Interview with John Michael Mason '12

John Michael Mason is the captain of the men’s track and field team at Trinity.  A Dean’s Scholar and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Mason self-designed an interdisciplinary major combining a study of history, American Studies, and music: Classical Foundations of American Cultural History.  He is minoring in medieval and Renaissance studies; and in music.  He is a manager at Cinestudio, President of the Trinity Film Society, and Senior Director of the upcoming intercollegiate Trinity Film Festival.  He recently took time to talk with Trinity about his experience as a student-athlete at Trinity.

Q: As captain of the varsity track and field team, what leadership skills have you acquired from your time at Trinity?

A: I’ve learned that one of the most important skills a leader can have is the ability to build a consensus. I try to convince others to believe what I believe—it isn’t enough to just tell them. I want to lead and inspire others, not force them to follow me.

Q: You’re heavily involved in athletics between varsity and intramural.  Why sports?  What's your favorite athletic memory at Trinity?

A: My life wouldn’t be complete without sports. I love to compete. I’m hard-wired to compete. I have two favorite athletic memories.  The first is, without a doubt, going to the Indoor National Championships my sophomore year (2010) in Indiana. The second is winning the intramural soccer championship game in my sophomore year. It was the hardest fought athletic competition I had played since high school. There were no trophies, there were no fans, it was freezing, and the refs didn’t even show up, but I’ve never been more proud about a victory.

Q: How do you juggle academics and athletics, while consistently performing at a high level?  What are your top three secrets to success?

A:

  1. Train hard: No matter how tired I am or stressed out from school, I don’t miss workouts or take them at less than 100 percent. The energy I attempt to save at practice does not help me later in the library.
  2. Hit the books immediately.  I don’t spend a lot of time hanging around after practice before I start/finish doing work. I usually take my time eating dinner, and then go right to the library. I bring my backpack with me to practice.
  3. Communicate with coaches AND teachers: The coaches and teachers are here to help us. I talk to them both about my position as a student-athlete. They have been understanding of my schedule because I established that relationship and gave them ample notice.

Q: What's your academic routine?

A: I read everything, and then I stop and re-read it after I realize that I don’t understand it. I can sleep when I’m dead. Oh, and I always go to the teacher for help during office hours.

Q: You are heavily involved in the arts community, and are organizing the upcoming Trinity Film Festival.  What prompted you to take the initiative and make this happen?  Is this your most ambitious project yet?

A: This is quickly proving to be the most ambitious yet. I’ve wanted to do a film festival at Cinestudio for a while and this year Professor Prakash Younger and I sat down to make it happen. Support from the administration and alums has helped inspire me to try and make the festival something truly special for Trinity.

Q: Last year you were recognized at the Best of the Bantams Awards for Community Service.  How has your community service factored into the many other things that you do?

A: Giving back to the community and helping others keeps me grounded. It reminds me how fortunate my life has been. It makes me appreciate the little things I often overlook.

Q: What has been your favorite or most fruitful role or experience at Cinestudio?  And at the Austin Arts Center?  And as a writing tutor and teaching mentor at the Writing Center?  And at the Mill?

A: My favorite part of working at Cinestudio is seeing people come to the theater for the first time and watching their reactions as they step inside. It is a magical place to discover for the first time.

My favorite part about working at Austin Arts Center is the people. They are all awesome and have become like a second family for me. I wouldn’t have made it through four years without them.

Working as a writing tutor and teaching mentor/assistant has afforded me the special satisfaction of helping other students grow. Through that experience I have grown myself.

The Mill is a great thing for Trinity. Working with the bands to bring new live music to campus is something I will always be proud of.

Q: What is your radio program on WRTC, Trinity’s radio station, all about?

A: I do a music show (called Moonlight Music) where I play mostly instrumental music—primarily classical, film scores, and jazz. I talk about the music I play and try to provide an education for the listener, convincing them (or trying to) that this music is worth listening to.

Q: When did you become interested in Trinity and why?

A: The moment I stepped on campus. I knew nothing about it before that, but seeing the chapel and the main quad really stuck visually.

Q: Why has Trinity been the right fit for someone with your broad range of interests?

A: Trinity is open for innovators. It had the perfect mix for me of things that were just starting as I arrived, things that were already established, and things that didn’t exist and I was free to create.

Q: What is your best memory at Trinity?

A: There are so many it is hard to keep track. Seeing the excitement at our Harry Potter Event at Cinestudio was definitely up there (President Jones, in fact, may have been the most excited person of all!), as was bringing Stephen Gyllenhaal to campus and helping him run his “Grassroots” event.

Q: What is your sandwich of choice at the Bistro or Cave?

A: At the Bistro, Roman Chicken. At the Cave, currently pastrami with American cheese toasted, mustard, lettuce, onions, and banana peppers.

Q: When do you get a chance to relax, and what is your favorite way of doing that?

A: If I get the time, playing piano is my favorite way of unwinding.

Q: Who have been inspirations in your life and/or at Trinity.

A: My family has been a constant source of support and inspiration. I have been very fortunate that almost all my family on both sides lives in the Boston area. They have always been so excited about my education and extracurricular activities. At Trinity, Professor Jack Chatfield really inspired me in the classroom from my very first semester. His constant pursuit of knowledge is something I am proud to have adopted. Also, I credit my First-Year Seminar Professor Cynthia Butos with getting me through my first semester and keeping me on track to succeed at Trinity without becoming entirely overwhelmed. Coach Suitor has been constantly supportive of my position as a student-athlete and a member of numberous extracurriculars. He also put the seed in my head to continue pursuing music in college, and for that I will forever be grateful.

Q: If you had to give advice to an incoming student, what would you say?

A: Get involved. That doesn’t mean just doing a ton of stuff, but going out there and getting to know people. Also, school comes first. This is a rare chance to learn, so I try not to waste a minute of it.