sodexo story

by   Posted on September 3rd, 2010 in Uncategorized

New student group to Merten: Fire Sodexo

By Matt Snyder

A new student group who says they back the campus dining services workers employed by dining contractor Sodexo hand-delivered a message Thursday to university Pres. Alan Merten asking for the administration to fire Sodexo.

They call on Merten to hire a new company who will provide a living wage and better conditions. The GMU Students for Workers Rights joined some workers in accusations that employees work in unsafe conditions and alleged cuts, burns, and back injuries as a result.

Merten was not in and the students’ letter was received instead by presidential operations manager Sharon Cullen. She had no comment.

Sporting signs and stickers like “No justice/ No pizza,” “Our Workers Deserve Fair Wages,” and “Shame on Sodexo,” about 15 student protestors and five workers walked the letter to Mason Hall and then another petition to Sodexo management at Southside.

The petition from workers included pictures of alleged work-related injuries, including a deep cut to one finger and a worker wearing a back brace. The petition and photos were received by Sodexo Resident District Manager Denise Ammaccapane, who promised to forward it to corporate management.

Most of the student protestors at Southside were closed out of Sodexo’s offices when they tried to enter the limited office space. Several students held their signs against the glass windows of the doorway area, and Students for Workers Rights leader Jason Von Kundra said he was displeased with how their group was separated and felt those outside the office couldn’t express their views.

Ammaccapane was told workers with the petition were also shut out, so she permitted several students in the office to change places with workers who wanted to present their grievances. She limited them to four people at once in her smaller personal office.

Ana Urias, a 27-year Sodexo employee who works at Jazzman’s in the Johnson Center, presented the petition and photographs of injuires to Ammaccapane.

Ammaccapane said she has signed statements from each employee proving they have been trained, and that training is done in English, Spanish, and Chinese.  Von Kundra has said workers dispute that claim.

Sodexo assistant controller Charles Olson told some of the gathered students that Sodexo pays fair and comparable wages and that most worker injuries occur because procedures aren’t followed – chain mesh gloves are not used for handling knives and stools are not used for reaching high places, for instance. Those claims, too, are disputed by some workers, Von Kundra said.

Claims and counter-claims between members of management and workers have been prevalent throughout the debate. Workers will share their problems with Sodexo to the student body at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the Johnson Center Cinema, an event that the Service Employees International Union has helped put on, said Van Kundra.

Talking to students outside South Side offices, Retail Operations Director Bill Fry suggested some of the workers were being coached on what to tell students by the SEIU, who have made efforts to organize workers and helped put together the protest in April.

When some in Sodexo’s management expressed their displeasure with SEIU, Von Kundra answered complaints of their involvement by saying he only represents a student organization. The Students for Workers Rights are not affiliated with the SEIU, but when Von Kundra was asked if the SEIU had contacted them or nudged them to act, he made no comment.

The SEIU had made calls to alert the College Democrats to the worker protest in April.

Many Students for Workers Rights members were also members of other left-leaning campus organizations, including the College Democrats. Last April, the College Democrats backed workers in a formal letter when over 70 workers protested and went on strike against Sodexo.

Von Kundra said the protest was what drew the attention of so many students on campus and what sparked their new student group.

Founders Hall coming soon: New building on Arlington campus to open in January

by   Posted on May 3rd, 2010 in Uncategorized

By Sean Joyce, The Stylus Correspondent

A giant, shiny building has appeared in the middle of George Mason’s Arlington campus. And you may be wondering, will you ever actually step foot in this state-of-the-art facility? If you are taking classes in the spring of 2011 or after, the answer is yes.

The seven-story building, known as Founders Hall, will open for classes in January 2011 and will be the new home of the School of Pubic Policy.

The building will also contain space for the Graduate School of Education; the College of Arts and Sciences; the School of Information Technology and Engineering; the School of Management; the College of Nursing and Health Sciences; the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution; the College of Visual and Performing Arts; Instructional Facilities; and the Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science.

In addition to 256,000 square feet of office and classroom space, Founders Hall will also provide a much-needed 160,000-square-foot parking garage. The building will also include a new library, bookstore and auditorium.

