Jill Deering knows how fragile student success can be.
After nearly 20 years of helping students in George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government navigate all manner of personal and professional turmoil, the senior assistant dean of student and academic affairs is well known as someone with the experience, knowledge, and skills to negotiate, mediate, and problem-solve the thorniest of predicaments.
For that, as well as her leadership of the Schar School student services staff, Deering is the December Employee of the Month.
Bonnie Stabile, associate dean for student and academic affairs at the Schar School, called Deering a “linchpin among the members of the staff, a trusted mentor and a role model” who is a “polished professional in every circumstance.”
Silva Pecini, assistant dean for master’s student services at the Schar School, and a former Mason Employee of the Month (July 2020), described Deering as possessing “unflappable grace and warmth.”
Former Mason interim president Anne Holton said, “It’s a treat to work with someone who starts from a point of ‘yes we can.’ ”
And Schar School Dean Mark J. Rozell said he’s come to depend heavily on Deering’s “reliable, loyal, and hard work” as a leader.
She’s also an alumna.
How she got to Mason:
I was working in student affairs at a small private college in Pennsylvania and needed to relocate to the Washington, D.C., area when I was alerted to a position at what was then the School of Public Policy at George Mason. What an ideal opportunity—I could continue my higher education career working with students who were studying public affairs at my alma mater. I earned my BA in government and politics at Mason in 1995. I was also drawn to being a part of an institution that values inclusion and innovation so highly.
Best day on the job:
Many days stand out, but I recall one in particular in 2015 when one of our graduate students who was from Yemen faced a financial crisis that threatened her ability to remain enrolled. She was entering her second semester when her family’s resources could no longer be accessed because of war in her home country. Not only was her family’s safety threatened, but her plans for a master’s degree were now in question. In about 24 hours, we identified an emergency funding source within the now Schar School and coordinated with our incredible University Life and Office of Financial Aid partners for additional emergency support. The student was able to continue her studies and ultimately graduate. This epitomized the best of Mason—everyone involved said ‘let’s find a solution.’
What do you like best about working at Mason:
Without question, my team and my boss. I constantly learn from and find motivation from both. My team is second to none, they are amazing individuals who care deeply about the success of our students and programs. Broadly speaking, Mason is never dull. I love being a part of a place that is helping to shape future leaders and thinkers, where so much consequential research is happening, and where you get to interact regularly with people who have such interesting stories and experiences.
What do you do when you’re not working:
My husband and I love to explore new places with our three-year-old Labrador retriever, and I try to find as many opportunities as possible to travel, which has been hard the last few years. I also love taking photos and hope to focus more time on developing my photography skills.