GIA Scholars

Congratulations to Mason's Graduate Inclusion and Access (GIA) Scholars!

Drew Bonner (Sociology)

Briana Davis (Communication)

Javonna Friend (Communication)

Javonna Friend is a first-year Ph.D. student in the communication program at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at GMU. Javonna earned her B.A. in English from Virginia State University, and her M.A. in English from George Mason University with a specialization in British Literature from Oxford University. During her graduate studies, she became interested in the representation of disabilities and illnesses in prose and media. Through deep examination, she was able to recognize how public health advocacy can sometimes lack proper communication and conform to narrow societal ideals. To that end, Javonna realized her desire to evaluate key issues in health communication. Thus, her research interests are particular to exploring and developing the connections between health communication, public advocacy, and social justice that leads to and can reduce the prevalence of diabetes among African Americans due enlarge part to intersectional oppressions and exposure to adverse social determinants of health. She is also interested in developing, implementing, and evaluating health communication strategies to effect behavior change in Black communities in the field of immunizations and control of infectious diseases.

Jehad Halawani (Education)

Jehad Halawani
Jehad Halawani

Jehad is a doctoral student of Learning Technologies Design Research at the College of Education and Human Development. Her research interests are Problem-Based Learning, Technology Assisted Learning Environments, STEM professional development, and Self-Directedness among minority adolescents in the K-12 setting. Jehad grew up in Jerusalem/Palestine and earned her M.S. in Physics and Electronics from Birzeit University and her MEd. from GMU in Science Curriculum and Instruction. Before joining Mason for her doctoral journey, she enjoyed 10 years working as a Physics teacher, a STEM coordinator, a Dean of Students, and an international education consultant in STEM teaching and learning. 

Rafael E. Hernández Dubon (Clinical Psychology)

Rafael Hernández Dubon
Rafael Hernández Dubon

Rafael is a Ph.D. student in the clinical psychology program at Mason. He earned a dual B.S. (2019) from Virginia Commonwealth University in psychology with a concentration in addiction studies, and philosophy with a concentration in philosophy and science. Previous to Mason, he worked as a research assistant in projects focused on culturally enhancing substance use interventions for Latinx adolescents and young adults. He is interested in Latinx community-oriented research, and the impact of sociocultural-spiritual factors in the development or buffering of psychopathology. He is also interested in culturally enhancing construct measurement, assessment, and interventions. He enjoys hiking, biking, and spending time with family.

Timmia King (History)

Timmia was born in Texas and is from a military family. She got a BA in African American Studies from Howard University and a dual master from Indiana University-Bloomington in Library Science and African American and Diaspora Studies. Previous work experience includes an ARL Fellowship for Digital and Inclusive Excellence, Graduate Assistantship at Indiana University Bloomington and a Health Equity Fellow at the University of Missouri Kansas City. 

Timmia boasts a host of accolades including African American and African Diaspora department award for Best Graduate/Grader and the Alain Locke Award Recipient 2015. Her professional goals are to place herself in positions where she can promote access to information as a way to advocate for equality and justice and to give people the power to tell their own histories. 

On her off time she enjoys letting the creative juices flow by engaging in different artistic hobbies & is currently trying to an herb garden. She is excited to be back in the DMV area and a part of the History Department at George Mason.

Patricia Mejia (Clinical Psychology)

Gifty A. Mensah (Biology; Ph.D. 2022)

Gifty A. Mensah
Gifty A. Mensah

Gifty Mensah is a first-generation college student that was part of the first GIA cohort at Mason. She earned her doctoral degree in Cell/Cellular and Molecular Biology from George Mason University in 2022. Gifty also earned her master’s degree in Biology with a concentration in Microbiology & Infectious Diseases at Mason. Prior to her admission into the PhD program, she interned at Inova Fairfax Hospital and worked at Quest Diagnostics where she got her first exposure to clinical laboratory functions and developed a keen interest in the field.


Gifty was a doctoral student in the Biosciences program and a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the undergraduate Microbiology department. She worked in the molecular virology lab of Dr. F. Kashanchi. Her research focus was on the role extracellular vesicles play in viral infections such as HIV-11,2,4 and HTLV-13,5. Her research aim was to discover more effective therapeutics that can mitigate the devastating effects of these viral infections.  During her time in the Biosciences program, she participated in the publication of five peer-reviewed scientific articles, two of them co-first authored. She presented her research at local and educational meetings including Mason’s School of Systems Biology Research Day and Graduate Interdisciplinary conferences; as well as national conferences such as the Extracellular Vesicles and Infections conference and the American Society for Exosomes and Microvesicles annual meeting. She is currently focusing on understanding the role of exosomes and how they affect diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s in relation to infections. She recently began a position at the National Institutes of Health.

Sky Ratcliffe (Mathematics)

Sky is a first-year doctoral student in the Mathematics PhD program at George Mason University. They come from a small town in upstate New York called Dickinson Center and did K-12 in St. Regis Falls in the Adirondack mountains. Their undergraduate degree was completed at a university not far from their hometown, St. Lawrence University, in Canton, NY. They then moved to Fairfax, VA to continue their education here at GMU. 

May Santiago (Cultural Studies)

May Santiago
May Santiago

May is a third-year PhD student and a film scholar. Her work focuses on using cinema as a cultural studies tool for colonized film economies in the Caribbean with a focus on Puerto Rico. She possesses a BFA, producing Little Girls (2013) as her undergraduate thesis film as part of a study of teen films and the effect they have on female teen societies. She also possesses an MFA where she created Nightgaze (2017), a “visual album” based on music video theory to depict a young woman’s visceral experience with depression. Her work has screened across the country, including the Brooklyn Women’s Film Festival, Tampa Bay Comic Con, Florida’s Undergraduate Research Conference, Orlando Film Festival, and more.


May currently runs a foreign-horror-based podcast she hosts and writes, Horrorspiria. She also has co-edited an anthology that analyzes Amazon and its influence on culture and society titled Amazon: At the Intersection of Culture and Capital, out in December 2022 with Rowman & Littlefield.

Dwayne Smith (Computational Social Science)

After an 11-year career in the Marine Corps, Dwayne Smith, a New Jersey native, is a PhD student in Computational Social Science studying the affects of multi-modal reentry programs on formerly-incarcerated populations and predicting parole decision outcomes using agent-based modeling (ABM). Dwayne is a father of two boys, pilot, outdoor enthusiast, and Brazilian jiu jitsu athlete.