Helping first-gen students, graduate discovered her passion

girl in yellow shirt
Mason student Olga Diupina completed several research projects on the accessibility of higher education, finding inspiration in English-language learners’ transition from high school to college.Photo by Ron Aira/Creative Services

While pursuing a degree in government and international politics at George Mason University, Olga Diupina was thrilled to work in the field of political engagement. But between her personal experiences as a first-generation student and what she said she heard from colleagues, she realized her passion for equity wasn’t steering her toward the campaign trail, but back to higher education.

“I definitely didn’t come into college thinking I would want to work in admissions,” Diupina said. “But my passion is education policy. I want to ensure high retention rates for first-generation students making the transition between high school and college.”

Diupina, who finished her degree in three years, completed several research projects on the accessibility of higher education, finding inspiration in English-language learners’ transition from high school to college. She took this initiative into the Admissions Office at Mason, where she worked as a general admissions representative, leading tours across campus for first-generation students, and attempting to bridge the gap of accessibility so many fellow first-generation students face.

“While I’ve held a few political campaign internships, my main work has been with the Admissions Office,” said Diupina, a member of Mason’s Honors College. “I’ve spent most of my time there.”

With the guidance of faculty members—including Eva Bramesco, director of Mason’s University Scholars Program, and Assistant Admissions Director Carla Goodwin—and her day-to-day work in the admissions office, a full picture of a future pursuing her passions began to form.

She also received the 2022 Honors College Outstanding Service Award, with seniors Julia Hakeem (biology), Sean Diment (biology), and Kylie Smith (mathematics).

“Olga has elevated the entire Honors College Recruitment Team [HCRT] and has helped expand its size and scope from a group of student helpers to a thriving organization in which its members feel pride and ownership,” Bramesco said. “Olga is also instrumental in the success of our on-campus admissions events, providing logistical organization and direction for both the Ambassadors and HCRT.

“That Olga is so effective is impressive enough on its own,” Bramesco added, “but that she is able to balance these significant commitments successfully while also completing her degree in three years is nearly astonishing—and certainly recommends her well for the fast pace and hectic day-to-day of an admissions office.”

“Mason is such a diverse institution,” Diupina said. “There are people from all over the place, all over the world, all different walks of life. Being a first-generation student here, I’ve been able to meet others going through the same new experience—as well as discover how different our stories are.”

Diupina is graduating this spring with a bright future ahead of her.

“I hope to work in higher education in admissions. I want to stay at Mason as well,” she said.

"In admissions, we often say that there are those that do this for a few years, and there are lifers,” Bramesco said. "Olga is a lifer, and I look forward to seeing the impact she will leave on the profession."