There will be a large open plaza in front of the building for students to enjoy during non-blizzard conditions. The current schedule calls for trees to be planted in the plaza by the first week of May.

According to Tom Calhoun, vice president of Facilities, the project has now reached a cost of approximately $85 million.

Founders Hall is nearly 85 percent complete and is expected to be ready for occupancy around November. Once complete, some units will begin moving from the various buildings of the Arlington campus to their new space in Founders Hall, though classes will not be held in the building until Spring 2011.

Karen Pirhalla, Arlington campus executive officer, described how the opening of Founders Hall will affect the campus: “The occupancy of Founders Hall will trigger moves in each of the existing buildings on campus. Units currently in the Original Building that are not moving into Founders Hall, will relocate to the Truland Building.”

The university plans to decommission the Original Building in an effort to move toward the final phase of a three-part plan for developing the Arlington campus.

The first phase, Hazel Hall, which houses the School of Law, was completed in 1998. Founders Hall is the second
phase. The third phase includes the replacement of the Original Building with a new 750,000-square-foot building.

The Stylus is a new publication on the Arlington campus.

Muslimat Al-Nissa: MSA collects supplies for Muslim women’s shelter

by   Posted on May 3rd, 2010 in Uncategorized

By Shafi Khan, Broadside Correspondent

The Muslimat Al-Nisaa, a shelter for abused and battered Muslim women is currently located in Baltimore, Md. The shelter for safety reasons does not give out its address, vetted guests are asked to meet at an address a few blocks away and then follow a car to the house that blends into its unassuming street.

Once inside, the large house is warm and full of life, children running and playing, as their mothers try to cope from the trauma of broken homes they left behind. In the tight knit American Muslim Community, where there is always family, these women are the ones that really have nowhere else to turn, and it if it wasn’t for this shelter, the cold streets would be their home.

After being moved by the scene, students in the GMU Muslim Students’ Association started to brainstorm on how they could increase their involvement in community service projects and also reach out to the George Mason University community. Out of this brainstorming, the GMU Muslim Students’ Association launched the newly formed outreach committee. “The outreach committee is a branch of the GMU Muslim Students’ Association which focuses on involving individuals in philanthropic, community-engaging activities,” explained Sarah Albani, a freshman neuroscience major and one of the founders of the outreach committee. She added “we hope to raise awareness about our faith by bridging gaps that may exist and promoting collective involvement within our society.”

In this spirit of service the outreach committee dedicated its first project to supporting Muslimat Al-Nisaa, the only shelter serving homeless and battered Muslim women and children since 1987. It began a coordinated and large-scale effort to collect supplies for the shelter while raising awareness about the importance of the services it provides.

On Friday, April 9, the outreach committee invited Imam Johari Abdulmalik who delivered a rousing and emotional talk at Mason beseeching the students to get more involved in community service projects.

Supplies collected for the shelter piled up in a large corner of the room as Ms. Asma Hanif, the co-founder and current director of Muslimat Al-Nisaa, explained the importance of the shelter to the women and children who have no alternative source of support and expressed her gratitude for the efforts of the outreach committee. She stated that those efforts had increased awareness about the shelter and led more women to seek its help.

The MSA outreach committee used this event to launch a two-week long drive to collect supplies and toiletries for Muslimat Al-Nisaa, and with the permission of the university, a bin was placed in the Johnson Center near the Information Desk to collect more supplies until the April 23.

This effort, however, is only the beginning for the outreach committee. Hanaa Garaad, a sophomore studying healthcare administration and psychology and an organizer with the outreach committee, said, “One event we’re planning for next October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, will be an evening dedicated to domestic violence awareness. We’re also hoping to do a project with Habitat for Humanity at some point during the academic year.”

The outreach committee also hopes to garner the support of dedicated volunteers to make its future projects successful. Hamna Riaz, a junior bio-chemistry major, and chair of the project, urged students to get more involved with the outreach committee’s efforts. She said that “students are able to support our committee by signing up on the MSA listserv as volunteers. We understand that as students, we have time limitations. However, with our combined efforts we will be able to accomplish many great things, God willing.”

