Juliana Mascari ’16 (BA), ’19 (JD): A Double USD Graduate in Bloom

TOPICS: Alumni

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

San Diego (May 22, 2019) – Juliana Mascari knew the University of San Diego was the right place after her initial campus visit. Yet, she toured it a few more times before officially beginning her undergraduate student experience.

“I just loved this school so much,” she recalled about the extra visits. Mascari still remembers what USD Monsignor Dan Dillabough said in a talk that she took to heart.

“‘Not only is this campus a garden in terms of its beauty, but this is a place where you can grow and flourish, and really become the best person you can be,” she recited from Dillabough's speech. “You’re going to add to this garden where we have all different types of people doing all types of different things.’”

Mascari called it “the hook that got me.”

Her desire to attend and, subsequently, thrive at the Catholic university has been evident through her education decisions and involvement. On May 18, Mascari walked across the Jenny Craig Pavilion stage for the second time in six years, earning a Juris Doctor from USD School of Law at age 23. This milestone achievement came on the not-too-distant-heels of her undergraduate graduation in 2016 from USD when, at age 20, she earned a bachelor’s degree in English, minored in Theology and Religious Studies and did it in only three years.

“I wasn’t ready to leave,” she said about her undergraduate graduation. She had applied and was accepted into the School of Leadership and Education Sciences’ Masters in Higher Education Leadership program. However, a special stipulation for law applicants with a high GPA and high SAT/ACT score and a baseline minimum scholarship that could grow and the fact she could skip the LSAT exam was a big factor in graduating early and entering law school that fall.

It wasn’t an easy three years of law school, of course, but Mascari believes she made the right decision. She had also been an undergraduate student when USD’s designation as an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus was hitting its initial stride.

As an undergrad, Mascari was active in student life. She was president of University Ministry’s Students for Life, served as vice president of philanthropy for Alpha Chi Omega, managed the Creative Zone in the Student Life Pavilion, worked in the Student Leadership for Involvement and Changemaking (SLIC), attended Search Retreat and more.

“Everything was centered around being a Changemaker. It was a vehicle for how I described myself. With my Catholic background, I knew I wanted to use my education to make things better in the world. Every aspect of campus pushed me. In Alpha Chi Omega our philanthropy centered on domestic violence awareness, in Students’ for Life it was about the dignity of each person and expanded on how to make change in the community. I co-taught a leadership course with Juan Carlos (Rivas in USD’s Changemaker Hub) that instilled it even more.”

Mascari came to law school with the Changemaker mentality and feels the law school deserves to be a major player in the university's approach. “Attorneys, to me, are Changemakers in their own way, regardless of what position someone has post-graduation. I know I thought that if I'm wanting to make systemic change, the degree I need to do that is a JD.”

Her father is an attorney and two younger sisters are also in law school, including one who will start at USD School of Law this fall. 

The work Mascari has put in these last three years was a transition from her undergraduate experience. “I wasn’t as involved in school-spirited stuff. Law school is a different beast.”

She worked in external relations under Law School Director of Development, Debbie Rider, and worked as a teacher’s assistant for Gail Greene, JD, professor of Legal Writing, where she took the class and then had student office hours to be a resource for others. She was a member of Law Review and served as Articles Editor. She took part in the Jewish Law Students Association, even though she is Catholic, but one of her best friends was the president and she enjoyed spending time with the group.

Family and friends, as well as her boyfriend, USD alumnus Austin Jacobs, provided Mascari with plenty of support and she leaned on it many times throughout law school.

“USD undergrad does such a great job of building community,” she said. “Not that the law school doesn’t, but the nature of law school prevents it from being entirely communal. You’re on your own a lot more and you have to be an adult and not as reliant on internal groups in the school. Don’t get me wrong, study groups are great and helpful, friends are great and helpful, but you’re carrying a bigger weight on your shoulders than in undergrad.”

She pointed to the competitive nature in law school, noting that grading is done on a Bell Curve — “It’s not just based on how hard you work; your grade is dependent on your willingness to go above and beyond other students. While I’m not a highly competitive person, it may have played into my feelings of it being less communal. Law school is a full-time job and then some. There were days when after I had been studying for 10-12 hours and not interacting much with others that when I was done, I just wanted to go home.”

She experienced another law school tradition — to adhere to the same standard study methods employed by other students through the years or not.

“I accepted that my study methods might be different and tried to figure it out,” she said. When her Criminal Law final exam neared, she went to the USD Creative Zone and “pulled several feet of butcher paper, took magic markers and outlined and color coded everything. It was on the staircase of my apartment. I sat on the stairs, turning my head back and forth. It might not work for many other law students, but it worked for me. When I started doing this, my grades went up each semester. I remember when a pre-law fraternity asked me to speak and my advice was like an Elle Woods’ moment (from the movie Legally Blonde) that when you decide to do law school your own way is when it will get better and your grades will get better.”

Still another major discovery for Mascari is that she's got a post-graduation job to match her passion of working on behalf of children. She'll take the California Bar Exam in late July and is going on vacation in August, but a summer 2018 internship earned Mascari a full-time job at the Carlsbad-based law firm of Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost LLP “doing special education law, making sure that schools follow all regulations. It’s a great fit. I had no idea my job existed before law school and now I’m completely in love with it.”

Mascari is ready to leave the USD garden, but she’s ready to bloom again.

— Ryan T. Blystone

Juliana Mascari and family at 2019 School of Law GraduationJuliana Mascari, middle, celebrated with her family members at the May 18 USD School of Law graduation. Mascari is a double alumna of USD, having received her BA in English in 2016.

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