Life is much more than time spent on the clock. In this series, we highlight the unique hobbies and volunteer activities of Mason's talented faculty and staff.
Liza Wilson Durant wears many hats at George Mason University.
Wilson Durant, who joined the Mason Nation in 2010, is an associate provost for Strategic Initiatives and Community Engagement and a professor and associate dean in the College of Engineering and Computing. Her particular focus is on Mason’s engineering and computing initiatives.
She is also the director of the Northern Virginia Node of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative, a role that helps Mason forge broad partnerships with other universities, colleges, industry and government partners.
Outside her work at Mason, Wilson Durant makes a different impact on her community—since 2021 she has volunteered as an emergency medical technician (EMT), licensed in the State of Maryland and with the National Registry of EMTs.
Wilson Durant's commitment to service began 45 years ago when she was a middle schooler, volunteering as an aid and companion at a transition house for those with mental health challenges. Those hours of service had a profound impact on her mindset, and she committed to community service as an integral part of her daily life.
In addition to providing emergency medical aid to those who call 911, she also drives the ambulance and supports other emergency operations with the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad in Maryland, and occasionally provides mutual aid to Virginia when needed.
What is the time commitment like for this community service? How do you balance it with your work and home life?
As an EMT and private with the Bethesda Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, I am required to volunteer one, 12-hour overnight shift each week, and 20 additional weekend hours every two months. So, I contribute more than 750 duty hours a year. It is a privilege to do this work and rewarding to have immediate impact; this makes it easy to show up, even when I am tired or have other competing demands on my time.
What has been the most meaningful or memorable experience you’ve had as an EMT?
Each week there are memorable moments. We are often with people at the lowest point in their lives, and if we can successfully improve their physical and mental health outcomes or support their families who are experiencing the emergency alongside their loved ones, the immediate impact is very rewarding.
How do you prepare for the intense and fast-paced environment, whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional preparation?
We undergo a significant amount of training, testing and certification. When we are not running calls, we are running drills, reviewing protocols, discussing our approach to various calls and supporting each other on our crews. Preparation, and constant study and drills, help ensure confidence at a difficult moment.
What lessons have you learned through this experience?
Although my tasks as associate provost and dean are very different than as an EMT charge officer, the roles are similar in terms of working in an ensemble of expert, dedicated individuals who are driven by the mission of incredible impact on the well-being and success of our community members. I've learned in both roles to trust in the power of a team and the power of the diversity of our approaches to a challenge.
I have had a lifelong commitment to community service activities that get me out from behind a desk and part of a team with "hands-on" impact in my community. I learn something new every day I show up for duty, from my crew and from the incredible health care providers in our hospitals and health care system in the region.
Apart from this volunteer work, what else keeps you busy outside Mason? What do you do to relax?
I love spending time with my beautiful family and especially running, playing golf and enjoying the land around the Potomac River where we live.
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