Master’s 101

Welcome to the Schar School – Master’s 101!

Congratulations on your admission into the Schar School of Policy and Government! This website is designed to help you launch successfully into your Schar School master’s program and will supplement the important information you will receive during the Schar School on-campus New Student Orientation Program. As a continuing student, you will be able to connect with key services and resources throughout your program via this site. This site also provides you with access to academic tutorials to help prepare you for your graduate studies. We hope that you find this information useful and encourage you to visit this site regularly. Find out more about the Schar School's Master's Student Services and how we can help you.

TOPIC 1: GETTING STARTED – FOR NEW MASTER’S STUDENTS

Starting graduate school is a time of considerable transition, and there are several items that you will need to address before beginning your first semester. The information below will help you get started with the basics:

TOPIC 2: ACADEMIC ADVISING

All master’s students are assigned to a professional advisor at the time admission. Your advisor’s name and contact information can be found in your admissions packet and at the link below. All students are encouraged to contact their advisor each semester prior to registration to review course selection and degree progress. You are responsible for ensuring appropriate degree requirements are met and academic policies are followed. The following information will aid you in that process:

Advisor Contact information

Selecting Your Courses:

Academic Policies/Schar School Student Guide

TOPIC 3: GETTING TO KNOW YOUR FACULTY

Schar School faculty members are highly accomplished in their fields and can serve as an important resource for you during your graduate program. To learn more about your faculty, you can review their biographies on the faculty directory and search the faculty expertise database. You’ll also find faculty accomplishments highlighted in the Schar School monthly newsletter.

TOPIC 4: INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Your GMU Email Account

All students are required to activate their Mason email account and monitor the account on a regular basis. The Schar school and the university will provide official information to you using the Mason email system and you are responsible for the content of university communication sent to your account. You can activate and access your Mason email at http://masonlive.gmu.edu

Responsible Use of Computing Policy

Members of the Mason community are required to adhere to the Responsible Use of Computing Policy (RUC). The provisions of this policy can be found at: http://universitypolicy.gmu.edu/?s=Responsible+Use+of+Computing+Policy

Patriot Web

https://patriotweb.gmu.edu/

Patriotweb is a self-service interface created for Mason students, faculty, and staff. As a Mason student you will use Patriotweb to:

  • Register for courses and make schedule adjustments
  • Waitlist for courses
  • Check your registration status and view your class schedule
  • View your account balance and post tuition payments
  • Review your financial aid status and awards
  • View your final grades and degree progress
  • Update your address and contact information

The Schar school Student Guide to Patriotweb provides step-by-step instructions for navigating various Patriotweb functions.

Blackboard 

Blackboard (mymason.gmu.edu) is a web-based system used by Schar School faculty to facilitate courses. In Blackboard, professors may:

  • Post course syllabi, readings and assignments
  • Facilitate class discussions through Discussion Boards
  • Engage in video-conferencing through Blackboard Collaborate
  • Host assessments and assign grades

 If your professor is using Blackboard, s/he will provide you with access to the class folder in Blackboard. Your Blackboard login is your Mason email username without the “gmu.edu.” The password is the same as your email password.

Here are some helpful guides on how to use Blackboard:

 Should you encounter any issues with Blackboard, please inform your faculty and also reach out to the ITS Help Desk at support@gmu.edu.

Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint

Basic Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint skills may be necessary for some of your course work. If you do not feel confident in using these software programs, free tutorials are available to you as a Mason student through Skillport , an online training resource. You can access these tutorials by following the steps below:

Step one: Go to http://workshops.gmu.edu/

Step two: Log onto SmartForce Username: Entire Mason Email address, Password: G-number including “G”

TOPIC 5: GRADUATE RESEARCH AND WRITING

Multiple programs and services are available to help you adjust to the rigors of graduate level writing and research. We encourage you to review the information below designed help you to make a smooth transition: 

Writing Resources

  • A one-semester professional writing course is offered by the Schar School which can be taken by you as an elective toward your program. All Schar School master’s students are eligible to take this course. Please note that some Schar School students will be required to take this course as one of their electives based on the assessment of their gateway course instructor:

PUBP 570 Fundamentals of Policy Writing (3 credits) Professional Writing teaches effective writing for the professions. The course includes the fundamentals of writing — grammar, word usage and paragraphing – and instruction in selected genres, including news stories, editorials, and research writing.

