First-Year Learning Community

Make the most of your first year at George Mason University with the Schar School of Policy and Government's living-learning community, "the Democracy Lab." This academic community is an immersive environment that will broaden your perspective and hone your ability to engage on difficult topics.

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Strengthen Your Connections

A Community of Change-Makers

In partnership with Mason's Housing & Residence Life, the Schar School's "Democracy Lab," is a learning experience open to all first-year Mason undergraduate students living on campus. Through the learning community, you will engage with the issues that define the journey of democracy in the United States and around the world. Plus, you'll build a strong network of students, professors, mentors, and advisors that will stay with you throughout your time at Mason and long after you graduate.

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Sreelu Veettil

“As an international student new to the United States and to George Mason, the wonderful opportunities organized at Democracy Lab allowed for a seamless transition into the field of policy and government. I interned for Congressman Gerry Connolly's campaign while also working on research for Dr. Victor's voter turnout experiment focused on residential college students - all during my first semester in college! These experiences among several others taught me skills that would definitely prove useful in my academic and professional career. From the amazing field trips we've had to the wonderful friends and connections I've made, Democracy Lab truly became my home away from home. I would 10/10 recommend being a part of this Learning Community"


Sreelu Veettil, Democracy Lab '23

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A Memorable Year

Democracy Lab students build relationships with Schar School faculty and peers, engage with policy practitioners, and develop essential skills of citizenship. Opportunities for participating students include:

  • Customized field trips to prominent institutions in the D.C. area including the White House, the U.S. Capitol, U.S. Institute of Peace, and Smithsonian Museums. 
  • Networking opportunities with influential guest speakers. Former speakers include Fairfax City Election Administrator Ike Beretz, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D, VA-11), and Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and Schar School professor Steven Pearlstein.
  • Enrolling in a designated section of GOVT 101 designed for Democracy Lab students. 
  • One-on-one interactions with Schar School faculty and school leadership, including lunch with the Dean.
  • Notable research opportunities, including a research experiment about effective mechanisms for voter turnout among college students led by LC faculty director Jennifer Victor.
  • A biweekly political film series.
  • A biweekly “Hidden Curriculum” series with topics like academic workflow, networking, implicit bias, citation software, becoming a research assistant, and more.
Democracy Lab Edge field trip students pose for a photo.
Professor Jennifer Victor smiling for a photo.

Meet the Schar School First-Year Academic Community Director

Professor Jennifer Victor

For any questions or to learn more, contact: