Agenda for the Faculty Senate Meeting

November 7, 2007

Room B-113 Robinson Hall

3:00-4:15 p.m.



I.          Call to Order


            Rector Ernst Volgenau


II.        Approval of the Minutes of October 10, 2007


III.       Announcements


IV.       Unfinished Business


V.        New Business - Committee Reports


               A.  Senate Standing Committees

Executive Committee

Academic Policies

Budget & Resources

Faculty Matters

Nominations – Peter Pober is nominated to serve on the Transportation Committee

Organization & Operations


               B. Other Committees

   Technology Policy Committee


VI.       Other New Business

            Discussion of SACS Strategic Plan. See Attachment A or

   for the draft document.



VII.     Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty

                        Faculty Arts Board Dinner – November 30, 2007


VIII.    Adjournment


Attachment A

Strategic Plan

DRAFT: 10/25/07




Throughout its brief history as a free-standing institution, George Mason University has repeatedly challenged the traditional underpinnings that typically define higher education in the United States.  It has a history of questioning those traditions and establishing its own as it has grown and developed over the last 35 years.  In a relatively short time, the University has established itself as an institution that yields a high return on state investment, whether that is measured through enrollment, percentage of state support, or satisfaction ratings from students and/or employers.  In this short timeframe, the University has gone from a branch campus to a free-standing, comprehensive, doctoral institution, with what the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching calls “high research activity.”  This trajectory is due to many internal characteristics of the institution, including its location, its entrepreneurial ethos, its shared emphasis on teaching and scholarship, its ability to balance access and excellence, the physical attractiveness of its campuses, and the commitment to promoting an atmosphere of civility and respect at a very diverse University.


A Shared Emphasis on Teaching and Scholarship.  The University has always been built on maintaining a shared emphasis on teaching and scholarship, and has demonstrated that through its two Nobel prize-winning faculty members, and the senior faculty, who regularly teach undergraduate students, thereby bringing notable scholars to the University’s core mission of teaching.  Over the last seven years, the University has instituted four campus-wide academic initiatives related to teaching: 1) Writing across the Curriculum; 2) Technology across the Curriculum; 3) Critical Thinking across the Curriculum; and 4) Global Studies to strengthen further our expectations for our students and what they know and are able to do.  Additionally, University codifies its commitment to teaching through its established guidelines that provide for faculty to gain promotion and tenure by demonstrating genuine excellence in teaching.


In the area of research, over the last X years, the amount of external research support has gone from X to Y, with Z more faculty members participating in the development of grant proposals thereby widening the research productivity and scope of research interests across the University. [The information from the Research Committee will be inserted here.]


Entrepreneurial ethos.  If there is any one term that captures the history of the University, that term is entrepreneurial.  George Mason University is less bound by tradition, which has encouraged faculty and leadership to take advantage of opportunities that come their way.  The faculty and leadership find ways to make good opportunities happen; we have demonstrated an ability to be both creative and efficient in responding to the many opportunities the National Capital Region has to offer.  Examples can be found in every college, school, and institute of the University.  Some examples include our partnerships with the Smithsonian, the Capital Connection, INOVA Health Centers, the Center for History and the New Media, and Translational Research.


Location.  A significant advantage George Mason University enjoys is its location.  Situated in the heart of the National Capital Region, and the economic, political, and information technology capitals of the world, George Mason University has cultivated very strong ties in each of these areas.  Our students benefit from our location through internships, field experiences, and close institutional relationships to the employers who hire our graduates.  There is a convincing perception that we are connected to “the real world.” We strive to prepare our graduates to think deeply about real and complex problems.


In addition, the University enjoys the many opportunities for media placement that accrue from these relationships as faculty and leaders are routinely cited and quoted in The Washington Post, USA Today, and the New York Times, interviewed on local and national broadcast media, such as C-SPAN, CNN, National Public Radio, as well as testifying to Congressional committees on a wide variety of topics.  The mix of government, business, a burgeoning growth in the health care industry, and a rich environment for arts and culture allow for the University to reach out in multiple domains where there is often more work to be done than a traditional  institution can handle.


Diversity. The population of the National Capital Region continues to become one of the most diverse in the world.  It is estimated that over 100 languages are spoken in Fairfax County alone, and as many as 85 on languages are spoken on campus.  Such demographic diversity brings a wide range of perspectives that can both unite and divide.  There are many programs on campus throughout the year that provide multiple opportunities for the community to become enriched by our diversity.


Civility and Respect.  The University is committed to creating a climate of civility and tolerance that supports and protects freedom of speech and inquiry and respect for members of the entire University community.


Strategic Goals


In the remaining section of this plan, we identify six broad areas of strategic goals for the University.  These goals were derived through a process of identifying the University’s current internal strengths and weaknesses, and its external opportunities and threats.


I.  Student Success


The University seeks to attract inventive, industrious students of all ages and cultures and to produce citizens who are intellectually and technologically literate people who will lead by the force of their ideas.


