George Mason University

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Ready to embark on their next adventures

December 19, 2018

George Mason University will honor 4,775 students during Winter Graduation ceremonies. Here are a few who made the most of their time at Mason. 


Sarai Alvarez


Applying her Mason education to critical problems in health care is just what Sarai Alvarez had in mind in Guatemala last spring. With her concentration in health care informatics, Alvarez relished the real-life opportunity to apply her engineering and programming skills in troubleshooting malfunctioning medical equipment and training local personnel to do likewise. “The trip to Guatemala is one example of how bioengineering—and, specifically, bioengineering at Mason—is looking to solve critical problems in locations with health disparities,” said Alvarez, a first-generation college student from Stafford, Virginia. In the future, she wants to apply genomic data to personalize medicine and provide better overall health care. In the meantime, Alvarez plans on acquiring more research experience before starting on a PhD next year.

Photo by Lathan Goumas.



Human Development and Family Science

Three days a week, after her 12-hour shifts as a hospital secretary, Joyce Frempong would rush to Mason, where she said she would brush her teeth in her car and change her clothes in a university bathroom just to get to class on time. For the 45-year-old from Woodbridge, Virginia, who came to the United States from Ghana 20 years earlier and had a husband and 10-year-old son to attend to, the routine was worth it. “I’m overjoyed,” she said of earning her bachelor’s degree at Mason after two years at Northern Virginia Community College. “I look back sometimes, going hours without any sleep, the stress. But I see myself, and I’m graduating, and it’s like a dream come true.” Frempong aspires to be a family services counselor and might return to Mason to pursue a master’s degree. She credits College of Education and Human Development associate professor Bethany Letiecq for inspiring her. “I don’t know how to thank her,” Frempong said. “She gave me strength. She kept pushing me every day and working with me. She was the one who started everything.”   

Photo by Lathan Goumas.



Conflict Analysis and Resolution

Grover, 26, who is graduating with a master’s degree, said he hopes to use the knowledge he has gained in the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution “to do what I can to reduce the amount of state-to-state conflict in the world.” He said his research and affiliation with the school and with the nonprofit Young Voices helped him gain media exposure with outlets such as Fox News and Forbes. Upon graduating, Grover will continue his work as assistant managing editor for the Washington, D.C., foreign policy magazine The National Interest. “Mason is very good on allowing intellectual diversity. That’s something I can’t stress enough,” Grover said. “As long as it maintains a fairly robust intellectual diversity, Mason will continue to be on the cutting edge.”




The Honors College student didn’t waste a second of her time at Mason. Sophie Heeden was a resident assistant for both the arts and honors living learning communities, a music ambassador for the College of Visual and Performing Arts and an orchestra librarian for Mason Symphony Orchestra, which led to an internship with the National Symphony Orchestra. But she said her favorite experience at Mason was seeing the viola studio grow since her freshman year. “I'm happy to be part of an incredibly close and supportive instrument studio,” she said. “We find a wonderful balance of supporting each other but also giving each other constructive criticism after performances in class.” After graduation, she plans to stay in the area and work as the assistant librarian of the National Symphony Orchestra. She also has plans to continue her education with graduate school in the fall of 2019.

Photo by Lathan Goumas. 




Esther Pak is one of the first graduates of the Co-Enrollment BSN Program, which allowed her to take online classes for a bachelor’s degree while also completing an associate’s degree from Northern Virginia Community College. Pak said the online classes made it possible for her to attend both schools at once and speed up the process to earning her bachelor’s degree. “I am so thankful that Mason offers many pathways to helping students pursue their careers,” Pak said. After graduation, Pak plans to “take it easy.” She is currently working as a registered nurse in an acute care hospital and wants to gain more hands-on experience before returning to school to become a specialized nurse.




What Gerry Souser really liked about his School of Business experience was the opportunity for experiential learning. In his organizational development and management consulting class, he and his classmates developed questions and practiced appreciative inquiry by interviewing Mason business alumni. In his human resources management class, Souser evaluated a company’s recruitment strategy and developed a hiring process. “The work that I was doing was very transferrable to the work that I’ll be doing professionally,” said Souser, who minored in leadership and sees himself in the role of a leadership consultant one day. After graduation, Souser will work in Capital One’s management rotation program. He is open to the possibility of returning to Mason in the future to pursue a master’s degree. “I had an opportunity to study under some professors who really exceeded my expectations,” Souser said. “They are people still working in the field, so they were able to give us some relative and interesting insights into their work and share some cool information.”

Photo by Lathan Goumas. 



Public Policy

When Michigan native Keith Waters decided to go for his PhD in public policy, he turned down schools that offered him scholarships and chose to attend Mason. “I wanted to be near the action,” he said of Mason’s proximity to Washington, D.C. Waters certainly made the most of his time here. He’s been a graduate research assistant with Mason’s Center for Regional Analysis and has been an active member of the Association of Public Policy PhD Students, a Mason student organization, since his first semester. Waters was also instrumental in putting Mason’s graduate student research conference on the map. Under his leadership, the conference caught the attention of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management(APPAM) and has since grown into an international conference presented by APPAM with 10 regional universities. The last conference drew 168 attendees from 28 schools. After graduating, Waters will continue working for the center while continuing his dissertation research and presenting at conferences. He plans to continue researching interactions among cities to improve regional economic impact analysis and forecasting, he said. “It helps policymakers and local leaders make more informed decisions.”

Photo by Mariam Aburdeineh. 
Topics: Graduation