Faculty and Staff Professional Associations Benefit Students, University

Posted: February 19, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By David Driver

Chris Parsons, assistant professor of environmental science and policy, is on the marine board of the Society for Conservation Biology and is a member of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission.

The IWC Scientific Committee boasts most of the world’s top whale biologists.

While these memberships certainly bring prestige to Parsons, his professional involvements also benefit Mason students and the university as a whole.

For example, in his courses, Marine Conservation and Marine Mammal Biology and Conservation, he can provide his students with relevant information long before it shows up in textbooks and journals.

“I can also give insights into the underlying politics, the behind-the-scenes deals, the hidden scandals and the strategy and tactics involved in whale conservation policy, which you won’t see in textbooks,” says Parsons, who is also on the editorial board of the journal Tourism in Marine Environments.

Parsons, a native of Great Britain who came to Mason in 2003, adds that his involvement with the international whale and dolphin community is attracting applications to Mason’s graduate program from as far away as the U.S. West Coast and Europe.

Parsons, of course, is just one of many Mason faculty members involved with professional associations and journals in their field. While those professional associations boost one’s personal development and credentials, the university as a whole reaps national and international recognition when faculty members gain honors in their discipline.

According to Provost Peter Stearns, “Not surprisingly, our number and range of faculty awards go up steadily. This is great for the people involved, and a real boon to the university as well.”

Marjorie Hall Haley, associate professor of education in the College of Education and Human Development, is the chair of the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, which holds its conference in New York in April.

“It gives us incredible kinds of vision, because it reaches up and down the East Coast,” Haley says of the conference, which is expected to draw about 3,000 participants from Maine to Virginia.

Haley is also the executive secretary of the National Network for Early Language Learning. Due in part to her involvement, the NNELL is now headquartered at Mason and will be based here for three years. In addition, Haley is associate editor of the Academic Exchange Quarterly.

Haley says she strives to make a connection between her research and her teaching. “The students see that you are just not in the classroom, but on the front lines in your field.”

Haley’s interest in Multiple Intelligence Research Study (MIRS) has led scholars and students worldwide to seek her views on the subject. Haley recently received an e-mail from a student in India who is interested in working with students with visual disabilities. Haley was able to connect the student with one of her doctoral students at Mason who is studying the MI theory.

Haley also got an e-mail last week from a teacher in Brazil who asked her questions about multiple intelligence in grammar practice.

About her professional involvements, Haley says, “It always goes back to Mason. When you go out and do something, it is always under the moniker of George Mason University. They are all connected.”

Paul Posner, professor and director of the MPA program in Public and International Affairs, was recently elected vice president of the American Society of Public Administration (ASPA), the flagship organization for public administration and the publisher of its leading journal. He will assume the presidency next year.

“It’s important. It is why I do it,” says Posner of the time spent with professional associations. “These organizations, even the larger ones, require a core of committed people. The benefits, institutionally and personal, are quite significant.”

Posner says his involvement with ASPA can help bring speakers to Mason, assist in tracking down adjuncts and aid Mason students who want to participate in conferences. With the retirement of baby boomers, Posner says students are crucial to the future of professional associations.

At the same time, faculty members who are deeply involved with professional organizations find their time management skills are tested.

Parsons, who is teaching four classes this semester, says, “I get quite a lot of students applying to me to be their graduate advisor, to do independent studies or just for information about how to get involved in whale and dolphin research or marine conservation work. It is pretty hectic. I work most weekends and vacations just to keep up. We have more and more graduate students wanting to be in our environmental science and conservation biology programs, and I certainly have less free time than I did in the past.”

Mason administrative staff members are also involved in professional organizations.

For example, Cynthia Tasaki, assistant director of the Office of International Programs and Services, planned the conference content for the NAFSA: Association of International Educators Conference for Region VIII last November in Washington, D.C. Tasaki is conference chair and chair-elect for the region.

The organization, among other things, assists those who work with international students who come to North America, and also aids those implementing study-abroad programs.

Tasaki has been involved with NAFSA since 1995; she came to Mason five years ago from the University of Maryland. She says her NAFSA contacts assists Mason students. “I have access with government officials when (international) students I have encounter a problem.”

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