When the time came to decide where to pursue a master’s degree in public policy, the choice was simple for Freddy Mitchell.
Already an alumnus of George Mason University (BA in history, 2008), he calls his undergraduate experience “absolutely remarkable.”
“It was everything I could ever want,” Mitchell said. “I really got everything out of the Mason experience, both the social aspect and the educational aspect.”
So, when he attended an open house for the Schar School of Policy and Government graduate programs in fall 2014, Mitchell immediately felt at home.
“It was a no-brainer as soon as I walked in there,” he said. “It was always going to be Mason.”
Prior to graduate school, Mitchell had worked at Jones Walker and Williams & Connolly, two prestigious Washington, D.C. law firms. He even attended law school at North Carolina Central University for a year, but ultimately decided it wasn’t for him.
“It wasn’t the experience that I wanted,” he said. “I didn’t want to practice. The end goal was to be in government relations, to study public policy, to work in politics. Once I realized that, I made the pivot.”
He moved back to Washington, D.C., and worked on Capitol Hill as a graduate Congressional intern on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee while pursuing his master’s degree at the Schar School.
While his Mason undergraduate degree proved foundational, earning his graduate degree in 2017 enhanced Mitchell’s already rich professional experience.
“By the time I was undergoing my master’s program, I was already well-established in my career,” he said. “I wasn’t naïve in the sense that I thought I was going to change the world. I was incredibly singularly focused on my career and the impact that I wanted to make on others.”
Valuable lessons learned in the classroom about quantitative and qualitative skills in public policy immediately transferred to his position on the Hill.
“I could directly apply them to what I was doing in my job. They were analogous. They were directly correlated,” Mitchell said. “What I was working on day-to-day in the House of Representatives were things that we were discussing in the classroom.”
Mitchell credits Schar School faculty members for their expertise and engagement in and out of the classroom.
“The professors I had were former Hill staffers, worked in public service, served in administrations, and worked for the government,” he said. “They understand bureaucracy. They understand politics. They understand process. Being able to go a mile wide and a mile deep was just a whole other level. Those are things you expect from a graduate course at a prestigious graduate school.”
Now a vice president of U.S. government relations at MetLife, Mitchell advocates and lobbies on behalf of the Fortune 50 company. He represents MetLife in front of Congress, the White House, and the administration and interacts with policy makers every day.
“I really do believe it was the master’s that got me to where I needed to be,” he said. “I use my degree every single day.”
This “Mason lifer,” as Mitchell calls himself, feels a responsibility to pay it forward. He serves as a member at large of the Schar School Alumni Chapter, where he remains active in promoting networking and social events and opportunities.
“Mason did so much for me,” he said. “The least I can do is absolutely shout from the rooftops what the university has done for me personally and professionally.”
Mitchell checked off a bucket list item this past spring when he spoke at the Schar School Degree Celebration.
“I can’t put into words what it meant for me,” he said. “It’s not lost on me that as a 36-year-old I was able to speak at my alma mater’s commencement.”
Just five years removed from his own master’s graduation ceremony, Mitchell was thrilled to offer some insight to the new alumni.
“Because I’ve sat in those chairs, I wanted them to feel good about their accomplishment and feel even better about what’s to come ahead,” he said. “It wasn’t long ago that it was me. It was just a great feeling.”