CSU Cleveland-Marshall College of Law 2L student Davona Mason became interested in law school as an avenue to advocate for others and to seek change in the community. She was drawn to the practicality of a law degree and the profound impact she could have using a legal education in numerous capacities as a change agent.
“I have always been one to stand up for what’s right and be vocal about how people can improve the world around them,” said Mason. “I decided social justice work was important and leaned into it. As a woman of color, my engagement with diversity, equity and inclusion does not come naturally – it is a conscious choice.”
More than a year into her legal studies, Davona has already had opportunities to see how her legal education can stimulate change in multiple sectors.
Davona worked as a summer Legal & Advocacy Intern for Equality Ohio, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that advocates for full equality for the LGBTQ community. That opportunity gave her great insight into the potential scope of advocacy work. At Equality Ohio, Davona worked on legislative advocacy projects, connected with new clients and learned about gender- and sex-based equity and inclusion.
Davona is also advocating for change on the CSU C|M|LAW campus as co-chair of the school’s Training and Education Racial Justice Work Group, one of four work groups formed earlier this year stemming from a Call to Action by Dean Lee Fisher. As co-chair, Davona is working to explore opportunities to bring direct conversations on racial issues to staff, faculty and students in an engaging way, and connecting with faculty to incorporate discussions on race and discrimination into the curriculum.
Davona had dreamed about attending law school in the seventh grade but it was not until a few years ago when she came to the realization that her Bachelor of Arts from Baldwin Wallace University in Public Relations and Marketing and her Master of Science from Canisius College in College Student Personnel Administration would not hinder, but could further expand, the possibilities of what she could accomplish with a law degree.
Davona was already experienced with the intricacies of higher education, having spent six years working at universities across the country including Rochester Institute of Technology, Texas Tech University, Case Western Reserve University and California Polytechnic State University. Her work in higher education in various positions centered around student support, compliance, student conduct, crisis response, and inclusion. During that time, Davona grew both personally and professionally, eventually getting to a place where she was ready to tackle the challenges of law school.
“My previous professional experience gave me some time to understand myself,” explained Mason. “Self-awareness is of major importance on any journey, and it has been most helpful while in law school where every day is a new challenge.”
Born and raised in Cleveland, Davona was working across the country at California Polytechnic State University when applying to law schools and considered schools in California in addition to CSU Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Her decision to return home was sealed by how supported and connected she felt at Cleveland-Marshall, in particular from the school’s strong alumni network.
Having a background working in Higher Education, Davona came to CSU C|M|LAW acutely aware of the importance of connecting with professors and getting involved on campus. She current serves as a Senator-at-Large for the school’s Student Bar Association as well as President of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA).
Davona was immediately drawn to BLSA by its welcoming environment and the mentors she met early in her involvement with the association who were committedto her success. In her first year as a member of BLSA, she gained a deep appreciation for the values of the association which led to her pursuit of a leadership role. Becoming BLSA President has helped her engage even more in the law school experience while she furthers the association’s commitment to enhance the black law student experience during law school and in the legal profession.
As co-chair of the Training and Education Racial Justice Work Group, she is pleased that organizations throughout the country are engaging in much-needed conversations and is grateful that CSU C|M|LAW has prioritized the involvement of students in its conversations. From her perspective, the work group’s initiatives are going well and she is excited for the ongoing work to bear fruit in a meaningful way.
“Something to remember is that any and all work related to race, diversity, equity and inclusion is not something we pick up at work or school and put down when we get home,” explained Mason. “This work is about changing our thinking so we may become a more inclusive and understanding society and in-turn, change the current systems that are designed to oppress. If the University continues with its efforts and applies even more pressure for growth and change, I see it getting to a place of greatness.”
Davona recognizes the past year has been a unique time to be a law student, with the increased attention to racial imbalances happening in addition to a global pandemic and a divisive election. It has been trying at times for Davona as she attempts to maintain her focus, but she credits the BLSA community and the law school environment for helping her push forward.
“This year of dealing with the election and a pandemic has challenged us and created new problems that require solving and what better place to explore, learn and ask questions than in law school,” said Mason. “It crossed my mind to pause my education in search of stability during the pandemic, however, I realized this is a unique opportunity to learn and flourish professionally when the world is forced to try new things every day.”
Davona will be adding another new experience to her plate next semester when she externs with CSU’s Office of General Counsel. She plans to continue to seek practical hands-on experiences that show her various avenues in the legal field and how she can merge her legal education with her background in public relations and higher education administration. While nothing is set in stone long-term for the 2L student, Davona can see herself one day owning her own communications/crisis management firm.