SAIL Overview

Our Mission

SAIL (Social Action & Integrative Learning), housed within the School of Integrative Studies, is an evolving community of Mason students, faculty, administrators, alumni, and community partners who are active and passionate collaborators in effecting positive social change. SAIL fosters integrative, innovative, and experiential learning opportunities on campus, regionally, and globally that educate and activate towards a more equitable, just, nonviolent, and sustainable world. We partner with people, organizations, and communities to increase collaborators’ capacity for community-driven social change and to develop and enact creative solutions to complex shared public problems. Our shared work covers many contexts, including:

  • Alternative Breaks
  • Civic Engagement
  • Community-Based Learning / Service-Learning
  • Field Studies
  • Leadership & Community Engagement LLC
  • Mason Engage (faculty development)
  • Non-Profit Studies
  • Leadership Studies
  • Undergraduate Research

 

Our Values

The members of SAIL are aware of the complex dynamics that surround our shared work. We believe that the status quo is not sustainable and that global solutions require integrative and trans-disciplinary approaches in order to be effective. We believe in the transformative power of learning and that learning can only be considered transformative if it involves a fundamental questioning or reordering of how one thinks or acts (Brookfield). This involves a fundamental challenge to hegemonic conditions and involves critical analysis and reflection on power differentials and other taken for granted assumptions. SAIL will undertake its mission in accordance with the following core values:

  • Critical Reflection
  • Diversity 
  • Equity
  • Human Rights
  • Integration
  • Reciprocity
  • Social Justice

As part of the School of Integrative Studies (SIS), an intentionally inclusive community, we promote and maintain an equitable and just work and learning environment. We welcome and value individuals and their differences including race, economic status, gender expression and identity, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, first language, religion, age, and disability.

  • We value our diverse student body and desire to increase the diversity of our faculty and staff.
  • We commit to supporting students, faculty and staff who have been the victims of bias and discrimination.
  • We promote continuous learning and improvement to create an environment that values diverse points of view and life experiences.
  • We believe that faculty, staff and students play a role in creating an environment that engages diverse points of view.
  • We believe that by fostering their willingness to hear and learn from a variety of sources and viewpoints, our students will gain competence in communication, critical thinking and global understanding, aware of their biases and how they affect their interactions with others and the world.

The statement alone is not sufficient to ensure that students, faculty and staff will recognize, accept and affirm their differences in respectful ways. In order to move forward in reducing marginalization and fostering knowledge of the diverse nature of our community of learners, the statement should be used to prompt conversation about how the class will manage dialogue generally and particularly around difficult issues.

We acknowledge that the diversity statement does not name all possible areas of discrimination and bias that are a part of our community members’ experiences. This statement names the areas of most egregious prejudice in our society. There are courses which may address directly some areas of potential prejudice that are not named in this statement. For example, “political affiliation” is not on this statement, but if a course is likely to provoke discussion of politics and reveal personal views, the instructor may wish to write an addendum to this asserting that respect for diverse political views is essential. 

 

SIS Competencies

The School of Integrative Studies (SIS) at George Mason University is a leader in cultivating integrative and innovative learning. Now entering its second decade, the School of Integrative Studies has a long tradition of promoting integrative interdisciplinary education and connecting high impact practices to student learning. SIS is home to expert faculty who are well-versed in the scholarship of teaching and learning, inter-disciplinary and integrative pedagogies, civic learning and participatory democracy, social justice, partnership building, organizational culture, and assessment and evaluation of learning. Programs and initiatives offered through SAIL focus predominantly on the following SIS Competencies:

  • civic engagement
  • critical thinking
  • global awareness
  • group collaboration

 

Key Terminologies

Community–based learning: Community-based learning includes service, community based research, and other applications of course-related skills to assist local (and sometimes global) service organizations. There are many definitions, but all reflect the principles captured in this definition from the Campus Compact National Center for Community Colleges:

[It] is a teaching method which combines community service with academic instruction as it focuses on critical, reflective thinking and civic responsibility. Programs involve students in organized community service that addresses local needs, while developing their academic skills, sense of civic responsibility, and commitment to the community

Field studies: Field studies is an immersion model in which classroom material is explored and applied within a given field experience. The center defines “field experience” broadly to encompass a wide spectrum ranging from the natural world to human populations in their respective social and cultural contexts and settings, including how individuals behave in families, neighborhoods, and communities. Within these field experiences, students apply their theoretical classroom knowledge in “real world” settings, through the collection of empirical data (whether quantitative or qualitative), which then becomes theoretically interpreted using a praxis model of application. Field experiences offered through Field Studies at SAIL create educational experiences that bridge the classroom and the community.

Integrative learning: Refers to the integration of ideas and information from multiple perspectives and across numerous disciplines and experiences.

Socially responsible leadership: reflects a conceptual shift from leader-centric, hierarchical approaches to leadership, to more collaborative, values-based approaches more appropriate for operating in a global networked era. These approaches focus on leadership as a process where people collaborate in order to produce positive change.

Action research: Action research involves the process of actively participating in an organization change situation while conducting research. Action research can also be undertaken with the aim of improving strategies, practices and knowledge of the environments within which shared practice. As designers and stakeholders, researchers work with others to propose a new course of action to address community needs and issues.