  • Tips on everything from grammar to drafting an effective argument can be found on the resources link of the  Writing Center website.
  • The Writing Center provides individual tutoring, free of charge, to the Schar School students on the Arlington and Fairfax campuses. The Writing Center also offers the Online Writing Lab (OWL), an email-based tutoring service. Information about the services offered and appointments can be found at: http://writingcenter.gmu.edu/
  • Mason Writing Center Plagiarism Resource List:

Avoiding Plagiarism

The Honor Code and the Schar School

The profession of scholarship and the intellectual life of a university, as well as the field of public policy inquiry, depend fundamentally on a foundation of trust. Thus, any act of plagiarism strikes at the heart of the meaning of the University and the purpose of the Schar School of Policy and Government. It constitutes a serious breach of professional ethics and it is unacceptable.

Plagiarism is the use of another’s words or ideas presented as one’s own. It includes, among other things, the use of specific words, ideas, or frameworks that are the product of another’s work. Honesty and thoroughness in citing sources is essential to professional accountability and personal responsibility. Appropriate citation is necessary so that arguments, evidence, and claims can be critically examined.

Plagiarism is wrong because of the injustice it does to the person whose ideas are stolen. But it is also wrong because it constitutes lying to one’s professional colleagues. From a prudential perspective, it is shortsighted and self-defeating, and it can ruin a professional career.

The faculty of the School takes plagiarism seriously and has adopted a zero tolerance policy. Any plagiarized assignment will receive an automatic grade of “F.” This may lead to failure for the course, resulting in termination from the program and possible dismissal from the University. This dismissal will be noted on the student’s transcript. For foreign students who are on a university-sponsored visa (e.g. F-1, J-1 or J-2), dismissal also results in the revocation of their visa.

To help enforce the Schar School policy on plagiarism, all written work submitted in partial fulfillment of course or degree requirements must be available in electronic form so that it can be compared with electronic databases, as well as submitted to commercial services to which the School subscribes. Faculty may at any time submit a student’s work without prior permission from the student. Individual instructors may require that written work be submitted in electronic as well as printed form. The Schar School policy on plagiarism is supplementary to the George Mason University Honor Code; it is not intended to replace it or substitute for it.

Please be sure to review the Mason Honor Code in its entirety at: https://oai.gmu.edu/mason-honor-code/full-honor-code-document/

Library Tools and Tutorials

TOPIC 6: QUANTITATIVE SKILLS

 Basic Math Tutorial

The Basic Math Refresher provides a review of math concepts which with all Schar School students are expected to be familiar. This familiarity is particularly important for those students who are required to take Introductory Data Analysis for Policy and Government (POGO 511).

Screening for POGO 511

Students are required to pass a statistical screening exam prior to enrolling in POGO 511. Screening exams can be taken one of two ways: 1) Attend the Statistics Workshop; 2) Or RSVP for the Stats screening exam here: schar.gmu.edu/511. For additional information and a list of screening exam dates, please see Facts About 511.
Helpful statistical resources:

Math for Economics Tutorials

In addition to the general quantitative skills you will need for many Schar School courses, “Microeconomics for Policy Analysis (PUBP 720)” and “US Financial Policy Processes and Procedures (PUBP 741)” use more specific mathematical concepts and principles. Many of these concepts are introduced in our general quantitative skills tutorial and reviewed in a special “math camp” offered to students in the weeks prior to the semester they take PUBP 720 and PUBP 741.

While the quantitative requirements for microeconomics can vary by instructor, all students should be very familiar with certain topics related to graphs and functions. We have found that once students build a strong base in a discrete number of quantitative topics, they are able to better enjoy and understand the models presented in PUBP 720/741. This enables instructors to focus the course on applications rather than elementary quantitative requirements.

The video tutorials below review the key mathematical concepts used in the Schar School’s microeconomics courses. These topics are generally covered in pre-algebra, algebra and pre-calculus math courses in high school and college; students that want additional resources in any of these topics should refer to the appropriate math (not economics) textbooks and/or discuss the issue with their professors. Knowledge of the material presented in the video tutorials is generally assumed in PUBP 720/741, and may not be reviewed in detail during the course.

Math for Economics Tutorials

Math Camp

Each semester, the Schar School offers a two-day math camp (PUBP 555) designed to review fundamental mathematical concepts associated with microeconomics (PUBP 720) – particularly basic algebraic and calculus principles. All students taking PUBP 720 should plan to enroll in the math camp the semester in which they are taking PUPB 720. The free workshop is open to all Schar School students. Students taking PUBP 720 will receive instructions for registering for the workshop.

Spring 2014 Math Camp

Spring 2014 Math Camp Day 1 video

Spring 2014 Slides for Math Camp – Day 1

Spring 2014 Math Camp Day 2 video

Spring 2014 Slides for Math Camp – Day 2

Spring 2014 Math Camp Practice Sets

Spring 2014 Math Camp Practice Set Answers

TOPIC 7: EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION TIPS

Oral presentations are an essential skill for any policy professional. The only way to prepare yourself for public speaking is to practice. Presentations are required in the Schar School classes to give you the opportunity to practice before an audience. You will find some tips for planning and conducting effective presentations in the Professional Presentations Guide prepared by the Schar School Professors Rudder, Fritschler, and Pfiffner.

