As an 18-year-old data processing student at San Jacinto College, Gail Mason never imagined where her career would take her. Recently the department chair for business and information technology at the North Campus, Mason can boast a 40-year career with the College.
“As a student, I worked as a tutor and lab assistant in computer operations,” said Mason. “I enjoyed working with the students and helping them understanding the subject matter.”
Shortly after her graduation, Mason took a job with the Harris County Justice Administration as a programmer but it didn’t take long before San Jacinto College came calling.
“The division chair at the time reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in being an instructor,” Mason said. “I had truly not ever considered it, but I thought given my tutoring experience, that I could apply and just see what might happen.”
Mason received a call from San Jacinto College’s first president, Dr. Thomas Spencer, confirming her position with the College. In the fall of 1980, Mason began teaching data processing, mainframe and key punch.
“I absolutely loved my job,” Mason said. “The first few years, I almost felt guilty getting paid to teach. It was so fun and rewarding.”
Mason recalls over her teaching career, “I would teach students and eventually their children, or parents would come through my courses. I would teach cousins, and neighbors. I have seen firsthand the impact that education makes on whole families and communities.”
After ten years in the classroom, Mason began taking on varied roles as co-department chair or rotating department chair ultimately being named department chair for business and information technology at the North Campus.
“I am so passionate about the difference teachers can make in student’s lives,” said Mason. “I’m not in the classroom anymore, but as a department chair, I’m able to affect change on a larger scale.”
As the department chair, Mason has been integral to the Pathways project, streamlining the student onboarding and admission process as well at creating seamless transfers to universities and other four-year institutions.
“I was one of the first faculty members to join Pathways and it is a continuing effort,” said Mason. “The work is so important to remove barriers that students might encounter in college, making it as easy as possible to succeed from the moment they step on campus.”
San Jacinto College has made many changes over Mason’s career, but one thing has remained consistent, the committed staff and faculty and continuous improvement mindset.
“I love how it is emphasized at the College that whether you are an instructor or groundskeeper, you serve a profound purpose helping students become successful,” said Mason. “I’ve heard my colleagues mention many times that they advise and teach students in a way they would want someone to treat their own children. That level of dedication and care is deep and sincere.”
The culmination of that dedication is the ultimate success of San Jacinto College students and guiding them toward graduation or transfer. Mason recalls the many commencement ceremonies she has participated in over the last 40 years.
“Some of my fondest memories are when my students invite me to meet their loved ones and even join them for a graduation celebration,” Mason said. “There are no words to describe the feeling of seeing students who were initially apprehensive in the first semesters develop into the graduates ready to conquer the world.”
In 2020, Mason received the Minnie Piper San Jacinto College Faculty Excellence Award, which goes to a faculty member who is a role model, collaborates with others, possesses exemplary attributes or qualifications, helps address or meet the needs of students and other employees, and is dedicated to service in the College community.
This September, Mason took on a new position as manager of Blackboard Support at the Central Campus.
“I have spent the last 40 years at the North Campus, and it has been a joy,” Mason said. “I love San Jacinto College and how much the employees care about students.”
Laughing, she said, “I hope to spend the next 40 years at the Central Campus.”