Graduate Students of the Year share why they chose the Costello College of Business (and why you should, too)


The Donald G. Costello College of Business at George Mason University’s Graduate Students of the Year for 2022-2023 exemplify the highest standards of academic excellence, leadership, and dedication to their field. Here, they explain why they chose Mason, and offer advice to others considering master’s degrees in business.  

Ann Butler, Master’s in Accounting 

Anne Butler
Ann Butler

Ann Butler initially overlooked Mason’s Master’s in Accounting (MSA) program because her undergraduate accounting degree was from Mason. However, when she compared Mason’s program to others in Virginia, she ultimately chose Mason because of its top-tier faculty, specialty certifications, unique classes, and a straightforward application process without a GMAT requirement. Another perk for Butler was the ability to complete the program online (Mason offers the MSA program fully online and in-person).  

As an older student, Butler enjoyed bringing her real-world work experience into her coursework and working as a teaching assistant and a tutor for undergraduate accounting students. 

Now that she’s earned her master’s, she plans to continue working as a corporate financial leader as well as teach accounting and business courses. Her advice to future students? “A master’s program is about developing your professional and leadership skills to include critical and analytical thinking, time and project management, interpersonal skills, writing, and presentation skills...seize the opportunity to learn from other students’ experiences. Make the commitment; invest the time in the coursework; engage and contribute meaningfully in the class discussions and group work.”   

Nicci Fasen, MBA (On Campus) 

Nicci Fasen
Nicci Fasen

For accountant Nicci Fasen, pursuing an MBA was a goal driven by desire for greater growth and advancement opportunities. She chose Mason for its networking potential, commitment to diversity, government affiliations, and experienced professors.  

Fasen says the most rewarding aspect of the program was gaining a comprehensive understanding of diverse business disciplines and seeing their interconnections. She also appreciated the networking, collaboration, and group project aspects of her coursework because it helped her to hone her teamwork and leadership skills.  

To anyone considering earning their MBA at the Donald G. Costello College of Business at George Mason University, Fasen says, “Go for it! While it may require dedication and hard work, you won't regret the time and commitment invested. View it as a short-term sacrifice that leads to long-term benefits.” 

Jessica Green, MBA (Online) 

Jessica Green
Jessica Green

Jessica Green spent her career in financial services before deciding to pursue her MBA at Mason. She chose Mason, she says, because of its “mission to provide excellence for all.” And although she attended classes online, she says she gained a global view of business that she never had before. She also values the relationships she built, and is grateful that the program brought so many people into her life that were able to challenge her thought process and enrich her both personally and professionally.  

Green says, “The combination of quality and affordability that Mason provides is unlike any other.” She also appreciated the flexibility of the online program, which allowed her to earn her degree during a global pandemic, while working full-time, and supporting her family.  

Her advice to anyone considering a Mason MBA? “Just dive in! Yes, it will be hard and you will have to make trade-offs, but it is temporary and you will come out the other side with not only more knowledge, but a sense of accomplishment that can never be taken from you.” 

Sean Prendergast, Master’s in Finance 

Sean Prendergast
Sean Prendergast

Though he earned his undergraduate degree in biology, Sean Prendergast realized he had a passion for finance and found George Mason University’s Master’s in Finance (MSF) program could provide him with the skills he needed to pivot in a new direction.  

Prendergast chose Mason because it gave him a gateway to turn his passion for finance into a career. Even though his background was in biology, he felt welcome in the MSF program. He was drawn by the inclusive approach, and encourages other students to take advantage of the opportunities the program provides. “The faculty and the school of business want you to succeed and do a wonderful job of providing ample opportunities to do so,” he says.  

Read more about Sean Prendergast’s journey here.  

Georges Barakat, Master’s in Management  

Georges Barakat
Georges Barakat

Georges Barakat came to Mason’s Master’s in Management (MSM) program with a background in engineering, where he had never been exposed to business courses. He found it very beneficial to take classes in finance and accounting, and he now aspires to establish his own business entity that will positively impact sustainable engineering.  

Barakat chose Mason’s MSM program because no professional work experience was needed to apply, and he wanted to add business acumen to his engineering background in a relatively short amount of time. Through his MSM coursework, Barakat says he developed a “deep sense of appreciation towards finance and economics that will endure throughout my life.”  

To other recent graduates who are interested in earning a master’s degree while learning practical business concepts, Barakat says he “highly recommends Mason’s MSM program over any other!”  

Aimee Fogarty, Master’s in Real Estate Development 

Aimee Fogarty
Aimee Fogarty

After graduating from Mason’s Master’s in Real Estate Development (MRED) program, Aimee Fogarty sees a long future for herself in health care and real estate, and perhaps a property rental side hustle.  

For Aimee, the most rewarding part of the program was the professors, who have been working in the real estate industry for a long time. “They know the market and are invaluable to the curriculum and networking opportunities,” she says. 

Fogarty chose the MRED program for its reputation, the proximity of the Mason Square campus to her office, the convenient class schedule for working professionals, and the value compared to other local universities.  

To anyone interested in pursuing their master’s in real estate development at Mason, Fogarty says, “I waited almost 20 years to go back to school and I haven’t looked back. I think Mason’s MRED program is invaluable as the students have a good mix of experience. I learned just as much from the students straight out of undergrad as I hope they did from me!” 

Malik Salifu, Master’s in Real Estate Development 

Malik Salifu
Malik Salifu

With a background in construction management, Malik Salifu decided to pursue his Master’s in Real Estate Development (MRED) at Mason because the program offered diverse courses that he needed for a well-rounded real estate development education. He hopes to embark on a career in consulting that will merge development and construction management throughout a project’s life cycle.  

Salifu appreciated the MRED program’s richness of curriculum, exposure to alumni and industry professionals, and student diversity. He enjoyed being part of the team that defended Mason’s title at the NAIOP MD/DC Capital Challenge, and he hopes that prospective students will take full advantage of everything Mason’s MRED program has to offer.  

He says, “the full benefit of the program is not only in the academic aspects, but also the networking opportunities, sharing and engaging with others in class, and being part of the larger Mason family.” 

If you’re interested in earning your MBA or specialized master’s in business at the Donald G. Costello College of Business at George Mason University, learn more about our programs here, or register for an upcoming info session