Access to Excellence Podcast

A podcast All Together Different

Join George Mason University President Gregory Washington as he invites experts, change-makers, innovators, and thought leaders to engage in meaningful conversations about the greatest challenges of our time.

Listen and learn from audacious people from Mason and beyond who represent the diversity of insight, the agility of collaboration, and the tenacity required in the struggle for a better future that is at the essence of the Mason Nation.  

President Gregory Washington hosts each episode of the Access to Excellence podcast, recorded on the campus of George Mason University.

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Latest Episode

Catherine Read, mayor of Fairfax City, Va.: outspoken, unfiltered (Episode 57)

Catherine Read is the first woman and first Mason alum to be mayor of Fairfax City, Va.

Catherine Read is the first woman and first Mason alum (BA government and politics '84) to be mayor of Fairfax City, Va., the university's hometown, and she is not shy about touting a place she says helped teach her think critically. Want to know why it's good to "disrupt the system," why it's important to get women into policy-making decisions, why our educational system doesn't reward bold ideas? Read tells you. She adds: "If we can't maintain democracy, if we can't preserve our rule of law, then all of these other things make zero difference." Listen now.

"As I started out doing nonprofit advocacy work, I became aware that we did not have enough women around the table for good public policy. A lot of the problems and the issues that exist are because women are not in a position to create policies around, such as, universal pre-K or affordable quality childcare or paid family leave. And you have to ask yourself, why? And it's because women have not been at the table." 

Catherine Read
Access to Excellence, Episode 57

Catherine Read is the first Mason alum and first woman to be mayor of Fairfax City, Va.
Meet our guest
Meet our guest

Catherine Read graduated from Mason in 1984 with a bachelor's degree in government and politics, and is the first Mason alum to be mayor of Fairfax City, Va.

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  • March 25, 2024
    Catherine Read is the first woman and first Mason graduate (BA government and politics ’84) to be mayor of Fairfax City, Va., the university’s hometown, and she isn’t shy about touting a university she says helped teach her how to think critically. Want to know why it’s good to “disrupt the system,” why it’s important to get more women into policy-making decisions, and why our educational system doesn’t reward bold ideas? Read tells you.
  • February 16, 2024
    Rev. Jeffery Johnson, pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Fairfax, Virginia, and Dr. Vernon Walton, pastor of First Baptist Church in Vienna, Virginia, guide us through some of the history and aspirations of the Black community through the lens of Black and African American History Month and their perspectives as long-time leaders of their parishes, both of which were founded by former slaves.
  • January 11, 2024
    Mary Ellen O’Toole, director of the Forensic Science Program in Mason’s College of Science, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the university’s new “body farm,” an outdoor research and training laboratory on its SciTech Campus that will allow crime-scene research in forensic science and forensic anthropology using human donors.
  • December 1, 2023
    Peter Becker, a professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department in George Mason University’s College of Science explains, talks how a predicted major increase in solar storms could be a prelude to an “internet apocalypse, and how a $14 million federal study he is leading with the Navy could provide better predictive capabilities and help us better understand exactly what’s at stake.
  • November 13, 2023
    Melissa Perry, dean of Mason’s College of Public Health, is an ardent proponent of virtual reality as a tool to help solve the nation’s health challenges. But she also worries that technology has helped create an “epidemic of loneliness” that has heightened the importance of a shared humanity and “being present for each other.”
  • September 11, 2023
    Karina Korostelina, a professor of conflict analysis and resolution in Mason’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, conducts remarkable research with global implications that not only applies to countries and groups in conflict but societies as well. Ukraine’s war with Russia, at its end, she says, will present enormous problems with the reconciliation of people and territories.
  • August 4, 2023
    Nikyatu Jusu, an assistant professor of directing and screenwriting in Mason’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, talks about her hit movie “Nanny,” which won the grand prize at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. The horror genre is not all “jump-scares,” she says. Just as often, the monster is a commentary on human nature and the way we treat each other and ourselves.
  • July 8, 2023
    Andrew McCabe, the former deputy and acting director of the FBI, and a Distinguished Visiting Professor, gives a masterclass on the indictment of Donald Trump under the Espionage Act, goes deep into some of the most controversial and important moments in his career, and explains why he so appreciates teaching at Mason.
  • June 2, 2023
    Foteini Baldimtsi, an assistant professor in Mason’s Department of Computer Science, and James Casey, an associate professor in Mason’s Computer Game Design program, help us understand what the metaverse is, or will be, and how the volatile world of cryptocurrency fits in.
  • April 28, 2023
    Paula Sorrell, associate vice president for innovation and economic development at Mason, and Ajay Vinzé, dean of Mason's School of Business, discuss how Mason Enterprise is an economic engine for Northern Virginia, and how the School of Business is changing the way business is taught.
  • February 15, 2023
    Lawrence Jackson says colonialism brought an end to authentic African dance. But the associate professor of dance who in 2011, co-authored a special edition on Black dance in the Journal of Pan African Studies, explains how Black dance keeps those African cultural traditions alive and is an affirmation of identity and independence.
  • January 25, 2023
    Missy Cummings, one of the country’s first female fighter pilots and the director of Mason’s autonomy and robotics center, calls herself a tech futurist, charged with making tech work and helping it get better. She isn’t shy about calling out bad tech either, including the vision systems in self-driving cars and Tesla’s Autopilot.