About George Mason
- Vision for the New Century
- Faculty and Students
- Distributed University
- Mason, the Man
- University History
- University’s Mission
- University Foundation
George Mason will be the university needed by a region and a world driven by new social, economic, and technological realities.
We are in the right place: The nation’s capital region is the epicenter of the world’s political web, its information and communications network, and its new economy.
We are ready: In an age that demands originality and imagination, George Mason is among the nation’s most innovative universities.
George Mason will:
- Be a magnet for outstanding faculty who will devise new ways to approach problems, invent new ways to teach, and develop new knowledge for the benefit of the region and nation.
- Attract inventive, industrious students of all ages and cultures and produce citizens who are intellectually and technologically literate—people who will lead by the force of their ideas.
- Transform into knowledge and wisdom the vast amounts of information now accessible through new technologies.
- Build strong alliances that bring the know-how of business and the community into the university, and take the knowledge of the university into the workplace and the larger society.
- Be a center of inquiry, knowledge, and professional expertise in fields with vital implications for human needs and opportunities in the future.
- Remain innovative, resourceful, and responsive, while drawing on the intellectual and cultural heritage of the classical university.
By Alan G. Merten
President, George Mason University
Faculty and Students
The university’s more than 900 full-time instructional and research faculty members are experts in a broad range of fields. They have published widely, contributed to major research findings, and consulted with government and business officials. Faculty members have received grants and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, Templeton Foundation, National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and National Endowment for the Humanities, and are winners of Fulbright Scholar grants and Mellon Fellowships.
Of particular interest to undergraduates are the Robinson Professors, outstanding scholars in the liberal arts and sciences who have come to Mason from prestigious positions elsewhere. They are concerned with broad and fundamental intellectual issues and are dedicated to undergraduate teaching. The Schedule of Classes printed every semester provides details about courses taught by Robinson Professors.
The majority of the university’s nearly 29,000 students are from Virginia. However, all 50 states and Washington, D.C., as well as 135 countries and regions, are represented in the student body. In the Princeton Review’s most recent survey of more than 110,000 students at 357 top colleges, Mason ranks number one in the nation in diversity.
While full-time undergraduates, 18 to 24 years in age, make up the largest student group, part-time graduate and undergraduate students account for nearly half of the student population. Mason welcomes qualified students with a wide range of interests and backgrounds.
George Mason is a distributed university, with three campuses in Fairfax, Arlington, and Prince William counties, and satellite sites in Herndon and Reston. The university also plans to establish two new campuses. One will be located in Loudon County on 123 acres of property donated by a Virginia developer, while the other will be located in the United Arab Emirates.
Each Mason campus has a distinctive academic focus that plays a critical role in the economy of the surrounding region. At each campus, students and faculty have access to all the university’s resources, while duplication of programs and support services is minimized through the use of technology.
Situated on 677 acres of wooded land, the Fairfax Campus offers a wealth of opportunities beyond the numerous academic programs, and continues to be the principal center for undergraduate residence and life. The resident student population is expected to grow to 5,000 during the next five years as new residential units are constructed.
The George W. Johnson Center, the first building of its kind in the country, fosters university-wide learning by integrating students’ curricular and extracurricular activities and by strengthening relationships among university communities.
The Center for the Arts and the Patriot Center offer numerous opportunities to experience the arts as well as sports and other entertainment. Professional artistic events presented on campus include music and dance from around the world; Theater of the First Amendment, Mason’s professional equity theater company that celebrates free speech; and regional, national, and international visual art exhibitions. Free tickets are available to these events for full-time Mason students.
The Aquatics and Fitness Center provides state-of-the-art exercise equipment as well as competitive and recreational swimming to the university community and outside teams.
Located in the heart of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, the Arlington Campus enjoys an alliance with approximately 200 high-tech firms. George Mason’s commitment to form relationships with area businesses provides students with direct access to employment experience and career opportunities.
The newest building is the beginning of a three-phase plan to develop the 5.2-acre site. Upon completion of all three phases, the Arlington Campus will include 750,000 square feet of space and many new facilities to accommodate its projected 8,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.
The Arlington Campus offers courses that focus on economics, public policy, and public administration, and it is home to the university’s School of Law. The Volgenau School of Information Technology and Engineering (IT&E) offers special certification courses in information technology through its Tech Advance Professional Education Program. While most of the programs offered on the Arlington Campus are on the graduate and professional levels, some undergraduate courses are available.
