Faculty Enrichment Fund Awardee, Dr. Radina Dosseva

Written by Dr. Radina Dosseva
Edited by Regina Schneider

The Academy values the importance of our teacher’s professional development. The Faculty Enrichment Fund annually provides partial and full reimbursement for teachers to attend conferences, workshops, and teacher training sessions. 

Our piano and theory teaching artist, Dr. Radina Dosseva, attended the Workshops in Music Theory Pedagogy in June:

The University of British Columbia in Vancouver (photo by

I am very grateful to the Mason Community Arts Academy for their support and encouragement of their teachers to pursue professional development opportunities. The Faculty Enrichment Fund Award allowed me to finally fulfill my dream of attending the Workshops in Music Theory Pedagogy on the beautiful campus of The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, this June. 

This week-long immersion in music was the perfect way to network with other like-minded musicians and dedicated teachers from all over the world. The first workshop was held in 2007, and the conference has taken place every three years since then. I was fortunate to have met the two co-directors of the workshops, professors Leigh VanHandel (University of British Columbia) and Gary Karpinski (University of Massachusetts-Amherst).

I got to know the other amazing presenters, professors Nancy Rogers (Florida State University), Jena Root (Brown University), Jenny Snodgrass (Lipscomb University), and Michael Callahan (Michigan State University). I made many new friends from all over the US and Canada, and had the pleasure of being introduced to another professor at the University of British Columbia, Laurel Parsons, who teaches music theory, aural skills, and film music analysis. Everyone at the conference was incredibly kind and willing to share all kinds of pedagogical information with other attendees.

New friends from all over the US and Canada

I learned about fun technology to incorporate into the classroom, like Kahoot and Artusi music. I learned new ways of using musical dictation and improvisation/composition exercises when teaching aural skills. Many of the discussions revolved around aural skills acquisition and how important it is to develop a strong ear in order to become a well-rounded musician.

I learned about very interesting and new (to me) ways to analyze music, such as the Nashville Number System used in commercial music. Many session musicians and background singers have not heard the music before recording it. They are usually handed a lyric sheet at the sessions and have to quickly map out the melody line because they might only hear the music once before having to perform it. They need to have excellent aural skills and so they use the Nashville Number System as a shorthand to write down the scale degrees on which each chord of the song is built. They use numbers instead of Roman numerals to quickly create simple chord charts that help them navigate the song during session recordings.

In addition to all the musical knowledge I gained, I was also fortunate to be immersed in another culture. The Canadian people I met were extremely polite and nice. Young people would always give up their seat on the bus for elderly passengers. They would also stop their cars immediately, if they thought a pedestrian might be thinking of crossing the road.

I learned that the Indigenous people of the area, in particular the Musqueam, are a big part of university life and have a dedicated academic building on campus, called the First Nations Longhouse. We had important discussions on how to expose our students to the beautiful Indigenous music, while being mindful of not appropriating another peoples’ culture in the process. I was able to see many wooden sculptures and totem poles, and I got to hear a concert of Indigenous music on July 1st, Canada Day.

Words cannot describe the breathtaking beauty of the campus, with its giant fir trees and other native plants, as well as the serene views of the mountains and the ocean across the horizon, visible directly from campus, which also overlooks a stunning rose garden right next to the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts.

Concert of Indigenous Music

This conference taught me many new concepts, helped me rethink my teaching philosophy, and gave me new pedagogical ideas to incorporate into my private and group teaching. It also gave me a renewed sense of cultural awareness and helped me make a lot of new friends, who inspired me. It was a very refreshing and invaluable experience, and I am very grateful to Mason Community Arts Academy for making it possible. 


Arts Management Intern Li-Ping Hsiao


My name is Li-Ping Hsiao and I am an international Graduate student in the Arts Management program at George Mason University. This Fall I have been interning with Mason’s Potomac Arts Academy, assisting with a wide variety of tasks and learning about Arts Marketing.

In September 2011, I joined the marketing department of the National Symphony Orchestra as a part-time worker over in Taiwan, where I am from. From this job, I learned the administrative operation of government organizations and non-profit business organizations. In May 2011, I was accepted to the post of an administrative part-time worker in one of the famous percussion schools in Taiwan, Ju Percussion Music School. This job enabled me to learn about the administrative and operational aspects of the music classroom; the multi-pronged communications with parents, teachers, and the director; and concert marketing. My tasks helped me to learn about marketing, business operations, communications, and the importance of organization.

