An encouraging word

July 16, 2021


By Kristin Baird Rattini

For Shajuan Mason, L’01, her calling to help children in need doesn’t stop at the courtroom door. The attorney from Matoaca, Virginia, who has often represented children and served as guardian ad litem, has been known to seize moments at grocery stores, cookouts, and even the side of the road to offer children a positive, encouraging word.

“That’s something that never stops with me,” she said. “Wherever I am, if there is a need, I address it.”

After getting her J.D., Mason earned a master’s degree in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University so she could better serve her young clients in district, circuit, and juvenile courts.

“I learned very quickly it is impossible to effectuate change in a child’s life without also addressing the family dynamics,” she said. “You see how it’s all connected.” She sometimes drew on her community connections to assist those families with jobs, housing, and other vital supports.

Her community ties landed her a 2017 gig as a criminal legal analyst for an episode of the TV series Fatal Attraction. The episode, titled “Ruthless Rivalry,” recalled the 2014 fatal shooting of a 19-year-old girl in a Richmond neighborhood where Mason had family connections. “I was able to provide local insights and a personal touch the show wouldn’t have had otherwise,” she said.

In 2020, Mason pivoted from the courtroom to the classroom. At Virginia Union University in Richmond, she is both a student working toward a Master of Divinity degree and an assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice. The real-life scenarios she shares from her 18 years in the courtroom resonate with her students, as does her encouragement to accomplish their goals and follow their dreams.

“l like being able to shape and grow young minds,” she said. “I’m playing mother in the guise of a professor, and that is fun.”