The Arlington Campus is the location of the Mercatus Center; the James M. Buchanan Center for Political Economy; and the Institute for Humane Studies, an independent entity affiliated with the university. These groups work together on projects of mutual interest. In addition, the campus houses the Professional Center, which works with the community to provide a venue for special events.
Prince William Campus
This campus is located on 124 acres in Manassas, near the intersection of I-66 and the Prince William Parkway. The campus serves all of Northern Virginia and offers convenient access to the university for citizens of Prince William, Fauquier, and western Fairfax counties; the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park; and adjoining areas to the west and south. The campus comprises four buildings: a research facility, two academic buildings, and a recreational and fitness center.
Through mutually beneficial partnerships with local government and area businesses, the campus has positioned itself to tap into the unique assets of the surrounding community while providing access to university resources and programs for students and citizens.
A major focus of the campus is research and academic programs in the life sciences, including biodefense and infectious diseases, cancer proteomics, genomics, and bioinformatics. Design and construction plans have begun for a regional biocontainment laboratory, funded in part by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. This laboratory will house research on emerging infectious diseases or those caused by biological threat agents.
Programs in teacher education, administration of justice, business, information technology, health and fitness, recreation, exercise science, health promotion, parks and outdoor recreation, sport management, therapeutic recreation, tourism and events management, and athletic training also are offered on the campus. Professional certificate programs are available through the Office of Continuing Professional Education (OCPE).
Campus resources that are available to all university students, faculty, and staff include a full-service library, a large drop-in computer lab, an information center, university police, a university bookstore, dining services, student lounge space, an intercampus shuttle bus between the Fairfax and Prince William Campuses, and a full complement of student and academic services. Additionally, there are numerous opportunities to get involved in campus life through a variety of cocurricular and extracurricular activities.
Many campus facilities and services are available to serve both university and community needs. The 300-seat Verizon Auditorium boasts innovative audiovisual technologies suitable for presentations, meetings, and ceremonies, along with lobby space for receptions and displays.
The 110,000-square-foot Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center offers state-of-the-art exercise equipment, group fitness programs, a full gymnasium with elevated track, and recreational and instructional swimming in a 50-meter competition pool. It is also home to Mason’s human performance lab, classrooms, and other meeting space.
The Mason Enterprise Center is part of the university’s network of enterprise centers that has played a major role in enhancing commerce and developing new programs in support of small businesses throughout Virginia. The center brings this experience and diversity of services to support growing businesses and entrepreneurs in the Manassas and Prince William County areas. It also offers a telework center for low-cost telecommuting in a professional office environment.
The OCPE’s Herndon Training Center, located off the Dulles Toll Road and Route 28, provides a wide range of yearly open-enrollment seminars and workshops in its meeting facilities. The Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) classrooms are fully electronic and include a groupware platform. The School of Management’s Executive Master of Business Administration program and the Volgenau School of Information Technology and Engineering’s (IT&E) Train to Technology program are located here.
Mason, the Man
When George Mason (1725-92) wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776, he gave America the noble concept that the rights of the individual must be protected against the power of government. By placing in Virginia’s first constitution a list of rights that could never be taken away from citizens, Mason sought to ensure a society in which government could not become all-powerful.
As a result of his influence, the first 10 amendments, which we know as the Bill of Rights, were added to the U.S. Constitution. The universal significance of this action made the American Revolution much more than a war for independence from Great Britain; it enshrined in our most important public document the principle that a government must always respect the rights of the people.
Mason, a slave owner, did not recognize that those rights extended to slaves. Nevertheless, his words were later used to demonstrate that slavery could not exist in a country that proclaimed its belief in human rights. While we as a country have not always adhered to Mason’s great ideas, they remain the measure of the best in our national life.
The university’s growing reputation as an innovative educational leader is rooted in Virginia’s strong educational tradition. By emphasizing high technology, public policy, and fine and performing arts, Mason has created a curriculum and mission to meet the needs of Northern Virginia’s extraordinary cosmopolitan constituency.
The idea for George Mason University was born in 1949 when the Northern Virginia University Center, essentially an adult-education extension of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, opened under the direction of John Norville Gibson Finley. In 1955 and again in 1956, the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia and Virginia legislature authorized the establishment of a two-year branch college to serve Northern Virginia.
