Tyler Elliott (2016, integrative studies) is a long way from home. Originally from Little Rock, AR, she attended the 2011 MSNBC Washington Journalism and Media Conference hosted at George Mason University. Although it was Washington DC’s energy that encouraged Elliott to select Mason, her classroom experiences have been most rewarding as she makes her way through her undergraduate program.
Elliott arrived at Mason as an undeclared major, expecting to try several courses and find her path of study. She enrolled in the New Century College (NCC) Cornerstones program and found her space. As part of her Cornerstones coursework, Elliott visited museums and organizations in DC and accessed readings and materials that led her to NCC’s concentration in social justice.
Elliott said, “I’ve always been an activist. I attended Little Rock Central High School (the site of the Little Rock Integration Crisis of 1957). My high school got me interested in civil rights and social rights. I love discussing identity and diversity. I want everyone to have a fair chance.”
Elliott met Professor Paul Gorski in her Cornerstones learning community and began engaging with a wide range of texts and materials covering a host of social justice issues: race, gender, sexual orientation, economic justice, animal rights and others.
While she found Gorski’s classes to be interesting, Elliott also felt challenged. She said, “He creates an open and safe environment in his classroom…He pushes you to write and think more. He’s always saying ‘dig deeper.’ It’s his slogan in class.”
Currently, Elliott is taking NCLC 347 with Professor Suzanne Scott Constantine. This course, “Gender Representation in Popular Culture” has encouraged her to engage on a very deep level with sensitive issues of gender, race, sexual orientation and identity.
In this course, students create a verbal self-portrait to share one of their identities (often revealing a side of themselves that may not be obvious to others). Elliott found this exercise to help create an atmosphere where people could openly share their thoughts and questions about the texts and topics discussed.
Elliott said, “This course stretches you. She (Professor Scott Constantine) has me thinking about both my privilege and my oppression…Now we are reading the book Body as Evidence and it has me thinking about my identity as a black feminist and asking how do I fit into all of this?”
While at Mason, Elliott has also worked at the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education (ODIME). As an office assistant, Elliott has found another outlet to work and learn about social justice issues on the Mason campus.
She said, “I love the ODIME staff and students. I enjoy our interactions and conversations. Working in this office keeps me in the loop about events and speakers on campus interested in these same issues.”
Elliott’s experience at Mason and in NCC has been eye-opening. She said, “I’m grateful for it. What does Professor Gorski say? ‘The veil of ignorance has been lifted.’ Now I see this and I have to decide how to incorporate this into my life. Do I try to fight against it? How do I change it?”