ASU grad achieves great heights in track and field, mental health advocacy
Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.
Spring 2020 Arizona State University graduate Mason Ford’s central goal is to change the world in some way. And during his time as a Sun Devil, his path as a talented high-jump competitor led him to effecting change on campus and beyond.
As an undergraduate, Ford studied business, sports and media studies and walked on to the ASU track and field team after starting his college career at Augustana University. The Chandler, Arizona, native went on to be the captain of the track and field team, co-president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
In graduate school, he studied sports law and business and became the president of Devils 4 Devils, which is a peer-to-peer program that provides training for students, faculty and community members to help participants improve their emotional-support skills and foster empathetic connections and mental health awareness among Sun Devils. He was inspired to advocate for mental health on campus after ASU Counseling Services helped him overcome a difficult period during his track career. He worked as a graduate assistant for ASU Athletics and worked as a management intern for ASU Counseling Services.
Ford has thought about starting a nonprofit that provides athletic equipment to kids who can’t afford it and creating card games that will help entertain people. Whatever the future holds, Ford knows he wants to make a difference.
“I genuinely want to change the world. I’ve had this notion in my head for a long time. I don’t know what that looks like, but maybe it’s just helping one person through a tough time,” he said. “At the end of the day community is the word that is most important to me. I want to do things that help build communities up.”
Ford talked with ASU Now about what advice he’d give to current students, what he learned during his time at ASU and what the future looks like for him.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: I remember going to an academic adviser and telling him that I definitely wanted to go into the business school and then he asked what my interests were and I said sports. Then I just stuck with it from there.
For graduate school, as a senior at ASU I had many friends who loved the sports law and business program, which really caught my interest, and I’m so glad I decided to pursue my master’s.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: I wouldn’t even know where to start. I’ve learned so much in the classroom, on the track and through the work I’ve done in conjunction with ASU that I’ve truly grown so much in all areas of my life. I think the biggest thing I learned is that we have to embrace community and work in collaboration with the people in our community to continue to improve our society as a whole.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I have been an ASU fan my entire life but I actually went out of state during my freshman year to pursue my dream of playing college basketball. I missed the desert and decided it was time to come home.
I risked a lot by leaving that school, but I gained so much by coming to ASU. I can honestly say that transferring to ASU is the best decision I have ever made.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: Oh my gosh. This is not a fair question at all. I’ve learned so much from all of them. I wish I could personally thank every single one of them. Maybe I will write them all letters to show them how instrumental they all were in my time at ASU.
But the first one who comes to mind is Professor Natesh Rao from my graduate program, who is also an associate athletic director here at ASU. In his class I got to see how truly creative you can be in the sports industry and he introduced me to the idea that through action, you can turn even the craziest ideas into reality.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Meet as many people as possible!
There are so many freaking awesome people here. Make it your goal to meet as many people who are different from you as possible. Different major, race, height, sexuality, cultural background, country, economic status. Meet all the people you can. I wish I would have done it sooner. You also never know who may be able to help you pursue your dreams down the road.
Also, don’t be afraid to seek out help. And help your friends! Maybe you don’t need the help from ASU Counseling Services, but let your friend know that it is OK and normal if they do.
ASU Counseling Services has been such a blessing to me in so many different ways from utilizing their services myself to allowing me to help others with the subject of mental health.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: Sun Angel Stadium. No doubt in my mind. There are a lot of great places on campus, the Secret Garden, Palm Walk, ASU bridge, but nothing comes close to the track. I spent more time there than anywhere else. I built some of my deepest bonds and friendships there. I accomplished a ton of my goals on that track and made all the best memories there. I’ve cried, laughed, yelled, laughed some more, thought the deepest of thoughts on that track. There is no better place in the world.
Some nights I would drive there and sit at the top of those steep bleachers. If you’ve ever been, you know how steep I’m talking. I would just sit and enjoy the view. You can see all of Tempe from those bleachers. I would just take it all in. The crisp air, the cars driving down Rural Road. That was my peace. There was nothing better. The memories and the bonds I made on that track will be with me forever.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I'm not quite sure, but that's OK. I have been working with the retailer Tommy John (founded by a husband and wife team who are both ASU alums!). I would love to continue to work for the company as they have been such an incredible company to work for.
I think I ultimately want to help athletes. I’ve said that for a while, and I’m not quite sure what that means but I think it is starting to form. I have had so much support as an athlete and I want to be able to give that support back and improve it for the next generation of athletes.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
Trying to make sure that no matter where you come from in America that you have access to resources that give students the best chance to get an in-depth education in whatever field they want to pursue whether it be academic or vocational. I would especially want to focus on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields to introduce those and emphasize the amazing ways people change the world in those fields.
Those fields tend to be under-marketed in lower-income districts. If we want to continue to advance society, we are going to have to give more people the opportunity to make improvements to the world we are living in.
Written by Sun Devil Storyteller Austin Davis and Hannah Moulton Belec, EOSS Marketing