On a drizzling spring morning in 2010, a senior in the Silver School of Social Work stepped onto the podium at Yankee Stadium and delivered the NYU commencement address.
“Tremendous achievements await us,” she told her 15,000 classmates as they received their diplomas and ventured out into the world. Two years later, Jessica Mason, who went on to receive a masters degree from Silver, is busy fulfilling her own prophecy.
The Marshall Scholarship awards American students with two fully funded years of study at any university in the United Kingdom, applicable to any field of study. It is among the most selective postgraduate scholarships in the world, and Mason became one of the 34 students nationally to receive it this past November.
Past instructors and advisers said they could not have been more thrilled. Kim Germain, director of Scholarship Programs at NYU, has known Mason since her junior year and has played a huge hand in coaching her through the application process.
“Sometimes I almost feel spoiled in my position because I get to work with the most high-achieving, passionate kids,” Germain said. “Jessica is smart, articulate, passionate [and] the perfect example of why I love my job.”
In her second year at NYU, Mason and classmate Amanda Raposo launched a venture called Baby’s First Home, a program in Queens, N.Y. that aimed to provide housing and support to homeless teen mothers and their children. The business was very successful. It won the Grand Prize at the NYU Reynolds Program Be A Changemaker Challenge in 2008, received a $10,000 grant and has continued assisting young homeless mothers to this day under its new name Power House NYC.
Since then, Mason has directed disaster relief efforts in Haiti, toured the country spreading awareness for extreme poverty and landed a job at Google, pushing forward the development of a new corporate social responsibility program called YouTube for Good.
“With something as selective as the Marshall Scholarship, you never really plan to get it,” Mason said. “I’m in New York right now with a great job and a great circle of friends. It’s a nice place to be in.”
“Time to make a whole new plan,” she said.
Mason said she will spend her time in the U.K. pursuing two consecutive Master’s degrees — the first in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and the second in Social Science of the Internet from the University of Oxford.
In blending a broader policy-based education with a more focused instruction on the impact of technology, Mason hopes to prepare herself for the large-scale change in her future.
“I’ve been given so much in my life, especially in terms of education, the only thing that’s ever really made sense to me is to find a way to give back,” Mason said.
The newly announced Marshall Scholar, Mason will fly to London and dive headfirst into a new chapter.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Dec.11 print edition. Daniel Huang is a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]