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FairfaxEducationMason celebrates successes of 5,000 winter graduates

Mason celebrates successes of 5,000 winter graduates

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Students from 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 63 different countries comprised the more than 5,000 graduates who completed another phase of life’s journey during George Mason University’s winter commencement exercises.

“You will have failures. Learn from them so that tomorrow will be better than today. You will have moments like these, surrounded by those you love and basking in the glow of accomplishment. Let them sustain you as you pave the way for those who come behind you,” said Gregory Fowler, a Mason alumnus and now president of the University of Maryland Global Campus.

He made his remarks during commencement ceremonies held Dec. 15 at EagleBank Arena.

Fowler told students to take bold steps and be willing to accept that setbacks are one of life’s inevitabilities. “Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the ability to persevere in the presence of fear,” he told the graduates.

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And, said Fowler – who earned a master’s degree in English from Mason in 1995 – be amenable to other points of view.

“I am no fan of placing restrictions on expression or actions, as long as we do our best to never hinder someone else’s journey in life even as we carve out our own paths of discovery,” he said. “Many of my most cherished and important moments sprang from interactions with others whose views and experiences of the world were almost unrecognizably different from my own. I am better for it. You will be, too.”

Tasked with providing insight to her fellow graduates was Yasmin Imani Alamin, who chronicled a personal journey that was filled with ups and downs on her way to a mechanical-engineering degree.

Needing to pay her college costs and unable to land a job that was in her desired field, the Northern Virginia native spent a year as a cashier in the lumber and garden section of a local Home Depot. It was, she noted, a “far cry” from the internship at NASA she had held earlier, but provided real-world, ground-level insights on construction projects – and garnered her some financial aid from her employer.

“Always be humble and flexible in your approach to success,” Alamin advised classmates. “Remain focused and open-minded on getting the most out of where you are and never feel you are too good to be a part of something.

Struggle means you’re on the path to victory and the struggle is always proportional to what you’re trying to achieve. Big wins require big battles.”

(In her spare time, not that she has had much spare time, Alamin competes in judo and has earned a national title.)

At the ceremony, Mason awarded more than 4,700 bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and law degrees, as well as 400 certificates. Among the approximately 2,900 who earned bachelor’s degrees, one in four was a first-generation college graduate, and a large number (including Alamin) came to Mason from community college.

Mason president Gregory Washington said the college experience allowed the newly minted grads to “think more creatively, and examine full truths.”
Degree-earners ranged in age well into their golden years, while others took decidedly untraditional routes to their tassle-turning moment.

“These are terrific examples of the audacity that defines so many Mason students, and the opportunities available to them at this university,” Washington said.

The top five majors for undergraduates earning degrees were business; psychology; criminology, law and society; computer science; and information technology. The top five degrees for those earning master’s degrees were special education; data-analytics engineering; curriculum and instruction; business administration; and nursing.

A total of 163 graduates earned doctoral degrees, with 13 more earning law degrees.

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