors, he acts as a liaison to the dean of admissions and Mason faculty and staff and conducts monthly Mason Ambassador meetings. Baumbach has also served as an orientation leader. He is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and a Habitat for Humanity volunteer, and participated in Alternative Spring Break, traveling to the Dominican Republic to help build a village chapel. On the Dean’s List every semester, he also finds time to tutor his fellow students.

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