By Fareeha Aziz, Broadside Correspondent; Amy Hensby, Broadside Correspondent; Kimberly Sarmuksnis, Broadside Correspondent; Aisha Jamil, Broadside Correspondent; Karima Scott, Broadside Correspondent; Reuben Jones, Broadside Correspondent; Rania Olibah, Broadside Correspondent; Akuender Kodi, Broadside Correspondent; Allie Hunter, Broadside Correspondent

Lizzy Nguyen: ‘Cause I’m freaking fabulous’
“Zesty, bubbly, outspoken and nerdy” are all words that describe parts of Lizzy Nguyen’s personality. Once when asked why she should win a body building contest at the hypnotist show on campus, she replied with, “’Cause I’m freaking fabulous!” Nguyen describes herself as an extrovert who loves to laugh and be a comedian, but school work brings out her serious side.

This is apparent in her typical routine of conducting research in Dr. Kashdan’s psychology lab, doing Asian impressions or watching the latest episode of Chuck. Nguyen is a senior psychology major in the Honors Program. For the past two years, she has been assisting in ongoing research on social anxiety, relationships and well-being. She’s currently working on her honor’s thesis, which is on daily anger.

Of psychology Nguyen said, “What’s cooler than studying people around us . . . happiness, knowing ourselves, why we are the way we are . . . tools we can use to better ourselves.” She said psychology first caught her interest while taking an AP psychology course in high school. She felt inspired by her teacher’s passion for the subject. Later she felt intrigued by the Stanford prison study conducted by Philip Zimbardo.

She was inspired to commit to the major due to her desire to understand people’s intentions and actions. She also has a general interest in social psychology and thinks psychology is in everything we do, and it is about understanding humanity as a whole. After graduation, she plans to take a year off to continue working in Dr. Kashdan’s research lab and eventually head to graduate school.

Nguyen feels George Mason University has given her the resources to succeed and become more involved in psychology. Nguyen chose to attend the school when her family moved from Pennsylvania to Virginia to be closer to family. She said growing up in Pennsylvania was not always easy because she was the only Asian student. When she moved to Northern Virginia in ninth grade she recalls feeling more a part of the community. In terms of Mason’s community, Nguyen feels that she is always meeting new people and stays involved in various activities even though she commutes.

In addition, Nguyen spends her time as the editor-in-chief of Volition literary and art magazine. She said Volition satisfies her interest in poetry and art because it lets her be creative. She said, “After I graduate, I’m passing the torch . . . I have to give it up.”

During her spare time, she enjoys watching comedies, doing bikram yoga, belly dancing, running, reading and playing rock band with her little brother. You can find her listening to a variety of music from The Beatles and Elvis to Cher.

Nguyen also enjoys doing random stand-up routines while speaking in a Vietnamese accent. Upon my request, she stood up from her chair and spoke in a motherly voice with a Vietnamese accent. I must say her impressions are accurate and very funny. It helps that she speaks fluent Vietnamese at home.

Nguyen’s ultimate goal is to hopefully contribute something to the field of psychology someday. Her advice for incoming freshmen is to manage your time wisely and get to really know your professors. She said, “Do not be afraid to look stupid when it comes to asking for help.” Lastly, she advises commuters to get involved so you feel a part of the community. This is very good advice from a Vietnamese comedian and psychology major who’s voicemail on her cell phone encourages you to “do your thang!” after the beep.

Catherine Luensmann: ‘I want to travel to as many countries as possible’
It’s a normal Monday, and Catherine Luensmann wakes up to her alarm at 7 a.m. Her classes at George Mason University start at 9 a.m., and last until 5:15 p.m. Her weekly schedule usually runs along these lines, whether it is a workday or a school day, just like most of us.

Born in Tacoma, Wash., her family moved to the homeland of her mother when Luensmann was a little over a year old.

As far as she knew, she was German. She lived in Germany among close-knit family and friends for the next eight years, and the half-African American, half-German Luensmann grew up in a very traditional manner.

Her mother moved Luensmann and her younger sister back to the states for the sake of their stepfather’s work. This time they settled in Woodbridge, Va., where the girls were placed in the local elementary school.

