The Board of Trustees of The City University of New York today voted to appoint Karol V. Mason, a legal pioneer and former United States Assistant Attorney General, as the fifth president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
In her long legal career in both the private and public sectors, President-Designate Mason has been an exceptional voice for equality, fairness and criminal justice reform, issues that are at the heart of John Jay’s mission. She was a leader in the Obama Administration on juvenile justice issues, bail reform and re-entry for individuals leaving prison, and in her distinguished career at Alston & Bird LLP she was the first African American woman elected as chair of the management committee at any major national firm.
President-Designate Mason, who will assume office on August 1, was recommended by Chancellor James B. Milliken after an extensive national search. She will be the first woman and the first minority to serve as president of the college, whose motto is, “educating for justice.”
“Karol Mason has established herself as a bold, visionary leader in the fields of law and criminal justice reform and she will be ideal for continuing the history of excellence and inspiration at John Jay College,” said Chancellor James B. Milliken. “I am delighted that she will be bringing her skills, energy and insights to our outstanding students and I am proud of the choice of such a gifted new president.”
As head of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, President-Designate Mason oversaw an annual budget of $4 billion to support an array of state and local criminal justice agencies, juvenile justice programs and services for crime victims, oversaw the National Institute of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, among a wide range of other efforts. She led the Department of Justice’s work to address the issue of community trust in the justice system through a variety of programs, including the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, a partnership with John Jay College and other academic institutions across the country designed to address bias in the criminal justice system.
Board of Trustees Chairperson William C. Thompson, Jr. said: “We could not be happier that Karol Mason has chosen to continue her extraordinary career at CUNY, or prouder of the historical significance of her appointment. A thoughtful and innovative leader on some of the most important criminal justice issues of the day, she is uniquely qualified to lead a new era at one of the country’s premier criminal justice and liberal arts institutions.”
Eric Holder, the United States Attorney General from 2009 to 2015, commented: “In a nation grappling with issues surrounding its criminal justice system, the appointment of Karol Mason at John Jay College is a welcome sign that evidence-based solutions to these issues will be championed. Throughout her career, and especially during her time at the Department of Justice, Karol was an advocate for principled research and the development of new ways to deal with issues that we have confronted for so long. In this new role at this prestigious institution I am confident she will be a leader in helping to make the progress our nation so sorely needs."
President-Designate Mason said: “John Jay has been a progressive leader in improving law enforcement and addressing the toughest issues in our criminal and juvenile justice systems, while also educating the next generation of law enforcement and other criminal justice professionals. Serving as the college’s president will afford a unique opportunity for me to combine my passion to improve access to higher education, generally, and particularly for communities often marginalized, with my desire to continue to improve our criminal and juvenile justice systems so that they reflect our highest ideals.”
President-Designate Mason succeeds Jeremy Travis, who has served as president since August, 2004. President Travis has been a leading researcher and advocate on criminal justice issues, particularly police reform, and helped transform John Jay College into a broad-based, exceptionally diverse liberal arts institution. Under his leadership the college built and moved into its state-of-the-art, expanded campus. President Travis will continue to be affiliated with CUNY. He will be University Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he will teach in the doctoral program in criminal justice and conduct research.
The search for his successor was conducted by a Board of Trustees committee chaired by Trustee Charles A. Shorter. At the conclusion of an extensive national search, the committee recommended three finalists. Chancellor Milliken recommended Ms. Mason to the board of trustees for approval.
Previously, Ms. Mason served as Deputy Associate Attorney General, from April 2009 to February 2012. She also led the Office of Justice Programs from June 2013 to January 2017 after being nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. President-Designate Mason spent almost three decades at Alston & Bird, LLP, where she chaired the Public Finance Group. Ms. Mason was also a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 2001 to 2009 and Vice Chair of that Board from 2007 to 2009.
About The City University of New York
The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in New York City in 1847, the University comprises 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the CUNY Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the CUNY School of Public Health and Health Policy. The University serves more than 270,000 degree-seeking students and 260,000 adult and continuing education students.
About John Jay College of Criminal Justice
An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to more than 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law.