George Mason University

News at Mason

Family of the Year inspires student to embrace her passion

November 9, 2018   /   by Mary Lee Clark

The Zakin family (from the left) Kara, Adam, Connor, Ryan and Kacie.

When facing a hard decision that would affect the next four years of her life, Kacie Zakin turned to her parents for advice. They inspired her to follow her dreams, no matter the cost.  

Every year Mason recognizes the critical role families play in a student’s life and honors a family, nominated by a student, during Family Weekend. This year, the Zakin family from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has won the Alan and Sally Merten Family of the Year Award, based on an essay written by Kacie Zakin.  Her family includes her mother and father, Kara and Adam Zakin, and brothers Ryan and Connor Zakin. 

“I wanted to be a Patriot more than anything,” Zakin, a freshman majoring in community health and minoring in Spanish, wrote in her essay.  

When faced with the deadline of committing to a college, Zakin was torn between Mason—her top choice—and a school that gave her a scholarship. It was her family, she said, that led her in the right direction. Ten minutes before the decision needed to be final, she took her father’s advice and committed to Mason.

Coming from a long line of pharmacists, Zakin said her parents have always encouraged her and her brothers to find their passions rather than choosing to follow her parents’ footsteps. 

"My parents followed what their parents did, so growing up, our parents didn't want us to do that,” said Zakin. “They wanted us to be able to pick our life based on what we were passionate about." 

Zakin said that when she and her brother decided on their career paths, her parents helped them explore their options. Zakin wants to work in developing nations, and her brother is a musician.

"When I was interested in health care but didn't want to go into medicine, they helped me search what I wanted to do and how I could do it in a responsible way,” said Zakin. 

Family Weekend is sponsored by the Office of New Student and Family Programs. Activities take place from Friday to Sunday, Nov. 9-11. Registration is now closed, but walk-ins are welcome. Find out how to get involved at