Washington welcomes incoming students to 'a start like none other'

Overcoming challenges posed by COVID-19 will serve as an enduring source of pride and strength for first-year George Mason University students, President Gregory Washington said Friday in a videotaped discussion for New Student Convocation.

As of the first day of classes Monday, Mason welcomed a record-high 6,863 new students in pursuit of an undergraduate degree—that includes first-time freshmen and those transferring from other institutions.

“Ten years, 15 years, 20 years from now, you’re going to look back on your careers and say, you know, my college career didn’t begin like everybody else’s,” Washington said. “You have had a start like none other because you’re going to have a finish like none other.

“This is just another set of hurdles on our path….. There is going to be a sense of accomplishment that we will be able to take with us for the rest of our careers.”

New Student Convocation, part of the university’s Welcome2Mason events, can be viewed here along with other videotaped features geared toward incoming students. Mason incorporated more virtual elements into its welcoming events this year, including an exclusive Q&A for students with actress/comedian Tiffany Haddish on Friday.

In addition, there was a drive-in movie on West Campus on Sunday, and this week’s Welcome2Mason programming includes tie-dyeing on the Merten Hall Lawn on Thursday afternoon and an appearance by comedian/magician Ran’D Shine in the Center for the Arts (also available via livestream) on Saturday.

Washington’s 15-minute in-person and masked New Student Convocation talk with Bethany Usher, associate provost for undergraduate education, and three upperclassmen, was an adapted version of the usual convocation, which entails the newest Patriots rolling into EagleBank Arena to hear enthusiastic support and advice from faculty and staff and to put faces with names of university leaders.

Washington’s more intimate talk covered his first day as a “scared to death” first-generation college student at North Carolina State University, the supportive environment Mason provides for students, and the inspiring effect of educators on his life, including his high school physics teacher.

“It highlighted to me what a teacher can be, how much impact one person can have on the lives of many,” Washington said. “I am positive that there are a number of individuals like that on our campus that are going to engage all of you and that are going to give you a love for the disciplines in which you all have endeavored to pursue in ways in which you’ve never imagined.”

The three upperclassmen each offered advice for incoming students.