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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    Helon Habila, a professor of creative writing, and an acclaimed international author, has never shied away from important issues. The author of four novels and a factual account of the 2014 kidnapping in Nigeria of 276 young girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram, Habila says he strives to describe history through the eyes of ordinary people.
  • November 16, 2022
    When Gail Christopher, executive director of the National Collaborative for Health Equity and a Mason senior scholar, talks about “ensuring a future,” she’s really talking about creating a system of equity that produces opportunities for everyone to “actualize their potential.”
  • October 18, 2022
    Are the midterm elections the most consequential of our time? Maybe, maybe not. Jennifer Victor, associate professor of political science in Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government and Mason president Gregory Washington wrestle with that, and you might be surprised at the answer. Want more surprises? Then hear why high voter turnout could be a double-edged sword for our democracy.
  • September 6, 2022
    Dr. Michael Nickens, an associate professor of music at Mason, explains how he transforms from his mild-mannered persona into Doc Nix, the flamboyant leader of the Green Machine, the nation’s No. 1 pep band. Actor Bill Murray is a fan of the band, and Nix is pretty good on the tuba.
  • July 25, 2022
    Alpaslan Özerdem, dean of the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution explains the keys to effective peacebuilding, whether it concerns the war in Ukraine, gun violence or local issues. And don’t miss the discussions about how an alien invasion could help mend the rift between Russia and the West.
  • June 15, 2022
    Rep. Cori Bush, Missouri's first Black congresswoman, is teaching at Mason this summer. A pastor, teacher, nurse, and a Black Lives Matter activist in Ferguson, Mo., Bush talks about her most her unusual, and activist, path to Congress. “There is always someone to help, something to give,” she says. And she doesn’t flinch discussing controversial issue around race and policing.
  • May 20, 2022
    Louise Shelley, a University Professor and director of Mason’s Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, explains the connections between Russia’s war in Ukraine and corruption and organized crime, and how criminals and terrorists take advantage of the globalized world in which we live.
  • April 19, 2022
    Jim Trefil, a Mason physicist and Robinson Professor, explains the importance of a scientific worldview. The author of more than 50 books and one of the developers of the modern theories about quarks as a fundamental component of the universe, Trefil is helping pioneer a new way of teaching science.
  • March 15, 2022
    Larry Pfeiffer, director of Mason’s Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security explains Vladimir Putin’s real agenda in Ukraine and why China is taking notes. He also asks Americans to guard against autocracy at home because, as he said, it doesn’t take much for a country's values to be subverted and freedoms suppressed.
  • February 18, 2022
    Charles Chavis, an assistant professor of conflict resolution and history, and director of African and African American studies, talks about his new book that explores the lynching of a young Black man in Salisbury, Md, and how understanding his story and the Black experience can help find the right ways to fight anti-Black violence today.
  • January 12, 2022
    Ted Dumas, an associate professor of psychology and an experienced researcher, reveals foods we are losing to climate change, how a pooping bear in Japan can help keep cherries from extinction, and that if we do nothing about the climate, most of the US could be uninhabitable by 2100.
  • December 8, 2021
    Thalia Goldstein, associate professor of applied developmental psychology explains how kids benefit socially and emotionally from finding out Santa Claus isn’t real. Even so, Goldstein admits she is still disappointed about hearing the truth. A conversation with real holiday spirit.