Many of those who have volunteered with the outreach committee and assisted in organizing the drive for Muslimat Al-Nisaa have found it to be a rewarding experience. Muhammad Elsayed, a senior administration of justice major, said that “the most rewarding part of being involved in community service is seeing the impact that it has on our community members. The women and children at Muslimat Al-Nisaa shelter have been deeply impacted by the work of the volunteers, and this has been a very moving and rewarding experience for all those involved.” Sumaya Al-Hajebi, a junior sociology major, stated that “the best part of being part of such a committee is the feeling you get afterwards when you see how much difference you’ve made in someone’s life. The smile, the tears of joy, and the gratefulness they show makes all of your hard work pays off.”


by   Posted on May 3rd, 2010 in Uncategorized

By Pras Gustanto, Staff Writer

Goats have been given negative associations in most of Western culture. The Greeks envisioned their half-man half-goat nature god Pan as a lecherous deity. Christianity also considered goats to be a symbol of evil, with people in the Middle Ages believing that goats whispered dirty sentiments into the ears of saints.

For modern-day Ugandan women, however, goats are a source of life that provides sustenance for families. The utilities the goats provide enable women to form their own small businesses and allow them to save enough money to send their children to school.

This past Wednesday, George Mason University’s Women and Gender Studies Center invited a family of farmers to bring their goats to North Plaza to raise money and awareness for the socio-economic plights of low-income Ugandan women.

It is all part of an awareness-raising joint effort with the Women’s Center for Job Creation (WCFJC), a non-governmental organization based in Minnesota and Uganda.

David Keller and Melanie Thatcher, a farming family from Nokesville, Va., provided the goats.

Students and passersby participated by donating money into the effort’s money collection jar. It takes $50 to sponsor a goat to Ugandan women.

“What happens is that the WCFJC will show them how to use these goats in ways that could bring more money to their families,” said Bessie Vaughan, a senior history major who was a representative at the event. “[It] helps them to be more economically stable . . . they will learn how to milk [the goat] or shave it to sell products to the market.”

Since the project started in October 2008, 48 goats have been purchased.

Thanks to this project as well as the various other efforts of the WCFJC, as many as 200 women and their families have been empowered and have started on their way out of poverty.

Judeo-Christian culture may have used goats to drive sins out of a village; but for Ugandan women, goats are a way to bring salvation back into the village.

Golfers fight against cancer: Tournament raises funds for leukemia and lymphoma research

by   Posted on May 3rd, 2010 in Uncategorized

By Beverly Scholnick, Broadside Correspondent

The Students Against Leukemia and Lymphoma (SALL) organization will host its annual golf tournament at Fairfax National Golf Club in Centreville on Monday, May 17, beginning at 7 a.m. Over 70 people are expected to attend.

SALL is a nonstock corporation founded by George Mason University foreign languages major James Nance. Nance hopes to spread SALL to other universities in the D.C. metro area. The drive behind his dedication to charity is simple.

“If I didn’t, no one else would,” Nance says. “I didn’t want to go through college not having done anything to give back to the community or better, the world around me.”

All the proceeds from the tournament will be donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) to support cancer research.

In addition to conducting research, the LLS also teaches newly diagnosed patients how to work effectively with their doctors, provides prescription drug assistance, connects patients with financial resources and provides many other vital services.

But the tournament is not only about good will.

“Aside from the fact that 100 percent of the profits will be donated to charity and finding a cure for cancer,” says Nance, “the following are included: continental breakfast, barbeque lunch, green fees, golf cart, 18 holes of golf, on-course drinks, prizes, awards and many giveaways. The tournament will be a relaxing day of golf and fun.”

Golfers can register for the tournament and view the golf course on SALL’s website,

The price of registration is $125 per golfer.

Leukemia is a blood cancer that forms in bone marrow. According to LLS’s website, “People can get leukemia at any age. In 2008, about . . . 44,270 adults and 4,220 children [were] expected to develop leukemia. It is most common in people over age 60.”

