Two rising Schar School of Policy and Government seniors are among the 10 George Mason University recipients of the competitive Stu Shea Peraton Scholarship presented earlier this year at the Mason Honors College 15th Annual Research Exhibition and Awards ceremony.
Funded by Peraton, a Northern-Virginia cyber-oriented national security contractor, the scholarship is named for Shea, the CEO of the firm and the 2022 Mason commencement speaker. The scholarship awards future leaders in the national security field up to $10,000 towards their academic studies. To receive the scholarship, recipients must submit a 1,500-word essay detailing their forward-thinking solutions to current and future national security issues as well as transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a resumé. They are also interviewed by a panel of judges. This year there were nearly 200 applications for the award.
The two Schar School recipients are Aarush Jambunathan, a member of the Schar School’s new one-of-a-kind bachelor’s degree program in International Security and Law, and Sebastian Rodinov, a government and international politics major.
Jambunathan, who said he developed resiliency and adaptability as a child moving around the globe with his family, is the Speaker Pro Tempore of Mason’s student government and is spending the summer in London as a research intern for the nonprofit Action on Armed Violence.
While both Jambunathan and Rodionov received this award as students in the Honors College, it was Schar School professors and related opportunities that had the greatest impact on obtaining their scholarships.
“All of my Schar [School] classes have had a major effect on me, and they've consistently been my favorites,” said Jambunathan. “Specific to the scholarship essay, it was former ambassador Greg Delawie’s diplomacy course. A lot of the things I wrote about were line items learned in the course.” Delawie was ambassador to Kosovo from 2015 to 2018.
Like his classmate, Rodinov also experienced a peripatetic childhood. Born in Novosibirsk, Russia’s third-largest city, he emigrated to the United States with his mother, an American citizen, and moved from San Francisco to Chicago to Maryland before landing at Mason.
Interests in national security and foreign policy are recent developments, he said. In the beginning, he was a science, technology, engineering, and math major.
“I was given advice to move away from STEM,” he said, “because people in those fields work long hours and in work in isolated situations, and I’m a very social person who enjoys collaboration, which is why a degree in diplomacy and policy at the Schar School is much more meaningful to me.”
For Rodionov, it was a Schar School study-abroad trip to Cuba which ultimately inspired the contents for his winning essay. Instead of proposing unique, forward-looking solutions to modern security challenges, Rodionov instead proposed what he could potentially gain from an insider perspective in Cuba.
“[The United States] doesn’t pay attention to developments in Cuba, and we don’t send people there,” he said. “It was interesting to get their perspective on what goes on in their country and how their people feel.”
For now, the future looks bright for these Schar School seniors. While Jambunathan will continue to use his talents towards becoming a foreign service officer, Rodionov looks forward to allocating his scholarship funds to a master’s degree program in international relations.