Academics didn’t always have a place in Garrett Mascagni’s life.
After struggling through two semesters in his initial college experience, Mascagni joined the Marines to “find himself” and see the world. The four years Mascagni served his country helped him understand he needed to go back to school to take the next step in his life.
The steps Mascagni has taken in the last three years at the Mississippi University for Women put him on a path to earn a bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies on Saturday, May 11, in The W’s graduation ceremonies.
“If you want to surround yourself with people who actually care to see you succeed, this is the place for you,” Mascagni said. “All they want me to do is to have a solid foundation so I can go out there and succeed. It has been very refreshing to see that.”
Dr. Marty Brock, interim dean of the College of Business and Professional Studies, said Mascagni has been an “amazing” student after a slow start academically earlier in his college experience.
“He has worked really hard to get his GPA up,” Brock said. “He was in mock trial for two years, playing a witness and an attorney. I am proud he has been accepted and will attend Mississippi College School of Law.”
Mascagni, 27, said he and his wife, Alicia, will move to Morton, so he can take his first class at Mississippi College in June. He said he hopes to become an attorney after he finishes Law School. Mascagni said The W turned out to be a perfect fit for him and allowed him to build a strong foundation for his future.
Mascagni, who is from Lena in Leake County, graduated from Leake Academy and went to East Central Community College before he realized the timing wasn’t right for him to continue his studies. As a result, he enlisted in the Marines and spent the next four years serving his country in California, Romania, Afghanistan and Germany.
“I felt more steadfast,” Mascagni said after his four years of service. “The Marine Corps helped ground my values. Once I left, I really had my head on straight and narrow from then on.”
Mascagni left the military in July 2016 and returned to Mississippi ready to go back to school. He attended East Mississippi C.C. for one semester so he could raise his grade-point average. His brother, Joshua, went through The W’s nursing program (Class of 2015) and encouraged him to look at the school because he “fell in love with it immediately.” Garrett had the same connection.
In addition to the campus and the small class sizes, Mascagni said he has enjoyed the diversity of the student body and the willingness of his professors to help him. He said their investment in him has made his decision to attend The W worth it.
“I have to sing praises for my teachers, Ms. Wesley House Garrett and Miss (Elizabeth) Ashley Chisolm,” Mascagni said. “They have been with me every single step of the way. In a lot of ways, going back to the military laying that foundation, they were able to set that legal studies foundation for me and crack the door to the love of the law.”
Garrett, chair of the Department of Legal Studies, described Mascagni as “undaunted.” She said Mascagni “poured everything he had” into improving his grade-point average and to taking on the extra challenges of learning the legal skills. He honed that ability by spending two years on The W’s Mock Trial team.
“Everything I threw at him, such as asking him last minute to give the opening statement in a competition, he took head on and never flinched or questioned it,” Garrett said. “He also took on an unofficial leadership role within the team, which I was grateful for. There's no doubt in my mind that he will succeed in law school, and he'll make a great advocate.”
Chisolm, assistant professor of legal studies at The W, agrees. She said Mascagni recently was recognized as a candidate for induction into Lambda Epsilon Chi (LEX), the Legal Studies honorary society, which requires candidates to meet high academic standards.
“Garrett was quite the support system for his teammates and motivated not only himself but the other members of the team during competition to be their best,” Chisolm said.
Mascagni smiled when he recalled sitting down in class with each teacher for the first time. He said he thought he knew what he was getting into, but he really didn’t. Still, he said that “baptism by fire” played an integral part in helping him in and out of the classroom. Mascagni said his time at The W has re-shaped his thinking of the role education can play in someone’s life.
“Five or six years ago, even when I was a Marine, I didn’t understand that there were colleges that could afford me such an opportunity, that could give you such a hands-on learning environment and be so supportive of you at the same time,” Mascagni said. “There was so much here that my cup runneth over.”
“At The W, the classes have been more tailored toward me and my interests. The W has made things work for me. They are stoking the flame. They want to know what I am interested in, and they want to tailor that toward me to help me in the long run.”