Professional Presentations Guide

Listening: Our Most Used Communication Skill (from the University of Missouri Extension)

TOPIC 8: PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The Schar School’s Office of Career Development provides the full range of services designed to foster your professional growth and development. The office provides one-on-one assistance in reviewing resumes and cover letters, exploring career goals, identifying employment opportunities, and providing the skills needed for a successful career search. Additional information on the services provided can be found here. Additionally, the following resources will be helpful to you as you move toward your professional goals:

  • Handshake: You can review job and internship positions and connect with employers actively recruiting students and alumni on the Schar School online recruitment system, Handshake. This system provides an up-to-date listing of current positions and career events.
  • Tips for Creating your resume
  • Internships: All MPP and ODKM students who do not have at least two years of related professional experience are required to complete a three credit internship for their degree. If you are not required to complete an internship, may elect to do so for credit toward your degree. You can find additional information about internships and the course here.

TOPIC 9: STUDY ABROAD

The Schar School study abroad courses are intensive, condensed courses conducted in countries that serve as laboratories for the study of politics, globalization, emerging markets, social policies, and security. All students are encouraged to pursue a study abroad course, which may be used to fulfill one elective in any Schar School program. Study abroad course information can be found here.

TOPIC 10: STUDENT LIFE AND INVOLVEMENT

  • The Schar School of Policy and Government Alumni Chapter serves as an important resource for current students and works to unify the alumni and students of the Schar School of Policy and Government from all degree and certificate programs in the interest of personal and professional enhancement. the Schar School alumni chapter activities are listed here.
  • The Pi Alpha Alpha  is the Global Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration. PAA recognizes outstanding graduate students in public administration, public policy, and public affairs. There are more than 160 chapters located around the world at NASPAA member schools. The purpose of PAA is to encourage and recognize outstanding scholarship and accomplishment in public affairs and administration. Membership identifies those with the highest performance levels in educational programs preparing them for public service careers.
  • The Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honor Society, is the only honor society dedicated to college and university students studying government in the United States. There are over 740 chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha nationwide. At George Mason University, the Xi Lambda Chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha strives to promote the personal, professional, and academic growth of its members relative to the field of political science.
  •  The purpose of the Graduate and Professional Student Association is to establish a forum through which George Mason University graduate and professional students are able to address issues, advocate for the greater good, grow professionally, and socialize with one another, thus, creating a stronger graduate community that promotes personal and academic success.
  • Arlington Campus University Life serves as a non-academic resource for students on the Arlington campus and sponsors several campus-wide events each semester. Additional information and listing of events can be found at: https://ularlington.gmu.edu/
  • The Mason Off-Campus Housing database provides students with a listing of housing resources in the vicinity of all Mason campuses as well as a message board for roommate pairing.
    http://och.gmu.edu/
  • You will find an abundance of activities surrounding the Mason Arlington campus. For additional information on the historic, cultural, and recreational activities available in the Arlington and Metro-DC areas, see the resources below:
    http://www.stayarlington.com/

TOPIC 11: INTERNATIONAL STUDENT SERVICES

The OIPS New Students page is designed to help you prepare for your travel and first few days at George Mason University. Here you will find information about your support team at Mason, the OIPS International Student Orientation, and important on campus resources. Visit:  http://oips.gmu.edu/new-students/ 

The International Student Liaison (ISLP) program
This rewarding program for current students, known as the International Student Liaison Program (ISLP), is designed to help new international students make a smooth transition to the Schar School and the surrounding area. The ISLP strives to promote cultural understanding by building strong relationships among the diverse student body of our School. This will be achieved by pairing liaisons with new international students and hosting extracurricular activities that are open to all students.

Below are some key aspects of the program:

  • All current Schar School students can take part in the ISLP
  • Students choose their level of involvement based on their interests and availability
  • Current students serve as a point of reference throughout the semester for new international students
  • Students typically communicate over the phone or email
  • Students in the program are encouraged to attend a the Schar School or GMU event (social, academic, or career related) with each other

ISLP events and activities are also offered each semester for liaisons and international students to participate in and include a variety of activities, such as: film screenings, panel discussions, local hikes, dinners, sports events, and more.

How can you get involved?

All graduate students, including non-Schar School students, are welcome to participate in ISLP events, but if you would like to register for the International Student Liaison Program and are a current Schar School student, please fill out the ISLP application form.

International Student Liaison Program

Congratulations on completing Master’s 101! We hope you will continue to use this site as a resource throughout your program.