As a child, she remembers the most impressive part of moving to the United States was that “Everything here is bigger and farther apart. I remember thinking there are so many big spaces, roads, buildings.”

Speaking to Luensmann now, you would never guess that English was her second language or that she once had to adjust to American culture. She dressed quite fashionably in the common style of a 21-year-old American woman, and when asked what type of music she likes, she explains, “I love R&B, rock, hip-hop, alternative – anything I can sing along to or has a nice beat.”

For fun, she goes out to clubs, to the movies and is the kind of person to try anything new at least once. A favorite hobby of hers is definitely traveling, whether it’s to visit her family every two years or to a new country or state.

To aid her in the adjustment of moving to the states at 8 years old, there were programs in Germany as well as the United States that prepared her for the transition. “I took a year of English in a German school before moving, and took a year of ESL in the states,” she admits.

The change in language was the easy part. Luensmann says that the most difficult part of moving was “Leaving all friends and family behind [and] not knowing anyone here. There were no familiar faces here and family is thousands of miles away.”

This may be what landed Luensmann at Mason. The fact that she already had to leave behind her extended family and childhood friends may have been why she felt so strongly about not leaving her mother, sister and brother to go to college. “I chose to go to Mason because it’s close. I wanted to stay near my family.”

Since Luensmann pays for her own education through loans and holding down two jobs at a time, on average, she says sometimes it feels like Mason is too pricy a university for her. Although, since Mason was the only college she considered attending, she jokes that, “I feel like I’m being ripped off, but that might be college in general.” Northern Virginia living is also known to be expensive, but again it is the price to pay to be around those you love.

As many commuters do, Luensmann usually hangs out in the Johnson Center when on campus, and that is where she eats and gets most of her studying done in between classes. Luensmann says that another highlight of Mason that also serves as a comfort for her is the fact that it is such a diverse campus.

While she would like to participate in clubs or organizations on campus, with a full class load and full-time work schedule, “there’s just no time.” Things that inspire Luensmann and keep her going are “seeing beauty in nature. Also people who are genuinely nice and caring.” Her mother is the most inspirational person to her: “She’s an amazing woman who never gives up and always has a positive outlook on life.”

Her mother’s strength in bringing Luensmann and her sister here and starting a strong, new life for them is what drives her towards ensuring a successful future for herself. As a global affairs major studying Japanese and Russian, Luensmann aspires to have a successful career that allows her to travel to different countries.

“I want to travel to as many countries as possible. After a while, I would love to settle on a sunny beach somewhere.”

When asked if she thinks she will live long-term in the United States or if she plans to eventually return to Germany, her current plans hold homage to the states. “I’ll probably live in the states, although I might move back to Germany for a few years at some point.”

Farhana Jamil: Supermom: ‘I take classes and scramble to do homework’
Cooking, cleaning, working, mothering and going to graduate school are no easy tasks for just anyone. Some say that only a person with super qualities could do that. Someone like Supermom.

And that is exactly what Farhana Jamil, 36, is commonly referred to among her family and friends. Jamil, a George Mason University graduate student is studying information systems. She graduated with a Bachelors in management information systems from Mason in 2004 and currently works as a Software Engineer at Verizon.

Born in Peshawar, Pakistan, Jamil came to the United States when she was only 16 years old. From liquor stores to various fast food restaurants, Jamil labored hard to make a living.

“My first job in the states was for $2 per hour at a Californian liquor store,” said Jamil.

Jamil, who came to the United States with her parents and five siblings, did not have proper work authorization to work legally during the first year.

“It was hard at first to support our family of eight for my parents,” said Jamil. “I did the best I could to help them out as much as I could.”

Indeed, that is what Jamil did.

“She woke up for school at seven in the morning and didn’t get back until midnight because of work. She really helped us out,” said Shahana Jamil, Farhana’s mother.

Tired from all the struggle, Farhana and her family decided to move out of California.

Moving to Fairfax, Va. after five years of living in the Golden State, Jamil met her current husband, Tahir Awan.

It was love at first sight. “When I first saw her, I immedietly knew that she was special,” said Awan.

They got married a year later.

At 22, Jamil, who had been attending Northern Virginia Community College, was also pregnant with her first child.
“Full-time school, full-time work, full-time marriage and now a full-time baby on the way,” said Jamil, “I thought that I was going to go insane.”

However, Jamil did not go insane. Instead, she attended school during the days and worked on weekends at Dunkin Donuts. She would take her one year old daughter to class if it was necessary.

“I would always buy her a bag of chips to keep her quiet in class,” said Jamil, “I did what I had to.”

In the end, according to Jamil, all this “hard work paid off.”

Attending Mason is truly a dream come true for Jamil. She enjoys being back at school doing what she loves to do – learn.

“I take a class and scramble to do homework,” said Jamil. “[It] makes me feel young again.”

Currently, she lives in Gainesville, Va. with her long time husband of 13 years and her three kids. Telecommuting from home for Verizon, Jamil seems pretty content with her life.

“I wake up and I am at work two minutes later. I make lunch for the kids when they come home from school and spend time with my family for a little bit. Then I go to class at Mason,” said Jamil, “I am pretty happy.”

Drew Duke: ‘The Goosefather’
In high school, senior communication major Drew Duke enjoyed producing, directing and editing films, but he never realized that he could make a career out of it until he came to George Mason University. Now on campus, Duke has developed a reputation for his work and has been recognized by students on campus for his achievements.

Last year, a resident advisor that came to Duke’s dorm recognized him as the Goosefather and complimented him on his video. The Goosefather, which Duke wrote, directed and produced, is a spoof of the classic children’s tale The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg.

In the video, which has been aired on GMU-TV (channel 89), Duke plays the main role as the Goosefather. Duke enjoyed working on the video because it allowed him to be creative and he was “able to make it his own since he was in total control of the project.”

But producing films wasn’t Duke’s first choice at Mason. Like many students here, he changed his major. His first major was mechanical engineering, but he discovered by his sophomore year that it was not for him.

Duke’s roommate, Andrew Clark, helped inspire him to find his new major. Clark’s major is film and video studies.

Duke realized for the first time that he would be able to do something that he enjoyed as a major and possibly a career. He decided to change his major to communication with a concentration in media production and criticism, because he could “direct and edit videos, but also have a broad communication degree.”

Now as a senior, Duke still enjoys his major. His latest project for his visual communication course included working on graphics and shooting and editing for the Fairfax Choral Society. The project consisted of making a promotional video for the group that will be featured on their website and uploaded to YouTube.

For the project, Duke attended a concert by the Fairfax Choral Society and edited different clips together. Duke enjoyed the project because it allowed him to “work with a real life client.”

This summer, Duke is looking to expand on his media production experience and find an internship. He is hopeful that his future internship will “allow him to gain hands-on experience and network with professionals in the industry.”

Ideally, he would like to be able to get out and shoot stories in the local community.

Duke plans on graduating in August after the completion of his internship, but will be walking in the May commencement ceremony. He is happy to be the first member of his family to graduate from college and his family is proud of him for such a remarkable accomplishment.

Duke is hopeful that he will be able to find a job in media production after he graduates and someday start his own video production company.

Kemisha Denny: Transfer: ‘The only thing that turned me off about Mason was that it didn’t have a football team’
Loving and outgoing, Kemisha Denny, a 21-year-old junior, majoring in athletic training, reflects on her first semester experiences here at Mason as a transfer student, sharing her interests, hobbies and goals.

She attended Dean College, a small college institute in Franklin, Mass., where she realized that a two-year college program was not enough, and that she needed to transfer to a four-year program of higher education.

“There weren’t a lot of schools in New York City that offered my major, and I didn’t want to be distracted,” said Denny.

“I wanted to be at a bigger school where I could be close to home.”

Denny was raised in New Rochelle, N.Y., a suburban area not too far from the city, but her family originated from Barbados, where she learned of her family’s strong beliefs in west Indian culture.

In middle school and high school, Denny ran track, which had an immediate influence on her choice of study. Her dreams involve working in a high school setting where she can teach sports medicine and gradually work her way up into the college arena of sports education and medicine.

So, I begged the question. Why Mason?

“Mason wasn’t my first choice. It was University of South Florida,” she said. Her parents just moved to the state of Virginia on business, and she said being closer to her family was far more important than her “attraction” to the South.