Now, during my studies in the Arts Management Program at Mason, I have had the experience of interning at Bethesda Summer Music Festival as a Production Assistant, the San Francisco International Arts Festival as a Marketing Assistant, and Mason’s School of Music Concert Band. Those working experiences, along with those in my home country of Taiwan, have inspired my interest in the field. Along with these, my current internship with Mason’s Potomac Arts Academy has helped me realize that the quality and maintenance of an arts program (whether performance, educational program, or other) requires the support of a dedicated administrative team. A perfect performance corresponds with an excellent arts organization; an excellent arts organization corresponds with a strong administrative team; and a strong administrative team must certainly have a great administrative leader. Through the accumulation of practical internship experiences, I am able to apply my acquired knowledge to all sorts of performing arts programs.

I feel like the things I’ve learned in my internships here will help me become an arts leader back in Taiwan, even though the arts and cultural landscape are different than in the United States. I would also like to help build a cultural bridge between the U.S. and Asia through the arts!


Thanks to Li-Ping for all of her help at the office this Fall!
– Mason Potomac Arts Academy Staff





MGTA Online Summer Courses

This summer, MGTA will partner with Prince William County Schools to offer three courses on-line: Introduction to Game Design, Introduction to Cyber Security, and Introduction to Art & Animation. These classes will be geared towards Middle and High School students, and will take place July 25 – August 5.




Classes will be taught in real time, and students will be able to engage directly with the instructor, and with each other. MGTA-Scriyb on-line courses capture the energy and magic of a live classroom, along with the peer-to-peer social learning that makes online learning like playing a game, and so much fun!




Registration will be opening soon, please email Vera Lichtenberg with questions, .

MGTA Summer 2016 Online Courses


Cyber Security and Online Safety


Amidst all the recent news about cyber-attacks, have you ever asked the question, how secure am I? One can only speculate as to the extent of their own personal online safety, as the world around us continually evolves into a technologically savvy society. MGTA is launching a series of summer courses for kids designed as a personally engaging introduction to Cyber Security.

“The need for trained security personnel has accelerated to an all-time historical high, requiring not only college degrees but security certifications to meet the demand,” explains MGTA Cyber Security instructor Debbie Collins-Palmer. “Learning cyber safety encompasses everything from personal and professional protection to securing social media networks. Learning to identify and secure your personal data vulnerabilities plays a major role in your safety. It is never too early to learn how to protect yourself and others against the cyber threatening elements!”




The MGTA Cyber Defense course will provide an introduction to personal cyber defense, and it will provide an opportunity for students to embark on the path towards developing the skills for national competitions, more advanced cyber security education in college, and certifications which will lead to launching a lucrative cyber security career. Students will learn the foundational concepts of Cybersecurity and develop skills that will allow them to protect their personal and family accounts, as well as office environments, from viruses and attacks.




Topics we will include: types of attacks (Trojan horse, worm ransomware, social engineering), how to identify scamware, how to identify safe/unsafe sites, personally identifiable information (PII) protection, (types of information that can be taken from social networking accounts), encryption techniques, good vs. bad anti-virus software, how to address virus issues on your computer, and where to go for emergency help. More advanced students engage in hands on exercises to learn the basics on how to secure Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems, and they will be challenged to find vulnerabilities through competitive, team based exercises.

“The importance of protecting yourself in the cyber world today,” says Ms. Collins-Palmer, “could affect and prevent personal cyber safety compromises in your future!”

See Debbie Collins-Palmer's Bio

Debbie Collins-Palmer has thirty-five years of Managerial and IT experience that includes Cyber Security Administration and customer service, and IT management, where she managed the implementation of government contracts. Most recently, she has worked as Vice President of Curriculum Development with Stilwell Technology and Robotics, LLC. Debbie’s primary Cyber Security administration and education experience has been in the secondary educational environment, where she designed curriculum to support training of students as well as complete progress reporting.

