Mason Lighting the Way: Austin A. Deray


Mason Lighting the Way

Spotlights from the Task Force

More than 130 faculty, staff and students are working on George Mason University’s Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Task Force, which is taking a hard look at the current state of diversity and inclusivity efforts at the university and making recommendations for the future.

These individuals come from across our campuses and bring their different skill sets and expertise to this work. In this series, we will spotlight members of the task force and find out what drives them.

Austin A. Deray
Doctoral Student, Cultural Studies
Committees: Student Voice and University Policies and Practices

Austin A. Deray

As a graduate student with intersectional racial and ethnic identities, George Mason University doctoral student Austin A. Deray said he believes it is his responsibility to champion the voices of his communities.

His work on the Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence (ARIE) Task Force directly aligns with those personal and professional goals.

“As my dissertation is on the lived experiences of racial and ethnic identity students attending predominantly white institutions (PWIs), I feel my work on the Student Voice committee, being a voice for my communities, and the University Policies and Procedures committee, advocating and helping change university policies to be more inclusive and equitable, is aligned with my current and future work in higher ed,” said the Savannah, Georgia, native.

Austin began his PhD work in Mason’s Cultural Studies Program in 2016, and he is interested in how regionalism and institutionalism codify collegiate masculinity, the socio-historical creation of the collegiate man, and the space fraternal organizations hold both on campuses and in the collective understanding of collegiate men. He expects to complete his PhD in Cultural Studies by Spring 2022.

For the past five years, Deray has worked the Office of Graduate Student Life, a part of Mason’s University Life.

“I like to joke that I am the longest-lasting GA in University Life as I am working on my PhD and most leave after their two years are up,” said Deray. “I've stayed because I love the work we do, am blessed to have the mentorship of Dr. Julie Choe Kim, director of Graduate Student Life, and have the support and advocacy of the Dean of Students Juliet Blank-Godlove.”

Currently Deray advises the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GAPSA) and works with other graduate student organizations on campus.

“This job has also given me the opportunity to continue advocating for and working with graduate students of color,” he said.

Deray said he is proud of how the University Policies and Practices Committee has set an example for creating equitable experiences for students, faculty, and staff.

“I feel validated by the faculty and staff who I have worked with on the committee for creating the space for my voice and experiences and letting me be a driving voice in the room,” he said.

When asked what future impact he envisions ARIE will have on Mason, Deray sees “an R1 institution that has moved away from an ivory tower model.” He hopes the university will focus more efforts on inclusivity and equity for graduate and professional students.

During his time at Mason, Deray has been involved with an impressive list of student organizations.

In addition to advising GAPSA, he serves as a faculty advisor of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, is the past chair and current admissions committee member of Student Organizing Committee for Cultural Studies, is a non-voting Graduate Student Life GA representative of Graduate Council, and faculty advisor to the Afghan Student Association.

He is also the Diversity and Inclusion Commissioner and Delta North Provence President of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, which seeks to establish a chapter at Mason this year.

In his free time, Deray is “an avid reader, traveler, foodie, and open to discuss any argument uttered in earshot.”