“I liked the warm weather and the people. But I really wanted to be close to home. Mason seemed like the best school.

And it was.”

“The only thing that turned me off about Mason was that it didn’t have a football team, and I love football,” she laughs.

Most students that transfer to Mason almost always experience dilemmas with the transferring of their credits.

“I’m never transferring again,” said Denny. “Its worst than applying as a freshman. Transferring is like starting all over.”

Denny is not only talking about academically but also socially and physically.

“I knew about Mason, but I didn’t know the people,” she explained. Apparently, she did know one person – a high school friend also transferred to Mason. And for the first time, Denny was introduced to the people of Mason.

Thanks to Denny’s high school friend, she has been open to getting involved on campus with different organizations and activities such as Love Her Fiercely literary women’s group and the Caribbean Student Association.

As we sat in a residential study room, we laughed and talked as if we were life-long girlfriends. And naturally, we got right into talking about the things that she loves to do. Listening to music was first on her list.

“Mary J. Blige, Melanie Fiona, Alicia Keys, Rihanna,” says Denny. “I love listening to music – especially Reggae music!”

Apparently, she has a long list of hobbies as well: shopping at H&M, Delias and Forever 21, Reggae dancing, working out at the gym, traveling, visiting friends and hanging out with friends.

With respect to her major and her dream to have a successful career in sports medicine, I asked, What is your world goal?

“If I could, I would push more people to go to school. Education is a big thing to me. If I could encourage people to go to school and/or better themselves, I would be happy.”

Denise Ammaccapane: The Chef: ‘Reliable, knowledgeable, responsive and always makes herself available’
Strolling down Patriot Circle on a frigid Saturday evening in a customized and personalized white PT cruiser is not only President Alan Merten who waves to onlookers of the Homecoming Parade but also the proud owner of the vehicle, Denise Ammaccapane.

“I was always told I needed a hobby,” said Ammaccapane in her clear-cut Jersey accent. “I needed a car.”

A car is what she found, and now it is her pride and joy, one that she gives the name “Va-nilla,” the “Va” standing for Virginia.

Joining a PT Cruiser club may have been her hobby but what gives her the self driven determination and sometimes overwhelming passion she possesses is the goal of trying to provide the best food service to George Mason University.

In her 27th month on the job as regional district manager of Sodexo and director of Mason dining, Ammacappane is not someone who gets tired easily.

She begins her day at 7 a.m. and doesn’t leave Mason until 7 p.m. With a 12-hour workday six days a week, a driven mentality is simply a requirement.

Ammaccapane has picked up that drive after being in the food service business for 18 years.

Ammaccapane never wanted to be in the food business. She hoped to be a physical education teacher after attending college. But when she realized the pay was less than subpar, she decided to try out a new major at the community college she was attending at the time.

The major was hotel/restaurant management. Ammaccapane was high on the work and loved the one-on-one attention. After completing the major, she moved on to the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Then she picked up a job in the food business, and never looked back.

Ammaccapane spent some time as a chef and, although it was many years ago, she insists today she could leave her downstairs office at any time to walk upstairs and make meatloaf for anyone entering Southside.

Ammaccapane has had close to nine jobs at Sodexo ranging from doing work in training, cooking or corporate work.

When Ammaccapane learned of an opening at Mason, she decided to apply because she “always wanted to work on a college campus,” and she “didn’t want to be in the real cold.”

The interview process was extensive with 20 people on a panel drilling her on a variety of topics. Ammaccapane,
however, called the process rewarding because, as she saw it, “[I] knew what I was walking into.”

Now two years later, Ammaccapane has overseen drastic changes in Mason dining, including the nationally renowned Southside dining eatery and new restaurants in the works including The Original Burger Company and the Pilot House, scheduled to open next school year.

Being responsible for a dining company that has 25 locations, 456 employee and serves 3 and a half million people per year isn’t a job that comes without stress.

Ammaccapane handles the stress of the job by making sure she knows what is going on at each location and addressing the concerns of every customer.

“Food is so personal,” said Ammaccapane.

That’s why she is involved with her staff and with the customers. She makes sure to hold people accountable for the work they do.

“I do it right or I don’t do it at all,” she said.

