Family Weekend: Great Families Make Mason

Posted: October 10, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Families at Family Weekend
At Family Weekend, families get to bond at the same time they’re getting acquainted with all George Mason has to offer.

By Robin Herron

Lisa Wagner has been looking forward to George Mason’s upcoming Family Weekend as a reunion of her own family. It’s been six long weeks since she’s seen her oldest son, Matthew, and she, her husband and 15-year-old son are driving down from New Jersey to hear Matthew’s stories about freshman life and become more familiar with the campus he now calls home.

“We’ve made it through six weeks without seeing him,” says Wagner, the anticipation palpable in her voice. “We’re coming to Family Weekend because we want to be with him and get involved in the school — get a better feel for the campus and meet some of the faculty.”

That’s exactly the goal of Family Weekend. Many colleges and universities annually host a parents’ weekend, but at Mason the emphasis is definitely on families.

“We’re looking at the student’s entire experience,” says Sandra Hubler, vice president for university life. “Their transition to college is not only leaving the house and leaving their parents, but they’re leaving their family and their family environment. We want to bring that to them at Mason and have them share in their college experience together as a whole family.”

Extended Families Welcome

Mason defines “families” in a broad way. Lisa Snyder, assistant director for family programs in the Office of Orientation and Family Programs and Services (OFPS), reports that more and more students are bringing extended family members to Family Weekend. It’s not uncommon for grandparents and aunts and uncles to attend. And this year, one student’s family made reservations for seven people: two parents, two grandparents, two nieces and one nephew.

Often the younger relatives come to Family Weekend because they’re beginning to think about college themselves and are eager to see what the college experience is like, as is Lisa Wagner’s younger son, Eric. “He’s definitely interested in attending Mason, especially now that his brother has joined a fraternity and is talking about that.”

George Mason’s own employees are included in Family Weekend, too. Says Snyder, “It’s an opportunity for Mason faculty and staff to come and bring their own families and enjoy all the activities. They don’t have to work and they don’t have to wear a name tag — they can just have fun.”

Something for Every Age

With more than two dozen different activities at the Fairfax Campus scheduled Oct. 14-16, there will be plenty for family members of all ages to do and talk about. The Prince William Campus will have a “preview weekend” on Thursday, Oct. 13, as well.

Midnight Madness
Midnight Madness at the Patriot Center is a highlight of Family Weekend.
Midnight Madness Pyrotechnics
Mason Athletics photos

Without question, the highlight of Friday’s activities is the traditional Mason Midnight Madness, a huge pep rally to kick off the basketball season. It’s a chance to meet the players and coaches, watch the teams practice and get in the spirit for the upcoming games in a festive atmosphere.

Saturday starts off with the Mason Family Welcome and Brunch, where families can mingle with university officials and academic deans. Winners of the Family Weekend Essay Contest will be announced and will receive a special framed award compliments of the Wagner’s family business, Hearts and Hands Forever.

For younger siblings, the popular Funzone is back this year. A moon bounce, PlayStation games and other activities run by members of Mason student organizations will keep children ages 8-16 entertained while parents attend other presentations.

Funzone at Family Weekend
Funzone provides activities for younger siblings.
Creative Services photo

A community service project brings the whole family together to use their creativity and make “happy hats” for children who are hospitalized with serious illnesses.

Also on Saturday, Family Weekend will host author Tanya Maria Barrientos, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. She will lead a discussion of her novel, “Family Resemblance,” which tells the story of a woman who comes to terms with her family history.

Timothy Born, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, will present this year’s Mason Highlights lecture and discussion, “New Strategies to Combat Antibiotic Resistance: Undergraduate Biochemistry Research at George Mason University.”

A highlight of the family barbeque will be the announcement of the Bake-Off contest winner, who gets a $200 cash prize.

And at Get Entertained, Mason families will compete against one another in a game show format, using a keypad to answer questions about pop culture and Mason trivia. A $200 cash prize goes to the winning family.

On Sunday, for the first time, the Office of Alumni Affairs will host a Mason Family Legacy Reception for students who have a parent or relative who attended Mason. Approximately 14 families are registered for this event.

Find Out More

More than 400 families have registered so far, with more than 1,000 individuals signed up for all or part of the weekend. But it’s not too late to make plans to join in the activities, which are detailed at the OFPS web site. For more information, contact the OFPS office at 703-993-2475 or e-mail families@gmu.edu.

Write to at