First-Year Learning Community

Make the most of your first year at George Mason University with the Schar School of Policy and Government's living-learning community, "the Democracy Lab." This academic community is an immersive environment that will broaden your perspective and hone your ability to engage on difficult topics.

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Strengthen Your Connections

A Community of Change-Makers

In partnership with Mason's Housing & Residence Life, the Schar School's "Democracy Lab," is a learning experience open to all first-year Mason undergraduate students living on campus. Through the learning community, you will engage with the issues that define the journey of democracy in the United States and around the world. Plus, you'll build a strong network of students, professors, mentors, and advisors that will stay with you throughout your time at Mason and long after you graduate.

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Photo of Shreyas Adicherla

“I thought adjusting to college would be difficult, but the opportunities that George Mason University offers made it really easy. All the professors are incredible and easy to work with, especially at the Schar School. The opportunity to join the Democracy Lab allowed me to meet professors and have one-on-one discussions to analyze various topics and to make meaningful relationships with my fellow classmates while having an invaluable learning experience."

- Shreyas Adicherla

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A Memorable Year

Democracy Lab students build relationships with Schar School faculty and peers, engage with policy practitioners, and develop essential skills of citizenship. Opportunities for participating students include:

  • Networking opportunities with influential guest speakers. Former and future speakers include Fairfax City Election Administrator Ike Beretz, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D, VA-11), former CIA Director General Hayden, and Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and Schar School professor Steven Pearlstein
  • Study abroad trips and field trips, including a 3-week credit-bearing course in Jordan in May 2023, and customized trips to prominent institutions in and around the DMV area including the U.S. Institute of Peace and Smithsonian Museums.
  • Enrolling in a designated section of GOVT 101 designed for Democracy Lab students.
  • Notable research opportunities, including “the Voter Turnout Study”, led by LC faculty director Jennifer Victor

Meet the Schar School First-Year Academic Community Director

Professor Jennifer Victor

For any questions or to learn more, contact: