Originally published on September 29, 2020
Like many high school seniors, David O’Connell was looking for colleges that would be a good fit for his interests. The Rochester, N.Y.-native had been looking at schools in his home region when he noticed that Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government offered an opportunity to study at Oxford.
“And that got me really intrigued,” he said. Oxford, and the welcoming acceptance letter from the school, drew him to the Schar School’s advising office where he met Matt Green, the Schar School’s assistant director of undergraduate student services. Green introduced him to the wide range of other opportunities available at the school.
O’Connell, now a senior government and international politics major, became so busy he never got around to studying at Oxford. But he’s OK with that: After working as an intern on Capitol Hill, O’Connell became involved with student government as the chair of the University Life Committee in the Student Senate. He is now the vice president of the Mason student body, with a personal mandate to create and sustain school spirit. He was recruited to run for the office by the student body president, Shelby Adams.
“The Capitol Hill internship was something I’ve always dreamed about since I was little,” he said, adding that Ann Ludwick, assistant dean for undergraduate academic affairs, helped navigate the paperwork. “To actually wake up, get on the bus to Metro, then get off at the Capitol Hill station and walk into those offices was one of the coolest things ever.”
His term working for U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va. 5th) was cut short in March due to the pandemic lockdown, “but for the little bit I was there, it was absolutely incredible.”
Now his focus is on following through on creating school spirit, which, he realizes, “once you go online [for classes], school spirit is at the bottom of everybody’s mind, unfortunately. It’s definitely an uphill battle, but I do think there is a kind of new energy.”
Also on O’Connell’s mind is what happens after graduation in May. “I’m planning on possibly doing a gap year but I have already begun studying for the LSAT,” the Law School Admissions Test, he said.
Until then, he expects to “virtually” visit the Schar School advising office to discover other opportunities, for himself and the rest of the student community.
“I’ve really enjoyed the Schar School events and the diversity of classes they offer,” he said. “The professors I look forward to and the different kinds of classes are so exciting. I love the Schar School and from what I’ve seen from the other programs, Mason seems like an awesome home for so many people.”
Additional reporting by Damian Cristodero.