On the first of August, Karol Mason officially began her new position as president of John Jay College. Mason has made numerous appearances since, introducing herself to students and faculty at various events around campus, often joking about not being able to find her way around campus.
August 24th was a particularly busy day for the new president. At the Macaulay Honors Welcome, she greeted new Macaulay scholars, which included freshmen and sophomores, by welcoming them to John Jay and encouraging them to use the tools that will be provided to them to change the world. “You know that is your job, to change the world for the better,” she told them. “My hope is that we will finally have a world that looks like the one we intended when this country was founded. That rests with you – the best and the brightest.”
She then headed to Faculty Development Day, a John Jay tradition and a chance for faculty to share effective teaching practices, renew their commitment to the John Jay mission, and find support for handling student challenges.
Mason then welcomed international students to the college, before appearing at the 9/11 “I Pledge” event, a “call to service” where participants pledged to do a good deed on 9/11. (Later, as part of separate event on September 7, Mason joined a group of students to unfurl a large American flag on the steps of the Jay Walk to honor 67 members of the John Jay community who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks.)
Towards the end of the day, incoming freshmen gathered in the Gerald W. Lynch Theater for Convocation. “We share something in common,” she told the students. “This year is my first year at John Jay, so I’m a freshmen like you are. We’re going to go through this journey together.”
Mason also shared a bit of personal history with the students. “40 years ago, I met a woman in a chance encounter outside of the dining hall. And we struck up a conversation and she’s been my friend for 40 years. And who knew that she would end up being the best friend of the first lady of the United States. As a result of that opportunity, when they [the Obamas] were elevated to the White House, I had the opportunity to fulfill the dream that was started when I was 14 years old, sitting up in my room in Amityville, thinking ‘I want to be part of changing the world.’ It took me 40 years to get here, but I’m here with you guys changing the world now.”
Mason was a leader in the Obama Administration on juvenile justice issues, bail reform and re-entry for individuals leaving prison. As head of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, Mason oversaw an annual budget of $4 billion to support an array of state and local criminal justice agencies, juvenile justice programs and services for crime victims, oversaw the National Institute of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, among a wide range of other efforts. She led the Department of Justice’s work to address the issue of community trust in the justice system through a variety of programs, including the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, a partnership with John Jay College and other academic institutions across the country designed to address bias in the criminal justice system.
As John Jay President, Mason appeared most recently at a town hall event on September 7, where she fielded questions on issues ranging from DACA to climate change, homelessness, and supporting the LGBT community.
“I was drawn to this fabulous institution because of its students, the wonderful work of its faculty, and the work that’s happening across the whole college,” she said. “We’re all pulling in the same direction for the same cause and I’m grateful to be part of this wonderful family.”