Lymphoma is a cancer that forms on the lymph nodes in the body. ABC News’ website explains, “Lymph nodes are filtering stations along the chain of lymph drainage fluid. Lymph drainage fluid drains the excess fluid from all parts of our body; the best example people are aware of lymph nodes is when they get . . . strep throat and get swollen glands in their neck. Those glands are really lymph nodes responding to the infection in the throat.”

LLS’s website estimates that “In 2009, about 601,180 people [were] living with lymphoma or are in remission. This number includes about 148,460 people with Hodgkin lymphoma and about 452,720 people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.”

The money raised at SALL’s annual golf tournament is sure to help many people.

But if you miss the tournament, you still have more opportunities to help. SALL is currently planning a charity bowling tournament for this fall.

Take the stress off exams: Spring Finals Madness helps students relax

by   Posted on May 3rd, 2010 in Uncategorized  and tagged

By Jason Hasnat, Broadside Correspondent

In the midst of final presentations and exams, George Mason University will be holding its Spring Finals Madness event from 10 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday in Dewberry Hall.

There will be plenty of free food, games, giveaways and live performances for students to enjoy before they settle in for the long haul of studying for their exams. Exams this year begin on Saturday, May 8 and end on Wednesday, May 12 due to the almost week-long class cancellations from “Snowpocalypse.”

“It’s a good way to release stress,” said sophomore communication major Diana Pham. “It’s perfect timing for finals week.”

The event, hosted by Student Centers in conjunction with Mason Dining and Alphi Phi Alpha’s Iota Alpha chapter, was created to give students an opportunity to have fun and blow off some steam before finals really kick off next week.

One of the major draws of the event is the free swag, which many students are looking forward to getting.

According to Mecca Marsh, associate director of Training and Programs for Student Centers, there will also be scantrons and blue books available for students to take.

Spring Finals Madness is a continuation of Fall Finals Madness, which took place last semester. It was the first time an event like this had taken place, but it was a huge hit; over 500 students showed up at the Johnson Center Bistro, packing themselves into the small corner restaurant.

One aspect of last semester’s event, which was popular with the students, was the performances put on by the performing arts majors.

“George Mason’s very own performing arts majors put on singing and dance performances for their fellow students and friends, giving their friends an opportunity to watch and support them,” Marsh said.

Based on the immense success of last year’s event, Student Centers decided to set up another, but with some extras that students will enjoy.

One of the major changes that Student Centers is implementing for Spring Finals Madness does not involve the food, giveaways or performances but rather the venue. This semester’s event will be moved from the Bistro to Dewberry Hall, and it will run an hour longer than last semester’s event.

“We got a lot of requests from the students to extend the time length and increase the space,” said Marsh. “This time, there will be more room for the students, and folks will be able to dance.”

It is hard for students to turn down such an exciting event that offers food, fun and dancing through the evening, especially at a time when their courses demand so much from them. “I think we all need a little break from studying,” said freshman IT major Chris Lester. “It’d be nice to get away from [the stress] for a bit.”

Other students, however, felt that their time would be better spent studying. “People would want to come, but they’ve probably locked themselves inside studying,” said senior communication major Courtney Bailey.

Whether you need a break from typing all those papers or you just want to grab a bite while you bust a move, take some time off to check out Spring Finals Madness. Chances are you deserve it.

Mason Ecosphere: Environmental action group collects over 100 pounds of trash

by   Posted on May 3rd, 2010 in Uncategorized

By Jason Von Kundra, EAG Co-Chair

On Saturday morning, April 15, members of the Environmental Action Group participated in the inaugural Mason Beautification Day. According to Environmental Action Group member and history major Anthony Murray, “Cleaning our campus is an important thing do; the trash that we collected would otherwise likely end up in the Chesapeake Bay, polluting our water and endangering the wildlife that live there.”

According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, more than 16 million people live in the Bay’s watershed. “I think a lot of people take it for granted,” said Murray. “Many people don’t realize how important it really is, but the Bay truly is an integral part of Virginia’s economy and its very identity. Without the Bay, Virginia would be a very different, and [a] much less wonderful state.”

