Tennille Parker was a high school senior in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who had never heard of George Mason University when she received a brochure and an application in the mail. Receiving an actual application did the trick. She sent it in, came down to visit the campus, and fell in love. That was more than 15 years ago.
Today, Parker, BA Government ’97, is married to fellow Mason alumnus Jerod M. Parker, BS Electrical Engineering ’97; a season ticket holder to men’s basketball; and the new president of theGeorge Mason University Alumni Association. She’s already planning to encourage her two-year-old daughter to apply to Mason.
Some of Parker’s fondest memories of her years as a government major (now government and international politics) are of her time in the classroom, but many are of her life outside academics. She smiles as she recalls one snowy dawn when a scheduled track practice turned into a morning of sledding on meal trays—she quickly skims over the part of the story when she landed head-first in the snow.
And so many Mason traditions are now deeply rooted within her: Mason Day, basketball, college food, class registration, Patriot Pride. But when Parker does think about how her academic experiences at Mason influenced her life, she thinks about the powerful opportunities she has had.
Internships at the Children’s Defense Fund and the Urban Institute led her into graduate school at Syracuse University and a career in local government. The challenges of upper-level courses and the “freedom to think out loud” gave her the confidence to take intellectual risks and speak her mind. In addition, the school’s proximity to Washington, D.C., enabled Parker to experience all the cultural and entertainment opportunities in the nation’s capital.
Today, Parker is a program analyst for the City of Falls Church, Virginia. She works on housing and human services program development. She parlayed her Mason degree into a challenging and exciting career, through which she can give back to her community.
And her blood still runs green and gold. As president of the Alumni Association, she is poised to build that feeling of Patriot pride in 120,000 alumni worldwide.
When asked why she would take on such a daunting task, Parker replies, “When you are a part of something great, you want to see that ball keep rolling. I remember those who invested in me and saw possibilities in me that I couldn’t even begin to fathom. Mason invested in me, and I want to make sure that someone else has that same opportunity. My Mason experience as a student might be over, but my connection to this university will be lifelong.”
This story appeared in the 2010 edition of Cornerstone, the magazine of Mason’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.