The university’s formal history began in 1957 as University College, the Northern Virginia branch of the University of Virginia, offering courses in engineering and the liberal arts. It opened in a renovated elementary school in the Bailey’s Crossroads area with an enrollment of 17 students.
Eager to support the fledgling institution, the Town (now City) of Fairfax purchased 150 acres in 1958, and donated the land to the University of Virginia for a permanent branch campus. The following year, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors selected the name George Mason College. Construction of the campus’s first four buildings was completed in 1964. In September of that year, 356 students began their studies in the new classrooms.
In March 1966, the General Assembly authorized the expansion of George Mason College into a four-year, degree-granting institution, and gave it the long-range mandate to expand into a major regional university. The first senior class received degrees in June 1968. Graduate programs began in September 1970, with the first master’s degrees conferred in June 1971. The George Mason College Board of Control, supported by citizens of the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church, and Arlington and Fairfax counties, acquired an additional 422 acres. By the end of 1970, the college’s Fairfax Campus reached 572 acres; it is now 677 acres.
In 1972, the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia recommended that the college separate from its parent institution. On April 7 of that year, the governor signed the General Assembly legislation that established George Mason University as an independent member of Virginia’s system of colleges and universities.
Since 1972, the university’s development has been marked by rapid growth and innovative planning. In 29 years, enrollment has risen from 4,166 to more than 29,000 students in 2005. In 1979, Mason was given the authority to grant doctoral degrees and began offering programs at this level. In the same year, the university acquired what became George Mason University School of Law, located on the Arlington Campus.
In 1984, the first Robinson Professors, a group of outstanding scholars committed to undergraduate teaching and interdisciplinary scholarship, joined the faculty as the result of a generous bequest from the estate of Clarence J. Robinson.
Drawing prominent scholars from all fields, Mason’s outstanding faculty includes Pulitzer Prize winners; Nobel laureates; IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Centennial Medalists; and recipients of numerous Fulbright, National Science Foundation, and National Endowment of the Arts grants and awards, among others. More than 30 endowed chairs at the university have also brought many artists and scholars to campus.
In 1985, Mason partnered with area businesses to develop an engineering program geared toward the emerging information technology field and started what is now the Volgenau School of Information Technology and Engineering (IT&E). Through IT&E, George Mason was the first institution in the country to offer a doctoral degree in information technology.
The establishment in 1990 of the Institute of the Arts, which became the College of Visual and Performing Arts in 2000, solidified the university’s commitment to make the arts an integral part of students’ lives. The Center for the Arts and the arts complex, which includes art galleries, studio and rehearsal space, and performing venues such as Harris Theater and TheaterSpace, are all components of the -college.
On the Fairfax campus, the innovative George W. Johnson Center was dedicated in April 1996. By combining student life resources with educational support facilities such as an interactive library, Mason has created the learning workspace of the future. Educational administrators from around the world have toured the center.
The university has achieved national distinction in many areas. Its reputation continues to grow as Mason provides educational, cultural, and economic resources not only for the people of Northern Virginia and Commonwealth of Virginia, but also the nation and the world at large.
The mission statement of the Board of Visitors was adopted in 1991. It reads as follows:
“George Mason University will be an institution of international academic reputation providing superior education for students to develop critical, analytical, and imaginative thinking and to make well-founded ethical decisions. It will respond to the call for interdisciplinary research and teaching, not simply by adding programs but by rethinking the traditional structure of the academy.
The university will prepare students to address the complex issues facing them in society and to discover meaning in their own lives. It will encourage diversity in its student body and will meet the needs of students by providing them with interdisciplinary and innovative undergraduate, graduate, and professional courses. The university will energetically seek ways to interact with and serve the needs of the student body.
The university will nurture and support a faculty that is diverse, innovative, excellent in teaching, active in pure and applied research, and responsive to the needs of students and the community. The faculty will embody the university’s interactive approach to change both in the academy and in the world.
The university will be a resource of the Commonwealth of Virginia serving private and public sectors. It will be an intellectual and cultural nexus between Northern Virginia, the nation, and the world.”
George Mason University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. The university is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools in the United States.
Established in 1966, the George Mason University Foundation works to advance the aims and purposes of the university. It is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit foundation organized and operated exclusively for the benefit of the university.
The foundation assists Mason in generating private support and manages, invests, and administers private gifts, including endowment and real property. The foundation is governed by a volunteer Board of Trustees that is led by a chairman. The vice president of university development and alumni affairs serves as the foundation president.