Mason grads share their extraordinary campus experiences

George Mason University will award more than 9,700 degrees at its Spring Commencement on Friday, May 20. Here are the stories of a few of the students in the Class of 2022.
woman in a red shirt
Meron Aboye. Photo provided

Meron Aboye
MPA, Public Administration
Honors College

What are you most proud of regarding your time at Mason: “I'm proud of the strong relationships I've built at Mason, especially through Mason’s Early Identification Program for first-generation college students, as a resident advisor for the Honors College Living Learning Community, and from participating in the Schar School Alumni Mentoring Program.” 

How you surprised yourself at Mason: “The biggest surprise was my transition from a BS in chemistry [in 2019] to an MPA. I’ve seen that changing directions is not a failure; it has allowed me to put my time and energy into things I truly want to achieve.” 

What you learned outside the classroom: “My internship with Volunteer Fairfax was very foundational, and I likely wouldn't have landed my upcoming fellowship if I didn't have that experience.” 

What’s next: “I’ll be pursuing a fellowship with the Loudoun County Department of Finance and Budget to provide research and analytical support for data-driven management analysis and county functions.”

—Madison Rudolf

young man in cap and gown
Gilberto Alex Barrientos. Photo provided

Gilberto Alex Barrientos
BS, Computer Engineering
Honors College

What are you most proud of regarding your time at Mason: “The opportunities I had in going outside my comfort zone and dabbling in a few areas that I wasn’t too sure I’d be interested in. Things like serving as an EIP mentor, helping high school juniors with the application process. I had been in their shoes, so I knew it could be very intimidating.”

How you surprised yourself at Mason: “I had no idea there were so many opportunities to travel at Mason with programs like the Alternative Spring Break and others.”

What you learned outside the classroom: I learned to seize opportunities at Mason, and that’s probably why I have my job. I learned that you have to have enthusiasm and be ready to ask questions. You never know where those conversations will lead.

What’s next: I will begin a full-time job within BAE Systems Engineering’s Leadership Development Program. The three-year rotation program begins on June 13. As part of the program, I will begin work on my master’s degree in computer engineering in year two.

—John Hollis

woman outside with butterfly net
Daria “Dasha” Maslyukova. Photo provided

Daria “Dasha” Maslyukova
BS, Environmental and Sustainability Studies
Honors College

What are you most proud of regarding your time at Mason: “I’m most proud of helping support the Virginia Environmental Justice Summit for three years, being a trip leader for the ecosystem restoration project to Florida through the [Social Action and Integrative Learning] SAIL Alternative Spring Break trips, and working at the Potomac Science Center in Dr. [Amy] Fowler's lab,” said Maslyukova, a first-generation student and EIP alumna.

“I’ve highly enjoyed volunteering as student chair of the Patriot Green Fund, evaluating student and faculty applications to improve sustainability at Mason. Some of my favorite projects have been funding for establishing Mason's Arboretum and the Arcadia art installation.”

What you learned outside the classroom: “Student Environmental Justice Alliance (SEJA) showed me how much you can learn from fellow students and community leaders,” said Maslyukova, who also spent two semesters at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conversation.

What’s next: “This summer, I’ll be working for the USGS Wetland Ecosystem Ecology and Biogeochemistry Laboratory. In August, I’ll start a master’s degree in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation at Virginia Tech.”

—Mariam Aburdeineh

woman with dark hair
Casey Nelson. Photo provided

Casey Nelson
BS, Social Work

What are you most proud of regarding your time at Mason: “I take pride in building my leadership skills by becoming president of Social Workers at Mason and interning with Mason’s Early Identification Program, where I guide first-generation college students.”  

How you surprised yourself at Mason: “I surprised myself by overcoming adversity. During my freshman year, my father passed away from cancer. It took a lot of strength, courage, and resiliency to be where I am today.”

What you learned outside the classroom: “Through my experience as a student-athlete, intern, and employee, I have learned that hard work truly pays off. The effort you put forth shapes your future.”

What’s next: “I will continue to work with Mason’s Early Identification Program. In 2023, I will be attending Virginia Commonwealth University to get my Master of Social Work with a focus in clinical social work in their accelerated program.”

—Madison Rudolf

woman with hair up
Maanvi Vij. Photo provided

Maanvi Vij
BS, Neuroscience
Honors College

What are you most proud of regarding your time at Mason: “I was a trip leader for the Alternative Spring Break trip about HIV and AIDS. It was over Zoom because of the pandemic, but this experience was very special for me, as I was able to lean into my interest in public health and advocacy by working with community partners from all over the world. We had many nonprofit leaders speak to us about their research and resources, and we learned how HIV and AIDS intersect with policy, housing, and racial and social factors.”

How you surprised yourself at Mason: “I was in a sorority, president of a medical organization, and studied abroad. Going into college, I wanted to do all of these things, but I wasn't sure if I could. I'm pleasantly surprised at what I was able to accomplish these past four years, despite COVID.”  

What you learned outside the classroom: “I learned the importance of having a support system outside of your family. Maintaining relationships was something that I prioritized. Having people to cheer you on is so important.”

What’s next: “I am headed to George Washington University's School of Medicine and Health Sciences to start medical school.”

—Lauren Reuscher

portrait of a woman with dark hair
Paola Choque Villarroel. Photo provided

Paola Choque Villarroel
Conflict Analysis and Resolution
Honors College

What are you most proud of regarding your time at Mason: “Establishing connections with different students, staff, and faculty—doing so has led to many of the positions I was able to have,” said Villarroel, who is president of UndocuMason and a student support coordinator for undocumented students.

How you surprised yourself at Mason: I surprised myself by planning a larger scale event for UndocuMason,” said Villarroel, a first-generation student. “Working with different offices to help create our event was very challenging. However, we were able to successfully have nearly 100 guests from on and off campus join us for our end-of-year celebration.”

What you learned outside the classroom: “Community is everything,” said Villarroel, who served as programs associate for the Carter School’s Better Evidence Project. “Being able to find a group of people, an office, or an organization that will stand with you and support you is something I’m eternally grateful for.”

What’s next: “I’ll be working with nonprofits. I want to give back to communities that’ve helped me get to where I am today.”

—Mariam Aburdeineh