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When graduating psychology major Dorothea J. Tyree attends George Mason University’s Winter Graduation on Dec. 16, she will be wearing a stole that shows the flags of her native Romania and Germany, where she lived as a teen.
It has been a long journey to a bachelor’s degree for the divorced mother of two, but in many ways, Tyree is just getting started.
A lead teacher at the Mason’s Child Development Center, where she has worked for more than 20 years, Tyree used her tuition credits to earn this degree, taking one class a semester while working full-time.
“I fell in love,” she said of taking the job at Mason in 2001. “For some reason, the job—and Mason in general—has been such a big part of home for me.”
“Dorothea’s road to graduation has been unique as she has balanced family, career, and life in general,” said Erin Geiger, assistant director of Mason’s Child Development Center. “She epitomizes the Mason spirit, connecting with others through her various roles on campus with her warm and energetic personality and caring for our littlest Patriots at the center. I feel privileged to call her both colleague and friend and could not be more excited for her as she celebrates this incredible accomplishment!”
Tyree began working at the center when it was in trailers in Patriot Village before it moved to its current location. And she is beloved by many Mason families whose children have moved through the center over the years.
Tyree left Romania as a pre-teen after the revolution and lived in Germany with her family as immigrants. She came to the United States as a 19-year-old Army wife and began her career working in a preschool in Fort Hood, Texas.
Now a U.S. citizen, she said recent events in this country, particularly those on Jan. 6, have brought on flashbacks of that turbulent time in Romanian history under Nicolae Ceaușescu.
“During the Romanian revolution in ’89, I was just 11, having to hide and barricade, waking up to gunfire,” said Tyree. “You can’t process that kind of trauma as a child. I’ve only recently been able to process it.”
She said that she has been able use her Mason courses, such as HIST 100 The History of Western Civilization, which she took with Mason adjunct and alum Wes Fleming, to help her process that experience.
“It was just right outside of the scope of the class, but Professor Fleming allowed me to write about it,” said Tyree of the revolution. “It was awesome to actually take a scholarly look at the past because your memories as a child can trick you.”
Tyree makes connections between that childhood and her drive to make a difference.
“My dad was 39 when he voted for the first time in his life,” she said. “I remember to this day how excited he was. Being active in my community is very important to me.”
Tyree is already talking about a double major for her graduate studies and thinking about her future PhD. She is interested in many big picture things, such as criminal justice, social justice, and mental health. But at the core she wants to help families.
“Generational trauma can have a ripple effect,” she said. “And I want to be an advocate for families.”