Around Mason: Favorite Photos of the Year


All year long, photographers in George Mason University’s Office of University Branding capture the moments that make Mason All Together Different. We asked our photographers to share their favorite photos from the 2022-23 school year.

As we prepare for a new academic year, let’s look back at these recent memories—skillfully frozen in time for the Mason vault.

Ron Aira, senior photographer, Creative Services

Weather can disrupt even the best laid plans. But according to Ron Aira, it can also create unexpected opportunities. In Aira’s favorite photos, forces of nature created powerful results. “Without the challenges of the wind and the rain, these shots would never have happened,” Aira said.

Mason student stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial while holding a Ukrainian flag flying in the wind over her head
Photo by Ron Aira/Office of University Branding

Gabriella Grabovska, a first-year student in the Schar School, came to Mason from war-torn Ukraine. Aira captured her portraits in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“It was very windy—her hair and the flag were flying all over the place,” Aira said. “I decided to go with the wind. I told her to face the wind, think about her country, and let the flag fly, thinking about what it represents to her.” Read more about Grabovska.

Two people stand close together under a transparent umbrella within the crowd, in front of the performance stage at Mason Day. The rain is coming down.
Photo by Ron Aira/Office of University Branding

Mason Day is a day of celebration and fun, but Mason Day 2023 was also a day of torrential rain. Aira and his equipment were getting soaked. But he watched as Mason students still enjoyed the day, not letting the rain ruin their experience.

“In the downpour, I saw a moment of peace between this couple under the umbrella,” Aira said. “It was a beautiful moment of quiet serenity, in the middle of the concert and the rain coming in sideways.”

Evan Cantwell, senior photographer, Creative Services

Mason social work student stands face to face with a horse from the Project Horse Empowerment Center, tenderly petting the horse's chin.
Photo by Evan Cantwell/Office of University Branding

“Sometimes as a photographer, I get to witness students’ ‘aha’ moments, and it was amazing to see how social work students connected with each other and horses from Project Horse Empowerment Center,” Cantwell said.

Each semester, Associate Professor Vicki Kirsch brings students from her advanced Trauma and Recovery course to the center to learn about the emerging field of equine assisted psychotherapy. Read more about their experiences.

Students group up for a selfie with a Starship Robot that has been decorated with a Halloween decal.
Photo by Evan Cantwell/Office of University Branding

We were finishing up our lifestyle photo session with students and the Office of International Programs and Services, and this robot beeped by,” Cantwell said. “This photo is also a great representation of how students from so many different countries all went to classes at Mason’s Fairfax Campus.”

Pumpkinbot, part of the Starship Robot fleet, appears on campus around Halloween. Because he’s somewhat elusive, those who spot him consider themselves lucky. “I’ve heard that if you take a selfie with Pumpkinbot, all your dining wishes come true,” Cantwell said.

Cristian Torres, videographer, Strategic Communications

A student is seen between tall blades of grass in a field. She is holding an aerial net with both hands as she searches for monarch butterflies.
Photo by Cristian Torres/Office of University Branding

In September 2022, students from the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation‘s Wildlife Ecology and Conservation program tagged monarch butterflies on their journey south to help researchers better understand their grand migration.

“This was a fun day,” Torres said. “We documented one of the different opportunities that students have in the field, capturing monarch butterflies to identify and tag them.” Watch the video.

A group of students stand together on stage and pose during the Homecoming tip off party and lip sync battle
Photo by Cristian Torres/Office of University Branding

Torres took photos at the Homecoming Tip Off Party in February 2023. “This was my first Homecoming at Mason,” Torres said. “I found the energy of the students celebrating together exciting. The event was full of happy faces, with everyone rooting for each other in the Lip Sync Battle.” See more photos from Homecoming events.