According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the Bay, the destruction that has been wreaked on the Bay has been staggering. “Since colonial times, the Bay has lost half of its forested shorelines, over half of its wetlands, nearly 90 percent of its underwater grasses and more than 98 percent of its oysters.”

Emily Miles, co-chair of the Environmental Action Group, says keeping our environment healthy, including the Chesapeake Bay and other bodies of water in Virginia, requires both individual responsibility as well as government action. “First of all, the state and local governments must increase public access to the Bay and its tributaries,” Miles said. “Right now, access [to the Bay] is limited; it is difficult for many people in Virginia to even get to the water, so there is little incentive for many people to care about something that they perceive as a playground for the wealthy folks that can afford homes on the beach.” Miles continued, “Additionally, governments must strengthen and enforce existing laws that prevent pollution from ever entering the Bay or other waterways. Beach clean-ups are great, but obviously they are not the solution because the litter on the beach is not even the problem, it is a symptom of the problem. The real problem is that without access to the water, people can’t appreciate it, and when they can’t appreciate it, they are unwilling to do their part to protect it.”

Environmental Action Group member and health, fitness and recreational resources major Masooma Munir added, “It felt good to give back to my environment that gives me so much. It’s nice to know that it will be a little less dirty because of what I did. It was a lot of fun.” Worth noting is the fact that Environmental Action Group members collected 3,586 cigarette butts.

This effort is part on the Environmental Action Group’s ongoing efforts to give back to the community through clean-ups and other similar activities. Anyone interested in helping should contact the EAG via e-mail at

Mason’s 14-year-old: Youngest high school grad in the nation successfully juggles class and extracurriculars

by   Posted on May 3rd, 2010 in Uncategorized

By Emily Sharrer, Editor-in-Chief

For most 14-year-old girls, finishing the eighth grade and finding a boyfriend are top priorities. Even notions of a high school prom and getting into college are still distant dreams. But George Mason University freshman Paige Epler, the youngest high school graduate in the nation, is not most 14-year-old girls. In fact, she doesn’t even like the Jonas Brothers.

“I like Vivaldi,” said Epler, who has been featured on major news programs to tell her unique story — that of a child genius who attends George Mason University, has broken a world record for successfully completing 200 laps on the monkey bars in less than 40 minutes and created a program on sharks endorsed by the Smithsonian — all before she even has her learner’s permit.

Epler, who was homeschooled, graduated high school and attended her first high school prom at just 12, is an ambitious tween, who bides her time taking classes at Mason, practicing her violin and participating in a local Pokemon league.

But for Epler, it’s all in a day’s work.

“I still have time to play with my friends. I can balance my social life with my academic one. The best part is I’m going to graduate early from college so I have all this time to figure out what I want to do with my life,” said Epler.

Pam Epler, Paige’s mother says that at an early age it was evident Paige was gifted. At just 1 ½ years old, Paige was able to sing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” and read spice labels.

“It was our first baby, we didn’t really know that it was that special…and I knew that reading spice labels was really something, so I said well let’s grab the camera for this one, but it wasn’t really until later on when she was really around a lot of little ones that I noticed a vast difference,” says Epler.

At 4 she was reading on at least an eighth-grade level, but even now, the Eplers don’t let Paige’s accelerated intelligence level or her long list of accomplishments go to her head.

“I try really hard to stay away from numbers and tests like that because I will always think that every person has a potential and that they are much more than a number,” said Pam Epler.

“That doesn’t mean you’re any better or any worse than anyone else,” adds Paige, who was just 13 when she started classes at Mason last semester. “It just means you might have a higher potential, but whether you reach that potential, whether you can get there, that’s what matters — not how far you can go, but how far you do go.”

Although the 14-year-old is the youngest student on campus, Paige doesn’t regret her decision to push ahead with her schooling — even though that does mean she’s surrounded at school by people 5-10 years her senior.

“I didn’t see any sense in waiting until I was much older,” says Paige. “I wanted to reach my full potential at my own pace and if my own pace is a lot faster than somebody else’s then that’s fine.”

