Mary Jackson, graduate coordinator in the Economics Department, has been named Mason’s August 2010 Employee of the Month.
“This award reflects tremendous teamwork at Mason,” she says. “That’s what I am: a team player. Our team helps make things happen in students’ lives.”
For the students and faculty who supported her nomination as employee of the month, however, Jackson is more than a team player.
“Without doubt, Mary performs her duties in an exemplary fashion,” says Richard Wagner, a professor of economics who nominated Jackson.
“That is not, however, what has made Mary so deeply admired and appreciated by all the students and faculty here. The source of that admiration and appreciation is the cheerful dedication and gracious spirit she puts into all of her activities. She cares deeply about students.”
Even Jackson, hesitant to tout her own accomplishments, acknowledges the effort required by her job.
“I deal with graduate students,” she explains. “The first point of contact is when they call or contact me as prospective students, before they’ve actually gotten here. Once they apply, I help them get their applications in order. I keep track and make sure that they’re doing everything they need to get their degree, whether that’s an MA or a PhD.”
The responsibilities, she admits, are not simple ones.
“There are lots of details, especially for doctoral students,” she says. “There are a lot of policies governing them, and sometimes they don’t know because they’re engrossed in their studies. My goal is to make sure they’re aware of what their deadlines are. I try to get them out the door and graduated successfully.”
Jackson supervises approximately 300 graduate students at any given time and says that her primary strategy consists of heading off potential problems before they grow into real issues. That means keeping constant tabs on hundreds of people and notifying them of credits they need, required classes and deadlines.
“Another person in this position could say, ‘It’s the students’ job to make sure they’re meeting their deadlines, not mine,’” she says. “I don’t work that way. It’s a personal preference.”
The students say that Jackson’s “personal preference” amounts to unparalleled dedication.
“Since I started graduate school at Mason, Mary has always had time for me and my fellow students,” says Shruti Rajagopalan, a graduate student in economics.
“I have created a lot of work for her given my visa status, credit reductions and letters for funding and conferences. Mary has never complained once and has always had everything ready and organized. In fact, students get reminders on their files from Mary and not the other way around.”
As for her future plans, Jackson is content right where she is.
“I don’t plan to go anywhere,” she laughs. “I often tell them, ‘I will die in this job.’ I really love the job. I’ll be here until my hair is white. There’s no mandatory retirement at Mason, so as long as you can do the job, you’re a viable worker. The more experience I have, the more I know, the more viable I am.”
President Alan Merten will formally present Jackson with her award in his office, Room 103 in Mason Hall, at 3 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 2. Jackson’s co-workers and friends are encouraged to attend the ceremony.