The following strategic goals are proposed:


A.     Improve the incoming student profile at all levels, and continue to provide access to the University to Northern Virginia students


B.     Develop new student markets to increase the quality of the student profile and the quality of the classroom learning environments


C.     Continue to expand current initiatives in the improvement of teaching and learning, including Critical Thinking, Writing, Technology, and Global Studies across the curriculum


D.     Increase undergraduate financial aid and scholarships


E.      Increase the number of full-time doctoral students and graduate student financial support


F.      Increase student retention and graduation rates

1.      Improve student academic advising

2.      Expand the Honors and University Scholars program

3.      Increase undergraduate research opportunities


G.     Increase the quality of student outcomes by developing measures to quantify Mason’s connections to the “real world”

1.      Clarify student paths for study abroad, internships, service activities and increase levels of participation in these programs

2.      Provide more opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in research, scholarship, and creative activity


H.     Improve student engagement in on-campus life

1.      Expand weekend programming

2.      Increase the number of jobs on campus for undergraduate students

3.      Increase the residential student population

4.      Provide additional services (and scope/hours of service) to meet the increasing residential population

5.      Increase student study, lounge, and open program space around the campus


II. Future-oriented Academic programs


George Mason’s “Plan for 2007” stated the goal that by 2007 George Mason would be a national leader in the following four areas:  policy studies and law, information technology, arts, and the life sciences.  Now, in 2007, the university can claim success in having established these areas as spires of excellence, while acknowledging that there is still significant work to do to strengthen and sustain them.  As recently noted by the Provost to Mason’s Board of Visitors, these efforts to create leadership in special areas are in addition to the university’s mission in undergraduate education to: 1) promote undergraduate research; 2) develop student competence developed across the curriculum in areas such as writing, technology, critical thinking; and 3) serve well the diverse and changing student population.  In the area of future-oriented academic programs, we propose the following strategic goals:


A.      Sustain current spires to build on their strengths


B.     Develop the four newly identified spires recently ratified by the University Board of Visitors:

1)      bioengineering and neuroscience; 2) public health and chronic disability; 3) music;

and 4) global studies.


C.     Continue to identify and develop new spires of excellence


As we look to additional spires, they should meet the following criteria:


A.     Comparative advantage: Is the area one in which we can create a niche or otherwise compete at a national level.  Does Mason have the ability to leverage our location or special relationships that give us a comparative advantage in the academic market? 

B.     Resource requirements: Given the resources available now and anticipated from all sources (state, grants, contracts, etc.) can we invest sufficiently to grow and sustain this area as a spire of excellence?

C.     Faculty resources: Does Mason have specific faculty nationally known in their fields with strong research portfolios or creative accomplishments? Can we realistically attract other distinguished faculty in the area?

D.     Advanced study: Does Mason have or expect to have a strong doctoral level program where appropriate and can we expect to compete nationally for students in the area?  Does Mason have undergraduate programs in the area that attracts students nationally?


III. Global citizenship


The proposed strategic goals are:


A.     Leverage our diversity and location to create richer global understandings throughout the University community


B.     Develop criteria for strategic  international partnerships


C.     Achieve climate neutrality 


D.     Integrate sustainability into our academic programs


E.      Develop more fully a vision and plan for the development of campuses and programs outside U.S.


IV. Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity


The proposed strategic goals are:


A.     Increase research funding


B.     Increase growth trajectory of technology transfer


C.     Nurture and support research, scholarship, and creative activity not normally supported  by funding agencies


D.     Increase the number of full-time doctoral students and graduate student financial support



V.  Faculty, staff, and administration


The proposed strategic goals are:


A.     Increase the percentage of tenure and tenure-track faculty


B.     Diversify further the faculty, staff, and administration


C.      Continue to enhance the quality of worklife


D.     Achieve competitive compensation for faculty and staff


E.      Support all faculty in their teaching mission including technology support in the classroom and faculty development opportunities to improve the quality of the learning environment


F.      Develop and/or enhance administrative systems to increase operational efficiency


G.     Improve internal communications such that campus constituents are informed of major decisions that affect the quality of campus life to create a greater sense of community and commitment to the University.


VI. External community, alumni, and reputation


The proposed strategic goals are:


A.     Become a pre-eminent public university

1.      Improve the incoming student profile at all levels

2.      Increase research and creative activity

3.      Serve the region through a mixture of distributed campuses and technological outreach, research and community service


B.     Establish closer alumni relationships with the University; strengthen systems, processes and programs and create a “more connected” alumni


C.     Be the recognized regional leader for the performing arts



Building Capacity for Achieving these Goals


In order for the University to accomplish the strategic goals above over the next X years, the members of the Strategic Planning Committee foresee the need for processes that will facilitate the realization of this strategic plan. In many ways, these involve aspects of the University’s infrastructure that must be addressed to achieve this plan.


1.      Develop knowledge management processes to support a more inclusive and interdependent planning and budgeting effort


2.      Enhance the integration of planning across  facilities, business, technology, research, enrollment, residence (housing), library, and academic planning


3.      Increase funding through multiple sources


4.      Develop a long term plan to increase public funding


5.      Develop a long term plan to increase foundation support


6.      Explore optimal tuition/fee and discount levels


7.      Leverage public and private partnerships to advance the University’s mission


8.      Expand private and alumni giving


9.      Integrate the distributed campuses into a more coherent whole; establish recognized and distinct draws for each campus


10.  Facility-specific planning and budget:

A.     Expand lab space to meet research and course need projections

B.     Plan for housing at all campuses, with attention to transfer, graduate, and faculty/staff populations


Issues under Discussion


Four large issues have been raised and/or are under active discussion by the Board of Visitors or administrative leadership of the University.  The planning committee has opted not to include these in this strategic planning process as there is not yet institutional commitment to these projects.  Data are still being gathered, and decisions have not yet been reached. The committee feels it is important to acknowledge that these issues are (and many have been perennially) under discussion/consideration, despite not currently being at a point in development sufficient for inclusion in a strategic planning document.


A.     The expansion of the intercollegiate athletics programs


B.     The possibility of establishing a medical school


C.     The development of a University-based Retirement Community


D.     The development of a master plan for the Loudoun campus