Mason honored for an innovative approach to serving contemporary students


George Mason University’s Contemporary Student Services has been recognized by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), a leading voice for student affairs, for its innovative approach to serving post-traditional and off-campus students.

Students walk together on campus
Photo by Evan Cantwell/Office of University Branding

Contemporary Student Services (CSS), part of University Life, earned the Bronze Excellence Award for supporting success in "Commuter, Off Campus, Military-Affiliated, Non-Traditional, and Other" student populations. Mason’s approach to serving these students sets it apart from other institutions of higher education. The CSS office launched in 2019 as a first-of-its-kind unit dedicated to serving the multifaceted identities of contemporary students at Mason.

NASPA Excellence Awards badge

The choice to include a variety of post-traditional student populations under one umbrella was intentional. At Mason, “contemporary students” include those who are adult learners (25 and older), living off-campus, transfer students, married/widowed/divorced, veteran or military-affiliated, returning to college after taking three or more years off, pregnant or parenting, or previously in the foster-care system. The definition is flexible and may continue to grow.

“Contemporary Student Services provides the latitude to evolve alongside our student population and remain flexible and inclusive,” said Joisanne Rodgers, director of Contemporary Student Services. “Mason didn't take the path of creating individual units to serve specific contemporary populations, because most contemporary students hold more than one of those identities—for example, they're a military-affiliated student parent living off-campus. The Venn diagram of contemporary student identities has a lot of intersections.”
Kids Zone in the Contemporary Student Lounge has toys and books for children
Kids Zone in the Contemporary Student Lounge. Photo by Joisanne Rodgers/Contemporary Student Services

The Contemporary Student Lounge, in The Hub on the Fairfax Campus, is a place of refuge and support for these students. The space includes a well-equipped Kid’s Zone with age-appropriate furnishings, books, and activities. The lounge is staffed with contemporary student employees and peer mentors who help serve these students and connect them to the broader Mason community. The space has proven to be a vital resource. Last year, the lounge relocated to a larger space to accommodate the growing number of students using it.

"It's a great privilege to work with a team of innovators who not only put our students first, but also work incredibly hard to ensure we're seeing and recognizing the unique students in front of us,” Rodgers said. “The contemporary student population at Mason keeps growing, and we're honored to be part of the support network and village that advocates, celebrates, educates, and serves our contemporary students.”

Mason will be formally recognized for its work in Contemporary Student Services at the NASPA annual conference in March. View the complete list of awardees.