Currently her expertise is being utilized in the development and instruction of Middle School cyber security and internet safety training. She is engaged in the development and implementation of the cyber defense curriculum for the Mason Game & Technology Academy (MGTA) summer program, and she is guiding the expansion of the MGTA cyber security program and curriculum for on-line instruction throughout the tri-county region. Debbie will also be serving as the CyberPatriot coach for the Stonewall Middle School teams in the 2016-2017 school year.




MGTA: For Crying Out Loudoun!

The Mason Game and Technology Academy, with support from the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce, is excited to bring several of our popular summer courses to the Mason in Loudoun instructional site in Sterling, VA.


Now in its second year at Loudoun, this select line-up of week-long MGTA summer courses teaches kids ages 9 to 18 about programming, modding, and game design. Courses include:

  • Personal Cyber Defense
  • Minecraft Modding: Three Levels of Challenge
  • C# Programming
  • C++ Programming
  • Intro to Game Design, Creation, and Entrepreneurship
  • Java Programming
  • Illustrative Python – An Intro to Programming




The Mason in Loudoun instructional site, located at 21335 Signal Hill Plaza, Sterling, VA 20164, is just off of Route 7. Parking is free and the building is easily accessible.

There are still spots available, so don’t miss out. Register today!




Fullbright Scholar Talks to Young Gamers

Visiting Fullbright Scholar Tania Ouariachi Peralta, a PhD Student from Spain’s University of Granada, recently led a discussion about connecting serious games and environmental issues with Mason Game & Technology Academy students.




On Saturday, April 23rd, Ms. Peralta, Fulbright Visiting Scholar from Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication, was joined by seventeen MGTA students ages 11 to 18 for a mock game design project and brainstorming session. The students were asked to imagine that they were working together as a game design company and, in this scenario, their company was asked to make a serious game about climate change, the environment, and pollution. They had to brainstorm and collaborate together to come up with elements that they could add to a game about these issues that would engage the player, create an emotional investment, and inspire the player to make changes in their real life based on what they learned in the game.




The discussion was a huge success! Not only did the Scholar glean a lot of great information for her own research, but the students themselves were inspired as they began writing down additional gaming elements that could be added to assist these three criteria, and they continued sharing their ideas with their classmates. Furthermore, several parents and MGTA teachers also began their own discussions on what sort of games they could make that would be able to make a real difference.




Pictures of this event are now up on our Facebook page, along with photos from our Spring Semester weekend classes.


We at MGTA wish Tania all the best in her future research and thank her for joining us for this very insightful talk!




Exciting Game & Technology News

The Mason Game & Technology Academy (MGTA) is excited to tell you about some new developments, including a visiting Fullbright Scholar in the Spring and updates on our summer camps.




MGTA Summer Camps in Loudoun

For the second year, a selection of MGTA Summer Prep courses will be held in Loudoun county, at the Mason in Loudoun location (next to the NoVA campus).





Fullbright Scholar Visits MGTA Classes

MGTA welcomes a visiting Fulbright scholar Tania from Spain to our Spring 2016 weekend classes, giving our students the opportunity to learn about her research study: using serious games as educational tools in the classroom. Several MGTA students will be participating in her research and their ideas will be a part of her research!

“I am doing research on the potential of digital games to engage youth in environmental issues,” said Tania.  “The Mason Game & Technology Program at GMU targeting youth is a wonderful initiative, and I would like to take this chance to conduct a short group discussion with students. I would like to put them in the role of game designers and researchers who have been asked to develop an environmental game. They will brainstorm on how we can learn from successful games and how we can apply their characteristics for educational purposes.”



Javascript and C++ Summer Programs – Student Driven Experiences

“The Java and C++ classes offered by the Mason Game and Technology Academy focus largely on learning to code through the creation of a series of programming challenges, tailored to each student’s learning pace and experience,” said course instructor Kevin Pfeifle. “Students work in small teams and learn what it is like to work on a group programming project, providing them real world experience. The teams work on text-based ASCII challenges of their choosing, which allows for a unique student driven experience where the student’s learning is paced by their ability to problem solve. This also creates a dynamic learning experience where the students can learn beyond the curriculum, based entirely on their drive to learn more and create a more complex game.”