Ammaccapane can be seen walking the floors of the Johnson Center or driving a golf cart down the paths of campus to monitor each dining location. But what she really prides herself on, is making sure to be involved.

“Communication has changed tremendously,” said Denise Napoliello, the treasurer of the Staff Senate.

Napoliello met Ammaccapane when she first came to Mason and since then they have developed a close relationship.

“[Ammaccapane is] reliable, knowledgeable, responsive and always makes herself available,” said Napoliello.

In fact, the director of Mason dining is so responsive that she gives her cell phone number out freely to anyone who wants it.

This has gone over well with students especially those who work with her on a weekly basis.

“[Denise is] one of the best people I know, and the best administrator I have worked with,” said sophomore Alex Romano, who serves on the subcommittee of dining services for Student Government and has been a staff senator since his freshman year. “She is passionate and cares about what the students say.”

It is hard to please everyone when food is on the line. But Ammaccapane does her best to return e-mails and phone calls and to make herself available all for the sake of the students, staff and faculty at Mason.

“We really like having Denise here,” said Napoliello.

The praise is a sentiment that has been expressed from students and professors alike, and Ammaccapane is just as happy to be at Mason serving customers one sandwich at a time.

Mateen Ashparie; ‘Dream big’
Mateen Ashparie is a junior at George Mason University, recently transferred from NOVA Community College. He is majoring in biology, and hopes to get into medical school. With his medical degree, Ashparie says, “I want to one day become the sports medicine physician for my favorite NFL team, the Washington Redskins.” When asked about the impossibility of this goal, he replied concisely, “Dream big.”

Ashparie was born on January 5, 1989 and grew up in Burke, Va., not too far from Mason’s Fairfax campus. Although he seems like the typical commuter student that is characteristic of Mason, Ashparie is different because outside the school, he becomes the teacher. Just across Ox Road, in the familiar University Mall, Ashparie works for Black Belt Academy (BBA) as a martial arts and fitness instructor.

Since the age of 10, Ashparie has invested the majority of his free time mastering the martial art of Tae Kwon Do. At the age of 17, he earned the title of Black Belt. Since then, Ashparie has been working at Black Belt Academy as a Tae Kwon Do instructor to all age groups.

Additionally, Ashparie runs the Lil Dragons program at BBA, which is a specially crafted Tae Kwon Do class for 3 to 5-year-olds. He comments, “Nothing is better than seeing those little faces excited to learn what you know how to teach.”

Ashparie also picked up teaching a kickboxing class for BBA. When asked where his interest in martial arts originated, he replied, “Ever since I was a little kid, Jean Claude Van Damme was my hero.” And that’s where the obsession allegedly began.

He also attributes his love for Tae Kwon Do to his role model and older brother, Yousef Ashparie. Yousef was also trained and employed by BBA throughout his college years at Mason. However, Mateen depends on his brother for more than just BBA-related issues. Ashparie describes his older brother saying, “Yousef is a good person…He ‘s made something of himself by working hard, and he’s always been there for me because he has strong family values.”

Mateen, too, holds family very high on his priority list; evident by the fact that his best friend is also his first cousin, Ali Baluch. Baluch describes Ashparie as filling the “big brother role” amongst their cousins. He says, “when we were younger, I would run my mouth and he would fight my fights.” Since then, Ashparie does not fight, but remains an influential figure in the lives of his younger cousins and family in general.

His emphasis on the importance of family also influenced Ashparie’s choice of college. When asked why he chose Mason he said, “I didn’t want to miss out on my little brother’s life,” referring to his 7-year-old brother, Sultan.

Ashparie spends most of his time balancing school, family, and his football and martial arts passions. To add to his full schedule, he has also recently taken up teaching himself how to play piano. Ashparie is a fun, yet focused and responsible student; he is definitely a great new addition to the Mason community.

Cindy Vasquez: ‘Keep your heads in the books, but enjoy your time to the fullest’
With her vivacious and captivating personality, it’s impossible not to be drawn to Cindy Vasquez’s aura.

Though she’s small and fun-sized, this extraordinary young lady carries responsibilities twice her size. As the first born in her family, Vasquez not only has three younger siblings to set a good example for, but has parents who expect her to fulfill all of her heart’s desires.

