INTO Mason Connects Student to Admired Economics Professor

by Laura Powers

The August sun warmed Fairfax as a new class of George Mason University students traveled to campus, cars filled to capacity with dorm room essentials, to move in to their homes for the upcoming academic year. Hanna Hajjar wrestled an over-packed moving cart through crowds of his fellow INTO Mason first-year students, not suspecting that they would become some of his closest friends. As he sat in his dorm room and reviewed his course schedule for the fall 2014 semester, his anticipation lay not only in a class in his desired field of economics, but is also with the professor who inspired him to come to George Mason.

A long way away from his home in Brasilia, Brazil, Hajjar has just completed his first year at Mason. He is one of the more than 170 international students to enter the university in 2014 through INTO Mason, a unit dedicated to easing the transition into American university life while preparing students for successful studies. Hajjar participated in the Undergraduate Pathway program in the fall, taking courses on subjects that ranged from reading comprehension to freshman transition where he learned how to successfully schedule a doctor’s appointment or a meeting with the writing center.

Planning to major in economics, Hajjar said he’s always been interested in the subject. “Economics explains the world really well, in a way that I can understand and makes sense to me,” he said. He spent hours watching documentaries and reading economics-related articles while in high school, and became particularly interested in the perspectives of professor and economist Donald Boudreaux, director, Center for the Study of Public Choice at Mason. When Hajjar discovered that Professor Boudreaux taught at Mason and learned of the economics program’s reputation, he knew he wanted to apply. He was accepted through INTO Mason’s Undergraduate Pathway program and soon began making plans to move to Fairfax. Hajjar says that meeting Professor Boudreaux was a moment that continues to be his favorite at Mason thus far.

Hajjar attended his first economics class with the course book in one hand and one of Professor Boudreaux’s books -- ready to be signed -- in the other. He described Boudreaux as both kind and compelling; engaging the classroom with stories and narrative that made the subject exciting and easier to understand.

It soon became clear that the professor isn’t the only one making an impression. Hajjar is a standout student that the faculty has begun to notice.

Steven Harris-Scott, faculty member in the Department of History and Art History, said, “Hanna is a perfect example of the kinds of INTO Mason students I love to see in my classes. He is engaged in class and willing to participate regularly, something not many English language learners are prepared to do. Hanna is also intellectually curious, both about his school work and American cultures more generally. He often asked wonderful follow-up questions in class related to American politics, society and pop culture, something I wish all of my students would do more of, both international and domestic.”

Professor Boudreaux agrees. “Hanna Hajjar is an ideal example of Mason's many superb undergraduate scholars,” he says. “Passionate about learning, intensely curious about ideas, and unafraid of challenges, Hanna embodies the George Mason spirit - a spirit that, because of students such as Hanna and the [INTO Mason] program, ensures a brighter future for us all."

Expecting to graduate in spring 2018, Hajjar’s goal is to return to Brazil and use his economics degree to work as a professor or in data analysis. After completing his final exams in May, he hopes to maintain his 4.0 GPA and continue on the path towards success he’s already begun to pave.

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