September 2019 Newsletter

Introducing GAPSA Executive Board Members for 2019 - 2020

Natalie Gelbvaks, President

Natalie Gelbvaks is a graduate student in her second year at the College of Visual and Performing Arts, pursuing her master’s degree in Arts Management. Born in Beer-Sheva, Israel, Natalie relocated to Brazil at 6 years old where she was raised and obtained her high school diploma at A.Liessin Scholem Aleichem and Bachelor’s degree in Social Communications at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio). 

Natalie has gained a wealth of experience in the Arts working for Walt Disney as a cast member in the Entertainment Department as well as a member of various choral and Musical Theatre performance groups in Brazil. She also performed for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games during the opening ceremony, which sparked her passion in the Arts. 

During Natalie’s time in the States, she has worked in Arts Management through numerous volunteer experiences in diverse arts and fundraising events. She enjoys connecting with those who share a passion for the Arts. Natalie currently works at and attends Mason’s Arlington campus. As President for GAPSA, Natalie is eager to be involved in graduate student life and education while honing her leadership skills.

Natalie had wanted to come to the D.C. area to pursue her Masters since 2014. After researching different universities, Mason got her attention because of the Arts Management program. She decided to apply to the program and had the chance to visit the school in 2017 while waiting for her acceptance letter. When she accepted, she knew she had to come to Mason.

Natalie's Goals for GAPSA

  • To build a community among graduate and professional students, which is something that is important for personal and academic success. Although "community" means something different for everyone, it is important to have this sense of inclusion and belonging.
  • To increase awareness of GAPSA so graduate students know about the organization and its core purpose of advocating for graduate students. 
  • To continue holding the Mason Graduate Student Assembly with program representatives across the university and to make sure that graduate students' concerns and issues are heard by the university's leadership.
  • To work with GAPSA`s Executive Board to address these concerns.

Atis Degro, Vice President for Fairfax Campus

After finishing his master’s degree in Computational Mechanics and having worked for 4 years, Atis decided to return to academia. He was ecstatic for the opportunity to pursue a Ph.D. at George Mason University where he thinks diversity is one of the core values of the institution.

Atis first learned about GAPSA during the Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week in Spring 2019. After learning about GAPSA and what it stands for, Atis decided to run for the Vice President for Fairfax campus and to give back to Mason, especially the graduate community. 

Atis's Goals for GAPSA

During my four years at Mason, I often noticed that graduate students are not always aware or informed of all the opportunities one can have while studying here. Therefore, as VP for Fairfax campus, I will work on improving this situation. I believe that Mason is a place where everyone can have a quality experience and one just has to know how to seize those opportunities.

Another goal that I have is to familiarize myself with the different challenges faced by graduate students during their time at Mason. I want to assess the gravity of different issues and determine which are the most concerning issues to be addressed first.

Sofiyat Ibrahim, Vice President for Arlington Campus

Sofiyat Ibrahim, a third-semester masters student at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, is currently serving as the Vice-President for the Arlington Campus. Hailing from Lagos, Nigeria, Sofiyat "Sofi" came to America as an international student in July 2014 where she studied Political Science (PreLaw) at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette before heading to Virginia to study Peace and Conflict at GMU. A few of her passions include writing, photography, swimming, and student affairs, which is precisely why she chose to apply for the VP position for Arlington campus. 

Sofiyat's Goals for GAPSA

I have always been genuinely passionate about student leadership and the graduate student experience, and I wanted to champion the causes of my fellow Arlington students and continue to build community amongst the various colleges. 

Octavia Olivia Sumailah, Vice President for SciTech Campus

Octavia is pursuing the Master of Science Degree in Applied Information Technology with a concentration in Cyber Security. Prior to her graduate program, she was an INTO Mason Graduate Pathway Student. Octavia has a Bachelor of Science (Hons) Degree in Information System from the Institute of Public Administration and Management, University of Sierra Leone.
Before coming to the United States, Octavia has served in various leadership roles on campus and at church. She is passionate about making an impact through technology and decided to further develop her career through education.
When considering her options for graduate schools, Octavia's childhood friend, a Mason alumna encouraged her to attend Mason. Octavia chose Mason because she believes in its potentials to support her career goals.
Octavia learned about GAPSA from attending various GAPSA's events. She became interested in its activities and signed up for the newsletters which increased her participation and decided to run for the Vice President for SciTech campus in Spring 2019. 

Octavia's Goals for GAPSA

My experience as an international student has made me thought about what it means to be alone while pursuing an education in a strange environment. The thought that an active personality like me can feel isolated is what motivated me to run for the GAPSA election. I want to be able to reach out to graduate students who might feel lost and lonely. I want to develop their confidence and encourage them to get connected to others within the Mason community.

Wai Ling Fong, Director of Communications

Originally from Malaysia, Wai Ling is a third-year doctoral student in the Ph.D. in Education concentrating in Higher Education. She has a Masters in International Studies and a certificate in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Ohio University and was a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant in 2014 at Ohio University. 
This is the second year that Wai Ling is serving as Director of Communications for GAPSA, a role which she enjoyed tremendously. As Director of Communications, she has had the invaluable opportunity to represent Mason graduate students, to develop relationships with different departments on campus, and to help build a stronger graduate student community through GAPSA.

Wai Ling's Goals for GAPSA

My goal is to continue building community among all graduate and professional students at Mason through GAPSA via our communication channels. I also look forward to working with the new GAPSA Executive Board to serve the Mason graduate and professional students.

Upcoming Events

GAPSA Retreat 2019

The GAPSA Executive Board converged for their first meeting together with Julie Choe Kim, Director of Graduate Student Life, and Austin Deray, Graduate Professional Assistant, and Advisor to GAPSA on Sept 14, 2019. The retreat was a team-building activity to discuss respective roles and responsibilities, set goals, and outline steps to better serve the Mason graduate community this academic year. This is also the first year where all members of the executive board are international graduate students. We thank you for all your votes and we look forward to representing you!
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