George Mason University 1997-98 Catalog Catalog Index
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About George Mason

Board of Visitors

Membership of the Board of Visitors is as of July 1996.

George Mason, 1725-1792

When George Mason of Gunston Hall wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776, he gave the United States 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 United States 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, himself a slave owner, did not recognize that these 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. In the United States we have not always adhered to Mason's great ideas, but they remain the measure of the best in our national life.

Highlights of George Mason's History

George Mason University's growing reputation as an innovative educational leader is rooted in Virginia's strong educational tradition. By emphasizing the needs of its region, high technology, public policy, and the fine and performing arts, George Mason has created a curriculum and mission to meet the needs of Northern Virginia's extraordinary cosmopolitan constituency.

The university began as the Northern Virginia branch of the University of Virginia in 1957, offering courses in engineering and the liberal arts. Called University College, it opened in a renovated elementary school in Bailey's Crossroads 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 it 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 Alexandria, Falls Church, and Arlington and Fairfax counties, acquired an additional 442 acres. By the end of 1970, the college's Fairfax Campus reached 571 acres; it is now 583 acres.

In 1972, the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia recommended that the college separate from its parent institution. On April 7, the governor signed the General Assembly legislation that established George Mason University as an independent member of the commonwealth's system of colleges and universities.

Since 1972, the university's development has been marked by rapid growth and innovative planning. In 23 years, enrollment has risen from 4,166 to more than 24,000 in 1997. In 1979, George 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 at the Arlington Campus.

In 1984, the first Robinson Professors, a group of outstanding scholars commited to undergraduate teaching and interdisciplinary scholarship, joined the faculty as the result of a generous bequest from Clarence J. Robinson.

Drawing prominent scholars from all fields, George Mason's outstanding faculty also includes James M. Buchanan, Nobel laureate in economics, Pulitzer Prize winners, IEEE Centennial Medalists, and recipients of numerous Fulbright, National Science Foundation, and National Endowment of the Arts grants and awards, among others. Endowed chairs have also brought many artists and scholars to campus.

In 1985, George Mason, in partnership with area businesses, developed an engineering program geared toward the emerging information technology field and started the School of Information Technology and Engineering (SITE). Through SITE, George Mason was also the first in the country to offer a doctoral degree in information technology.

The establishment of the Institute of the Arts in 1990 solidified the university's commitment to make the arts a pervasive 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 TheaterSpace, are all components of the institute.

George Mason has expanded its presence to serve the entire NorthernVirginia region by employing the revolutionary concept of the "distributed" university. In collaboration with county and state governments, the university established the Prince William Campus in Prince William County. A partnership with American Type Culture Collection, the world's foremost archive of living cultures, will lead to academic programs focusing on biosciences and make Prince William County a center for biotechnology. Construction of the first building is expected to be completed in 1997. The university is also expanding its presence in Arlington. Construction has begun on a new building, and plans are underway to increase in programming at Arlington with the addition of course offerings and degree programs.

The innovative George W. Johnson Center was dedicated on April 12, 1996. By combining student life resources with educational support facilities like an interactive library, George Mason has created the learning workspace of the future. Educational administrators from around the world have already come to tour the center.

George Mason University has achieved national distinction in many areas. Its reputation continues to grow as the university provides for an educational, cultural, and economic resource for the people of Northern Virginia, the commonwealth of Virginia, and the nation.

The University's Mission

The mission statement of the Board of Visitors reads as follows:

George Mason University will be an institution of international academic reputation providing superior education enabling 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 undergraduate, graduate, and professional courses of study that are interdisciplinary and innovative. 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, and 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 and will be an intellectual and cultural nexus between Northern Virginia, the nation, and the world.

Adopted January 1991.

Faculty and Students

The university's more than 760 full-time instructional faculty members are experts in a broad range of fields, who have published widely, contributed to major research findings, and consulted with government and business. The faculty includes a Nobel laureate, winners of awards from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, and winners of Fulbright Awards and Mellon Fellowships.

Of particular interest to undergraduates are the Robinson Professors, outstanding scholars in the liberal arts and sciences who have come to George 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 gives details about courses being taught by Robinson Professors.

The majority of the university's more than 24,000 students are from Virginia, with the other 49 states and 108 foreign countries well represented in the student body. While full-time undergraduates, 18 to 24 years in age, make up the largest student group, part-time graduate and undergraduate students, 25 and up, are growing in numbers. George Mason welcomes qualified students with a wide range of interests and backgrounds.

Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area

George Mason University is a member of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area. Full participating Consortium members are American University, The Catholic University of America, Gallaudet University, George Mason University, The George Washington University, Georgetown University, Howard University, Marymount University, Mount Vernon College, Trinity College, University of the District of Columbia, and the University of Maryland--College Park.

Eligible students have the opportunity to benefit from the academic offerings of member institutions and to enroll for courses at any of the participating institutions. Students register and pay the tuition of their home institution for all Consortium courses. See the Academic Policies section of this catalog for information on Consortium course registration procedures.


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, and is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools in the United States.

ORAU Statement

Since 1993, students and faculty of George Mason University have benefited from its membership in Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU). Located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, ORAU is a consortium of colleges and universities and a management and operating contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). ORAU works with its member institutions to help their students and faculty gain access to federal research facilities throughout the country; to keep its members informed about opportunities for fellowship, scholarship, and research appointments; and to organize research alliances among its members.

Through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, the DOE facility that ORAU manages, undergraduates, graduates, postgraduates, as well as faculty enjoy access to a multitude of opportunities for study and research. Students can participate in programs covering a wide variety of disciplines including business, earth sciences, epidemiology, engineering, physics, geological sciences, pharmacology, ocean sciences, biomedical sciences, nuclear chemistry, and mathematics. Appointment and program length range from one month to four years. Many of these programs are especially designed to increase the numbers of underrepresented minority students pursuing degrees in science-and engineering-related disciplines. A comprehensive listing of these programs and other opportunities, their disciplines, and details on locations and benefits can be found in the Resource Guide, which is available on the World Wide Web at, or by calling either of the contacts below. ORAU's Office of Higher Education Initiatives seeks opportunities for partnerships and alliances among ORAU's members, private industry, and major federal facilities. Activities include faculty development programs, such as the Junior Faculty Enhancement Awards and the Visiting Industrial Scientist Program, and various services to chief research officers.

For more information about ORAU and its programs, contact the Vice Provost for Research, ORAU Council member, at (703) 993-8865; contact Monnie E. Champion, ORAU Corporate Secretary, at (423) 576-3306; or the ORAU Home Page at

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