The move is expected to build on the successful work of LaNitra Berger, senior director of the Office of Fellowships, who has helped students secure more than 50 prestigious fellowships such as the Fulbright, Boren, Gilman, Truman, Udall, and Critical Language Scholarship awards during her tenure at Mason.
“I’m excited to make the move,” Berger said. “It will allow us to grow the university’s mission and commitment to access to excellence and inclusivity while focusing on underrepresented students, retention, and integrate multiple aspects of curriculum.”
Berger lives Mason’s mission of diversity and inclusion by working hard to ensure underrepresented students get equal access to awards.
“What I do is focus on those students who don’t fit the traditional profile these awards typically search for and am always on the lookout for low-income, transfer, commuting, first-generation and other underrepresented students,” Berger said.
As for merging work and goals with Undergraduate Education, a fruitful history exists. For a decade, the Honors College has served as an incubator for programs that grew to successfully serve the whole university as part of its Undergraduate Apprentice Program.
Berger worked on Mason’s Quality Enhancement Program during the university’s last accreditation and was part of the team that helped transition the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR) from the Honors College to Undergraduate Education. Successes such as OSCAR are expected grow as the move to Undergraduate Education will not only raise the profile of the Fellowships Office and how it works with nationally competitive awards, it will also influence the advising and Mason Impact programs.
Bethany Usher, associate provost of Undergraduate Education, has worked with Berger since she first arrived at Mason and is looking forward to working more closely with her. She expects this move to create a closer relationship between advising, Mason Impact programs, and Fellowships that will help develop cohorts of talented students who can compete for these awards, including an emphasis on traditionally underrepresented students.
“LaNitra has been very successful at helping a diverse group of students win these very competitive international fellowships,” Usher said. “I hope we continue to grow the profile of Mason as a producer of these awards, along with our R1 status and our national reputation for excellent undergraduate education.”
In addition to her work in Undergraduate Education, Berger, an art historian with an emphasis in South African art, will teach one course a year for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and engage in service to the African and African American Studies Program.