George Mason University

News at Mason

Holton scholarship recipient’s family-inspired resilience drives her to succeed

December 12, 2018   /   by Mariam Aburdeineh

Nihal Sen

Resilience runs in Nihal Sen’s family. After World War I, her great grandmother had to reestablish her life in Turkey alone and at the age of 14. Sen, who is a 2018 recipient of the A. Linwood Holton Jr. Leadership Scholarship, is no less determined.

“I don’t give up, so if I want to do something, I go for it,” said Sen, a first-year law student at George Mason University. “I always keep in mind, if [my great grandmother could] do it, I can do it.”

The inspiration has served her well. She ranked in the top percentile of her class at a top university in Turkey and became the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college. She also earned a master’s in political science that ultimately sparked her interest in law.

“Whenever I was working on different projects [as a graduate student], I was always coming up with [ideas for how to make policies better],” recalls Sen. “That’s why I felt I had to do law, because I really want to make positive change in people’s lives, and this is the way to do it.”

Out of the many law schools Sen looked at, Mason stood out when she attended its open house in Arlington, Virginia.

Proximity to Washington, D.C., connections with courts and U.S. Supreme Court justices, professors with diverse backgrounds, “super-helpful” admissions staff, career service workshops and alumni who are willing to connect with students were among Sen’s litany of reasons she chose Mason.

Now that she’s taking classes, her impressions of the school are even better. She cites her experience of working with a third-year student, who is Sen’s writing fellow, as one example.

“[My writing fellow] gives great advice, not only about writing, but about everything [in law school]. She’s like a mentor,” said Sen, adding that one of the best things the school has done is integrating peer-to-peer learning into the class structure.

Her scholarship from Mason has been a huge help, too.

“The scholarship goes to students who have overcome barriers to academic achievement,” said Alison Price, senior associate dean at Scalia Law School. “The scholarship is important to the law school and to the university because it provides access to excellence.”

When the scholarship was first announced in 2016, Mason President Ángel Cabrera noted that as governor of Virginia, Holton fought for “values of accessibility and inclusion that we hold so dear at Mason.”

According to Sen, that inclusion also expands to a diversity of views.

“There is a place for everyone at Mason,” she said. “Mason is here to welcome students from diverse backgrounds.”