September 1, 2021
Kirsten Mason-Jones raised a family and learned American Sign Language before embarking on her next chapter as a law student.

Talk about your journey to law school

I have spent the last 25 years primarily raising a family.  My husband and I have four adult children (one of which has Down syndrome) and apart from being a freelance American Sign Language interpreter, their raising has taken up the bulk of that time.  When I went to college directly after high school I had every intention of becoming an attorney but, due to a series of unfortunate events, I made it to my last semester of Rutgers undergrad and did not graduate.  Devastated, I allowed that to paralyze me and did not go back and finish my bachelor's degree until this past summer in the middle of a global pandemic.  In the interim, I'd married my husband and had a wonderful life raising a family.  I'd given up on the law career and was perfectly content with my life as it had evolved.  It wasn't until 2018 when my oldest son found himself in a bit of legal trouble as a senior in college in North Carolina that my passions about the law reignited.  Being front and center as he went through a year-long legal process really frustrated me about the lack of resources my community had related to law.  I gave myself 6 months to pray and think about it, then enrolled to complete my undergraduate degree and began the law school application process.  

What appealed to you about Rutgers Law? 

Although I'd matriculated through Rutgers University for undergraduate, I began my college career at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.  My love for historically black colleges and universities has never diminished but it was not at all feasible for me to even consider relocating for law school.  So in my quest for a law school, when I learned of the MSP program at Rutgers I became so excited.  The mission and culture of the MSP program seemed (and has proven to be) so reflective of the things I'd experienced and reverenced at an HBCU.  Rutgers' public interest history was quite attractive as well.  Each evening of the MSP orientation made it more apparent that Rutgers was exactly where I needed to be.  I know I'm never completely sure of a decision while in the process of making it, but just as my law school timing turned out to be perfect in that this is the exact time in my life that I need to be on this journey, my decision to attend Rutgers and join the MSP program turned out to be the perfect decision as well.  

Talk about yourself and your background

 I am the second of six children and was raised in Plainfield, NJ.  My husband and I were neighbors as small children - we both went away to college only to return to our town and each other.  Our parents still live in town and we've raised our children in Plainfield as well.  Being fluent in American Sign Language is a fun fact people always find interesting.  It is not a trait you hear about all the time.  When pregnant with my second child (he was born with Down syndrome), I was told he could be born deaf.  My mother and I immediately enrolled in an American sign language course.  My son was born hearing but by then I'd already fallen in love with the language and deaf culture so I continued through the interpreting program.  My son is now 22 years old - I've been interpreting ever since.  

What are your post-law school career goals?

Probably unlike most of my classmates, my husband and I were discussing retirement just before I decided to begin law school so my post-law school plans may look a bit different from others.  I am deeply interested in public interest law of some sort.  MSP orientation, among other things, taught me to keep an open-mind and embrace creativity as it relates to practice so I plan to do just that.  I do want to, however, impact the area of social justice and public interest in some significant way.  Thankfully, I will have the freedom to do things out of passion more so than any other motivation as my husband is approaching retirement, our children are all adults and I am truly doing this only because I want to.  

Rutgers Law Media Contact:
Shanida Carter

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