For this graduate, Mason’s academic options were a career road map


For Ari Williams, her journey toward graduation at George Mason University was anything but linear.

Ari Williams
Photo by Cristian Torres/Office of University Branding

The CliffsNotes version is that of a criminology, law and society major who will graduate in May with an eye toward a career in government contracting.

The more complete story is how the options for a diversified education at George Mason—Williams’ major concentration is in homeland security and justice with minors in sociology and intelligence studies—helped prepare her for that career.

“My course load has been learning a lot about the government and its agencies and what they do, and that’s actually really applicable to government contracting,” Williams said. “There’s a lot to be said for being able to read scientific research and journals. That was really great practice for me to doing things such as market research.”

The road that brought Williams toward a government contracting career was winding.

When the Fredericksburg, Virginia, native came to Mason as a first-generation student and a member of the Honors College, she wanted to work in the federal government. She also considered being an FBI agent, a police officer, and joining the military.

She landed on government contracting by chance, she said, after a faculty member in Mason’s Costello College of Business recommended giving the career a look.

Once committed, Williams took things into her own hands, securing analyst internships with CACI International, Cambridge Associates, and PingWind.

“I’ve always been a bit of a determined person,” Williams said. “When I want something or have a plan for something, I always try to enact it because closed mouths don’t get fed, right? So that’s the mentality I’ve always had.”

It was the same for her pursuit of academics.

“I was hungry to learn,” Williams said. “That’s one of the reasons I decided to come to college, because I knew I was going to be interested in what I was learning.”

“Ari is one of the most impressive students I have had the pleasure of teaching at Mason,” said Marie Mele Thomas, associate professor in the Department of Criminology, Law, and Society in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “Ari cares deeply about what she is learning, and her ability to think critically about complex issues and share her perspectives in insightful ways has been a joy to witness. I am confident she will continue to excel academically and professionally in whatever path she chooses.”

Continued learning is a big part of the plan for Williams, who said she plans to pursue an MBA after establishing herself in the workforce.

As for her time at George Mason, Williams said the great upsides are the opportunities to network, the quality of the faculty, and its proximity to Washington, D.C. 

“All in all, in the last four years I’ve been able to get a lot of work experience. I’ve been able to make a lot of connections,” she said. “I’m as prepared as I can be.”