2019, BA Government & Internat Polit
“A good leader needs to think like someone they’re leading."
— Tim O’Shea, Honors College alumni & JD candidate at Georgetown University
Anyone who has worked with Tim O’Shea (Government & International Politics ’19) knows of a person who is dedicated to instilling positive change across any community. An involved and committed student, O’Shea is now continuing his passion at Georgetown University as a Juris Doctorate candidate.
O’Shea devoted much of his time at George Mason to conducting research on topics dealing with politics and international relations. The scholar was heavily involved with the Schar School’s Undergraduate Research Assistant Program, receiving honors through the school. O’Shea presented his research on Central Asian lone wolf terrorists in 2018 and his thesis concerning the Priorities Enforcement Program’s (PEP) impact on Hispanic political trust in 2019. He has interned at a plethora of organizations devoted to government policy and immigration, such as the Bipartisan Policy Center, the HMA Law Firm, and the nonprofit Rise to Peace, where he currently works as a Strategic Advisor.
Working on asylum cases at the HMA Law Firm, which focuses on immigration law, inspired O’Shea to pursue a law degree. “That experience made me realize that a law degree would give me all the capabilities I would need and open the doors I wanted for helping people and changing institutions,” said O’Shea.
O’Shea enacted much change through his work with organizations on Mason’s campus. Beyond being a dedicated member of Chi Psi Fraternity, O’Shea served as the 2018 president of Mason’s Interfraternity Council (IFC). During his tenure as president, the IFC reformed their judicial board procedures, formulated a plan to fund Mason’s first endowment created by a student organization called the Book Scholarship Endowment, and established multiple programs to address and combat sexual violence. All these initiatives earned O’Shea the 2018 Greek Man of the Year.
As the Executive Secretary of Government and Community Relations for Mason’s Student Government, O’Shea was able to apply his classroom and practical knowledge on government systems to affect change for Mason students. He took numerous valuable lessons from his peers on compromise and debate.
“Student Government [is] a unique bureaucracy that forces you to make additional considerations in your plans,” said O’Shea, who also organized Student Government’s 2019 annual Mason Lobbies trip to Richmond where students advocate for higher education initiatives at the Virginia State Capitol. “Mason Lobbies was a huge effort that required tons of outreach to legislators, input from students, training for student lobbyists, and logistics planning,” O’Shea explained.
It was this commitment to communal participation in policy that earned O’Shea the 2019 Jack Wood Award for civic engagement in the student category.
O’Shea enjoyed and valued the importance of debate beyond Student Government through his Joseph Schumpeter Fellowship under the Mercatus Center at Mason. The fellowship focuses on the study of political economy, fitting perfectly with O’Shea’s minors in Economics and Data Analysis. The scholar stayed with the program for six semesters, meeting with Mercatus Fellows and Mason Economics professors to discuss “contemporary or classic works of economic literature.”
“I value discussion and debate,” said O’Shea. “Forcing ideas to clash is an enjoyable intellectual exercise that I didn’t always get in my classes. I think our brains are muscles, and we need to keep them trained as such.”
All these opportunities taught O’Shea an important lesson about leadership that he has carried with him beyond Mason, specifically with his work creating internship programs for other Virginia colleges through the online hub Democracy onAir. O’Shea served as the previous Executive Director of the organization and is now a current member of its Board of Directors.
“A good leader needs to think like someone they’re leading,” emphasized O’Shea. “How do you want to be spoken to? What’s motivating you on this project? What are your long-term goals for yourself?”
To accomplish all that he did as a Mason student, O’Shea learned early on that good time management and diligence are important characteristics to build on. “I learned that, with almost anything you do, you get out what you put in. Showing up to a job, an internship, even a class, and doing the bare minimum will never give you the same experience, connections, or satisfaction as trying to do your best,” reflected O’Shea.
Despite all the opportunities O’Shea had at Mason, he looks back at being in the Honors College as the foundation for his success.
“The Honors College curriculum enabled me to hit the ground running in terms of intellectual curiosity when I arrived at Mason,” said O’Shea, who appreciates the experiential education he received here. “The Honors College was also how I met some of the professors that had the largest impact on my work ethic and worldview.”
One moment provided by the Honors College that O’Shea remembers fondly is when Dr. John Woolsey, the Honors College’s Research Curriculum Director, took a group of students from Honors 110: Principles of Research and Inquiry to James Madison University’s MadRush Undergraduate Research Conference. The conference honors and publishes the best undergraduate research papers in the humanities and social sciences. As first-year students in the Honors College and at George Mason, O’Shea and his fellow students felt intimidated in putting their research out for judging. However, O’Shea left the event as a published researcher and with a new appreciation for the opportunities provided by the Honors College.
“[After the conference], I felt like the Honors College really cared about each student succeeding,” said O’Shea.
O’Shea hopes to practice law with a focus on international trade and technology transfers after he graduates from Georgetown University. While he has an idea for what he wants to do in the future, O’Shea encourages all students to not be afraid of a change of plans.
“Even the best-laid life plans may not work out,” said O’Shea. “Even if you’re on what you think is the best path for yourself, explore opportunities that arise, even [those that] don’t fit neatly into what you planned on doing.”
By Zaria Talley