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George Mason University President Gregory Washington last week outlined his goals for the coming academic year, including the establishment of the Mason Virginia Promise to “be the institution for all Virginians” and implementing a five-year plan for Mason to climb more than 40 spots in the U.S. News & World Report rankings.
Washington shared his goals at the July 30 Board of Visitors meeting, which came a day after the annual President’s Planning Conference.
The Mason Virginia Promise is a pathway toward a degree or help starting a business for every Virginian who wants one. The pathway will involve extending the ADVANCE partnership Mason shares with Northern Virginia Community College to other community colleges around the state. Students can continue on to Mason to earn a four-year degree or, if they would like to start a business, they can receive help from one of Mason’s more than 30 Small Business Development Centers around the state.
“If there’s one institution that can be that beacon of hope for Virginians—no matter what economic class you are in, no matter what status you’re in, no matter your academic stature up to this point—it is this one,” Washington said in the meeting broadcast live (LINK) from Merten Hall on GMU-TV. “That is a task that we are going to embrace, and we’re going to embrace with authority.”
Washington said there is a five-year plan for Mason, ranked No. 143 by U.S. News & World Report to crack the influential publication’s Top 100, which can enhance the university’s national reputation. At 143 in 2021, Mason climbed 10 spots from the previous year’s rankings, and among public universities, Mason is ranked 65th, up seven spots from the previous year. The magazine’s 2022 rankings are slated to come out this September.
Also among Washington’s goals for the coming year: implementing 15 recommendations from the Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Task Force, growing research by 15%, executing a brand renewal of the university, launching a strategic plan process focused in part on recommendations from the Mason Innovation Commission, and establishing a climate and sustainability action plan to determine when Mason can approach net-zero emissions status.
Most important, Washington said, was to continue to provide a safe living and learning environment for the university community amid the ongoing pandemic. And to grow from the experiences of the past year.
“You go through something like this,” he said, “the goal should not be to come out of it and look the way you looked going into it.”