Impressive ASCII Project’s that students have done in past classes:

  • Battleship
  • Chess
  • Recursive Random Maze Generator
  • Rogue
  • 2048
  • Text-Adventure Games

Core Concepts Covered in the Java/C++ classes:

  • Input/Output
  • Boolen Logic/Conditional Statements
  • Looping (For and While)
  • Functions/Methods (Static and Dynamic)
  • Arrays
  • Try/Catch
  • Classes/Objects (Static and Dynamic)





Personal Cyber Security Summer Program

MGTA is pleased to offer a new course in Cyber Security, Personal Cyber Defense, which helps students to protect themselves in the ever-growing on-line world we live in.

“There are basic things that I believe every person should know to be able to protect themselves, their families, and their friends from various cyber attacks, which is the main goal of this course,” said course instructor Yusif Atayev. “The class will cover a variety of topics ranging from the basics of security to applying security measures to various devices in order to help students develop skills that they can apply in their personal lives.”





SCRIYB Online Learning Coming Soon

Back by popular demand – MGTA Scriyb on-line classes will be offered this summer and fall! Classes are taught in real time, and students will be able to engage directly with the instructor, and with each other. MGTA-Scriyb courses capture the energy and magic of a live classroom, along with the peer-to-peer social learning that makes online learning like playing a game, and so much fun! More information coming soon…






Why Is Minecraft Modding So Popular?

MGTA Program Director Vera Lichtenberg explains why our Minecraft Modding courses are in such high demand all year round – Fall, Spring and Summer. Students (and parents) rush to claim their spot before the infamous “Please Join the Waitlist” message appears.

(Please note that we encourage you to join the waitlist if a course is full, as we are often able to contact you when a space opens up or if additional space becomes available!)

In a recent interview featured in Northern Virginia magazine, Ms. Lichtenberg provided some insights into the Minecraft Modding phenomenon:

“Our Minecraft Modding classes provide a unique student driven programming experience, where our students are able to progress from introductory to advanced Java programming. First, they learn to edit Java code, and then move more deeply into Java programming, while creating increasingly more complex and customized Minecraft Mods.

We know our program is a success because our students keep returning – we even have High School students who have taken our courses come back and tell us that they learned coding tricks that they used in their AP programming classes. Additionally, parents tell us that they don’t want screen time to be a lonely experience for their kids, and they appreciate the opportunity for their kids to socialize with other like-minded kids.

Our students enjoy working together on projects, and they get a chance to present their work to their peers. This experience instills confidence, enhances communication and collaboration skills, and best of all, in many cases, builds lasting friendships.”

Although the Spring Minecraft course is already full, the Summer camp courses are now open for registration. Don’t dealy – claim your spot today. You can also take advantage of our Split Payment option, where you pay half now, and the other half is charged on June 1st!





Game Design Spring Break Camp

Looking for something for your kids to do during the Fairfax County Spring Break in March? This is a fantastic opportunity to keep your kids minds engaged while still enjoying a nice break from classes.  Put their free time to good use with our Game Design Camp!

During the week of FCPS Spring Break, March 21-25, 9:00am-4:00pm, we will be offering a spring break camp version of our Game Design, Creation and Entrepreneurship course for ages 9-13, for those students who are interested in beginning their journey in the exciting world of Computer Game Design.

This program is presented in collaboration with Mason’s Human Resources department.





Spring Class Linked to Game Startup

This spring, MGTA’s Game Design, Creation and Entrepreneurship course for Ages 9-13 will be linked to the startup game design company, Wyvern Interactive. Instructor Josh Emswiller is a current Game Design major at George Mason University and a member of the art team of Wyvern.


“In this class, we are going to learn the many different aspects of designing games including art, integration, programming and concept creation,” said Josh. Throughout the course, Josh will share both his experiences and the game that Wyvern is building with the students. Josh commented on his time working with Wyvern, saying that, “…working with a team is essential. I knew many of these game design skills, but it wasn’t until I joined the company, Wyvern Interactive, that I was able to take my experience even further. Wyvern offered the opportunity to work with other individuals who shared my passion for designing games…With this class, you will participate in game development sessions with your very own team and company!”

Spring Game Design classes start in just a week on Saturday, February 20th and take place in the Art & Design Building on the Mason Fairfax Campus, where the university Computer Game Design program is housed. Register now and become part of the team!