University Keeps Humming during Winter Break

Posted: December 22, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Gazette Staff

While some of us will be sitting by the fire or taking an exotic vacation during George Mason’s winter holiday and during the break before classes resume, others will be working to keep the university secure, making improvements to the facilities or simply keeping up with work that can’t be postponed.

Following are departments that will have staff on campus while the university is officially closed or will be working on projects to get the university ready for the spring semester, which begins Jan. 23. Many of the service departments will operate at reduced hours in the Jan. 3 to Jan. 23 period; check here for operating hours.


Despite the fact that a large number of prospective students apply online, the Office of Admissions still gets buckets of mail every day. Transcripts, letters of recommendation and sometimes scores will come on paper, according to Sukey O’Donnell, Admissions director of budget and personnel. Over the break, a number of employees will be in to open mail, scan documents into the system and continue processing applications.

“We’ve been working over the break for years,” says O’Donnell. “If we don’t do these things, then we are behind forever.”

University Bookstore

Employees at the University Bookstore use the break to take down holiday decorations and prepare for spring semester. This is the time that they process the books they bought back from students and unload new shipments, all with the goal of getting those shelves stocked and ready for when the doors open on Jan. 3.

Do students really show up on Jan. 3 to buy their books? “Some do,” says Karen Eiserman, assistant director of the bookstore. “But more and more are purchasing their orders on the web. We expect this to be the biggest semester yet for online orders.”

Development Office

At the end of the calendar year, many people want to make year-end gifts to get the tax deduction for the year, says Tracy Lee, associate vice president for development. To accommodate donors, one person from central Development comes in each day over the break to answer the phone and accept year-end gifts. Then, someone from Development Services and the Foundation come in to process the gifts (put them in the right accounts, process credit cards and deposit checks).

Sometimes people call and need information on how to transfer a stock to the university or want to make an in-kind gift (something tangible) at the end of the year.

“Some of the more unusual gifts we’ve received at year-end include a harpsichord, a painting and a crew shell,” says Lee. “Basically, we are here to provide service to our donors and accept gifts.”

Dining Services

Dining Services, which will operate on a limited basis for the remainder of December and the beginning of January, will work to open a new Chick-fil-A in Student Union Building I at the beginning of the spring semester. Dining Services staff will also review records and plan its menus for the new semester, basing decisions on what options sold well and which ones did not, customer feedback and dining trends.

“We really never stop working,” says Michael Galvin, Dining Services’ director of marketing and community affairs. “We take semester breaks to reflect on our successes and failures and make plans to allow us to reach new heights of service and customer satisfaction.”

DoIT—Classroom Technologies

During the break on the Fairfax Campus, Classroom Technologies will upgrade 19 technology enhanced classrooms, 18 smart classrooms and 1 older electronic classroom. On the Arlington Campus, Classroom Technologies will replace all of the LCD projectors in the original electronic classrooms in Hazel Hall. On the Prince William Campus, Occoquan Building Rooms 318 and 302 will be upgraded to the level of other electronic classrooms. And in Bull Run Hall, equipment will be moved to improve access and instruction.

DoIT—Learning Support Services

From Jan. 3 to Jan. 20, the Division of Instructional Technology and Support Services’ (DoIT) Learning Support Services (LSS), which include the STAR Center, Instructional Resource Center, Training in Office and Productivity Skills (TOPS) Center and the Mason Media Lab, will operate at reduced hours.

“Our staff has several projects they will work on during the break, including more WebCT training materials, staff performance plans and preparing for Build Your Technology Expertise (BYTE) Week,” says Star Muir, LSS director.

Information Technology Unit Support Center

The Information Technology Unit Support Center will be closed along with other university offices and departments for the state’s winter break. System or network outages that arise during this break can be reported via voicemail at 703-993-8870. For general inquiries, individuals may also visit the center’s office in Innovation Hall, Room 233, or e-mail staff at

Johnson Center and Student Union Operations

During the break between semesters, Johnson Center and Student Union Operations will install security digital video recorders throughout public areas of the Johnson Center (JC); upgrade film technology in the JC Cinema; replace the flooring on the center’s west side elevators; install LCD projectors and additional sound and visual technology in both sections of Dewberry Hall; and continue to automate the locker rental, kiosk, banner and easel reservation programs and work order system.

In the Bistro, there are also plans to use a new paint scheme using the colors of the Olympic flag. “The colors for the rings were chosen because at least one color is represented in every country’s flag,” says center Director David Atkins. “We will celebrate our rich campus diversity with the infusion of these colors in the Bistro.” Framed campus spirit photographs will also be hung around the dining area, and flat-screen televisions and a new LCD projector will be installed.

University Libraries

At the close of the fall semester when students have finished feverishly writing term papers and studying for final exams, University Libraries generally sees a drop in traffic.

“We try to do a number of improvement projects over the break when we know the libraries won’t see a lot of traffic,” says Adriana Ercolano, University Libraries’ director of development. “So we will be completing an instruction room in Fenwick Library and outfitting it with computers and furniture. And, weather permitting, the new entrance to Fenwick should also be completed.”

Physical Plant

Although the Physical Plant’s Customer Service Center will be closed for the holiday break, its Central Heating and Cooling Plant will continue to operate 24 hours per day, seven days a week, and will be available at 703-993-2525 for emergency calls after normal business hours.

“In addition to our constant coverage, we are scheduled to start and complete some minor classroom upgrades before the students return to classes,” says Jon Lewis, the Physical Plant’s assistant director of operations. “And as always, we are prepared to respond to any emergencies and inclement weather events as needed.”

University Police

“We’re at the university community’s service every hour of every day,” says Michael Lynch, chief of George Mason University’s Police Department. Although many of the department’s administrative units, such as the records office, will be closed over the break, officers and security guards will continue to operate regular campus patrols at the Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William Campuses. For emergencies on campus, call 911; for non-emergency assistance or requests, call 703-993-2810.

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