Allison Wells


Director of Logistics, Washington Scholars Program

Allison Wells is the Assistant Director of Events for the Office of Admissions at George Mason University, and the Director of Logistics for the Washington Scholars Program. Allison joined the team in May of 2019 and has spent the last two summers supporting and leading the Washington Scholars Programs. She is a lover of all things logistics, and the summers quickly became her favorite time of year. She earned her B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Grand Valley State University in 2019. In her free time, Allison looks forward to spending time outdoors, being with friends, and traveling.


Dawn Aponte


Administrative Support, Washington Scholars Program

Dawn Aponte is an Administrative Assistant for the Washington Scholars Program (WSP) and K-12 Partnerships Program Office, within the Office of Admissions at George Mason University. Dawn joined the team in 2012, following a career with the U.S. Dept. of Justice. She loves supporting the WSP summer programs, the students and their families, and her teammates. In her opinion, Mason is an inspirational and progressive place to learn and serve. Dawn spends her free time outdoors as much as possible and loves to read and be with her young-adult children.


Sydney Kirwan


Coordinator, K-12 Partnerships

Sydney recently graduated from the University of Virginia with her B.S.Ed. in Youth and Social Innovation and Spanish. She has worked and volunteered extensively with individuals with disabilities in various recreational settings and is dedicated to recognizing and serving the unique needs and strengths of everyone she meets and works with. Most recently, Sydney was a Site Director with Fairfax County’s Therapeutic Recreation summer camp and a full-time caregiver to a child with special needs. She has also volunteered as horseback riding guide with Charlottesville Area Riding Therapy. She is excited to join the Advance Team and learn the ins and outs of executing a large scale conference. 


Lauren Jackman


Speaker Lead, Washington Scholars Program

Lauren is the Speaker Lead for the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment (WYSE). Lauren has a television production background, including interning at MTV, working as a White House and Special Events Producer for a 24-hour cable news network, and managing television shoots for international news crews for the U.S. Department of State. She’s happy to put her experience in the field to use by booking the best speakers for WYSE and the incoming National Youth Delegates. She earned a degree in print journalism from American University and has worked on several environmental news series, including NASA’s work with climate change and best farming practices for a healthier planet. 


Rachel Cleaver


Student Support, Washington Scholars Program
Senior Associate Director, K-12 Partnerships

Rachel is the Senior Associate Director of K-12 Partnerships in the Office of Admissions. In this role, she creates and oversees partnerships that help bring more students to the Mason campus. She works with many departments and organizations across the campus as well as the community as a whole to talk about the great things happening at George Mason as well as College Access and Success overall. Rachel oversees bringing groups of students of all ages to campus and you will often see her corralling large groups of middle school students around campus. Rachel provides general support to the Washington Scholars Program. Prior to coming to George Mason, Rachel has extensive experience leading the programmatic efforts at two college access and success programs on the East Coast, Let’s Get Ready and The Hoop Dreams Scholarship Fund. She has extensive experience in curriculum design and program management and in helping under-served high school students achieve their college dreams. She earned BS degrees in Elementary Education and Human/Organizational Development from Vanderbilt University and a Masters in Public Administration from George Mason University. She loves living in Washington, DC and looks forward to welcoming you here this summer!


Ali Dodson


Associate Director, Washington Scholars Program

Ali Dodson is the Associate Director of the Washington Scholars Program. She has a B.S in Conservation Biology from George Mason University, and an M.S. in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology and M.P.P in Environmental Policy from University of Maryland. Her master’s research focused on student perception of environmental issues, which she then used to create and teach a summer Living Learning Community for University of Maryland’s Upward Bound Program. Before going to Maryland, Ali worked with the Consortium for Ocean Leadership’s National Ocean Sciences Bowl, a national competition for high school students in the marine sciences. Before coming to Mason, Ali worked with the EPA, where she was an ORISE fellow researching coastal wetlands. In her free time, she attempts to grow her own vegetables, hangs out in her big back yard with her dogs, and sings karaoke as often as possible.


Richard Friesner, Ph.D.


Program Director, Washington Youth Summit on the Environment

Dr. Friesner is the Director of the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment. Richard develops the summit’s curriculum, identifies and recruits exceptional faculty and nationally recognized speakers in a variety of environmental disciplines and specialties, and coordinates with a fabulous group of staff in the Office of Admissions to make the summit an unparalleled experience for the student delegates attending. 

Richard earned a BS in Environmental Studies/Chemistry, a MS in Environmental Engineering & Science at the University of Kansas, and a PhD in Environmental Science and Public Policy from George Mason University. Prior to working with WYSE Richard was affiliated with the US Geological Survey (USGS) and as an environmental consultant for a nationwide engineering consulting firm. Richard also has extensive experience with student leadership experiences both at the University of Kansas and with the Boy Scouts of America.


Elena Johnson, M.Ed.


Director, Washington Scholars Program

Elena is the Director of the Washington Scholars Program (WSP) which includes the Washington Journalism and Media Conference (WJMC) and the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment (WYSE). As the director, she works to create fulfilling conference experiences by developing curriculum for the programs, as well as recruiting professional faculty and nationally recognized speakers in the fields of journalism and the media and environmental science. 

Prior to working with WSP, Elena worked as a College and Career Specialist helping high school students explore their educational and career goals and choices. She also managed the National Young Leaders Conference and the Global Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. and New York City. Elena earned a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and a Masters in Education from George Mason University.