Epler, a high school teacher, sometimes enrolls in some of the same classes as her daughter to get work done towards her recertification, and students are often confused when they see the pair in class.

“Some people think that mom is the student,” says Paige. “It’s funny seeing their reactions.”

“When we initially went to this particular class people thought I was there to help her,” said Pam. “It didn’t take them long to figure out who was helping who.”

Paige hasn’t completely outgrown her entire adolescent phase, however.

“Sometimes I kind of get fed up with my parents,” says Paige, who dreams of moving into an apartment in Georgetown with her best friend Maddie. “One minute I’ll be like, ‘I never wanna move,’ the next minute I’m like ‘I wanna move as soon as I’m old enough, this house is boring.’”

One of the most recent projects Paige has taken on is a campaign called “Marketing Math and Science for Girls.” With support from the Women and Genders Department, Paige is reaching out to major companies like Toys R Us and Disney and encouraging them to change gender-biased marketing, so that young girls are shown in advertisements playing with math, science and adventure toys and are encouraged to pursue their interests in math and science.

“In the catalogs you see boys playing with all the science and sports toys and the girls are playing with hearts and flowers and Barbies and cooking stuff,” said Paige. “I’m actually really serious about this, I’m not just doing research and writing a paper…I’m getting out there, I’m actually working with these companies and I’ve gotten responses.”

In mid-April, Paige was featured on the Fox 5 Morning Show in a live interview to talk about the new campaign.

On Wednesday, Paige will give a PowerPoint presentation about the campaign in Innovation Hall room 131 at 1:30 p.m. The presentation is free and open to all students.

“She is such an outstanding and dedicated young lady,” said University Spokeman Dan Walsch. “We are glad and proud to have her as part of our community.”

Whether studying, hanging out with friends or dreaming up what might be a successful future, Paige remains down-to-earth and unfazed by her ability to accomplish so many feats in so little time, including being one of, if not the smartest 14-year-old in the country.

“I know it’s something extraordinary, but it seems kind of ordinary for me. I’m used to it.”

Campus Under Construction: Development projects to continue into fall semester

by   Posted on May 3rd, 2010 in Uncategorized

By Ethan Vaughan, Asst. News Editor

George Mason University spent $240 million on construction projects during the 2009-2010 school year, and it will continue to build into the foreseeable future, with a score of ongoing efforts reaching completion this summer.

Of the 22 items currently underway, 12 of them major construction projects, eight will make their debut between the
fall and spring semesters.

Opening their doors this summer will be the Biomedical Research Laboratory at Prince William, the Hylton Performing Arts Center at Prince William and the Aquia building at Fairfax in May; the Hampton Roads housing facility at Fairfax, the de Laski Performing Arts Building addition at Fairfax and the Mason Inn at Fairfax in July; and the Pilot House at Fairfax and the Center for Student Success in the SUB I addition at Fairfax in August.

Thomas Calhoun, vice president of Facilities, expressed particular excitement about Hampton Roads and the Pilot House, which he said would “be a great addition to campus life.”

“These projects markedly improve the university as a whole and make it an exciting place to be,” Calhoun said.

In addition to those projects concluding in the summer, a number will either continue into the fall or will begin with the start of the new school year.

In particular, University Hall, an administrative building, will be under construction until May 2011; Housing VIII, a 600-bed facility, will rise in Lot I; and an addition to Science and Tech II will begin at the end of the next school year.

“There will be about the same number of projects underway next year as this,” Calhoun elaborated. “These will be less visible because of the location and type of the projects. The total dollar value of these projects will also be slightly less, which might also suggest that the impact will be less.”

Calhoun was critical of the idea that the university should slow expansion during a time of increasing budget cuts and a deep recession.

“One must understand that there are multiple ways in which capital projects are funded,” Calhoun said.

“Some are funded directly by state appropriations. Others are funded with revenue bonds, where revenue from future operations of that facility will pay the debt. Residence halls and parking garages are examples of these types of projects. Still others rely heavily on the generosity of donors to the university. The de Laski family’s gift funded most of the Performing Arts Building addition.”

Calhoun also claimed that Mason’s steep tuition hikes in recent years were unrelated to the number of construction projects and said that some projects would be financially beneficial to the university.

“The cause of rising tuition is due primarily to a reduction in Commonwealth funding of operations,” he explained. “If we were to stop construction, it would have little to no effect on the cost of tuition. The Mason Inn will generate revenue over time. It provides, for the first time, on-campus temporary lodging and expanded conference facilities that will allow the university to host academic conferences in addition to providing a place for parents or new students to stay when visiting the campus.”

In fact, Calhoun said, Mason should look to maintain expansion, even during difficult financial times that have led to tuition spikes, increased classroom sizes and an overall higher cost of living.

“It is important for Mason or any university to continue to stay current,” he asserted. “Advances in technology and changes in teaching methods translate to a need for updating our facilities.

My opinion is we would become stagnant if we weren’t always looking to improve our physical assets.”

Come fly with me: New Aviation Club lets prospective pilots take the controls during ‘Flight Day’ at Warrenton Airport

by   Posted on May 3rd, 2010 in Uncategorized

By Emily Sharrer, Editor-in-Chief

It’s been nearly three years since Rick Davis, associate provost for undergraduate education first hatched the idea of a flying club at George Mason University, close to a year since student James Buttery began rallying support and gathering paperwork to make it a reality, and a little over a month since the Mason Aviation Club has been instated at Mason.

Already the group has gathered close to 200 Facebook fans and 50 official members, 29 of whom gathered on Saturday for the club’s first-ever Flight Day at Warrenton-Faquier Airport.

“This is really a test semester for us, we’re just kind of seeing what works and what doesn’t,” said Conor Dancy, a freshman environmental science major and vice president of the Aviation Club.

Last Saturday, the Aviation Club got together at Warrenton Airport to fly airplanes, eat BBQ, and have a meet and greet with local pilots, including famed Flying Circus Aerodrome airshow pilot Charlie Kulp, also known as “the Flying Farmer.”

“In the aviation world Charlie Kulp, especially around here, is a pretty big celebrity, so even just the fact that he would come out to something like that, in the eyes of the aviation community, that’s a really big thing,” said Buttery, a senior conflict analysis and resolution major and president of the Aviation Club.

Through their local connections, Buttery and Dancy were able to borrow a hangar for the day from local aviation services company Skyworld Aviation, while local pilots gave club members rides in their planes, giving them a chance to take the controls if they so chose.

“It was absolutely incredible that they would just be willing to show up,” said Buttery, who has been a flying-enthusiast since he was a child and has his Private Pilot License. “All the pilots donated their time and their money and their aircrafts, so it didn’t cost the flight members anything.”

Members of the Flying Circus, a Bealeton, Va. group that performs wing walking, parachuting and acrobatic acts, offered Aviation Club members free rides in their planes — a service that normally costs hundreds of dollars according to Buttery and Dancy.

“I’ve looked at [their] website and what they charge for a ride at the Flying Circus and what they were just giving away was absolutely amazing,” said Buttery.

“There was not a single person yesterday who didn’t walk away with a huge grin on their face,” said Dancy, who has his Commercial Flight License and is working toward his Certificated Flight Instructor certificate. “It couldn’t have gone any better.”

Over the summer Buttery and Dancy are planning air traffic control tower tours and other small events for interested club members, and in the future hope to host “fly outs,” where the students would take day trips in planes to places like New York, Philadelphia or other nearby cities. The pair also hopes to host other successful flight days like Saturday’s event.

“Our focus is on really flying; getting people in the air,” said Dancy. “We probably are gonna take as many trips as we have meetings.”

The ambitious pilots are also planning on offering official introductory courses to help club members interested in getting their pilot’s licenses.

“We kinda get you half way there,” said Buttery, “it’s not flying an airplane, but it’s learning all the little mechanics.”

“Our ultimate goal with this, I guess is to provide a strong background in aviation for people who eventually want to learn how to fly,” added Dancy. “We can’t give them their pilot’s licenses but we can teach them what they need to know so that they can get it more easily, and in less time and spend less money.”

For more information on the Aviation Club visit Aviation.