Mason Celebrates Women's History Month

In 2006, Mason alum Anousheh Ansari became the first female private space explorer, first astronaut of Iranian descent, first Muslim woman in space, and fourth private explorer to visit space.

Photo by courtesy of NASA

Women's History Month

Mason Women Making History

Mason celebrates Women's History Month by honoring the ongoing achievements and contributions of Mason women who have played a vital role in our culture, society, and community. Check back throughout the month as we add to this page.

Meet Mason's Capital Program Director, Cathy Pinskey

Cathy Pinskey, capital program director at George Mason University, has watched Mason’s square footage grow a lot over the years—by the millions. When she started at Mason in 2004 as the director of space management, the university had about 3 million square feet across its locations. Today, the university occupies more than 9 million square feet. Read more about Cathy.

Cathy Pinskey, capital program director for Mason Facilities, overlooks the construction site of Fuse at Mason Square. 

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Evan Cantwell/Creative Services/George Mason University

Quick Takes

 In honor of Women's History Month, Quick Takes asks Mason staff, faculty, and students about the women in their lives they admire.


2023 Sojourner Truth Lecture with Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya

A Black woman stands outside. She is wearing red and blue tribal cloths and a beaded choker.

Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya

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Photo provided

2023 Sojourner Truth Lecture

This year's lecturer and the award recipient is Dr. Kakenya’s Ntaiya.

Kakenya's Dream Founder and President, Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya, is a world-renowned educator and advocate for girls' health and human rights. Read more.

Heather Aleknavage

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DeRon Rockingham / Creative Services / George Mason

Working Moms Support Group Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

They say it takes a village to raise a child. But sometimes, parents are left wondering when that village is going to show up.

In 2003, Heather Aleknavage was a new mom doing her best to manage parenting and the demands of her job as an administrative professional at George Mason University. It wasn’t easy. Read more about Mason's Working Moms Support Group.

First Mason Alum to be mayor of Fairfax

Catherine Read is the first Mason alum to be mayor of Fairfax, and the first woman as well. Read wants closer ties between the university and its host city, and already has plans in motion. Learn more.

My Mason degree has grown in value as Mason has grown in stature in Virginia and globally. I consider it an amazing return on investment.”


Fairfax Mayor Catherine Read in her office.

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Cristian Torres/Strategic Communications/George Mason University

Mason's first student newspaper

The story of how a student newspaper started at Mason doesn’t begin with a journalist, but with a candidate. It wasn’t until Helen Momsen would establish the Ledger that student media would make a significant impression on student life at Mason. In creating the Gunston Ledger, Momsen would begin a tradition that would help George Mason College forge an identity. While the Ledger would later be renamed Broadside in 1969, Momsen created the foundations for student media at Mason that can still be felt today.

The Gunston Ledger
The Gunston Ledger
Helen Momsen, 1963 GM College student, founded the student newspaper

Photograph of freshman student and founding editor of the Gunston Ledger, Helen H. Momsen (Johnson). March 10, 1963.

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Richard M. Sparks Photograph Collection, # RA196310-16E

Mason's First Female Private Space Explorer

In 2006, Mason alum Anousheh Ansari, BS Computer and Electrical Engineering ’88, captured headlines around the world when she embarked upon an 11-day expedition to the International Space Station, accomplishing her childhood dream of flying to space. As a result of her mission, Ansari became the first female private space explorer, the first astronaut of Iranian descent, the first Muslim woman in space, and the fourth private explorer to visit space. Read more.

alum Anousheh Ansari wearing a bright blue one-piece is upside down in a spacecraft
Research professor develops test kits to detect pathogens

Mason's First Patent

In the 1990s, Jenefir Isbister, a research professor in the Department of Molecular and Microbiology in George Mason University’s College of Arts and Sciences, was asked if it was possible to develop a quick, portable, and accurate tool to detect pathogens in liquids. Her answer led to Mason's first patent for her invention of a test for microbial contamination. Her research led to a second patent in 1999. Read more about her work.

Mason's first Ph.D. graduate 1983

Mason's First Doctoral Degree

On May 21, 1983, George Mason University awarded its first doctoral degree, a doctor of arts in education, to Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, a teacher at nearby West Springfield High School. Kreiter-Fonda received an Outstanding Academic Achievement and Service Award, and a Letter of Recognition for Quality Research from the Virginia Educational Research Association for her dissertation, Gathering Light:  A Poet's Approach to Poetry Analysis. She served as Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2006-2008. Read more.

Listen as Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda reads her poem Dragon Run 

Events Around Campus

Go for Gold! 2020 Olympic Karate Athlete Sakura Kokumai  

March 30, 2–3 p.m. 

Fairfax Campus, Johnson Center, Cinema 


Visiting Filmmakers Series: Margaret Brown and Kern Jackson with Descendant

March 30, 5 PM - 8 PM


Mason Exhibitions

Kat Thompson:  Looking for My People

Fenwick Gallery through April 2.

Learn more.

Mason's First Woman Physicist

Hired in February 1967 as an assistant professor, Eugenie “Jean” V. Mielczarek was the first woman physicist at Mason, in addition to being a founding professor of the Physics Department. This was a monumental feat in the male-dominated world of physics, science, and academia, but she didn’t stop there. She was also a leader and advocate for women, particularly women scientists. Read More.

Photo of physicist Eugenie Mielczarek in the 1970s

Photo of Eugenie Mielczarek in the 1970s, Eugenie Mielczarek papers, C0059, Box 9, Folder 8, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Women's Soccer claims Mason's First National Championship

On Nov. 24, 1985, George Mason University women's soccer defeated North Carolina 2-0 to claim the first-ever NCAA National Championship at Mason. Mason was the host for the Final Four championship games, and the team played in front of a record crowd of 4,500. Read More.

Mason women's soccer champs 1985

GMU NCAA Women's Soccer Champions 1985

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George Mason University photograph collection

Mason Trailblazer Kim Crabbe

In 1986, Mason alum Kim Crabbe became the first Black woman called up to the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. Read more about Kim. Watch an interview with Kim below.

Mason 1985 women's soccer champs

Former US Representative Shirley Chisholm speaking with a group at George Mason University, 1985

Former US Representative Shirley Chisholm speaking with a group at George Mason University, 1985. George Mason University photograph collection, R0120, Box 29, Folder 35.

1977 nurse capping ceremony

GMU's Nurse Capping Ceremony, 1977

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GMU Facilities