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Darren Rizzoli understands the importance of teamwork and lending a helping hand.
Rizzoli is a financial service specialist in the Division of Advanced Professional Teacher Development and International Education (APTDIE) of George Mason University’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD).
In this role, he consults on financial matters, such as reviewing and approving P-Card purchases, and he’s also is the to-go person for questions about fiscal software. Colleagues said they rely on Rizzoli to help them navigate Mason Gateway Travel, TouchNet Marketplace software, or reconciliations through MicroStrategy.
For exceeding expectations and going above and beyond, Rizzoli has been recognized as January Employee of the Month.
“Darren goes out of his way to help people,” said Katy Blackburn, a program assistant for the Education Leadership and Policy Program. “He handles difficult situations with remarkable patience and admirable tact. I feel comfortable coming to him with questions, knowing he will be unbiased and thoughtful in his response.”
“Even though we are his internal ‘customers,’ Darren is always mindful that his help to us is enabling us to help the university’s students,” said Kelly Madden, a program assistant for the Education Leadership and Policy Program. “He is a perfect example of someone who wants Mason to ‘Thrive Together.’”
Rizzoli started his time at Mason in 2017 with a part-time accounting position at APTDIE, which provides advanced degrees to teachers whose focus is international and teaching English as a second language. After the pandemic, the college expanded his role, adding additional duties in the CEHD Dean’s Office, including training existing staff and onboarding new staff with the changing financial systems. In his full-time role, Rizzoli’s time is split between the CEHD Administration and APTDIE. “I am very thankful that I was able to stay with my CEHD work family,” Rizzoli said.
In addition to being a Mason staff member, Rizzoli is also a Mason parent. His son is in his second year at Mason. “So all my salary is returned to the university,” Rizzoli joked.
His daughter, a high school senior, has also been accepted to Mason, but the family is waiting to see what college she chooses.
How you got to Mason:
My family is a Foreign Service family—my wife is a diplomat. Starting in 2009, we began living overseas, first in Mexico, then in South Africa, and in Slovenia. I took various jobs at the embassies. As our children grew, it became harder for us to find countries with schools that met their needs. So, in 2017, we returned to the U.S. so my son could have four consecutive years in high school and my daughter could have an uninterrupted middle school/high school experience.
Upon arrival I found a job dog walking and pet sitting—it’s wonderful, outside all day walking and seeing very happy animals. However, the kids needed braces, so I found a part-time accounting position with CEHD APTDIE. This allowed me to combine my accounting degree with my international background. I was working at Mason in the morning and still saw my furry friends in the afternoon.
What do you like best about working at Mason:
I take pride in Mason’s commitment to diversity and CEHD’s mission to educate the educators. My strengths are in analyzing data and the ability to learn new systems. Mason has retired a lot of financial systems and rolled out new ones in the past couple of years. I enjoy being able to help and train people on the systems.
What do you like to do when you’re not working:
I have gotten pretty good at taking pictures of flowers, pets, insects, castles, churches and babies. My phone is absolutely filled with pet pictures.
When we first arrived back to the States, my sister-in-law gifted us with milkweed plants. Milkweed attracts monarch butterflies whose caterpillars only eat milkweed. During the pandemic, my backyard was my sanctuary. My wife and I started improving the space to make it more monarch friendly. Early last season we lost many caterpillars due to predation, so I brought them inside. We raised almost 70 butterflies, and 70 caterpillars eat a lot of milkweed. Some of the butterflies were tagged, so if they make it to their winter home in Mexico, scientists can identify where they were hatched.