Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies

Ashley Joiner

Ashley Joiner

What degree are you pursuing?

Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) with a concentration in Social Entrepreneurship

What was your undergraduate major?

Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Black Studies. Minor in Sociology. I've always had a very interdisciplinary approach to how I learned. I like to see how the different pieces can fit together.

What aspects of Mason made you choose to study here?

I started working at GMU as an employee, and I really liked the diversity of majors and concentrations. I started taking classes in event management through the undergraduate program, then realized I really wanted to focus more on a graduate degree.

What is your favorite part about being a Mason student?

I like the flexibility and the ability to craft my own educational experiences.

How did you decide on the MAIS with a concentration in Social Entrepreneurship?

I was searching through the graduate degrees, and I was trying to find something that would allow me to understand business practices but not so much an MBA. I knew that I was interested in event planning and owning my own business. Initially, I applied to the MAIS program in Individualized Studies, but I attended an event and found out about the Social Entrepreneurship concentration, and it was perfect for what I wanted. The professors and concentration heads have been great mentors.

There's so much flexibility to how I can craft my own educational experience. I think that's really important because on a masters level you have some sense of what direction you want to go in with your career, and so you definitely want the energy and time you're investing in a degree to help you also get closer to that goal. I liked that I could see all of the options available to me and from there see which of those courses would give me the best insight for what I want. I was interested in classes that would help inform business practices, systems thinking and leadership. That's how I made it unique for me.

What part of your degree program has had the most impact on you?

When I think about everything, since I'm pretty much at the end of this experience, the thing that really comes to mind as far as impact is I got to study abroad in Italy. My biggest regret from undergrad, is that I didn't get to have that experience. As a first gen student, single mom with a full-time job, being able to leave for 10 days was a surreal experience every single step of the way. It was something for me. It really made this degree program something I was doing for myself and I had so much joy experiencing Italian culture and learning about leadership.

My goal is to write a proposal for a grant to take undergraduate students to study entrepreneurship in Italy.

What work, intern or volunteer experience do you have, and how has it prepared you for your studies?

I currently work with two local women-owned businesses, She-EO Academy and Together We Bake, for my experiential learning and Capstone project. The goal is to help them create stronger business systems. This gives me real world experience. But it also creates partnerships between these organizations and George Mason University (GMU).

What are your career goals after graduation?

My immediate goals are to continue working at GMU as the event manager for the Stearns Center. My longer-term goals are to open my own event venue. As a social entrepreneur, I would like provide workforce development training in the event field to women who were formerly incarcerated, in the hopes that one day they may start their own business and/or have successful career they are passionate about.

How have courses take in Social Entrepreneurship helped further your plans?

I would say that each class has its own set of challenges and its own “aha” moments. A class that I didn't expect to take, but really did have a huge impact on how I think about systems, especially in regards to capitalism, was called “Enterprising Black Women” with Dr. Manuel-Scott. Through the lens of Black women, past and present, this class explored the duality of our plight in America but also how we have thrived.