When the Civil War broke out in El Salvador in the early ’80s, Vasquez’s parents were compelled to migrate to the United States in hopes of a brighter and promising future for their family.

Vasquez’s mother struggled to quickly adapt to the American way of life and to break the language barrier that she lacked. If Vasquez were to crown an individual as her role model, she states, “I would give that title to my mother.”

A day in the life of Vasquez involves, but is not limited to, classes, work, meetings and spending time with her loved ones.

Wrapping up her third year at George Mason University, Vasquez is a government and international politics major full time and an intern part time.

She’s currently employed by the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, which she picked up her sophomore year to compliment her degree.

Aside from the government job and her government major, Vasquez is actively involved in clubs and organizations that interest her most.

She is the treasurer of the Hispanic Student Association (HAS) for the 2009-2010 school year, a member of the pre-law honor society, Phi Alpha Delta, and a member of the CLEO program, Council on Legal Education Opportunity within the honor society.

Vasquez has managed to juggle all activities simultaneously, with a smile that can light up a room and a laugh that warms the hearts of many.

As a rising senior, Vasquez is ecstatic to see what is in store for her and to begin that next stage in her life. Pursing a law degree is in the horizon of her near future, with a focus on human rights.

Despite the hectic career that awaits her, Vasquez sees herself in 10 years, settled and married in the D.C., Md., Va. vicinity with one child of her own as well as a few adopted children.

For the time being, her priority is to finish her college career strong and take life as it is presented to her.

Summing up her college experience, Vasquez snickers and states, “Definitely a wild rollercoaster, with turbulence, but the best experience thus far.”

For advice to the upcoming freshman, she smiled intently and continued, “Keep your heads in the books, but enjoy your time to the fullest, as it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Dionne Foster: ‘Your college experience is what you make it’
As May is upon us, anticipation for graduation is increasing for seniors who are ready to leave George Mason University behind and enter the “real world”. This is no exception for senior Dionne Foster. With the end of the school year approaching fast, Foster is excited to be graduating and is starting to look towards the future.

Foster entered Mason as a freshman in the fall of 2006. Her involvement in clubs at Mason reflects what she was taught as a sociology major. Foster is co-president of Amnesty International and is a part of the Alternative Break program. One of the best experiences of college for her came through an Amnesty International event that she organized herself. It was an event on the death penalty and race. “We filled up the room we had and it was a really awesome moment. It was the first big event I’ve organized,” Foster said.

Additionally, Foster is really involved with community service and has participated in two major trips during the past school year. During the winter, Foster traveled to New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward with the Lower 9 project group to help rebuild homes for displaced families after Hurricane Katrina. She helped by doing lots of sanding of wood and debris removal. Foster enjoyed meeting the people who lived there and listening to all of their stories.

Foster took another trip during Spring Break to New York City for HIV/AIDS outreach and service. While there she worked with Gay Men’s Health Crisis to help prepare for the AIDS walk, with FROST’D, Foundation for Research on Sexually Transmitted Diseases, to encourage people on the street to get tested and handed out condoms, and with Hearts and Voices to help set up for performers at Hospice Care Centers for those with AIDS.

When she isn’t donating her time to help others, Foster likes to relax and read poetry. She also really likes food and going out to eat. When asked what the perfect day would be for her, Foster gave an answer quite expected. “Sunny with some water nearby and fireworks. A good day with friends, oh and world peace.” Foster said. She would also, along with the rest of allergy sufferers, like pollen to disappear!

Now that graduation is around the corner, Foster is taking time to reflect on her time at Mason. “I don’t feel like I’m graduating. It will be an interesting transition.” Foster said.

She had this advice for freshmen that are unsure what to think of the college experience. “Get involved and find out what you care about. Being involved benefits your community and yourself” she said, “Your college experience is what you make it. Whether you get involved with community service, Greek Life etc.. It’s really about self exploration.”

After graduation Foster wants to find a job at a non-profit organization that deals with human and women’s centered rights. She also wouldn’t mind some traveling, especially to Uganda, Australia or India. There is no question that Foster is excited to be graduating. Another thing is for sure; Mason, and the community at large, can expect great things out of Dionne Foster post graduation.