2021 Godbold Award Winner: Hunter Young

Schar School Public Administration student Hunter Young
Hunter Young: ‘The flexibility of the public administration degree is a really nice feature.’

When Hunter Young began his college career as a freshman with the Schar School of Policy and Government, he never imagined he would be helping to support missions at NASA. By his junior year, Young had done just that: his internship with NASA was only one of several highlights of the graduating senior’s time at Mason.

For his most recent highlight, Young was awarded the John W. Godbold Award by the faculty at the Schar School. The annual award is presented to the Outstanding Senior in Public Administration and will be given during a virtual ceremony with other Schar School award recipients in May.

“I didn’t even know the award existed until I won it,” said Young, who is scheduled to graduate a year early with top academic honors in May. “The faculty determining that I was worthy of receiving that award was an honor.”

John W. Godbold, the award’s namesake, was a veteran of WWII and joined Mason as a professor after retiring from a lengthy career in public service. Godbold was instrumental in starting Mason’s Public Administration degree program, which Young has been enrolled in since freshman year. Young, who has a profound interest in urban planning, credited the Schar School for providing opportunities not found elsewhere.

“Some of my favorite classes have been those that dealt with Virginia politics and state government,” said Young. “Last spring, I took a class with Bill Bolling, who was the former lieutenant governor of Virginia. And right now, I’m in a class with David Ramadan, who was a former delegate in the [Virginia] House of Delegates.”

But back to that NASA mission. “I was interning with legislative affairs there,” said Young, speaking about his internship. “We advocated for NASA missions, NASA’s goals. We often-times served as representatives of NASA in a lot of different ways. I went to congressional events on the Hill. We also [did] a lot of work with local and state governments. One of the things I did this summer was work with high school students who had one week to put together a mock NASA mission. I played a key role in supporting them—their plans and their program—from the government side.”

Young was prepared for the NASA experience by what he characterized as the diverse range of offerings in the Schar School’s degree program.

“One of the things the public administration program really helped me with going into that [NASA] internship is the diversity of courses that the program allows you to take,” Young said. “I have taken classes related to legislative processes. I have taken classes focusing on the bureaucracy. The flexibility of the public administration degree is a really nice feature.”

Young is an example of a student who took advantage of what college has to offer, both on- and off-campus. He has worked as a research assistant and in the office of admissions at Mason, while serving several on-campus leadership roles, including clerk of the Student Senate. And an experience especially important to him was the year he spent as president of the Alpha Omega Delta of Chi Psi, an experience he said was important to him.

On the eve of graduation, Young said he is anticipating a future in applying his public administration background to the crucial field of urban planning.

“I am leaning towards regional planning,” said Young, recalling his hometown of Hampton Roads, Va.’s approach to public welfare. “Taking entire regions into account and trying to build connections between municipalities.”